Shenzhen is a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) just across the border from Hong Kong, in China's Guangdong Province. It saw spectactular growth from the 1980's onwards, growing from a village to one of the biggest cities in China. Now a thriving metropolis with many dense skyscrapers, shop and technology companies. It is also one of the richest with lots of business and trading going on. Being South China's financial centre, it is home to the Shenzhen stock exchange, one of only 3 trading in China.
In 1980, Shenzhen — then a group of farming and fishing communities along the Hong Kong border with a total population of a few hundred thousand — was designated the first of China's Special Economic Zones (SEZs). The plan was to create a sealed off enclave to experiment with market reforms and performance incentives without posing a threat or risk to the established political and economic system elsewhere in China. Shenzhen won the honor because of its proximity to the abundant capital resources and management expertise across the border in Hong Kong. Since then, it has been a real boom town and today is a bustling city of around 20 million. It's full of skyscrapers and factories, but also surprisingly green with lots of trees, parks, and mountains.
Residents will tell you Shenzhen is a young city, and it's true in two senses: the city itself is new, and it's also full of young people, drawn to Shenzhen from other parts of China by the city's job opportunities.
Shenzhen has one of the highest population densities in the world, and one of the highest per capita GDPs in China. Somewhat ignored by international travellers, Shenzhen is a popular destination for Chinese domestic tourists who have been attracted by its famous theme parks, but as the city has developed and become richer they are increasingly drawn by Shenzhen's famous architecture, shopping, bars, restaurants and active art scene. Shenzhen's beaches have become famous throughout China, and the city's scenic mountains are popular for hiking. Visitors are also starting to recognize some fascinating historical sites, particularly those related to the Hakka culture and Hong Kong's annexation after the Opium Wars, which are scattered throughout the suburban area.
The Special Economic Zone originally included only the central districts of Nanshan, Futian, Luohu, and Yantian, but in 2010 it was expanded to include the entire city. These four central districts, located along the border with Hong Kong, remain the urban core of Shenzhen and are home to most of the city's main attractions. This area is still referred to by residents as 关内 guānnèi, "within the border", even though the border controls between these districts and the rest of Shenzhen were removed with the expansion of the SEZ. The six outer districts (关外 guānwài) – from west to east: Bao'an, Guangming, Longhua, Longgang, Pingshan, and Dapeng – are full of green mountains and sprawling but still densely populated suburbs. The eastern districts have various historic sites, including old Hakka villages, and Dapeng has popular beaches. One other area worth noting is Shekou, on metro line 2 in Nanshan district, the expat neighborhood with everything Western that you might be accustomed to as well as the main ferry terminal.
Sights and Activities
- Window of the World is a somewhat tacky tourist attraction. 130 miniture reproductions of the world's most famous sights are presented here. A cheap way to visit the world. (RMB120)
- ShenZhen Splendid China Folk Culture Village (锦绣中华, 中国民俗文化村; Jǐnxiù Zhōnghuá, Zhōngguó Mínsú Wénhuà Cūn) (OCT Metro Station, exit D, walk about 50 meters). 10:00–21:00; Splendid China closes at 18:00. It combines two different sections. The first part is a miniature park of China. You can find the famous Forbidden City, Terracotta Soldiers, Tibet Potala Palace, Huangshan Mountains, Yunnan's Stone Forest, and of course the Great Wall of China. This miniature park covers 300,000 m², fully forested with beautiful greenery and flowers. The second part consists of dozens of houses, temples, yurts, and so on, each representing one of the 56 ethnic groups in China, such as Miao, Yi, Bai, Mongol and Uyghur. You can find here real people, culture, fashion, customs, religion, language and food. As with all the Shenzhen theme parks, plenty of people go just for the fixed exhibits but main attractions are the shows. Uyghur women twirl to Turkish music, Miaos dance, a miniskirted Ming Dynasty troupe performs electronic versions of Ming music and dance—not to mention the acrobats. There is even a Tibetan rock band. A Mongol horse battle held daily, just follow the smell of horse manure. Altogether the park is huge; between the shows and the exhibits it can easily be an all-day activity. ¥200.
- Dafen Oil Painting Village (大芬油画村; Dàfēn Yóuhuà Cūn), Dafen Village, Buji, Longgang District (龙岗区布吉街道大芬社区) (Dafen (大芬) Metro Station, Longgang Line). In 1988, a Hong Kong businessman called Wong Kong, who had a business specialising in reproduction art, decided that there was no future in Hong Kong and set up in Dafen, even though it was not in the SEZ. Soon he was joined by artists from all over China, some classically trained but many just talented amateurs fresh from the paddy fields. And so Dafen was born. It is set in what was once a Hakka village and consists of street after street of studios, galleries, and shops selling oil paintings, watercolors, and embroidered paintings. Examine things carefully, as some of the artwork is machine printed, rather than hand made. Much of it is rubbish but some of China's best artists also have studios in Dafen. For a few hundred yuan you can commission an artist to copy your favorite piece of art, your wedding photo, or photos of your family. Insist on "A" quality - it costs a little more but it's worth it. You can also get incredibly rapid framing while you wait and inexpensive art supplies. Drink tea with an artist in their studio, or learn a bit of Chinese calligraphy from an expert. There is also a handsome modern gallery exhibiting works by Dafen local painters.
- He Xiangning Art Museum (何香凝美术馆; Hé Xiāngníng Měishùguǎn), 9013 Shennan Boulevard (深南大道9013号; Shēnnándàdào) (Get off at Huaqiaocheng (OCT) Metro Station (华侨城), take exit C, walk west past the Intercontinental hotel). 9:30-17:00, closed Monday. China's second national modern art museum, after the National Art Gallery of China. He Xiangning was the widow of Liao Zhongkai, the leader of the pro-Moscow left of the Kuomintang during the 1920s. Liao was expected to become KMT leader after Sun Yat-sen's death but he was assassinated by gangsters probably hired by Chiang Kai-shek. He Xiangning then became an important leader of the leftist wing of the KMT and after 1949 stayed on in Beijing. Her son, Liao Chengzhi was a leading Communist and head of the organisation which controlled the area where the He Xiangning Art Gallery is located, Overseas Chinese Town (OCT) in Eastern Shenzhen. This is why the gallery was built as a memorial to her. The gallery has shifting exhibits mainly of avant garde and modern Chinese art. Some of China's best-known painters regularly exhibit there and it is definitely worth a visit. Free.
- Hong Fa Buddhist Temple (弘法寺; Hóng Fǎ Sì). Not particularly old but it is always packed with pilgrims from all over China and beyond. The temple is spectacularly sited half-way up Wutong Mountain in the Fairy Lake Botanical Garden - Southeast Gate (仙湖植物园站), Shenzhen's largest and most beautiful park.
- Tianhou Temple (赤湾天后宫 Chìwān Tiānhòu Gōng), 赤湾六路9号 Chìwān Sixth Road 9. This is one of China's biggest and most splendid temples to Tianhou, the Goddess of Heaven who guards over sailors and fishermen. It was founded in the early fifteenth century by the famous eunuch admiral Zheng He who, during one of his voyages of discovery, was saved from shipwreck here during a typhoon by the intercession of Tianhou, this despite the fact that Zheng He was a Muslim. It has been restored many times during its lifetime, most recently during the 1980s after the ravages of the Cultural Revolution. At one time it was the biggest temple to Tianhou in existence. It is built in the style of the Ming Dynasty (14th to 17th centuries) and is a magnificent example of this style. ¥15, cash only.
- Longgang Museum of Hakka Culture (Crane Lake Fortified Hakka Village, 龙岗街道客家民俗博物馆, 鹤湖新居), No. 1 Luoruihe Street North, Nanlian Community, Longgang Subdistrict, Longgang District (龙岗区龙岗街道南联社区罗瑞合北街一号) (Nanlian Metro station, Line 3), ☎ +86 755 84296258, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 09:00-17:30. Half of Shenzhen City was originally of Hakka ethnicity. This came about after the 17th-century Kangxi Emperor depopulated the coastline to a depth of 30 km as part of his campaign against Ming loyalists in Taiwan. When the coast was repopulated, the Hakka (descendants of 13th-century immigrants from north China) were quickest to come. Relations between the Hakka and the Cantonese were often strained. During the 19th century, half a million people lost their lives in civil strife between the Hakka and the Cantonese. Accordingly, most Hakka settlements of any size were heavily fortified. The most common form of fortification in southern China is the "wei" (围 wéi) and one of the biggest of them anywhere is the Crane Lake Wei in Longgang. It doubles as a museum of Hakka culture.
- Shekou Sea World (蛇口海上世界, Shékǒu Hǎishàng Shìjiè), 1128 Wanghai Road, Shekou 蛇口望海路1128号 (Sea World metro station, exit A). A shopping/entertainment complex which has nothing to do with the US marine animal park. In 1984 Shekou was booming and there was a serious shortage of accommodation. To deal with this, the cruise ship "Ming Hua" (commissioned in 1962 in France) was moored alongside the dock and used as a floating hotel. Only nine years before it had been the focus of a political typhoon during the movement which saw Deng Xiaoping sent for the second time into political limbo. No wonder that he was happy to write an inscription in his own handwriting, "Sea World", a facsimile of which now presides in neon over the ship. The land has now been reclaimed for half a mile beyond the ship which now sits in a shallow pool. But the attractive square in front of the ship is surrounded by restaurants and coffee shops designed to evoke foreign lands like Europe, and successfully so, with the result that it's very popular among Shenzhen's expats. A restaurant in the ship named The Ex Ta Sea has pool tables and table football. You can also rent an electronic animal ride or a triple seated bike. In front of the ship there is a little dome, and there are shops all around the edge. You can buy toys, magic tricks, and various goods. Behind the ship, there is a golf course. This is a very happening place where a lot of celebrations are held. Various international restaurants like McDonald's, KFC, Papa Johns, sushi, Dunkin Doughnuts, Mexican, Starbucks. In the center of Sea World is a smooth tiled center where people ride their bikes, skateboards and scooters.
- Lianhua Mountain Park (Lotus Mountain Park; 莲花山公园; Liánhuāshāngōngyuán), Hongli Road West, Futian Central (Metro 3/4: Children's Palace station). This is Shenzhen's main and most central park, just north of central Futian district. The gardens are extremely beautiful and meticulously cared for. But to really enjoy the park, you need to be there with Shenzhen's middle classes early in the morning or on Sundays when large family groups gather to have fun. At the top of the 100-meter hill, which you can reach with a 20-minute, not too challenging walk, is a large bronze statue of Deng Xiaoping striding out over the city. Large aerobics groups operate to loud music, people fly kites and play badminton, a man walks down the path inscribing Tang Dynasty poetry in ever evaporating water with an enormous brush. Further down the mountain, ballroom dancers do the tango, a group of belly dancers wiggle, and large men lay into each other with bamboo staves and swords. A famous and totally spontaneous group of singers of revolutionary opera sings by the lotus lake every Sunday morning, a must-see if you are even remotely in the vicinity. They are just past the laughter therapy group and the marriage market. Free.
- Fairy Lake Botanical Gardens (仙湖植物公园; Xiān Hú Zhíwù Gōngyuán), Lian Shi Rd, Lian Tang Rd., Luohu District 罗湖区莲塘村莲十路 (Buses: 202, 218, 220 to the garden gate (get off at Foreign Language School stop and walk up Xian Hu Rd to the main gate)). 07:00-22:00. This is Shenzhen's most beautiful park and surely one of the most beautiful in China. It sprawls over miles of foothills, valleys, rivers and lakes before climbing half way up Wutong Mountain. Main attraction is the Hong Fa Temple (see entry above) but there are beautiful and peaceful lakes surrounded by teahouses and pavilions which could inspire great poetry. Don't miss the azalea garden, the pertified forest, the paleontology museum or the medicinal plants garden ¥15.
- Wutong Mountain National Park (梧桐山 Wútóng Shān; Wutong Village, Luohu District; 罗湖区捂桐村). At just over 900 meters, Wutong Mountain is the second tallest mountain in the Pearl River Delta after Hong Kong's Tai Mo Shan and it is a favorite challenge for hikers. This has been a recognised beauty spot since at least the Ming Dynasty when it was included in the Eight Great Views of Xin'an County and was celebrated in poetry. There are several routes to the top varying significantly in difficulty. The broad road will be a gentle climb. But if you intend to go to the top and back, be prepared for a 6-8 hour walk, including a lot of steep steps. There are two peaks, Lesser Wutong where the Shenzhen TV Company has its impressive transmission tower, and Greater Wutong which is reached via the notoriously difficult Hao Han Slope. On a clear day, the views from the summit over Mirs Bay and the mountains of Hong Kong's New Territories are beautiful. Night views over the city set against the sweep of Shenzhen Bay are also impressive. Wear a hat and sunscreen and bring snacks and water—at least two liters per person, though if you don't bring enough you can buy water and food on the trail. Free.
- Fenghuang Mountain (凤凰山, Fènghuáng Shān), 宝安区福永街道, Fuyong Subdistrict, Bao'an District. 06:00–19:00. Literally "Phoenix Mountain", this forested mountain in northwestern Shenzhen is covered with a network of well-maintained hiking trails paved with steps. The main point of interest is Fengyan Temple (凤岩古庙, Fèngyán Gǔmiào), a Buddhist temple partway up the mountain, dating back to the Yuan Dynasty. At the trailhead (凤凰山脚) there are various shops selling food and drinks, including bottled water, which you should definitely buy for the hike if you didn't bring any. Then plan to hike 30–40 minutes (all uphill) to get to the temple complex. The complex has lots of interesting spots scattered around, including fortune tellers, lots of shrines, and a big pool full of turtles and a few lazy fish, surrounded by people pestering them by throwing coins. There are lots of shops selling food, incense, jewelry, and other traditional items for the many pilgrims who make their way up to pray and leave offerings. For more serious hikers, the trails continue higher up on the mountain past the temple. A partial map of the trails can be found at the temple complex, though it's only in Chinese. The trail up to the temple is crowded, especially on weekends, but the trails higher up on the mountain aren't so bad. Both the temple and the rest of the mountain have views of the surrounding area. Don't miss the two-story lookout tower (望海楼, Wang Hai Lou) in the temple complex. The views make for an incredible contrast between the traditional temple in the middle of the woods and the unending high-rises down below. From the right spot you can make out ships floating in the Pearl River. The temple complex also has a vegetarian buffet restaurant, Fenghuang Mountain Vegetarian Restaurant (凤凰山素菜馆). This is not the little place with the signs saying "Vegetarian Restaurant" in English (though the food there isn't bad either)—the buffet is located at the other end of the complex; look for signs that say "素菜馆 Su Cai Guan". The buffet costs ¥28 for breakfast, ¥58 for lunch - pay before you enter, at the Ticket Counter outside. If you want to skip the hike, the restaurant (and therefore the temple complex) are also accessible by road. Free.
Spas and Massage
Shenzhen is a popular place for Hong Kong people to go to get a massage. Prices are low compared with Hong Kong, though generally higher than elsewhere in China. (洗脚 xǐ jiǎo) (which often consists of massaging your shoulders, back, arms, legs, and feet) costs ¥25-50 for 60-80 minutes depending on the location, time of day, and quality of the establishment. A full-body massage (按摩 àn mó or 松骨 sōng gǔ) costs ¥50-150 for 90-120 minutes.
In recent years many large spa and massage complexes have appeared in Shenzhen. For an entrance fee of around ¥100 (waived if you purchase around ¥160 of spa and massage services) you get 24 hours of access to a spa pool, saunas, showers, baths, and other amenities depending on the facility such as a gym or pool. Paid services often include Internet access, billiards, and rentable "multi-purpose rooms" with KTV/karaoke and games. Complimentary items include drinks (sometimes restricted to fruit juice) and fruit; food can be bought for ¥20–50 a plate. For around ¥50 for 45 minutes (not including a ¥10–30 tip and often a 10% service charge) you can have head, foot, leg, shoulder, back, or hand massage while lying in one of the many reclining chair-couches — two types at once if you wish — and watch personal TV, read a book, or relax. For around ¥150 you can have 90 minutes of full-body Chinese, Thai, or Hong Kong-style massage in a private room or with your friends. Chinese Medical Massage and aromatherapy oil massages are usually available at a premium. Masseuses and masseurs hail from various regions around China and are listed with pictures and statistics in catalogues and can be selected by number. Very few of them speak any English.
Spa complexes can be found around the border crossings with Hong Kong, so as to cater to the relatively rich Hong Kong population looking to unwind. In the basement of the Luohu customs and immigration building (not the LCC mall) free shuttles are available to various spas, some of which also have themed waiting areas with price lists and pictures of the facilities. Some spas have representatives standing around to give out discount tickets (often ¥20) as an enticement.
Massages tend to be rather painful, especially on the feet! If you can endure it, you'll notice the lasting benefits. But if it is too much, you can say "Téng! Téng!" (pronounced like "tongue") to express your pain and make them ease. It is best to not reveal you know any spoken Chinese because you will immediately face uncomfortable questions about your salary, weight, etc.
Events and Festivals
China has three "Golden Week" holidays per year. People get a mandatory two or three days off work for each holiday, and workers' companies can grant them the rest of the week off, making each holiday a total of 7 days. As you can imagine, having almost 1.4 billion people with the same days off can make travelling at these times arduous to say the least.
Travelling during the Spring Festival/Chinese New Year is incredibly difficult. Chinese New Year is China's Christmas, so the millions of migrant workers and students flood back to their home towns. Everybody else takes the opportunity to spend their hong bao (gifts of money traditionally given at CNY) and go travelling. Most of the time, since you are only allowed to purchase train tickets 6 days in advance and must be present in the city of origin, sometimes only standing room tickets are available. Be aware! The Spring Festival is undoubtedly the busiest time for the Chinese transportation system. Flying will avoid the crowded trains, but book early and expect to pay higher prices. All the main tourist attractions will be crawling with tourists (worse than usual), so unless you like crowds, it's best to avoid it altogether.
Chinese New Year is based on the lunar calendar, so the date changes each year. The Chinese New Year/Spring Festival holiday is 7 days long and usually starts on New Year's Eve.
The two other national holidays are October 1st, National Day, celebrating the founding of the People's Republic of China and May 1st, which is International Labor Day. Almost all Chinese get the two holidays off and many take the opportunity to travel. If you want to avoid the crowds, fly, but it should get a lot less busy towards the end of the week.
Weather is comparable with that of neighbouring Hong Kong with hot and humid summers from May to September (monsoon season as well) and cooler (but still not cold) winters from December to February. March - April and October - November are pleasant times for a visit.
Shenzhen is unique in that if you are travelling from Hong Kong and as long you remain in the Shenzhen special economic zone, you will not need a full China Mainland Visa. You can apply instead for a 'Special Economic Zone Tourism Visa' at the border between Hong Kong and Shenzhen. This type of visa restricts you to Shenzhen, so do not attempt onward travel into mainland China with it. This visa is available for nationals of almost all countries, with the notable exceptions of the United States, France, the Philippines and India.
Shenzhen Bao'an International Airport (SZX) has flights to most destinations throughout China. It is more economical flying to/from Shenzhen compared to Hong Kong, especially regarding domestic flights.
Low-cost airline Air Asia has daily flights to/from Kuala Lumpur (~RMB1,000, 4 hours), Kota Kinabalu (~RMB1,500, 4 hours) and Bangkok (~RMB900, 4 hours).
To/from the airport
- Bus: Regular bus and minibus services link the airport with the rest of the city. Intercity bus services to some other nearby cities such as Hong Kong and Dongguan are also available. To get to/from the airport there is a regular bus service from the main bus station next to the train station taking 1 hour. Buses currently run every half an hour from 7:30am to 5:00pm at the Hong Kong side, and from 10:00am to 9:00pm at the Shenzhen side.
- Local taxis, and often some taxis from Dongguan, pick up passengers there.
- Boat: TurboJET also operates fast ferries to Kowloon (Hong Kong), Macau and the Hong Kong International Airport at the nearby Fuyong Pier. Free shuttle buses connect the Pier and the airport.
Shenzhen is served by several domestic intercity railway stations, some exclusively served by high speed trains. The most important are:
- Shenzhen Station (Shēnzhèn Zhàn 深圳站), Luohu (Luobao Line, Luohu Metro Station). Immediately north of the HK border. It's a fairly small, but clean and well-organized station serving mostly Guangdong regional trains and just a handful of long-distance sleeper trains to other major cities. A high-speed shuttle service runs every 10-15 minutes to Guangzhou East Station (with alternate services continuing to Guangzhou main station - both GZ East and GZ have much more long-distance connections) - it takes approx 1 hour and costs ¥80 one way. Tickets for this service are available from a separate ticket office or from self-service machines and there is a separate platform entrance.
- Shenzhen North Station (Shēnzhèn Běi Zhàn 深圳北站), MinZhi (Longhua & Huanzhong Line, Shenzhen North Metro Station). Modern station in Longhua district, with high speed services to Hong Kong, Guangzhou South and beyond to Changsha, Wuhan, Zhengzhou and Beijing. Future high speed link to Fujian province has started trial operations. This station is not to be confused with an older freight station of the same name in Luohu district as still marked on some maps.
- Shenzhen West Station (Shēnzhèn Xī Zhàn 深圳西站), Qianhai (Luobao Line (Line 1) Daxin Metro Station). A few services to other parts of Guangdong and some other Chinese provinces, all slow trains.
- Futian Station (Fútián Zhàn 福田站), Futian (Longhua, Shekou, and Airport Express Lines (3, 2 and 11 respectively) Futian Metro Station). Fully underground high speed station opened at the end of 2015. Linked with Shenzhen metro and has direct high speed trains to Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Changsha, Wuhan, Zhengzhou and Beijing.
Other stations, less convenient for most travelers, include 6 Guangmingcheng Station (Guāngmíngchéng Zhàn 光明城站) on the high-speed line to Hong Kong and and Guangzhou, and 7 Pingshan Station (Píngshān Zhàn 坪山站) on the line to Huizhou, Chaoshan, and Xiamen.
There are several long-distance bus stations - the most convenient is Luohu Bus Station - adjacent to the rail station and the border crossing. It has regular services to Dongguan, Guangzhou (Tianhe, Liuhua and Guangyuan stations), Zhuhai, Foshan, Zhongshan, Shantou and many other cities in Guangdong. Unlike most bus stations there is no ticket office - instead bus station employees will ask you where you are going and will direct you to the bus and you buy your ticket from the conductor on board. If you are going to Guangzhou it's important to check which bus station you will arrive at (qù nǎ ge zhàn? - lit. Go to which station?) - if you arrive at Tianhe or Liuhua bus stations then both have direct subway connections, but many go to Guangyuan bus station which is in Baiyun district and requires a long connection by bus to the city centre.
Watch out for scams at the Shenzhen bus station. For example, if you are traveling between Hong Kong Airport and Shenzhen Airport, you may have to transfer between vehicles when crossing the border from Hong Kong to Shenzhen. Your bus or limo company may supply you a sticker to attach to your shirt. When you cross over to the Shenzhen side of the border, a scam artist may spot your sticker, claim to work for the bus or limo company you are using, and demand that you pay an additional fee to complete the journey. To prevent this from happening, go to the counter or stall that represents the bus or limo company you are using. The bus or limo companies are aware of this problem but have no incentive to correct it, nor do the local authorities care, so you need to be extra careful when crossing the border.
Fast ferries go 13 times daily to Hong Kong with about half of them continuing to Macau. There are hourly services to the airport of Hong Kong as well. These all leave from Shekou, Shenzhen's port. From Shenzhen airport, there are 6 daily services to Hong Kong and 3 to Macau. Zhuhai has ferries roughly every half hour (taking one hour). Boats go all the way to Haikou, taking 18 hours.
Shenzhen is big and spread out, so places can be further apart than they look on a map. When estimating travel time within the city, don't just eyeball it—check a map app to see how long it'll take to get somewhere.
Taxi meters start at ¥10 for the first 2 km, then ¥0.65 for each 250 m. Late night costs slightly higher. There is a ¥3 fuel surcharge added to all fares.
Taxis are unusually (for China) well regulated and managed in Shenzhen. It is very rare to have a driver give you problems or take you the long way to your destination. However, be sure that the cab has a licence prominently displayed in the plastic stand provided for this purpose on the right hand dashboard of every taxi. If there is no licence, get the next cab. Unlike in neighbouring Hong Kong, it is rare to find any drivers who speak English, so be sure to have the names and addresses of your destinations written in Chinese to show the taxi driver. As most taxi drivers are migrants from other parts of China and not locals, do not expect them to be able to speak Cantonese.
Taxi drivers are notably incompetent and terrifying. If you think your life is in danger, do not be afraid to get out and get the next taxi. There is little assurance that the next driver will be any better. If you have a major problem, threaten to complain. (Use the word "tóusù" (toe-soo) meaning "complaint".) It is not clear what happens when you complain but it is expected to be bad (usually a ¥200 penalty per complaint - 5 complaints and their licence will be revoked). On the receipt you should get when the driver prints out the ticket is a phone number and his taxi licence. Use this if you want to file any type of complaint.
Unless you are extremely familiar with local conditions or an expert Chinese negotiator, avoid like the plague illegal unlicensed taxis of the type which proliferate in places such as border crossings as otherwise you are just inviting considerable trouble. If you ask for a driver from a hotel it is likely they will get a private driver. Negotiate the price before you leave.
Blue taxis are electric and therefore slightly cheaper because they have no fuel tax. As of 2019 99% of its taxis are electric. Tipping is not expected at all, but simply round up to the next yuan.
Motorcycle taxis are very popular among locals, but their safety is questionable given their high speeds, defiance of traffic rules, and lack of anything resembling helmets or seatbelts. If you're adventurous enough to try one, you should of course negotiate the price in advance. As with taxis, the drivers are very unlikely to speak English, so have your destination written down with Chinese characters.
By Public Transport
Shenzhen Metro (深圳地铁) is the most convenient and easy-to-understand method of transport in Shenzhen. Fares are ¥2-10, depending on how far you're traveling. Trains come every 3 minutes or so and the metro runs until 23:00. Stations are announced in English, Mandarin, and Cantonese. There is a relatively high standard of public courtesy on the Shenzhen Metro. Some customs are unusual to foreigners. For example, people will often give their seats up to young children. Ignore the signs for the "Priority carriages for women", though—no one pays any attention, so in practice they're just like all the other carriages. The Shenzhen Metro has 8 lines, 199 stations, and 286.2 km of trackage in operation, and is being rapidly expanded.
Buy your ticket at the ticket machines on the concourse. The machine will dispense a round green plastic token. Touch it on the reader on entering the station and deposit it in the slot on the turnstile on leaving. (Line 11 has the option of paying three times the regular fare to get to sit in the business class cars; in this case you'll get a yellow token instead of a green one.) The machines often reject old or worn notes.
The most convenient way to travel is to buy a Shenzhen Tong (深圳通) card at the ticket window. This is a stored value ticket, which requires a ¥20 deposit. Touch it on the turnstile reader on entering and leaving the station. There's a slight discount if you use the card instead of a token, and the card can also be used for purchases in convenience stores.
Local buses run everywhere, with prices ranging from ¥1–10. On shorter lines, the fare is fixed at ¥1 or ¥2 depending on the line; these buses are exact change only, with the price displayed on a sign in Chinese (look for a number followed by the character 元). Longer lines usually range from ¥2–10 depending on distance; fares are collected by an attendant on the bus who will ask you where you're getting off and can give change. Buses are comfortable and almost always air-conditioned. Bus stops are signed in Chinese and English. The next bus stop is always announced (in Mandarin and English) although it may not be particularly comprehensible. Buses usually stop at all stops so counting stops is a viable alternative for finding out where you are. You can pay with your Shenzhen Tong card (see Metro Section), and as with the metro it gives you a discount.
Free shuttles run from the basement of Luohu's immigration building to and from various attractions such as spas in the area.
Cycling is not as popular as in Beijing for example but Shenzhen is nearly as cycle-friendly as neighbouring Guangzhou, and much more cycle-friendly than most of neighboring Hong Kong, Macau, and Humen. Downtown is relatively flat and traffic is not as heavy as in other cities (thanks to a good road infrastructure, although bicycle lanes can be sporadic which means bicycles have to run in the vehicle lanes or sidewalks).
There is a bike path that runs along a new park the length of the Shenzhen Bay, opened up for the Universiade in July 2011. From there you can go up along the Shahe (Sand River canal) most of the way to the GZ Greenway without crossing any vehicular traffic. The GZ greenway is not well marked, so it can be difficult to find your way from Shenzhen to neighboring cities such as Guangzhou. Another small canal also runs north from the southwest of Shenzhen Bay Port, connecting to the bayfront park bike path.
Bikesharing systems Mobike and ofo operate in Shenzhen; bikes can be found throughout the city.
Because of Hong Kong's obsolete Frontier Zone policy, you cannot bike between Hong Kong and Shenzhen at the Hong Gang port because the road is closed except to public busses and taxis. You can, however take your 20" folding bike across to take the green public light bus #75 between there and Hong Kong's Yuen Long for HK$7. Hong Kong's MTR is unusually expensive at border terminals, but bikes are allowed on the trains. 20" folding bikes are also allowed on Shenzhen Metro trains.
As part of the Pearl River Delta of Guangdong province, Cantonese used to be the primary language in Shenzhen. However, since the designation of Shenzhen as a Special Economic Zone, many people have migrated here from other parts of China to take advantage of its proximity to Hong Kong, and today, the migrant population far outnumbers the native Cantonese population in Shenzhen. As a result, Mandarin has replaced Cantonese as the primary language, and the city is a linguistic melting pot. In addition to various accents in Mandarin or Cantonese, the other languages of Guangdong – Teochew and Hakka – are fairly common, and you may hear languages from other parts of China.
Taxi drivers are much more likely to speak Mandarin than Cantonese. Nevertheless, due to the city's proximity to Hong Kong, most people working in the service industry will be able to speak Cantonese. Additionally, many second-generation descendants of migrants are able to converse in Cantonese due to assimilation into local culture.
As with elsewhere in China, English is not widely spoken, though English speakers can be found working at the major tourist attractions and hotels. It's a good idea to get a card from your hotel with the name and address in Chinese characters (in case you get lost and no one understands your Chinese). Get your hotel staff to write down the destination names for you on paper. You may also learn some phrases from the Chinese phrasebook. Though English is more widely understood than in most other places in China, outside of establishments which specifically cater to Westerners, few people know more than a few sentences.
The metro system has good English signage and station announcements, and most tourist attractions and the bus system have some amount of English signage. Chinese signage is almost always in simplified characters, despite the proximity to Hong Kong.
Because Shenzhen is a migrant city, all of China's regional cuisines are represented here, with Guangdong, Hunan, and Sichuan food particularly common. Restaurants range from hole-in-the-wall establishments for homesick working class arrivals to opulent food palaces for businessmen and politicians entertaining clients. If you are a foreigner, spending ¥100 on a fantastic meal is no problem (though, you can spend ¥35 or less on a fantastic meal in Shenzhen). Treat yourself, and enjoy the wonderful food and variety of Shenzhen! In the early morning, vendors sell egg cheung fun for as little as ¥2.5 per order having 2 vegetable and 2 egg cheung fun noodles - enough to fill you up.
Overseas Chinese Town (OCT) is famous for its numerous dining options, including some of the best Korean restaurants in Shenzhen. All are within easy walking distance from Hua Qiao Cheng (OCT) Metro Station, behind the recently opened InterContinental Shenzhen Hotel.
If you're feeling homesick, there are a lot of bars and restaurants in Shekou, the main residential zone for Shenzhen's sizable Western expatriate community. There are plenty of eateries in the Huaqiangbei area, for non-China based brands, e.g. McDonald's, KFC, Pizza Hut, Starbucks, and AijiSen Ramen.
As well as casual restaurants and fine dining, Shenzhen is famous for its "Eat Streets". These are agglomerations of cheap and cheerful restaurants serving food from all over China. Despite the name, they're not limited to a single street; they may be spread over a small area of streets and alleys. They are not elaborate but they are friendly and fun and some of the food is to die for. Different Eat Streets often specialise in food from different parts of China.
Mom-and-pop restaurants and hole-in-the-wall shops are plentiful, serving authentic, inexpensive (¥7–20), and filling meals. Often these are geared towards local workers, so you may be able to find them around the corner, in the back, or in some out of the way spot near popular attractions. You can also find them at the Eat Streets and other places that get a lot of foot traffic. At some, you can choose two or three dishes, cafeteria-style, to have with rice—selecting these is easy even if you don't speak any Chinese. Street food carts are here too, including authentic snacks as well as light meals.
Just north of the Shenzhen Sports Center next to Blue Bird cafe at Shahe West road and Gaoxin South 11th road in front of the market in the early morning are steamed dim sum like dishes such as steamed buns and egg cheung fun. You must order in Chinese, as they don't speak English or even Cantonese.
If you want to drink beer, Tsing Tao is a popular Chinese beer, or try Shenzhen's own Kingway Beer (金威啤酒), brewed in two locations in Shenzhen and available in any convenience store, bar, or restaurant. In stores such as a.best, Carrefour or Wal-Mart it will cost ¥3.50 per can, or ¥3.80 for a large bottle (you will need a bottle opener). 7-Eleven sells Kingway for ¥9, and local restaurants about ¥12-35. Bars typically charge slightly more than restaurants.
Outside the Coco Park shopping complex (mentioned above) is the bar street of Futian, with all kinds of bars packed into the middle of the block. It's expensive but upscale. During bar hours it's notoriously hard to find food beyond a few noodle shops or convenience stores.
- Crowne Plaza Hotel, 3018 Nanhu Rd. A four star hotel with nice facilities, seasoned staff and excellent service.
- Empire Hotel (深圳新王朝酒店; Shēnzhèn Xīn Wángcháo Jiǔdiàn), 1052 Aiguo Road, Luohu District (罗湖区爱国路1052号; Luóhú Qū àiguó Lù) (Near the East Gate Business Street, Donghu Lake, and Yijing Villa), ☎ +86 755 25523338, e-mail: email@example.com. A 4-star hotel featuring cozy, fully furnished guest rooms, multifunction conference room, business center, health club, and restaurant. Listed rates for doubles from ¥880, discounted from ¥248.
- Holiday Inn (Right in the middle of the center and only three stops from the border). Very new and clean hotel, excellent services. Also includes free Wi-Fi internet access. The staff speak English reasonably well.
- Lee Garden Inn (深圳丽苑酒店; Shēnzhèn Líyuàn Jiǔdiàn), 2048 Dongmen Zhong Road, Luohu District (罗湖区东门中路2048号; Luóhú Qū Dōngmén Zhōng Lù) (Five minutes from the railway station). 3-star hotel with 100 guest rooms for business travelers. Conference facilities and broadband internet are available.
Master Hotel. A four-star hotel offering 130 guest rooms. Each room is fitted with a living room and kitchen, and boasts broadband internet connectivity and other upscale amenities. Facilities include a business center, restaurant, shopping arcade, and fitness center.
- Novotel Shenzhen Watergate (深圳万德诺富特酒店), 1019 Middle Shennan Road (Shennan Zhong Lu), ☎ +86 757 88286768. Located in the heart of Shenzhen's well-known financial district and on the popular Shennan Zhong Road, the Novotel Watergate Shenzhen (Shenzhen Wande Nuofute Jiudian) is well positioned as an international business hotel.
- Orient Sunseed Hotel (深圳东方山水酒店; Shēnzhèn Dōngfāng Shānshuǐ Jiǔdiàn), 88 Qianhai South Road, Nanshan District (南山区前海南路88号; Nánshān Qū Qiánhǎi Nán Lù) (At the conjunction of Fuyong and Haoye Roads, Qiaotou Tongfuyu Industrial Area, Fuyong Town, five minute drive from Bao’an Airport and a 20-minute drive from the city center), ☎ +86 26416666-8355, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Air-conditioned rooms with cable TV, wet bar, hair dryer, electric kettle, telephone, private toilet and bath, shower, bathrobe, and complete bathroom amenities. Rates start at ¥311.
- Oriental Ginza (深圳东方银座美爵酒店), Futian District (next to Zhuzilin metro station). Four star hotel with excellent service, English speaking staff, and services for both business and leisure travelers. Also includes free internet access. You can get a huge room for less than US$60/night.
- TianHe Hotel (天和酒店 Tiānhé jiǔdiàn), 1 Xinghua Road, Bao'an District 宝安区兴华路1号. Check-in: 14:00, check-out: noon. Airport hotel. To get there from the airport, take bus m416 and get off at the third stop, 航空物流园. Has a Chinese restaurant and a Western restaurant inside, and there are also a bunch of restaurants and stores just down the street (right past the intersection). They can provide transportation to the airport in the morning. Free breakfast from 6:30 to 9:30, free but slow Wi-Fi. From ¥370. ¥800 deposit required when checking in.
Windsor Hotel (温莎酒店), 2062 Nanxin Rd, Nanshan District. While a little far out of the way the staff is friendly (although English is limited) and the hotel is quiet and clean. It offers sizable doubles with air conditioning, private bathrooms and free internet (they provide the cable). Rooms start at ¥168.
- Golden Lustre Hotel (金碧酒店), 春风路3002号, ☎ +86 755 82252888. Check-out: 14:00. 4 star hotel, their cheapest rooms start at ¥300, they also have a pool. ¥300.
- Crowne Plaza Shenzhen Longgang, 9009号 Longxiang Ave, Longgang, ☎ +86 755 3318 1888. Good quality rooms. Number of restaurant options in the hotel and in the nearby streets.
- Pavilion Hotel (圣廷苑酒店), 4002 Huaqiang Road North, Futian District 福田区华强北路4002号, ☎ +86 755 82078888. Check-in: 14:00, check-out: noon.
- Ascott Maillen Shenzhen, No 3 Yanshan Road, Nanshan district, ☎ +86 755 2160-0188, e-mail: email@example.com. The residence offers 199 apartments ranging from designer studios to luxury penthouses. Every apartment has private balconies, a kitchen, LCD television and an integrated home entertainment system. Work from home with high-speed broadband internet access and business support services.
- Sunshine Hotel Shenzhen (深圳阳光酒店; Shēnzhèn Yángguāng Jiǔdiàn), 2001 Jiabin Road, Luohu District (罗湖区嘉宾路2001号; Luóhúqū Jiābīnlù) (In the Luohu commercial district close to Guomao Metro Station), ☎ +86 755 82233888, fax: +86 755 82226719, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Five star hotel. Listed rates for doubles ¥1,840-3,450.
- Shenzhen Ritz Carlton (深圳星河丽思卡尔顿酒店; Shēnzhèn Xīnghélìsīkǎ'ěrdùn Jiǔdiàn), 116 Fuhuasan Road, Futian District (福田区福华三路116号; Fútiánqū Fúhuásānlù), ☎ +86 755 22222222, fax: +86 755 22220088. Rooms with mini-bar, ipod docking station, internet, television in bathroom, flat-screen television, cd/dvd players and safe. Business center, currency exchange, flower shop and beauty salon available. Chinese and Western restaurants as well as café and bar. Listed rates for doubles ¥4,600-5,750, discounted ¥1,288-1,638, breakfast ¥173 (included for more expensive rooms).
- Futian Shangri-La (深圳福田香格里拉大酒店; Shēnzhèn Fútián Xiānggélǐlā Dàjiǔdiàn), 4088 Yitian Road, Futian District (福田区益田路4088号; Fútiánqū Yìtiánlù), ☎ +86 755 88284088, fax: +86 755 88284388, e-mail: email@example.com. Rooms with TV in bathroom, internet access, iPod connector, coffee-making facilities, mini-bar and safe. Business center, currency exchange, gift shop, ticket office, table tennis, fitness, massage and outdoor swimming pool available. Chinese and Western restaurants as well as cafë and bar. Listed rates for doubles ¥2,967-3,163, discounted from ¥1,581.
- Intercontinental Shenzhen (深圳华侨城洲际大酒店), 9009 Shennan Avenue, Overseas Chinese Town, Nanshan 华侨城深南大道9009号, ☎ +86 755 33993388, fax: +86 755 33993399. A five star hotel with a fine selection of foods including Chinese, Mediterranean, Italian and Seafood. Basic rooms ¥1,498-1,678, deluxe rooms ¥1,648-5,678.
- Sheraton Futian, Great China International Exchange Square, Fuhua Road, Futian District.
- Grand Hyatt Shenzhen, 1881 Baoan Nan Road, Luohu District, (City Crossing development), ☎ +86 755 8266 1234, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. The hotel has 491 rooms and suites and is part of a mixed-use commercial development. Facilities include: 5 restaurants, 2 lounges, pastry shop, a spa with 13 treatment rooms, fitness centre, swimming pool, business centre and extensive event space.
- The Westin Shenzhen Nanshan, 9028-2 Shennan Road, Nanshan District, ☎ +86 755 2698 8888.
- Shenzhen Marriott Hotel Nanshan (深圳中洲万豪酒店), 88 Haide 1st Road, Nanshan District (南山区海德一道88号; Nánshānqū Hǎidéyīdào) (near the Houhai Metro Station and right next to Coastal City), ☎ +86 755 86666666. Five star hotel. ¥1,173 and up.
Wangba (联网) means internet bar in Chinese. Almost every town will have an internet bar or gaming center. The best way to spot an internet bar is to look for the 网(ba) character, which means net, and large digitized images of computer game characters. Often, there will be a sign saying Green Power in English at the entrance. Most gaming centers cost about RMB3 an hour. You prepay at the main desk and are then given a plastic card or a piece of paper. Once you are done you return the card or piece of paper and get reimbursed for the money you didn't spend. Be prepared for a place that might be dingy, basic and messy. Internet bars in China tend to get crowded starting in the late afternoon to the late evenings.
Some hotels provide access from the rooms that may or may not be free; others may provide a wireless service or a few desktops in the lounge area.
Also, quite a few cafes provide free wireless Internet service. Some cafes, even provide a machine for customer use.
See also: International Telephone Calls
The country calling code to China is 86. To make an international call from China, the code is 00.
When making international phone calls it is best to buy an IP card. They typically have a value of ¥100 but sometimes can be had for as little as ¥25. The cards have printed Chinese instructions, but after dialing the number listed on the card English-spoken instructions are available. As a general indication of price, a call from China to Europe lasts around 22 minutes with a ¥100 card. Calls to the U.S. and Canada are advertised to be another 20% cheaper. There is no warning before the card runs out of minutes.
If you already have a GSM 900/1800 cellphone, you can roam onto Chinese networks, but calls will be very expensive (¥12-35/minute is typical). If you're staying for more than a few days, it will usually be cheaper to buy a prepaid Chinese SIM card; this gives you a Chinese phone number with a certain amount of money preloaded. Chinese tend to avoid phone numbers with the bad-luck digit '4', and vendors will often be happy to offload these "unsellable" SIM-cards to foreigners at a discount. If you need a phone as well, prices start around ¥100/200 used/new. Chinese phones, unlike those sold in many Western countries, are never "locked" and will work with any SIM card you put in them. China's two big operators are China Mobile and China Unicom. Most SIMs sold by the two work nationwide, with Unicom allowing Hong Kong/Macau/Taiwan usage as well. There is usually a surcharge of about ¥1/min when roaming outside the province you bought the SIM, and there are some cards that work only in a single province, so check when buying.
China Post (中国邮政) is the official postal service of the People's Republic of China, operated by the State Postal Bureau of the People's Republic of China (website in Chinese only), and has more details about price to send letters, postcards and parcels, both domestically as well as internationally. The Chinese postal service is very good. Remember that in more remote places usually only one post office in a city can handle sending international boxes or letters. Also many times it might be worth having the name of the country you are trying to send to in Chinese characters, because small town people might not know what Estonia is in English. Post offices have a striking green logo and can easily be found everywhere in the cities. They are mostly open every day (including weekends!) from 8:00am to 6:00pm, though small offices might have shorter opening times, while the bigger ones in central and touristic areas are sometimes open during evenings as well.