China travelling tips covering quarantine hotels, food & the universality of bureaucracy.
Need to be On-Site in China During a Pandemic? No Problem!
When they asked me if I was willing to travel, I did not hesitate. China has, after all, dealt with COVID-19 very well. I figured I would probably be safer there than at home. It turned out there’s a reason for that.
Before I even boarded a flight, I had to take two different coronavirus tests – PCR and antibody test by drawing blood. The results had to be submitted for verification to the Chinese Embassy. Based on that (and a whole bunch of questionnaires I had to fill out), I received a couple of QR codes that are checked before boarding the flight and are essentially your tickets to China.
Armed with 30 FFP2 and FFP3 masks, I confidently embarked on my adventure into the unknown, relying on the fact that there would be a straightforward process in place for handling travellers from abroad.
After arriving in Shanghai, all passengers were again given a PCR test and led to buses which took us to a mandatory 14-day quarantine in a government-designated hotel. Here things got a little complicated. The hotel clearly did not expect any foreign guests, so the staff didn’t speak any English. In addition, they wanted me to pay upfront for the whole 14 days. If you are not aware, in China, mobile payment is very prevalent. It turned out that during the pandemic, they moved even more aggressively in this direction, essentially limiting payment options only to mobile. As a foreigner without a Chinese mobile number, I had no chance even to set up a mobile payment. My saving grace was a coworker from Cosylab China, who answered my emergency phone call and spoke with the hotel manager.
My 14 days of quarantine were uneventful. The biggest excitement of each day was the food delivery. Two knocks on my door meant a new meal was waiting for me on a stool outside the door. The food was quite tasty, even though it was sometimes hard to identify what exactly I was putting in my mouth. Speaking of stools, there were some interesting rules in place regarding hygiene, like placing disinfection tablets into the toilet and waiting for an hour before flushing it.
The excitement of travel was soon gone, and I felt like I was back in a home office, only with a much crappier internet connection and no view of the outside. Apart from working, I spent my time reading, working out and playing computer games.