Getting Started in Beijing

Here are a few things you should do first once arriving in Beijing.

Buy a Map

After about 10 minutes of wandering the streets around Tienemen Square you will have probably had abou 25 people shoving maps in your face, hoping you'll buy one. Normally the stuff being hawked in touristy areas is pretty crappy and should be avoided at all costs. In this case, those maps are pretty handy and for the 5 Yuan price tag, totally worth it. They cover most of the city and, most importantly, it has the names of everything in English and Chinese which is great for showing to taxi drivers. They're a big big and bulky and tend to fall apart after a few weeks of folding and unfolding, but they're way better than any guidebook map and will help get you oriented in the city.

Get a Phone

Before you start any job or apartment hunting, you'll have to arm yourself with a cell phone. Phone choices are virtually unlimited and fancy phones seem pretty popular. Since I have a habit of losing them, I always go for the cheapest, nastiest, most basic phone there is. I got my Nokia for 500 yuan including a sim card which costs about 140 yuan on its own. As I'd just arrived in the country, I was too wimpy to do any bargaining so I'm sure I paid too much. If you need something more complicated that me and need someone to translate for you, stay at Leo Hostel. The staff there are happy to help you buy a phone in the store across the road. I don't know if you'll be paying higher prices for the service, but if you want convenience you can't beat having your own personal shopper.

Register with the Police

Any time you change accommodation, you have to register with the local police station. If you're staying at a local hostel or hotel, they should have a form for you to fill in and they'll be able to point you to the police station. If you're renting your own place or staying with a friend who is, you'll need to take the lease agreement, photocopy of the landlord's ID card, and your passport to the police station. Take a copy of your passport's photo page, your Chinese visa, and the page with your entry stamp on it because they'll want to keep this. After they type away at their computer for about 15 minutes they'll issue you with a slip of paper that is your police registration. You need this to apply for a visa extension or to show the police if they happen to knock on your door one day. If you don't have it you will not be able to apply for a visa entension and might face a 500 yuan fine.

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