Your confidence in a company will greatly increase if you visit their factories in China as well as meeting with them at Trade Fairs and at their offices.
My eBook How to Make Chinese Factory Visits More Successful delivers valuable information that you need to plan and successfully accomplish the goals of your factory visits. Therefore, I am providing a summary here and I encourage you to purchase the eBook for the detailed information you need when preparing for your next factory visit.
Transportation in China
The factories you are planning to visit will usually provide your transportation once you enter China. This includes picking you up from the airport, railway station, or ferry pier. Of course, you need to let them know in advance, when your exact arrival time will be. They will send their driver with the company car to pick you up and after the meeting they will take you where you need to go next.
Just like the supplier meetings discussed earlier, your factory visits require thorough planning ahead of time. Having the cell phone number of your factory’s contact person is very important when traveling to a factory. Without a cell phone, it becomes almost impossible to reach you if there is some kind of delay. Likewise, if you are delayed or there is any confusion about the when and where you need to be picked up, you will not be able to contact the factory.
It is very unlikely that you have to hire a taxi to get to the factory by yourself. In all my years working in China, it has happened only a few times so I am not going into it here.
Traveling From Hong Kong to China by Ferry
If you are staying in Hong Kong during your trip, the most convenient way to visit your Chinese suppliers’ factories is by high speed ferry. The most important production areas of Zhongshan, Foshan (Shunde), Dongguan, and Zhuhai can be easily reached by high speed ferry.
In Hong Kong there are two ferry piers you can use.
- The one most used is located in the Hong Kong China City Building in Tsim Sha Tsui, on Canton Road in Kowloon
- The other one is located in Sheung Wan in the Shun Tak Centre, on Connaught Road Central. This is also the major terminal for regular ferries to Macau.
Be aware that the ferries can be depended on to leave exactly on time. That makes it important that factory meetings conclude on time. It is not uncommon for your hosts to forget about your departure time and you will miss the last ferry back to Hong Kong for the day. The alternatives mean a long detour by car to the next ferry station. It will defiantly be late at night when your return to Hong Kong.
Therefore, when you first arrive at the factory, establish your departure time with your hosts and be sure they understand it is not flexible. Factories also underestimate the time it takes to get back to the ferry pier. Be sure to add some buffer time on top the time they suggest.
Shenzhen or Guangzhou by Train
If you want to visit Shenzhen or Guangzhou from Hong Kong, the train is a better choice although you can get there by ferry.
Here is a link to the Hong Kong MTR Corporation where you will find the needed details about trains running between Hong Kong and Guangzhou:
The train takes about 1 hour and 20 minutes from Hong Kong to Guangzhou. This is much faster than by car or even by plane considering that you have to get to the airport first.
If you want to go to Shenzhen only, you are better off taking the MTR (formerly called KCR) from East Tsim Sha Tsui station or Hung Hom station in Kowloon to Lo Wu station where you will cross over to Mainland China at the border checkpoint.
After you passed through immigration, a factory representative who will bring you to the factory will meet you. If the supplier’s office is in Shenzhen, you can take a taxi and make it there yourself. However, I do not suggest that to you, if you do not already have some experience with Chinese taxis.
The Shenzhen taxi drivers are smart about the currency they accept. Previously the Hong Kong dollar was worth about 10% more than the RMB. At that time, they would gladly accept Hong Kong dollars for what the meter read in RMB. When the exchange rate favors RMB, they no longer accept Hong Kong dollars. This is probably one of the few occasions you will need RMB currency during your trip to China.
Another place where you will pay in RMB is at the ferry ticket counters in China if you have to buy a return ticket. They also used to accept Hong Kong Dollars but no longer do. You can easily avoid this inconvenience by purchasing your return ticket while in Hong Kong.
Buy Your Ferry Tickets Early
If you want to buy ferry tickets to China in Hong Kong, do it at least one day before your departure because during the peak season, ferries are usually quite full and you do not want to be left behind without a ticket.
The travel time to Shenzhen (Lo Wu station) by train is approximately only 40 minutes but you have to pass through the crowded immigration areas. That makes meetings before 9:00AM out of question because it may take another hour or so to get to the factory if it is not near the ferry terminal.
Here is another link to the Hong Kong MTR Corporation providing you travel times and the fare costs for all the Hong Kong MTR connections including the trip to Lo Wu station.
Meet in Shenzhen
If you do not want to make a long trip to the factory there is an alternative. If your supplier from mainland China cannot obtain a visa to Hong Kong or does not have a valid passport, you can try making an appointment with him in Shenzhen. Opposite the Lo Wu railway station, is the Shangri-La hotel where many suppliers meet customers or pick them up to go to the factory.
If a supplier tells you he is not to be able to get a visa it may sound like an excuse but it is probably true. Chinese nationals must apply for visas to Hong Kong in their hometown. It is often a long trip home that they do not have time for.
Make a note that traveling from Hong Kong to the mainland by train or ferry will only allow you a maximum of two appointments with factories each day and only if they are in the same vicinity. Trying to schedule more meetings will leave you with no more time than a few minutes to shake hands hello and good-bye. The goal of your business trip should be to get a lot more done than just making a few acquaintances.
If you want to visit factories in the greater Shanghai area, you can fly directly to Shanghai and then continue your trip by plane to Ningbo. If you want to go to Suzhou, you can also ask your supplier to pick you up at the Shanghai airport.
Alternatively, you could also fly directly to Ningbo and save substantial time by skipping the connecting flight from Shanghai.