Shenzhen (深圳; Shēnzhèn in Mandarin, Sāmjan in Cantonese) is a fast-paced city of ambition and enterprise: engineers on the cutting edge of modern technology, hardscrabble farmers coming to the big city in search of a better life, middle managers who dream of someday opening their own factories, designers looking to sell to a global market, and all manner of entrepreneurs from across China.
One of the most populous and richest cities in China, Shenzhen is in Guangdong Province on the Hong Kong border about 100 km south of Guangzhou. Shenzhen has been growing like crazy since the 1980s, thanks to its position on the border with Hong Kong and a government program to encourage investment. It's a dynamic, booming city whose population comes from all over China. The city has become a center for international trade and manufacturing, especially electronics, leading many to call it the "Silicon Valley of China", and it's on the list of UNESCO Creative Cities as a design hub. Other draws for visitors include an array of amusement parks as well as extensive, scenic mountains for hiking.
Shenzhen is divided into ten districts, which can be loosely grouped into these general areas:
|Center (Futian, Luohu)|
Downtown Shenzhen: business, shopping, museums, performances, and a surprising array of parks and nature (including the tallest mountain in the city). The main border crossings with Hong Kong are in this area.
The trendy district and arguably the cultural center of Shenzhen. Nanshan contains the bulk of Shenzhen's amusement parks, the OCT–LOFT art center, Shenzhen University, Shekou ferry terminal and expat neighborhood, and a handful of historic sites.
|West (Bao'an, Guangming, Longhua)|
Largely residential and industrial, the sprawling suburbs near the airport also include some large, attractive parks and even farmland.
|East (Yantian, Longgang, Pingshan, Dapeng)|
Quiet suburbs, popular beaches, and far-flung mountains, dotted with old Hakka villages.
All four areas have a variety of restaurants, numerous hotels, a smattering of museums and art galleries, and huge free parks for hiking or relaxing.
Shenzhen's 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.
In 1980, Shenzhen — was a market town on the Hong Kong border with 30,000 people. Contrary to the quite widespread myth, Shenzhen was not a fishing community. Shenzhen was then 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.
|Climate chart (explanation)|
The best time to visit Shenzhen is October to December when the weather is pleasantly cool. Shenzhen has a sub-tropical climate with incredibly high humidity combined with soaring temperatures in the summer. For many, this is a season to avoid. The long intense summer also coincides with the typhoon season from June to October. Spring is cooler but is often afflicted by fog and heavy thunderstorms.
Rain tends to come in bursts in Shenzhen—it can go from cloudy to pouring or from pouring to drizzling in just a few minutes. So if it looks like rain is coming, hurry up and get wherever you're going, and if you find that it's raining hard when you're about to go somewhere, it's often worth waiting a few minutes for it to clear.
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. All metro announcements are made in Mandarin, Cantonese and English.
See the China page for more general information for entering mainland China.
If you are travelling from Hong Kong want to take a short trip to Shenzhen, you may not need a full China Mainland Visa. You can apply instead for a five-day '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 many countries; reported exceptions include nationals of the Philippines, Israel, South Africa, and India, among others. Most European countries are allowed, as is the United States. The rules change frequently, so check up-to-date information before you go.
The visa can be obtained at Luohu, Huanggang, and Shekou border offices. At the Luohu border (罗湖口岸), the office is immediately upstairs after clearing the Hong Kong immigration and customs. It is open 09:00-23:30 seven days a week and accepts Chinese yuan or credit card for payment. It can be reached at +86 755-8232-7700 for enquiries. There is no visa-on-arrival office at the Futian border.
The fee varies by nationality from ¥168-1,000. The charge for UK passport holders is ¥469 for a five-day Shenzhen-only visa, while it costs only ¥168 for most other nationalities. Irish travelers are sometimes charged the same exorbitant UK fee when they are unlucky enough to get a border official who is unaware that the UK and Ireland are different countries. US passport holders pay about ¥900. The reason for the differing fees is that Chinese visa fees are set on a reciprocal basis.
Keep the entry slip you received in your passport when entering Hong Kong, as you need it to obtain the SEZ visa. Whatever passport you used to enter Hong Kong, you must use the same passport to enter Shenzhen—dual citizens can't switch passports at the border to get a lower fee.
Although the Huanggang (皇岗口岸) and Futian (福田口岸) borders are only a few hundred meters apart, they are different land crossings that connect to different points in Lok Ma Chau on the Hong Kong side. Huanggang connects to the 24-hour Lok Ma Chau Control Point, while Futian connects to the Lok Ma Chau MTR station.
Besides the five-day SEZ visa, you may also apply for a full China visa (single and double entry only) at the Luohu border. This visa can be obtained only between the hours of 09:30-16:30. For US passport holders, it is better to apply for a one-year multiple-entry visa at any consulate in the US for US$140. For US passport holders, the length of the visa will depend on the previous visas that have been issued. The first visa will be double-entry, the second will be six-month multiple-entries, and so forth. If you have an old Chinese visa in another passport, it will be helpful to include the old passport in the visa application.
Getting a tourist visa in Hong Kong by applying in person at the visa office now takes 3–4 days and costs HK$150–1,100. A list of costs  is available. The old approach of arriving in Hong Kong and immediately applying for a visa is no longer worth the time and cost, as you will face expensive hotel bills in Hong Kong until your visa is granted. Macau's visa office is less crowded and the hotels are a bit cheaper, but it takes just as long. In general, only single and double entry visas are granted to visitors without HKID cards, although foreigners with previous entries into the mainland and Hong Kong student or work visa holders have been known to be approved for multiple entries.
Many Hong Kong travel agencies (such as CTS) offer a faster visa turnaround service for a fee. If you need to get a visa faster than using the public visa office method and are willing to pay then this would be your best option.
In addition, a travel agency has some capacity to 'negotiate' on the length of your visa. You might apply for a one year visa and have that rejected, however they may well be able to get a shorter one for you instead (i.e. 6 months) which is much better than nothing.
You can get a taxi van from Hong Kong International Airport to Shenzhen via the Huanggang border for HK$150. This fee includes ferrying you onwards to some destination within Shenzhen (e.g. hotels) after you have cleared the China immigration, but do clarify with the airport service counter staff first. Well worth it if you have a valid visa.
Shenzhen Bao'an International Airport is the closest airport to Shenzhen. Not far away, Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport (CAN IATA) and Hong Kong International Airport (HKG IATA) are larger alternatives offering more flights and destinations.
1 Shenzhen Bao'an International Airport (深圳宝安国际机场 SZX IATA). Serves many domestic locations, as well as international destinations in East and Southeast Asia. There are also flights to Sydney, Melbourne, Darwin, Seattle Tacoma Airport, Vancouver, Vienna, Moscow Sheremetyevo and Frankfurt.
There are a number of ways to get from the airport to Shenzhen city and to other cities in the area:
- Metro line 11 connects the airport to downtown Shenzhen in 30 minutes, running 06:17–00:18. Fare is around ¥10, there is also a "business class" car which costs three times as much. (The old airport Terminals A and B, which were served by Metro line 1, have been closed since 2013.)
- Buses to various points within Shenzhen, including nearby locations like Airport East metro station (on line 1), other parts of the city like Yantian and Luohu, and a couple of border crossings. They run 06:15–24:00.
- Taxis to central Futian are approximately ¥100 and to Luohu approximately ¥150 including tolls (running 24 hours a day).
- E-hailing – there's a well-marked designated area for pickups from ridesharing (e-hailing) apps like Didi Chuxing. It's divided into several numbered positions (号位, hàowèi) so you can tell the driver exactly where to find you.
- Airport shuttle bus - Price is ¥20 and it will take you directly to downtown Shenzhen. You should mark down the schedule, so as not to miss the bus. There might not be English services on the shuttle bus.
- Coaches to Dongguan, Guangzhou, Huizhou, Huidong and Huiyang (in Huizhou), Jiangmen, Shunde (in Foshan), Zhongshan, and Zhuhai and to several locations in Hong Kong and Macau. The "midnight bus" operates 21:00–03:00 with service to Nanshan district and to Dongguan, Huizhou, and Huiyang.
- Ferry from the airport ferry terminal (Fuyong Ferry Terminal) to Hong Kong, Macau, Zhongshan, or Zhuhai. A free shuttle bus connects the ferry terminal to the airport itself.
- Rail service goes to a couple of neighborhoods near the airport, several towns in Dongguan (including Chang'an, Humen, and Houjie), and Guangzhou East station, with connections to other parts of Dongguan and Guangzhou, Huizhou, and, well, anywhere else on China's vast rail system.
- There is a helicopter service from Terminal Marítimo in Macau to Shenzhen Airport, though it is very expensive.
Transportation from Hong Kong International Airport to Shenzhen
- Ferry - There is a ferry service from Hong Kong airport to Shenzhen (Shekou Ferry Terminal and Shenzhen Airport Fuyong Terminal) without going through Hong Kong immigration or customs or the city. There is a booth before you get to immigration and you purchase your ticket and ask them to get your luggage transferred and then you go by bus to the ferry and then straight to China. It is cheaper, easier, and faster than going into Hong Kong Central or Kowloon. HK$220 to Shekou, $295 to Fuyong, $340 from Shekou to HKIA, $360 from Fuyong to HKIA (2019). See Hong Kong International Airport#By ferry for details.
- Train - A cheap and quite comfortable way to Shenzhen is to take the Airport Express train from Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) to Tsing Yi, then the Tung Chung underground line to Lai King, then the Tsuen Wan Line to Prince Edward, then the Kwun Tong Line to Kowloon Tong and then the East Rail suburban rail line to Lo Wu. This costs in total HK$60 (the Airport Express fare only, because free transfers are permitted along the way) and takes 78 minutes to Lo Wu.
- Bus - Take the bus from the airport to Sheung Shui (Bus A43) and transfer to the East Rail line. The bus is cheaper (HK$30.90) and rarely full, so you are almost guaranteed a seat and a view of the outside for the whole journey. The bus terminus is to the right of the Airport Express station coming from Arrivals of HKIA. From Lo Wu you pass through a long corridor and a large international border gate (make sure to have your visa ready for this) after which you'll find yourself on the mainland, where the Shenzhen underground (Metro) will take you from Luohu station to the rest of Shenzhen.
- Private limousine van service - There are companies that operate luxury vans from HKIA to destinations in Shenzhen and Shenzhen Airport. They typically involve crossing via the Shenzhen Bay Bridge Customs Point. Passengers are often not even required to leave the vehicle at the border post, with the driver handling all the passports and details. Costs can be from HK$200 upwards. It is a unique experience, being driven on the left side of the road in Hong Kong and then the right side once on the mainland.
By land from Hong Kong
For most travellers, the fastest (but not the cheapest) way to get to Shenzhen from Hong Kong is by high-speed rail, which goes from Hong Kong's West Kowloon Station to Shenzhen's centrally located Futian station. It also serves the more out-of-the-way Shenzhen North and Guangmingcheng stations. A second-class one-way ticket is HK$80 or ¥68 (2019). High-speed trains run frequently from early morning to late evening, but get a ticket in advance if you can because the lines for ticketing can be long. Different trains stop at different stations; not all stop at Futian.
There are also border trains and bus connections. There are six land border crossings: Lok Ma Chau/Huanggang (落馬洲/皇岗口岸), Lok Ma Chau/Futian Checkpoint (落馬洲/福田口岸), Lo Wu/Luohu (羅湖/罗湖), Sha Tau Kok/Shatoujiao (沙頭角/沙头角), Man Kam To/Wenjindu (文錦渡/文锦渡) and Shenzhen Bay (深圳灣/深圳湾) which is at the end of a long and elegant bridge across Shenzhen Bay.
For people travelling to Futian and other destinations in Central and Western Shenzhen, you can take the MTR East Rail Line to Lok Ma Chau station – this is not the Lok Ma Chau/Huanggang border crossing, but the Lok Ma Chau/Futian Checkpoint crossing. The East Rail line connects to central Kowloon at Hung Hom Station. At Lok Ma Chau, it connects directly to the Shenzhen Metro line 4 Futian Checkpoint Station. The train follows the same route as the Lo Wu one but turns off at the last station. This service only goes till 21:30.
Lo Wu/Luohu is the other metro crossing point, operating daily 06:30-24:00. The last several trains do not go to Lo Wu, they terminate at Sheung Shui. Because Lo Wu is in Hong Kong's Border Restricted Area, MTR Eastrail is the only way to reach it. Lo Wu Station is only open for travel to Shenzhen or beyond, and a valid travel document is required to travel there; it is illegal to travel to Lo Wu Station unless you are a resident of the area or crossing the border. Luohu border crossing is a busy place, and the Shenzhen side has luggage storage, currency exchange, SIM cards for sale, convenience stores, restaurants, and for some reason even a dentist. Taxis are there if you don't want to continue by Shenzhen metro. Not to mention the train station, bus stations, and shopping malls right nearby.
The MTR East Rail Line commuter train which connects Hung Hom to Lo Wu and Lok Ma Chau with several intermediate stops mainly serves Hong Kong locals. It interchanges with the urban section of the MTR at Kowloon Tong Station and East Tsim Sha Tsui Terminal. For those travelling to or from Hong Kong Island, it is recommended to transfer to Cross Harbour Bus in Hung Hom Station or the Tsuen Wan Line at East Tsim Sha Tsui.
The journey from East Tsim Sha Tsui to Lo Wu takes 42 minutes and costs HK$33–36.50, first class is charged double. However generally you can save about HK$7 if you get off and exit the gates at Sheung Shui and get back on again from Sheung Shui to Lo Wu. Trains depart every few minutes but some short trips are operated at rush hour, so check the destination screen before boarding. The train can be crowded during rush hours as it serves millions of commuters along the line as well.
For more details, check the MTR website.
The road border crossings (such as Lok Ma Chau/Huanggang) are accessible by cross-boundary coaches from Hong Kong.
Huanggang is the only border crossing open 24 hours a day, though the plan is to have two more by the end of 2020: Shenzhen Bay crossing and the still-under-construction Liantang crossing.
Shenzhen is served by several domestic intercity railway stations, some exclusively served by high speed trains. The most important are:
- 2 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.
- 3 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.
- 4 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.
- 5 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 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.
There are ferries from Hong Kong (Central (also known as HongKong/Macau Ferry Port) and HK airport), Macau, and Zhuhai. Most services land at the ferry terminal at Shekou. The 8 Shekou Ferry Terminal is connected by subway and bus services to the rest of Shenzhen. There is further information available online: Hong Kong Ferry Info.
There is also a ferry port at Shenzhen Airport Fuyong which features a bonded service to HK Airport avoiding HK customs and immigration plus check-in facilities for some flights leaving from HKIA. There are also limited services connecting the airport to Hong Kong, Macau, Zhongshan, and Zhuhai.
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.
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. Eating or drinking on the metro is prohibited. 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.
Shenzhen Metro lines are numbered. In the past lines were referred to by name, and the old names are shown here for reference.
(Luobao Line) - East-west from Luohu (HK Border / Shenzhen Railway Station) to Shenzhen Airport East (a misnomer as you can't easily get to the airport from the station). Most convenient line for many tourist sites. Luohu Station is connected to Lo Wu Station of Hong Kong MTR through Luohu Checkpoint in Shenzhen and Lo Wu Control Point in Hong Kong
(Shekou Line) - East-west from Chiwan to Xinxiu, best for ferry connections and Shekou Sea World
(Longgang Line) - From Yitian running northeast to Shuanglong
(Longhua Line) - North-south from Futian Checkpoint (HK Border) to Qinghu. Futian Checkpoint Station is connected to Lok Ma Chau Station of Hong Kong MTR through Futian Checkpoint in Shenzhen and Lok Ma Chau Control Point in Hong Kong
(Huanzhong Line) - East-west through Shenzhen's northern suburbs from Qianhaiwan to Huangbeiling
(Xili Line) - East-west from Xili Lake to Tai'an
(Meilin Line) - East-west from Hongshuwan South to Wenjin
(Airport Line) - East-west from Futian to Bitou stations, stopping at Shenzhen Airport
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 or a vending machine. This is a stored value ticket, which requires a ¥20 deposit and costs ¥100. Note that while top-up machines provide English interface, the vending machines do not, so you may want to buy it at ticket windows. 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.
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.
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.
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.
- Individual listings can be found in Shenzhen's district articles
People, even long time Shenzhen residents, will confidently tell you that "Shenzhen has no history". However there is a surprising number of historic sites, some of great national significance, dating back to the twelfth century. Shenzhen, it seems, was critically involved in a number of historical events, especially the collapse and final stand of the Southern Song Dynasty (13th century), the last stand of the Ming Dynasty (17th century) and the Opium Wars (19th century). Historic sites are concentrated in Nanshan and the eastern parts of the city. History museums downtown and in Bao'an tell the story of modern Shenzhen's rapid development from farmland and fishing villages to a global hub for technology and commerce.
As a center of design and manufacturing, Shenzhen has a variety of museums of design and industry. Some are downtown, but most seem to be scattered through the city's industrial suburbs. There's also a surprisingly rich array of art galleries, mostly downtown and in Nanshan but also some in the suburbs.
Many museums are closed on Mondays.
- Individual listings can be found in Shenzhen's district articles
Shenzhen has many theme parks, which are popular with Chinese tourists, many of whom go to Shenzhen mainly for these. Reactions of Western visitors vary widely, from enjoying them immensely to finding them amazingly tacky. Most of these are operated by Overseas Chinese Town (OCT, 华侨城, Huáqiáochéng), and you can get discounts to the parks using the Smart OCT (花橙旅游) website or app (only in Chinese). Most of them are in Nanshan, with one in Yantian.
Parks, mountains, and outdoor activities
Huge and spread-out city that it is, Shenzhen contains large areas of parks. Some are carefully arranged and tended; others are nature reserves with big, forested mountains. Some have Buddhist temples, pagodas, or wildlife. When the weather is nice, they're lovely for hiking, relaxing, or people-watching.
Hiking trails are generally paved with hundreds and hundreds of steps. Given the huge population of Shenzhen, don't expect a walk of quiet solitude, and on weekends and holidays be ready for crowded trails. You can avoid the crowds to some extent by arriving early in the morning and choosing more out-of-the-way parks. Hikes range from "so crowded you might as well be in a queue" (lower parts of Wutong Mountain on a holiday) to "nobody in sight" (back trails of Tanglang Mountain on a workday). Unless it's winter, you'll want to set off early to avoid Shenzhen's oppressive heat and humidity. In the summer, start before dawn when it's still relatively cool.
Shenzhen is one of China's and indeed one of the world's great golfing Meccas. It boasts some of the earliest golf courses in China and, in Mission Hills (Longhua), the world's largest golf course which is the scene of leading international tournaments.
The best beaches are in eastern Shenzhen. The popular Dameisha and Xiaomeisha beaches are crowded and dirty, so go past them to the more peaceful beaches further east.
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.
There are many large spa and massage complexes 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 in downtown Shenzhen 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.
Caution: In most hotels, prostitution is widespread. In some seedier areas, "massage" may actually mean sex. Use your best judgment. See also the China article for information on massage.
- Shenzhen International Marathon. Held in mid-December annually.
Chinese classes are available, mainly serving Shenzhen's expat community. Shenzhen is a good place to practice your listening ability, as the main language of the city is Mandarin but you'll encounter a variety of standard and nonstandard accents from all over China. On the other hand, as a learner you'll have to be careful not to absorb the nonstandard pronunciations into your own speech, especially the widespread merging of c/ch, z/zh, and s/sh.
- 1 Shenzhen University (深圳大学). On the coastline of Shenzhen Bay. The total area of the campus is 1.44 km². It has its own lake named Wenshan Lake (文山湖), spreads across rolling hills covered with trees, an abundance of green space and sculptures. It's possible for foreigners to enroll in classes to learn Chinese.
- 2 Shenzhen Polytechnic (深圳职业技术学院 Shēnzhèn Zhíyè Jìshù Xuéyuàn) (in Xili in Nanshan District). It has four campuses (East, West, North and OCT). It has 21,000 full-time and 6,000 part-time students. It was founded in 1993.
- 3 South University of Science and Technology of China (南方科技大学 SUSTech) (No.1088, Xueyuan Blvd, Nanshan District), ☏ . The pilot field for cultivating innovative talents and higher education reform.
Shenzhen's economy is dominated by manufacturing and trade, and this international orientation means significant job opportunities for foreigners.
As with anywhere in China, the main work available for foreigners is teaching English. Demand is especially high here, because businesspeople who work in international trade want to improve their English to communicate with clients overseas, and well-off parents want their kids to learn English to give them an advantage in the future. The pay is said to be better in the city center than in the outer districts, but in any case should be plenty to live on.
Another opportunity is import-export work—some of the manufacturers here hire foreign staff to work with overseas customers.
See Working in China for general information.
- Individual listings can be found in Shenzhen's district articles
- See also: Shopping in China
Shenzhen is internationally best known as the epicentre of electronics. The city and surrounding urbanization are home to countless circuit board manufacturers, assembly houses, retailers, and supporting businesses. Many of them will happily give you a tour on request! You can't say you have visited Shenzhen without having strolled through its electronics markets, and filled your backpack with LED strips!
Most of the shopping is downtown: cheap markets for day-trippers from across the border, luxurious malls for the city's nouveau-riche, and the famous electronics markets.
Wechat Pay and Alipay are the primer way of electronic payment at almost any store, besides this cash is king. You can withdraw cash from most ATMs with Visa and other cards, but need a Chinese bank account to use Wechat or Alipay. As for credit cards, as of 2018 they are seldom used by the Chinese and are quickly fading into obscurity. Major credit cards i.e. Visa, Masters, HSBC are sometimes accepted throughout Shenzhen but don't count on it. Always ask first if they accept cards. JCB and American Express have limited coverage. Always contact your bank before travel to ensure that your card will work in China and that you can withdraw cash from ATMs.
At places in Luohu, cash or alipay/wechat are highly recommended. Some places charge an extra 10% for credit card purchases. The shop assistants will bring you to shops that have credit card processing machines. At shopping centers, remember to check with the cashiers to see if they accept credit cards before making purchases. There are few shopping centers that accept credit card with passport verification, though you may lose your discount on the purchase.
Be careful when getting change from large notes as people may try to give you Hong Kong dollars instead of Yuan as the coins can look the same. The Hong Kong dollar is worth less than Yuan.
Currency exchanges are available near some border crossings and in Futian metro station. For currency information, see the China page.
Lots of upscale malls in the city center, and some in the suburbs.
- Rainbow (天虹 Tiānhóng). A chain of large, moderately high-end shopping centers. They have branches in many cities in China, but a lot more in Shenzhen than anywhere else, and indeed their headquarters is in Nanshan District.
- Book City. A local chain of large bookstores. The flagship store, which claims to be the biggest bookshop in the world, is in the middle of Futian. Various other branches are scattered around Shenzhen. Mostly in Chinese, though you may find a small selection in English too, as well as stationery, art supplies, and postcards.
- B&Q 百安居. This English chain offers DIY supplies and goods for the home and garden. B&Q in Chinese
- Decathlon (迪卡侬 Díkǎnóng). The French sports supplies retailer Decathlon has got well over 200 stores in the country in all major cities. You will find several stores in Shenzhen. Store locator.
- Carrefour (家乐福, Jiālèfú). One of the biggest foreign hypermarket chains across China (over 200 stores). This French brand provides expats, tourists and Chinese people with all local and imported products they need. You will find food, wine, appliances, clothes, etc...There are 8 stores in Shenzhen; you can find locations on their website, or just say "Jiālèfú" to a taxi driver to take you there. Store locator (Chinese).
- Wal-Mart. There are 8 stores of the US chain, but more are being built. Also check out Carrefour, and Sam's Club (山母会员店). Sam's is a favorite shopping choice for Shenzhen's enormous and ever growing bourgeoisie and it's fun watching them. Be warned. They can be scary on a busy Sunday evening. Sam's membership is ¥150. Walmart's China HQ is in Xiangmi Hu (香密湖), above an enormous mall/cinema complex which includes a Sam's Club. Make sure you check out the crocodile of which there is always one at the fish counter.
- Jusco. The Japanese supercenter and supermarkets. It has several locations in Shenzhen, next door to the CITIC Mall (中信广场), Metro: Science Museum (科学馆), exit D, at Coco Park (Metro Gou Wu Gong Yuan) and in Coastal City (海岸城) Nanshan.
- Individual listings can be found in Shenzhen's district articles
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!
Some outer neighborhoods in Shenzhen are known for a particular kind of food. Probably the most famous are oysters (生蚝 shēngháo) in Shajing in the far northwest of the city (Bao'an district)—they're said to be the "milk of the ocean floor", and the local ones are delicious and high in protein.
International chains such as McDonald's, KFC, Pizza Hut, and Starbucks are easy to find, especially in malls and Eat Streets (see below), and expensive foreign restaurants catering to expats are scattered throughout the city too. The biggest concentration by far is in Shekou.
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. See district articles for individual listings.
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.
For breakfast, try the steamed buns, cheung fun, congee, egg pancakes, noodles, and soymilk sold from carts and hole-in-the-wall shops anywhere that gets a good amount of foot traffic.
Shenzhen has lots of people who've made it rich and want to live the good life, plus a steady stream of visiting businesspeople to be wined and dined. There are plenty of expensive restaurants to cater to those markets.
Foreign restaurants frequented by expats tend to be very expensive. Your food budget can easily be multiplied by a factor of three or four if you limit yourself to these—but with the wealth of cuisine from all over China available in Shenzhen, why would you?
- Individual listings can be found in Shenzhen's district articles
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.
- Individual listings can be found in Shenzhen's district articles
Attractions in Shenzhen are spread out, so if you want to be able to see different parts of the city, look for lodging near a centrally located metro station (ideally in Futian or Luohu). If you're taking a longer trip and want to get out and explore the far-flung corners of the city, you may want to move around and find lodging in different districts—fortunately, there are plenty of hotels all over Shenzhen, so whatever you're interested in, you can surely find a place to sleep nearby.
Many budget hotels say they don't accept foreigners (most likely they don't want to deal with the extra paperwork), though at some you might be able to talk your way into a room anyway. More expensive hotels shouldn't be a problem, and they're present in both central locations and out-of-the-way districts to serve business travellers.
At Chinese New Year (usually February), prices usually double or substantially increase. Unlike other cities, however, the explosive development of hotels in Shenzhen means rooms, while more expensive, will generally still be available even at the busiest times.
Despite its sensationalized reputation from Hong Kong residents as being crime-ridden, Shenzhen is relatively safe by Western standards. It is no more dangerous than a major American city and violent crime remains rare. Nevertheless, as always, a little common sense goes a long way.
The main problem is petty crime such as pickpocketing. Be careful in crowded shopping centres, subway trains, buses, stations and around the theme parks - keep your wallet in your front pocket.
Being scammed is not so common as in Beijing or Shanghai but be alert for people touting for business (massage, watches, shoes etc.) around the Luohu area, as they sell below-standard fakes at inflated prices. The 'touts' in Luohu bus station are not necessarily touts - there is no ticket office so they are simply there to direct you to your bus and don't require any payment - you should buy your ticket on the bus.
You will encounter beggars but they are confined to a few places. Notable among these places are border crossings, underpasses, Shekou and Christian churches. Ordinary Chinese rarely give beggars money so they concentrate in places where the punters are either ignorant or have just heard a sermon. They are not aggressive and are mostly harmless. Give money at your own risk - beggars are controlled by criminal gangs and your donation will be funding organized crime - giving food or a drink is more beneficial to them. Particularly avoid giving money to child beggars. There have been several high profile court cases against gangs who buy children from impoverished peasant families, mutilate them, and use them in the begging racket.
As an industrial megacity, Shenzhen has a smog problem. Though it's nothing compared to the notorious smog levels in some northern Chinese cities, you may notice it if you're from somewhere with clean air. Tap water is safe to drink in the Meilin district and several nearby districts, but probably not in the area where you are staying. Use the free bottled water or distilled water provided by your hotel or buy some. It's easily available in all convenience stores and supermarkets. However, if you are buying water for ¥5 a bottle, you are getting ripped off. Hepatitis is common in China and is most usually spread by using chopsticks to eat from a common dish. Ask for "gōng kuài" if they aren't provided. Otherwise minor travellers' stomach upsets are the worst things which you have to fear health-wise.
Driving in China can be dangerous, and care should be taken when crossing the street.
Prostitution is common - particularly around Luohu and Shekou. Scantily-clad, available-looking women may be prostitutes. However, you should be reminded that prostitution is illegal in China, and offenders can be sentenced to a maximum 15 days of security detention.
Newspapers and magazines
Shenzhen Daily is the local English language newspaper and is widely available at news kiosks. China Daily is surprisingly difficult to get. South China Morning Post from Hong Kong is also available by subscription and in a couple of outlets. Eon Bookshop, Central Book City, sells a reasonable range of English language magazines. See Book City above.
That's Shenzhen is a local English magazine, published at the beginning of each month. 45,000 copies are mailed directly and displayed every month in carefully-selected public areas, including Starbucks, 5-star hotels, high-end restaurants & bars, villas and properties.
Topway Cable Television offers a wide range of international television including BBC, CNN, NHK, HBO, etc. Hong Kong English TV is also offered.
Places of worship
- Muslim: 1 Shenzhen Mosque (深圳市清真寺), 7 Meilin Road, Futian District (福田区梅林路7号) (Maling Station, Metro Line 9), ☏ . The city's largest mosque.
- Protestant: 2 Christian Shenzhen Church (深圳市基督教深圳堂), 126 Meilin Rd, Futian 福田区梅林路126号, ☏ . Has services in English, Chinese and Korean.
- Heping Church 和平堂 2/F Wenhua Garden, Luohu 罗湖区文华花园管理处二楼 Phone 0755 2512 8077
- Catholic: St Anthony's Catholic Church 天主教深圳圣安多尼堂 Nonglin Rd, Zhuzilin, Futian 福田区竹子林农林路 and the Nantou Catholic Church Nantou, Ninth St, Nantou Cheng, Nanshan 南山区南头城南头九节 Phone 0755-26611334 offer Mass on Sundays.
- Jewish:Chabad of Shenzhen, No. 4 Block A Guishan Xiaozhu, Yanshan Rd, Industrial Area Shekou Nanshan District, Shenzhen 518001, 86-755-8207-0712
Four hospitals are recommended by the Shenzhen City Government for foreigners. They are:
- Shenzhen People's Hospital 深圳人民医院 1017 Dongmen Rd North, Luohu, 罗湖区东门北1017路 Phone 0755 2553 3018
- Shenzhen Peking University Hospital 深圳北京大学医院 1120 Lianhua Rd, Futian 福田区莲花路1120号 Phone 0755 8392 3333
- No 2 Shenzhen People’s Hospital (previously called Shenzhen Red Cross Hospital) 深圳第二人民医院 1 Zhenhua Rd, Futian 福田区振华路1号 Phone 0755 8336 6388
- Nanshan People's Hospital 南山人民医院 89 Taoyuan Rd, Nanshan 南山区桃园路89号 Phone 0755-26553111
The following dentists give excellent service
- Arrail Dental, G3 and G4 Shun Hing Square (Diwang Building) Shennan Ave 罗湖区深南东路5002号信兴广场地王商业中心G3&G4层2单元 Phone 0755 2583 5788
- Ace Dental, 3409 Excellence Times Plaza, Yitian Rd, Futian District 福田区益田路卓越时代广场3409 Phone 0755-83815811 ／ 0755-83815833
- AKJ Dental Hospital 爱康健齿科医院，1-8/F, Luohu Railway Station Building C, Luohu District 罗湖区罗湖火车站大厦C栋1-8楼 Phone 4000-489-168
The other cities of the Pearl River Delta are easy to get to from Shenzhen. All have maintained their traditional cultures and dialects to an extent that Shenzhen has not. Dongguan, Hong Kong, and Huizhou are the closest.
- Guangzhou – the provincial capital, and third largest city in China. Like Shenzhen, it's a huge city of global importance, but it's not a boom town by any means; it's been a major international commerce hub for centuries. It lacks Shenzhen's frenetic energy and dynamism but has a lot more history and a more established culture and community. It's about an hour away by train or two hours by road.
- Hong Kong – "Asia's World City", the former British colony with a unique mix of cultures whose prosperity and international connections made Shenzhen what it is today. It's just across the border, with a travel time of less than an hour by train.
- Macau – the former Portuguese colony on the other side of the Delta, famous as a gambling destination but also boasting interesting architecture and history. It can be reached by ferry from Shekou and Fuyong (Shenzhen Airport).
- Dongguan – a major manufacturing center like Shenzhen, thirty minutes north by train or road.
- Huizhou – popular for its mountains and beaches, located forty minutes northeast by bus from the Luohu Station bus depot.
- Zhuhai – as Shenzhen is to Hong Kong, Zhuhai is to Macau: a border city growing like crazy due to favorable government policies and a location that's ideal for international trade. But Zhuhai is much smaller than Shenzhen and less densely populated. It can be reached by ferry from Shekou and Fuyong.
- Zhongshan – birthplace of Sun Yat-sen, the leader of the revolution that toppled the Qing Dynasty, and first president of China. 45 min away by ferry from Fuyong.
- Foshan – birthplace of famous martial artists Wong Fei-hung and Ip Man, about an hour away by high-speed train.
If you want to head to Hong Kong or Macau, remember that they are outside mainland China and therefore require all the same border crossing and passport formalities involved in going across an international border. Also remember going to Hong Kong or Macau counts as leaving China, which would use up a single entry visa for China.
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