Doing Business in China: The Fastest Way Into Shenzhen
When businesses are interested in doing business in China, it’s not unusual for the city of Shenzhen to be at the top of the list for a visit. Shenzhen is a major Chinese city located across the greenbelt to the north of Hong Kong. This bustling city is pressed against the border with high rises edging up to the thin river that separates the two countries (technically one country, two systems). It is separated by a hard border with immigration to exit Hong Kong and separate controls to enter China. For many business professionals, the two cities might well be separated by thousands of miles.
But don’t let that deter you. In fact, when doing business in China, the fastest way into Shenzhen (or any city really), is simply knowing what’s what and how to make it all happen. Once you’re in the know, it’s an easy adventure to get into Shenzhen. Don’t delay your immersion any longer.
Getting Into Shenzhen from Hong Kong
There are a variety of different ways to get from Hong Kong into Shenzhen. These include a cross-border car service, taxi, train, or by foot. Let’s take a look.
Cross-Border Car Service. Business professionals going from Hong Kong to Shenzhen usually rely on cross-border car service. These Hong Kong-registered minivans are well appointed and employ professional drivers. There are two primary crossing points for cars. Shenzhen Bay serves the Western side of the city and is a perfect entry point if heading into Foshan, Shenzhen Airport, or Shekou. Those headed into the central business district will want a car livensed to cross at Futian. Cross border cars can enter one port or the other (but never both). When engaging a car and driver, do check where your proposed driver is licensed to cross, as getting from the western bridge crossing to downtown can add 45 minutes to an hour to your trip.
Train. My preferred border crossing from Hong Kong to Shenzhen is Lok Ma Chau on the Hong Kong side. Here’s the Hong Kong MTR travel planning site for trains to this station. This feeds into Futian on the Shenzhen side, which is the start of the commercial district. The Shenzhen MTR from this station leads directly north through the business district to Shenzhen North Train Station. From here, you can book a MagLev train to Shanghai or Beijing and travel overnight in the comfort of a business class-sized sleeper bed.
Taxi. The fastest way to get to Lok Ma Chau is via taxi. The border crossing is in a restricted area. Passenger cars aren’t allowed to enter without special residency permits. Otherwise, you access this station via MTR. The last station before the border control area is Sheung Shui.
By Foot. For three years, I worked in Shenzhen and lived in Hong Kong, crossing the broder Monday morning and returning after the work week ended. For the first month I “treated myself” to the luxury of a cross-border driver. But after three years of regular commutes, I became somewhat of a pro at border crossing, and if regular crossings are in your future, I recommend eventually ditching the car and walking into Shenzhen.
There are two major pedestrian crossings into Shenzhen. The largest by volume is Lowu, where some 85 million people pass each year. This feeds into the sister city of Luohu on the Shenzhen side – home of the famed Luohu Commercial City (a shopper’s paradise). Many expats visit Luohu to take advantage of the deals at this mall and never venture farther. That’s a shame as it’s one of the least attractive areas in Shenzhen—there’s so much more to this amazing and vibrant city.
What to Expect at the Border
However you decide to cross from Hong Kong into Shenzhen, both border crossings are protected by immigration officials on either side. First, you exit one country and walk across an enclosed bridge. You can’t help but think of an Eastern Bloc movie of prisoner exchanges when you walk over “No Man’s Land” from one country to another.
Be sure to have your visa ready for China before heading across. For most nationalities, a Shenzhen Special Economic Zone “Visa On Arrival” is available at certain border crossings. Note that Shenzhen Bay and LuoHu have offices, but this is not available at the Lok Ma Chau-Futian crossing. This visa allows you to visit for five days, but you cannot venture deeper into China. Don’t worry about crossing some invisible line—wherever public transport goes, you can venture freely. Your visa won’t allow you to book long-distance train or bus fares, and airports won’t allow you to book flights on this limited visa.
Once you’ve made it across the border into Shenzhen, check out this bustling home to 12.5 million people. You can enjoy the night life in Coco Park, browse through Dafen Artist’s Village, or check out the modernist architecture in Futian. You can take in all the monuments at Wonderful China or Windows on the World. Make time to hit the beach at Damesha and consider enjoying dinner aboard a cruise ship at Shekou. And on your way home, make sure to make time to stop at Luohu to grab a perfect gift for families and friends.
As an aside, if you need help, my team and I are happy to help sort out the intricacies of cross-border crossing, especially if you’re traveling with a group. We can also arrange dinner outings, help plan and manage special events, make introductions, or act as your special envoys as needed as you explore doing business in China. Whatever you need, if we can’t provide the service you need, we know who can!