Visitors: China visa, money exchange, stamps, barber shops and wet shaves

Posted: June 17, 2014 in POV
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One thing to do in Hong Kong is to visit a traditional barber shop for a haircut and wet shave.  The barbers that do this are a dying breed to which youth have yet to replenish their ranks.

The haircut and wet shave at a traditional barber shop is a pittance compared to the going rate back home.  You go there for both a hair cut and a wet shave so the clientele is not likely to buy one and not the other.  $80HKD.  If you decide to wash your hair, it’s another couple of bucks but still under $100HKD.  Outside of HK and back over to NA, one would be lucky to find a traditional barber shop to do a wet shave for under $20 let alone the full pamper service.  It’s a tough slough for the barber shops.  Guys want the salon service but a nice haircut for a pig doesn’t hide the fact I’m still a pig, fat, ugly and reared for slaughter.  In HK, you will need to look for the twirling red, white and blue band.  It denotes the traditional barber shop.

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Inside, you will find the barbers in white linen shirts, the old electric clippers and the large comfortable seats.  Once you build a rapport with the barber, he’ll use his normal straight blade.  Until you are a regular, they will use the disposables.

If you happen to be in Sheung Wan and itching for souvenirs, there are shops located on Ma Wa Lane dedicating to preserving the art of making stencils/stamps.  The stamps are hand etched with your name on it and you use it in place of a signature.  You give the stamp maker your name, business etc and he carves it out in stone.  I would consider them to be artists so let them run with the design.  They also do business cards and anything which requires printing onto paper.  Ma Wa Lane and Bonham Strand in Sheung Wan.

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Every visitor will need access to local currency.  Currency exchange shops are everywhere.  Be wary of shops that charge a processing fee.  HK has a big influx of China residents and as such its easy to exchange money.  Competition keeps everyone honest.  With most things in HK, if you find success at it your competitors sprout out all alongside offering the same services.  Sky high rents with a race to the bottom.  Capitalism at its finest.  Cleverly Street and Des Veoux Road in Sheung Wan.

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To travel to China, you will need a visa.  If you’re planning a trip in Shenzhen, you can get it at the border.  A safer bet would be to procure the visa prior to travel.  China Travel Service (CTS) is everywhere in Hong Kong.  Do not go to CTS as they are not a quasi-government firm despite the name.  They are an agent which procures visas and there are many in HK.  CTS fees are not listed.  They punch it into a calculator to show you and if you grimace they lower the price.  I was quoted $3k for a one year multiple entry visa when inquiring in English.  I did not have the information handy so I went back the next day and had another attendant service me, this time I spoke Cantonese and the quoted price was $2k.  A quick google query shows providers which charge $1k for a one year multiple entry visa.  Call the agent first before making a visit to their location, they will gladly provide their fees over the phone, stay away from China Travel Service.  I now use the following providers:

http://www.jta.biz/

http://www.fbt-chinavisa.com.hk/

Or do it yourself at the China embassy for $800.

October 2015 update – did it myself at the China Embassy in the China Resources Building in WanChai.  $630 for a one year multiple entry visa.  Prepare to wait at least 30 mins.  On visa pick up, they gave me a 9 year visa 2015-2024.  You can tell a lot by a country’s visa price point.  Look at Vietnam, I paid $640 for a single entry visa good for one month.  Vietnam is poor and the visas go directly to their bottom line.  China on the other hand, is showing the world they are rich.  Both communist countries but $630 gets you a visa for the next decade.

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