Shenzhen(深圳) is known as the Silicon Valley of China. Read this post to find out what to do in this interesting city very close to Hong Kong.
Until the late 1970s, Shenzhen (深圳) was a small Chinese town bordering Hong Kong with less than 300,000 inhabitants. Since 1979 the Chinese government decided to start an experiment and declared Shenzhen the country’s first Special Economic Zone (or SEZs). The plan was clearly to rival with the economic power of Hong Kong by undertaking a series of reforms without destabilizing the political and social system in the rest of China.
What are the results after about 40 years? The metropolitan area has today over 18 million inhabitants, it’s home to one of China’s three Stock Exchange Markets (the other two are in Hong Kong and Shanghai) and it’s known as China’s Silicon Valley because of the many Hi-Tech factories.
Shenzhen has also become one of the most developed cities in the entire nation. The incredible growth of recent years has created a new class of wealthy people who can afford almost everything.
This sudden growth has also had a negative impact. Shenzhen is one of the most expensive cities in China. Renting a house, especially in the area near Hong Kong, can be as expensive as New York. The large companies that produce mobile phones and computers have created hundreds of thousands of jobs but, often, the workers’ conditions are not very good. Being a completely new city and means also that there are not many places of historical interest.
Shenzhen is known as one of the top 20 High-Tech cities in the world, and definitely one of the more modern in China. Despite its incredible development, it’s not a very polluted city.
In short, Shenzhen is the perfect representation of modern China.
How to get to Shenzhen, how to get around and where to stay
There are three ways to get to Shenzhen:
- The first is by land from Hong Kong (as I wrote here): just take the metro to Lok Ma Chau or Lo Wu and continue on foot along the bridge that connects the two cities then take the metro to Shenzhen or continue on foot. Since 2019 Hong Kong it’s connected with the mainland with a fast train. It takes 20 minutes from Shenzhen to West Kowloon (not including the Customs checks).
- The second is by flight.
- The third is by boat from Macao or Hong Kong. In any case remember that to enter China you will need a visa and if you use Gmail, Facebook, or Instagram also a good VPN.
Getting around in Shenzhen is easy. Like all Chinese cities, taxis are relatively cheap. The other option is the subway or if you can read a bit of Chinese, the public buses. Using public buses in China can be difficult for those unfamiliar with Chinese. A good APP to use is Baidu Ditu which allows you to calculate the route using public transport. It’s the Chinese counterpart of Google Maps but you obviously won’t need a VPN.
As far as accommodation is concerned, everything depends on the area of the city in which you want to stay. I always recommend booking a hotel room with Booking.com. There are several 5-star hotels in Shenzhen and the prices are not too high compared to Europe and the USA.
Shenzhen: the city of technology
Shenzhen is not a touristic city: there are no natural places to visit, nor natural wonders such as in Zhangjiajie or Yangshuo (here my travel guide), nor ancient temples, but it can be the gateway to China and there are still many interesting things to see such as the village of Dafen, Window of The World, Splendid China & Chinese Folk Culture Village and the incredible Sea World Plaza where you will find a real cruise ship in the center of a square. In the evening there is also an interesting show of dancing fountains.
One of the main reasons to visit Shenzhen is to buy some super discounted technological gadgets since they are made right there.
There are several malls where you can find everything: on the lower floors are sold the individual transistors and resistances and in the upper floors everything else from action cameras, to smartphones, from RAM memories to hard drives and so forth. Anything a nerd mind can imagine can be found in Shenzhen.
I visited the HQ Mart near the MTR stop Huaqian Rd Station on line 1 of the subway. To get there take exit A of the subway and keep walking for about 5 minutes until you’ll see the mall.
Keep in mind that these malls close pretty early, at around 5:00 pm.
Here are some tips if you want to visit one of these Mall in Shenzhen:
- Very few people can speak English so it’s a good idea to download a dictionary
- To get a good deal you’ll have to bargain.
- Make sure you don’t buy a fake smartphone. If the price is too low there is something wrong.
- Very few stores accept credit cards so bring enough cash with you. In the worst case there is an ATM machine outside the mall.
- Remember that the internet is censored in China. To access blocked sites, use a good VPN (free VPNs don’t work). I use ExpressVPN.
- Don’t miss my travel guide to China.