Before departing for ISMIR
1. Obtain a visa
Foreigners will need to obtain a visa to enter China. You would have to obtain the visa prior to departing for China; a visa at port-of-entry will not be available for visiting foreigners.
In order to obtain your Chinese visa, you will need to fill out an application and submit it to your local embassy along with supplementary documents such as a photograph and a letter of invitation. The Chinese embassies in several countries have websites which provide contact information for your nearest embassy, the visa application itself, and lists of supplementary documents. For example, the visa information provided by Chinese embassies in the United States of America is available at: http://www.china-embassy.org/eng/visas/hrsq.
Processing visas will take some time. Please apply for your visa at least a few weeks before departure to ensure that you can obtain your visa in time.
China offers a variety of types of visas. If you are visiting China solely to attend ISMIR, you should apply for visa type ‘F’.
Note: Citizens of Japan and Singapore may enter China without a visa for limited durations. However, this situation is subject to change, so even if you are from one of these countries make sure to check your local embassy website before you leave to ensure you have the latest information.
For additional information, see the ISMIR website visa page: https://ismir2017.smcnus.org/visas/
2. Internet access
China has firewalls which would block your access to some websites, such as YouTube, Twitter, Google, and Gmail. However, at the conference venue, NUS (Suzhou) Research Institute will have dedicated network to all attendees. It will provide fast and stable internet access when you use such websites. Please note that in hotels and other public areas, you may not be able to use some websites such as YouTube, Gmail or Google etc. without VPN.
Before leaving for China, you should take several precautions:
- Make sure that you have local copies of all images, videos, and other files you will need. It may not be possible, for example, to play a video from your lab’s Youtube channel, or download a programming project from the cloud.
- Similarly, you may not be able to upload files as normal. You may want to bring one or more flash drives (or similar devices) to back up any new files you may create or modify while in Suzhou, as you may not be able to back them up to your usual server or cloud storage.
- Determine alternate methods for your colleagues back home to contact you, as you may not be able to obtain email through your usual account. You may wish to set up an email account on a service which is known to not be blocked in China. Locals report that Microsoft (Outlook) and Yahoo emails are generally not blocked.
Please note that unauthorized use of VPNs or similar systems to circumvent the firewall has recently been made illegal in mainland China. (https://www.engadget.com/2017/01/23/china-vpn-illegal-internet-censorship-government-approval/).
For a list of more sites which are not accessible in China, see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Websites_blocked_in_mainland_China.
3. Mobile Roaming
If you wish to use your mobile phone in China, please make sure to visit your service provider to activate international roaming service before coming to China. If you use a phone which is geo-locked but intend to use it in China, make sure to visit your local provider and have your phone unlocked.
4. Prepare a power adapter
China uses type A, C, and I plugs. You may need to purchase a power adapter if your country uses a different type. To see pictures of the various plug types and verify whether you need to purchase an adapter, you can check the website: https://www.power-plugs-sockets.com/china/.
Transit to ISMIR
1. Flying into Shanghai
The closest airport to the city of Suzhou, where ISMIR will be taking place, is Shuofang International Airport. However, this airport is small and primarily handles domestic flights. The vast majority of foreign visitors to Suzhou fly in through one of Shanghai’s two major international airports, Pudong and Hongqiao, before obtaining ground transportation from Shanghai to Suzhou. These airports are the second and seventh busiest airports in China respectively. You will likely have the easiest time flying into Pudong, as it is the largest airport near Suzhou and has the most international flights. However, Suzhou is accessible from all three airports.
2. Traveling to Suzhou
As you may arrive in Shanghai through the three airports listed before, we have provided some methods on traveling from the three airports to Suzhou below.
2.1. Reaching Suzhou from Pudong International Airport
ISMIR will provide free bus service from Pudong International Airport to the conference hotels (Four Points by Sheraton Suzhou Hotel, Oakwood Hotel & Residence Suzhou, Jinjiang Inn Hotel, and Green Space Commerce Hotel) in Suzhou on the 22nd and 23rd of October. Bus schedules will be arranged closer to the conference date. If your time of arrival allows you to take our scheduled buses, there will be organized volunteers at the airport who will guide you to the pickup point of our free bus service. If you need to reach Suzhou via public transport yourself, there are three different methods of traveling from Pudong International Airport to Suzhou. From there, take local transports to your hotels.
- Take metro Line 2 (about 1.5 hours, ~8 RMB) or bus Line 1 (about 1 hour, ~30 RMB) from Pudong International Airport to Hongqiao Railway Station (虹桥火车站). And then, take a train (about 30 minutes ) from Hongqiao Railway Station (虹桥火车站) to Suzhou Railway Station (苏州站) or Suzhou Industrial Park Station (苏州园区站).
- Take bus Line 5 to Shanghai Railway Station (上海火车站) (about 1 hour, ~22 RMB). And then, take a train (about 30 minutes) from Shanghai Railway Station (上海火车站) to Suzhou Railway Station (苏州站) or Suzhou Industrial Park Station (苏州园区站).
- Take the long-distance coach (长途巴士) to Suzhou, it will take about 2.5 hours and the ticket price is 84 RMB. You can find the coach time table on Pudong airport website.
Pudong International Airport official website: http://en.shairport.com/pudongair.html
2.2. Reaching Suzhou from Hongqiao International Airport
This airport also includes a train station, so you can depart for Suzhou without actually leaving the airport grounds. Simply move through the airport to reach the train area and buy a ticket for Suzhou Railway Station (苏州站).
Note: There are three railway stations in Suzhou. If you wish to travel to Suzhou by train, we recommend train rides to either Suzhou Railway Station (苏州站) or Suzhou Industrial Park Railway Station (苏州园区站). Please do not choose Suzhou North Railway Station (苏州北站), because it is far from the city (about 20 km).
Train tickets can be reserved online up to 1 month in advance. However, for foreigners who do not have an account in the Chinese train ticket reservation system, buying tickets at the counter upon arrival at the railway station is more convenient. The ticket price for a ride from Shanghai to Suzhou is about 40 RMB.
2.3. Reaching Suzhou from Shuofang International Airport
If you happen to land at this airport, you can take the bus leaving from Platform No. 8 to Suzhou Railway Station. This trip takes about 45 minutes.
3. Traveling to Hotels from the Stations
After arriving in Suzhou from the two respective railway stations, here are some methods of transportation to your respective hotels. Those who take the free bus service provided by the conference will be dropped off at the conference hotels and a drop off point in the city.
3.1. Reaching Hotel from Suzhou Railway Station (苏州站)
Four Points by Sheraton Suzhou Hotel:
You can take the Suzhou Rail Transit (SRT) Line 2 to Moon Bay station (月亮湾) and walk 600 meters to the hotel. You also can take a taxi to the hotel (around 30 minutes, ~60 RMB).
Oakwood Hotel & Residence Suzhou:
This hotel is located next to Four Points by Sheraton Suzhou Hotel, so the transport information is same as Four Points by Sheraton Suzhou Hotel
Jinjiang Inn Suzhou (Industrial Park Dushu Lake Higher Education area)
You can take the Suzhou Rail Transit (SRT) Line 2 from Suzhou Railway Station (苏州站) to Songtao Jie Station (松涛街). It will take about 40 minutes. The walk from Songtao Jie Station (松涛街) to the hotel about 700 meters and takes around 10 minutes. You also can take a taxi to the hotel (around 40 minutes, ~60 RMB).
Green Space Commerce Hotel Suzhou
You can take bus Fast No.2 (快2) to the final stop and the hotel is only 100 meters away from the bus stop. You also can take a taxi to the hotel (around 30 minutes, ~60 RMB).
3.2. Reaching Hotel from Suzhou Industrial Park Railway Station (苏州园区站)
The only method of transport from Suzhou Industrial Park Railway Station (苏州园区站) is by taxi, so you can take a taxi to all hotels. The ride to reach Four Points by Sheraton Suzhou Hotel and Oakwood Residence & Hotel Suzhou will take around 30 minutes (~47 RMB) from Suzhou Industrial Park Railway Station (苏州园区站). For Jinjiang Inn Suzhou (Industrial Park Dushu Lake Higher Education Area) as well as Green Space Commerce Hotel Suzhou, the ride will take around 20 minutes (~50 RMB).
4. Reaching Conference Venue (NUSRI) from Hotels
There are two transport methods from Four Points by Sheraton Suzhou Hotel and Oakwood Hotel to the conference venue.
- You can take SRT Line 2 from Moon Bay station to Songtao Jie Station (松涛街), and then walk 800 meters arrive at NUSRI.
- You can take a taxi and it will take around 10 minutes (~13 RMB) from your hotel to NUSRI.
Note: We will provide shuttle bus services from Four Points by Sheraton Suzhou Hotel and Oakwood Hotel in the morning. The bus schedule will be provided closer to the conference date.
Jinjiang Inn Hotel and Green Space Commerce Hotel are both within walking distance to NUSRI, as indicated on the map below; the distance between these two hotels and NUSRI only around 300 meters.
While in Suzhou
1. Food, drink, and dining out
Tap water in China is not guaranteed to be potable. Do not drink the tap water. Instead, drink bottled water.
Some restaurants and bars in Suzhou do not have Western toilets and instead only have squat toilets. If this is a problem for you, then before you decide to eat somewhere, check the bathrooms to make sure they have Western-style toilets available.
2. Taxis and directions
Most of the taxi drivers and other residents of the city do not speak English. If you do not speak Chinese and plan to use taxis, or need to ask locals for directions, do get a business card from your hotel. If you need to take a taxi back to your hotel, you can show the card to your driver. For other venues, get a map beforehand of where you want to go, so that you can show the driver the map. Have the map accessible on your smartphone. If possible, get a written copy of the Chinese address of where you’re going. This can be helpful even if the driver doesn’t understand the map.
Useful Addresses in English and Chinese:
National University of Singapore (Suzhou) Research Institute
Block 3, Public Academy, No. 377 Lin Quan Street, Dushu Lake Higher Education Area, Suzhou Industrial Park, Suzhou, China
Four Points by Sheraton Suzhou: 苏州福朋喜来登酒店
No. 8 Moon Bay Road, Suzhou Industrial Park, Suzhou, China: 苏州工业园区月亮湾路8号
Jinjiang Inn Suzhou: 锦江之星酒店苏州独墅湖店
No. 8 Xuetang Street, Dushu Lake Higher Education Area, Suzhou Industrial Park, Suzhou, China
Green Space Commerce Hotel Suzhou: 苏州绿地商务酒店
No. 366 Wenhui Square, Linquan Street, Dushu Lake High Education Area, Wuzhong District 215123 Suzhou, China
Suzhou Kowloon Hospital:
There is a branch of Suzhou Kowloon Hospital opposite to NUSRI at:
Suzhou Kowloon Hospital (Branch Clinic @SIP)
No. 388 Linquan Street,
Suzhou Industrial Park, Suzhou, China
Tel: +86-512 6262 7777
Wencui Plaza 文汇广场
Wencui Plaza is in the southwest of NUSRI. It is around 5 minutes’ walk. There are both Chinese food and western food in that area.
Wenhui Plaza 文萃广场
Wenhui Plaza is just opposite to NUSRI. You can get your meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) or daily supplies (e.g. fruits) here. Also, if you need help with laundry, you can find one laundromat (second level) in this building.
Wenxing Plaza 文星广场
Wenxing Plaza (below photo) is a good 15 to 20 minutes’ walk from our institute. Many students patronize this place. There are local as well as fast food outlets within the vicinity.