Before departing for ISMIR
- Obtain a visa
Unless you have Chinese citizenship, you will likely need to obtain a visa to enter China. You must obtain the visa prior to departing for China; you cannot obtain one at port-of-entry.
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 35 days before departure to ensure that you obtain your visa in time to depart for China.
China offers a variety of types of visas. If you are visiting China solely to attend ISMIR, you should apply for visa type ‘F’. If you intend to conduct other activities while you are in China, you may need to apply for a different type.
Note: as of writing, 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/
- Firewall-proof your presentation
China has an extensive firewall which renders many common websites, such as Youtube, Twitter, Google, and Gmail, inaccessible. Before leaving for Suzhou, 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.
- Set up your phone
If you use a phone which is geolocked but intend to use it in China, make sure to visit your local provider and have your phone unlocked.
- Buy a power adapter if needed
China uses type A, C, and I plugs. You may need to buy a power adapter if your country uses a different type of plug. To see pictures of the various plug types and verify if you will need to buy an adapter, you can check the website: https://www.power-plugs-sockets.com/china/.
Transit to ISMIR
- 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.
- Reaching Suzhou from Pudong International Airport
There is no train directly from this airport to Suzhou. Instead, leave the airport and go to Shanghai Railway Station. The Railway Station is accessible from the airport via the No. 5 Airport bus line. In order to take this line, go to Pudong Airport Terminal 2 to get on the bus, and then get off at Shanghai Railway Station. This route takes between 1-2 hours. You can also, of course, take a taxi or use a local rideshare service such as Didi Chuxing (which replaced Uber in China). If you plan to use Didi Chuxing, download the app before departing for China.
From the Shanghai Railway Station, take a train to the Suzhou Railway Station. (Note that Suzhou has other stations such as Suzhou North; make sure you buy a ticket for Suzhou Railway Station specifically, as that is closest to the conference). You will likely have a choice of trains. The high-speed lines can reach Suzhou within about 30 minutes; normal trains can take up to two hours.
Train tickets can be reserved up to 1 month online 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 easiest.
- 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. Regular trains here should take between 40 to 70 minutes to reach Suzhou, depending on the number of stops. There is also a high speed train which should take about 30 minutes.
- 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.
- Reaching the conference venue from Suzhou Railway Station
You can take Bus No. 2 or Bus No. 178 from Suzhou Railway Station in order to get to NUS Suzhou Research Institute, where the conference is being held. Take either bus to the last stop Dushuhugaojiaoqushoumo (denoted in the map below as “Plan A”), and then walk west about 170 meters to reach NUS Suzhou Research Institute. Note that Bus 178 has about twice as many stops as Bus 2, and so while Bus 2 will terminate in about 50 minutes, Bus 178 takes about 1 hour and 40 minutes to reach the end of the line.
You can also take the Suzhou Rail Transit (SRT) Line 2 from Suzhou Railway Station to Songtao Jie Station (denoted in the map below as “Plan B”). This is an interval of 20 stations, and it will take about 40 minutes. From there walk east about 1.1 km to reach NUS (Suzhou) Research Institute.
While in Suzhou
- 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.
- Taxis and directions
There are plentiful taxis in Suzhou, but most of the 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, please follow the following guidelines:
- 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.