Geek Tour: Visit Shenzhen


Shenzhen is the hot geek destination right now. Since the hacker camp last spring, it seems like there are at least 3 hackers roaming the neighborhood at any given moment. Add the constant HAXLR8R classes and you’ve got a great vibe. We put together a wiki page to help plan your trip to Shenzhen. Where to stay, how to get data, what to eat, and how to meet us for a beer.

The first draft is below, the latest version will always be on the wiki.

So you’re coming to Shenzhen? Tickets purchased, about to make the big trip and explore the markets yourself? Maybe a factory tour or two? Here’s some stuff that might make your trip smoother.

Yes, we’d love to hang out in Shenzhen!

There’s always lots of hackers in Shenzhen and you’re welcome to join us for food, drink, foot massage, or KTV.

Your welcome meal choices are:


  • BBQ – Grilled meat, vegetables, and tofu on sticks. A local place we crash for a midnight snack, but also good for a light dinner. Shaizi lesson: learn an extremely popular dice game played everywhere in China. A great way to make friends with Chinese people – even if you don’t speak a word of Chinese! $5-$10 USD.
  • Hot Pot – Not-to-be-missed Chinese traditional meal. Grab your food from plates of meat and vegetables and cook them in the boiling soup heated by charcoal. Soup can be a mild stock, or a fiery spicy broth. Try both in a yuanyang (half-half) pot. Vegetarian possible. Mix your own dipping sauce at the sauce bar. A traditional Chinese style of eating. $7-$12 USD.
  • Sichuan place – A ‘fancy’ indoor dining place. A huge menu of amazing (and cheap!) food from northern China. Spicy or not, always tasty. $6-$10 USD.


You will need WeChat to coordinate all your new friends. Get it for iPhone or Android. Hey, it’s got more users than teh Facebook!

  1. Add dian-ian to your WeChat contacts
  2. We’ll add you to the visiting hacker group chat so you always know who’s around and whats up
  3. Feel free to leave the group whenever, no offense taken

Factory visits
Factories are usually way out in Bao’on and we avoid going there unless absolutely needed. You can get the metro to the last stop and then take a taxi. Getting back is more difficult.

Seeed Studio is one very easy and friendly factory to visit, located 30-40 minutes from Huaqiangbei market by metro at Xili stop. Send them an email a few days before you’d like a tour.


Phone SIM
Mobile data is key in China. Access to Google Maps, translation, and other info makes life so much easier. Mobile phone SIM cards with data plans are cheap and easy to get. Until recently you could buy them anywhere, but now you need to head to a phone shop and show a passport.

Major providers are China Unicom, China Telecom, and China Mobile. I prefer China Unicom for no particular reason, but shops for all are next door to the Hacker Camp Shenzhen meeting locations. Check the Google Maps layer here.


In China Unicom look for a sheet with a list of plans like the table above. There’s are two or three packages – A, B, and C. Since most people are interested in data, plan ‘A’ is probably best.

  • First column shows the price of the plan in RMB, divide by 6 for US dollars.
  • Second column shows the package (A, B, C, etc)
  • Third column is outgoing talk minutes included (incoming calls are free)
  • Fourth column is the data included
  • Other columns show various costs for things not in the plan like extra data

I’ve been using package A 96RMB ($16) plan with 300MB data for the past few months, before that I used the 156RMB plan with 500MB of data. If you’re here for a week 300MB is probably enough. More than a week with lots of exploring and searching – get the 500MB plan to be safe.

Find a Unicom shop, the orange and white signs stand out all over the place. There’s one near the workshop shown on the Google Map layer, as well as a dozen scattered throughout the market in Huaqiangbei.

Grab a sheet of plans and find someone at a counter. Show them your phone, point to the plan you want, and hand over your passport – someone at the shop may speak a tiny bit of English but don’t count on it. They’ll setup the plan, make a copy of your passport, and hand you a SIM. Data should work immediately.

Handing over a passport has never been a problem, it’s quite common in China. If you’re cagey about it, you can try to buy an ‘underground’ SIM in Hong Kong but they’ve not worked properly for the past year or so.

Here’s some stuff to show you around and get prepared for Shenzhen.

Shenzhen Global Geek tour
Hacker Camp Shenzhen mini-site
Hacker Camp Video Day 1
Hacker Camp Video Day 2
Hacker Camp Video Day 3

Google Maps Layer
Huaqiangbei area map front (PNG, PDF) back (PNG, PDF)
Seeed Studio map
Oomlout HQBS map

Where to stay


We recommend the City Inn Ke Xue Guan on corner of Songling and Nanyuan road.

  • It’s about $30 a night, and you can book it on major sites like Expedia
  • Five minutes from the edge of the market area, and 10 minutes to SEG
  • Near Science Museum metro stop, our favorite BBQ place, cheap foot massage, etc


For long term check out the Mid Century Serviced Apartments. They are terrible at communicating, but generally have a room for you when a reservation is made online. Or stay in City Inn and get into Mid-Cen once you’re here. They’re a block away from each other, both on Songling Road.

  • Good for long term stays
  • Friendly, if mildly startled, manager named Jim
  • Not great at providing confirmation


For $150+ you can stay in the beautiful, yet hard bedded, Huaqiang Plaza Hotel in the middle of the market.

  • It’s nice, but far from any living amenities
  • Hard beds reported by many
  • We like the area around Science Museum better

Getting there
Here’s some logistical issues you might encounter coming to Shenzhen.

Chinese visa
Most people need to apply for a Chinese visa before leaving their home country. Plan in advance for at least for ten days processing time. Most people will probably apply for a tourist visa (L class), listing Shenzhen as your sightseeing city. You will need to provide:

  • Flight itinerary (copy of flight ticket)
  • Hotel reservation
  • A trip itinerary (listing Shenzhen as your sightseeing city, as well as any other cities you may visit during the trip)

We use Wooee Visa as our visa processor. Most Americans should be able to get a one-year multiple entry visa without problems.

Airport transportation
Most likely you’ll arrive at the Hongkong airport. Flights to Hongkong are cheapest, and it’s just a few minutes from Shenzhen.

Hongkong Airport Limo to Shenzhen
Not actually a limo, but a van that can take 6 people to the Shenzhen Huanggang border checkpoint.

  • Follow the signs to mainland transportation in Hongkong airport
  • Buy a ticket to Huanggang at any counter, usually a hawker will spot you and take you to a counter. We prefer the W company
  • It is 150 HKD or RMB for the van to the Huanggang checkpoint. The trip is about 30 minutes
  • The van drives you through the Hongkong border, but you need to get out and walk through the Chinese side
  • After customs, walk outside, cross the pedestrian bridge, and get in the taxi queue. Show your hotel address card to the driver. They will not speak English. The ride should take 10-15 minutes if you stay near Huaqiangbei, and cost around 30RMB ($5)


Hongkong MTR to Shenzhen
This is the long route and can be confusing for the first time. However if you’d like to grab a taco and visit the Apliu Street electronics market this is the way to go.

  • Take the Airport Express train from Hongkong airport to Hongkong station (100HKD)
  • Exit at Hongkong station
  • Optional: follow signs to the Mid Level Escalators, the worlds longest escalator. Half way up is Taco Loco – grab a carnitas pork taco soft shell. Go back down to Hongkong Station
  • Take the metro red line towards Tseun Wan
  • Optional: take the red line to Sham Shui Po and exit to Apliu Street Market. Check out the electronics, cell phone, and computer market, buy a cheap Hongkong SIM card (we like One2Free). Get back on the metro towards Central
  • Transfer to the green line at Prince Edward towards Tui Keng Leng. The trains line up, walk directly across the platform to transfer to the green line
  • Transfer to the East Rail line towards Lo Wu at Kowloon Tong. Make sure the train is going to Lo Wu and not the Lok Ma Chau crossing. This will be a long ride so we always take the first class train. Find the line for first class and upgrade at the yellow validator using an Octopus stored value card
  • Get off at Lo Wu and follow the crowd through Hongkong customs and into China
  • On China side exit customs and take the escalators directly ahead into the Shenzhen metro. Find a service window and buy a stored value smart card – 50RMB should last half a month
  • Take the Shenzhen metro green line (Loubao) into the city. If staying at City Inn or Mid-Century get off at the Science Museum stop. If staying at the Huaqiang Plaza hotel continue one stop to Huaqiang Road station.

Shenzhen Airport arrivals
Shenzhen has a brand new airport terminal and flights directly to Shenzhen are becoming more common
-Grab a taxi: A taxi from the airport to the Huaqiangbei area is around 130RMB ($20-$25) and takes about 40 minutes
-Take the metro: The green line (Loubao) goes from the airport with stops at Huaqiangbei and Science Museum. The ride takes more than an hour and costs around 10RMB ($2).

  • If staying at City Inn or Mid-Century get off at the Science Museum stop.
  • If staying at the Huaqiang Plaza hotel exit at Huaqiang Road station.

Join the Conversation


  1. Is this article a prelude of another exciting ShenZhen Hacker Camp???
    Thank-you for the excellent information; I will head over to ShenZhen once I can afford some holiday ;-)

    1. We are doing it, but its just a question of setting the date. Its too hot right now though. I think September.

      1. September could be tough for me… :-( No worry, there is always a next trip. I would try to attend if I could spare myself. Thanks!

      2. Hacker camp in Shenzhen sounds really cool. End/half of september could work for me. Is there a list I can register to keep posted on updates on this?

    1. Cool! You inspired me. I’m starting to interview all the hackers coming through town. We can leave some record of how the shenzhen geek hollywood started :)

  2. Ian, you were such a great host when I visited last month. My comments: Many people from the USA might read this and consider it as their first jaunt overseas. To you I say: Go. If it is your first time, I would say you should first stop in Hong Kong to get the ropes of showing your taxi driver chinese maps on your cell phone, or calling your hotel or some other local translator and handing the phone to them.. The border crossings can be very chaotic. You will need entry/exit cards so go fill them out before you get in line.

  3. Very cool!
    I’m planning a trip there around mid-November, to get accustomed to the place and hopefully meet with factories, this is a goldmine of info :)

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.