How to: Travel to China Without a Visa
Thank god for transit visas!
If you’ve got a stop over coming up in China, it might be time to postpone your outbound flight for a couple of days.
In a bid to boost tourism revenue, China has introduced 72 and 144-hour visa free transit zones in various parts of the country. Here’s your step-by-step guide to getting into the Middle Kingdom, hassle-free and with no strings attached:
Am I eligible?
If you see your country of nationality in the list below, then you’re eligible to receive the 72 or 144-hour Visa Free Transit:
America (6 countries): United States, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, and the Republic of Chile
Europe (37 countries): Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Russia, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia, and Albania
Oceania (2 countries): Australia and New Zealand
Asia (6 countries): South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Brunei, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar
What are the Ts & Cs of Entry?
- The main condition is that you have an onward ticket to a third country or region. After all, it is a visa-free “transit” and not a visa-free holiday... For immigration purposes, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan all count as third “regions”.
- You must enter and leave from one of the eligible ports of entry (see below). However, your arrival and departure ports do not have to be the same. For example, for the 144 hour policy, you can arrive in Shanghai and leave from Hangzhou.
- If you are here on the 144-hour visa free transit, you can travel around Shanghai, Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Guangdong. However, you are not allowed to go to other provincial level areas in China. Boo.
Where Can I Enter and Exit?
Here are the 144-Hour Visa Free Ports of Entry:
Shanghai: Shanghai Pudong International Airport, Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport, Shanghai Port International Cruise Terminal, Shanghai Wusongkou International Cruise Terminal, and Shanghai Railway Station
Jiangsu: Nanjing Lukou International Airport
Zhejiang: Hangzhou Xiaoshan International Airport
Guangdong: Guangzhou Baiyun Airport, Shenzhen Bao’an Airport, and Jieyang Chaoshan Airport (But passengers can exit from any port in Guangdong.)
And the 72-Hour Visa Free Ports of Entry:
Beijing Capital International Airport, Xi’an Xianyang International Airport, Chengdu Shuangliu Airport, Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport, Guilin Liangjiang International Airport, Kunming Changshui International Airport, Dalian Zhoushuizi International Airport, Ximen Gaoqi International Airport, Harbin Taiping International Airport, Wuhan Tianhe International Airport, Tianjin Binhai International Airport, Shenyang Xiantao International Airport, Qingdao Liuting International Airport, and Changsha Huanghua International Airport.
I’m eligible and I meet all the conditions. What will I need?
Onward Ticket to a third country/region with a confirmed seat and date
Valid Visa for the third country/region if required
Completed Arrival and Departure Card
And what happens if I’m unable to leave in time?
If your flight is cancelled, or you’re unable to leave the country due to an emergency, you’ll need to apply for a visa from the Municipal Public Security Bureau.
So how do the hours work?
The 144 hours start counting down from 00:00 after the day of entry.
So if you arrive in the morning of 18th July 2017, the hours start counting down from 00:00 on the 19th July, and run to 23:59 on 24th July. So technically speaking you have a bit more than 144 hours, but it’s best to leave a bit of leeway time just in case.
Sorted. Now how do I get in??
1) When you’re checking in before your departure, tell your airline that you’re planning to use the 144-hour visa-free transit.
2) Complete the arrival and departure card forms.
3) After you land, follow the signs or ask someone to direct you to the special lane for 144-hour visa free transit passengers.
4) Just to be safe, tell the immigration authority at the counter again that you want to use the visa-free transit period. Here’s hoping he/she speaks English…
5) Remember to act natural – don’t give anything away. Just kidding, you’ll need to show your tickets, passport, and China arrival card to the officer.
6) Once you’ve cleared immigration – you’re home free! Phew. Grab your bags and run before anyone can catch you. If that’s not how you roll, you can also just make your way through customs like you would in any other country.
7) You many need to register at a local police station within 24 hours. If you’re staying at a hotel, your hotel will do it for you during check-in. Otherwise, you should go to the police station yourself to register your stay. You’ll need to bring your passport, and your host will need to show some sort of identification/address.
Note: We’ve heard cases of people being held back and questioned before being allowed to leave the country, so it’s best to register to be safe.
8) Remember to leave China before your hours are up. Yeah, please trust us on this one…
9) Depart as usual – just hand in your completed departure card at security and board your flight to your third country/region.
It’s as simple as that. Okay maybe it’s not thaaat simple, but it’s definitely worth staying a few days to explore some of the Middle Kingdom if you’re here stopping by here anyway. Think of it like a holiday before your holiday. Hmm, we quite like the sound of that…