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Benson

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Asia > China > Useful Info
Updated on Sep 12, 2018 Useful Info

How to see China visa-free (transit visa)

  • China has a pretty confusing (and expensive) visa system. A normal tourist visa costs $140 for Americans ($30 for other nationalities).
  • But, it is possible to see the country visa-free provided you make it a stopover to another country (can't be the same country you just arrived from). You need to have the ticket out of China with you when you land in China (this can be a separately-booked ticket than your arrival flight; i.e. you can go to Expedia and buy 2 separate flights from 2 separate airlines yourself, one for going into China and one for going out)
  • How you can get these visa varies by how long you want to check out the country
  • Also keep in mind that ultimately it's up to the individual immigration officer. You can follow every step exactly and still be denied entry (see this recent incident)


1. Less than 24 hours (basically a layover): not very useful IMO because it's so short

  • Available in pretty much all cities to most nationalities (chances are you'll be fine, but see exceptions just in case)
  • All you need is your passport that's doesn't expire for 3 more months and a confirmed ticket to your next country (HK, Taiwan and Macau count as country in this case so you'll be eligible for this if you're planning to see these 3 places next)
  • I don't find this useful at all unless you literally just want to see 1-2 sights (like the Forbidden City)
  • Clock starts at midnight of the day after you land. For e.g. if you land at 7pm, the clock starts 5 hours later at midnight of the next day. This is the same for all 3 types of visa free entries
  • Look for lanes with signage that look like this (exact design vary by airport):User submitted photo of China


2. Up to 72 hours (3 days): chances are you'll be eligible for this

  • Available in pretty much all the major cities you'll likely arriving in and people from 53 countries (see list). If you live in a developed country (including Europe, North America, Australia), your country is probably included.
  • Generally speaking you'll only be allowed to check out the city you landed in and its vicinity area. This varies by city but just follow this rule of thumb. Leave from the same airport you landed in to be safe (see the detailed rules).
  • You need to let your airline know when you check in that you plan to use this option. When you arrive, just make sure you tell the customs person you want to use the 72 hour visa free option
  • Clock starts at midnight of the day after you land. For e.g. if you land at 7pm, the clock starts 5 hours later at midnight of the next day. This is the same for all 3 types of visa free entries
  • Your passport needs to have another 3 months of validity
  • Look for lanes with signage like this:User submitted photo of China


3. Up to 144 hours (6 days): the best option if it's your first time in China

  • Available to the same 53 countries that have the 72-hour option (see list)
  • But limited to small number of Chinese cities (Shanghai, Beijing, Tianjin, Jiangsu province, Zhejiang province, Liaoning province, and Hebein province). Guangdong province will be added soon (e.g. Guangzhou and Shenzhen)
  • You're allowed only in the city you landed and its vicinity (see details)
  • Again, tell your airline you want use this option when you check in. Make sure your passport has 3 more months of validity
  • If you've never been to China before, Beijing and Shanghai are both great places and you should 3-5 days checking each of them out. So I think this is the best option if you've never been to China before
  • Clock starts at midnight of the day after you land. For e.g. if you land at 7pm, the clock starts 5 hours later at midnight of the next day. This is the same for all 3 types of visa free entries
  • Look for lanes with signage like this:User submitted photo of China


Obviously the best way to see China is to just get an actual visa and explore the country (the country is so big it'll take at least 2-3 weeks just to see the highlights), but I think if you're going on a vacation to Southeast Asia, it could be an interesting experience to check out China on your way there