21. October 2016
China - 72 hour Transit Free Visa
There is a way to visit China on short notice without having to go through the Visa application process. If you have time (and money) it is definitely better to go through the normal tourist Visa application process and receive a normal Visa for entering China. Still sometimes there is just no time, or you just got a perfect flight to some other destination, yet you make a stop in China - then if you are a member of one of the countries, you can receive a 72 hour transit free visa for Beijing and Shanghai areas and take a hike around. It is well worth it - China is totally modern, and nothing what Western world imagines.
To be eligible for the 72 hour Transit free visa you need to be a member of one of the eligible countries, you need to travel by plan and you need to have an outbound flight in 72 hours outside of China (Hong Kong in this case counts as outside of China). You can get detailed information on any China Embassy website. Now that you know all the formalities, lets write something about the process. Whatever you know about China and its privacy restrictions is still valid. Once you are level with that you will function a lot easier. Get a VPN, as that will be essential if you want to get in contact with some website outside of China (like Google, your email, etc.). Mobile internet for foreigners is expensive, so you will be hunting for WiFi`s, but there are some cheap or free options available - still you need to make sure you have VPN, otherwise it will be useless. Before you go, also make sure you have a hotel reserved, as they will be calling a police to check you in (what did we write about privacy above)... Might not be important, but make sure you have valid passport (ID cards don not count).
Once you land on the Airport, make sure you rush towards the counter for Arrival Cards. You will need to fill out all the arrival information (flight number, etc.) as well as your personal data (and passport number). On same card you also have to write Hotel you are staying in and information about the departure from the country. Then you go to the queue where is says Foreigners (or Aliens?) and Visa application. You do have a Visa - it is just that it needs to be granted on spot (at least that is how I understood it). Anyway customs official will ask you couple of questions about your visit, make a stamp inside your passport, write all the information, take photos and arrival card, then politely wish you the best stay. English of officials is great (something you can forget about when you step outside of the airport building). Then you will be walking to pick up your baggage and afterwards there is a customs check. Make sure you are not carrying anything not-allowed in your suitcase as every single suitcase goes through X-Ray machine (even if you have nothing to declare - remember about restrictions?). Once you are through that, Welcome in China. Remember to store your departure card (part of Arrival card) securely at all times.
To get out of the country it is even simpler. Just remember to put your departure card next to your passport, few photos, another stamp inside passport and away you are (there are few checks for Passports and boarding cards, but mostly it was smooth). Really simple and great process that lets you explore the Chinese City for few days, before going to your final destination.
We did not have any bad experiences with the whole process, but if you did, we would love to hear it under the comments