China was never high on my list of places that I want to see in the world. When I found out that it was about $250 for me to get a visa just to visit I was really deterred.
However, on my flight to Sri Lanka I had a 22 hour layover in Shanghai, China. This was way too long for me to hang out in an airport. Plus with this much time on my hands I figured that I would be able to do some exploring.
I did some research and found out that I could enter China for 72 hours without getting a visa. I figured this was the perfect time to get a glimpse into this country that I would otherwise never go out of my way to visit.
The best part is that is was so easy. I didn’t have to do anything to enter China for the day- it was a piece of rice cake. I had a full day to enjoy the fun city of Shanghai. With some thorough planning beforehand I managed to everything that I wanted to in this awesome city.
You can read about what I managed to see within just one day in Shanghai with my easy to follow itinerary.
My short visit to Shanghai turned out so amazing that it inspired me to try to see the Great Wall of China without getting a visa.
To do this, on my flight from South Korea to India I searched for flights with layovers in Beijing. However, all of the layovers were only about four hours long- not long enough to appreciate such an iconic part of our world. So instead I booked a flight from South Korea to Beijing and then the next day from Beijing to India.
Since I booked with the same airline and all in one purchase I was only sent one itinerary/e-ticket- making it look like a long layover.
I couldn’t believe that for someone who never planned on visiting China this would now be my third time there – and not once did I get a visa!
Please be aware that to qualify for a transit-visa you need to meet certain conditions that are very specific. For example, it is only if you are transiting in certain Chinese cities and if you are from a specific country. You cannot fly into China for 72 hours and then fly out- it has to be a flight on the way (in transit) to another destination. For complete details you can refer here.
Another thing that is important to note is that you cannot leave the city that you fly into. Period. Not for a day trip and not even for a layover flying out of China.
It is important to be aware of this when booking your flight. My friend planned a layover in Beijing for two days but when he landed in Beijing they wouldn’t let him out of the airport. Why? Because his flight ‘out of China’ had a layover in Kunming. Therefore, he would be violating the visa-free requirements for entering China. He ended up having to pay $800 USD for another flight out of Beijing just so that he could leave the airport!
As long as you follow the rules though your visit should be simple and hassle free. So next time you are booking a flight in Asia, consider trying to have a layover in China so you can visit the country without the hassle and high cost of a tourist visa.
If you want to visit China for even longer but don’t want to apply for a visa than another option is to visit Hong Kong. Hong Kong has a lot of Western influence and well…Westerners. It is a very international place but is technically still China. The great thing about Hong Kong is that many countries do not need a visa to visit. As well, from Hong Kong you can take an hour boat ride over to Macau- another island that is technically part of China but an autonomous territory.