Have you ever wanted to go see the Great Wall of China, or visit Shanghai Disneyland without having to pay an extra $1,000 in Chinese Travel Visa’s? You can. And, it’s easy. We’re going to show you how in 2 easy steps.
- Buy a ticket to a different country than the one you flew in from, within 72 -144* hours of arrival
- Head to the immigration queue for Temporary Chinese Transit Visas and present your ticket and passport
That’s it! Go have fun!
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72 Hour Temporary Chinese Transit Visa
Price: $0, 0
No, really, it is that simple, but let’s talk about each of these steps in a little more detail because we know it sounds too good to be true.
Step #1: Buy a ticket to a different country than the one you flew in from within 72 -144* hours of arrival
There are very specific parameters regarding the cities you can fly from, and the cities you can exit to. First, you must be a citizen of specific Asian, European, Oceanic or American countries to qualify for the 72 Hour Temporary Chinese Transit Visa.
The full list of qualifying countries includes:
Europe: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Russia, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia, Albania, Belarus, Monaco
America: United States, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Chile
Oceania: Australia, New Zealand
Asia: Korea, Japan, Singapore, Brunei, United Arab Emirates, Qatar
If you have a passport from one of these countries, than you qualify for the 72 Hour Temporary Chinese Transit Visa.
With citizenship from one of the countries listed above you can fly into any of the cities operating under the 72 Hour Temporary Chinese Transit Visa.
The full list of qualifying Chinese cities includes: Guangzhou, Chengdu, Qingdao, Changsha, Beijing, Chongqing, Harbin, Guilin, Kunming, Wuhan, Xiamen, Xian, Tianji, Dalian, Shenyang, Shanghai, Zhejiang, and Jiangsu.
The tricky part is that you must depart to a different country than the one you flew in from.
If you flew from the United States, you could not fly back to the United States directly. You would need to fly to a third country first, such as Japan, or South Korea. Because Hong Kong is not considered a part of mainland China, it qualifies as a third country. Many stopovers occur in Hong Kong, so this could be a natural stop on your way home. Alternatively, many travelers plan a trip to include a stop over in China to see an attraction before continuing onto India, Japan, or Thailand.
You also must have seat assignments, so sorry standby travelers, this doesn’t include you. This doesn’t apply to entry tickets however. They don’t seem to care how you got into the country, just that you plan to leave – and quickly.
On our first trip to Beijing, we flew in from San Francisco to Hong Kong. After spending a week in Hong Kong we traveled up to Beijing to see the Forbidden City and the Great Wall of China. On our third day we flew directly back to the states. Because we flew from Hong Kong into Beijing, we qualified to go directly back to the states.
On our second trip to Shanghai, we flew from San Francisco directly to Shanghai and played at the brand new Shanghai Disneyland! (Yes, it’s so cool and yes you should go!) From Shanghai we flew to Tokyo, and spent a month traveling around the country of Japan. In this instance, we could not have flown back home to the states because we flew in from San Francisco so we had to fly to a third country before going back to the states.
Allowable Time Frame
All but three of the cities allow for a 72 Hour Temporary Chinese Transit Visa. The clock starts ticking at midnight the day you arrive. If you plan for a morning flight that arrives at 8a, you could effectively stay closer to 84 hours.
The departure flight must be scheduled to depart by midnight on the 3rd day of your stay. Except for Beijing. In Beijing the clock starts the moment you arrive and counts down immediately. For our stay, our arrival day was spent finding our hotel and walking around the city center. The second day we hired a tour guide to visit the Great Wall and then the Forbidden City. We left early in the morning on our 3rd day to avoid any unwanted penalties.
The remaining three cities allow for a 144 Hour Temporary Chinese Transit Visa, including Shanghai, Zhejiang, and Jiangsu. Unfortunately we neglected to realize that Shanghai offered this extended temporary visa transit when we visited. Realizing we could have explored the city of Shanghai as well as Disneyland left us extremely disappointed.
Step #2: Head to the immigration queue for Temporary Chinese Transit Visas and present your ticket and passport
There is no special paperwork or special status to apply for prior to arrival. It is entirely up to the traveler to ensure they meet the necessary criteria for the Temporary Chinese Transit Visa. You can risk denied entry and be sent back on a plane back from where you came from if you don’t meet the requirements.
Of course, you will still need a valid passport and any required visas for onward travel.
When you arrive, you’ll head to the Temporary Chinese Transit Visa immigration line. There you’ll have to fill out additional paperwork along with your customs form. This paperwork includes where you’ll be staying and what you’ll be doing, but most specifically, when you’ll be leaving.
This is scrutinized to the upteenth degree. They may not ask you a single question, but they will look over your paperwork with a magnifying glass. You’ll want to have a copy of your exit tickets, seat assignments, dates, airlines, and passenger names clearly indicated. While your children run around like banshee’s, they will take forever to investigate your eligibility.
When we traveled to Beijing, the customs officer was mean. He was direct, sullen, and irritable. He had a difficult time reading our paperwork, and he was unhappy we were there, or he was there, or maybe both. We waited for a long time. The woman ahead of us was extremely impatient and rude. She was yelling at him the entire time, and I really thought he was going to arrest her.
When we traveled to Shanghai, the customs officer was much more laidback. They still took an inordinate amount of time to review our paperwork, but it didn’t feel as strict.
Once immigration clears you, you are free to go. But, you must remain within administrative city boundaries. If you came to Beijing, stay in Beijing. Within the 72 hour parameters, only in Dalian or Shenyang, and Xian or Xianyang can you travel between these two cities.
Also, you must depart from the same city you arrived. If you arrived in Guangzhou, you must stay within Guangzhou and you must depart from Guangzhou.
The three cities which allow for 144 transit free stay – Shanghai, Zhejiang, & Jiangsu allow you to move between these three cities and depart from any one of them.
If you overstay, the consequences vary from paying a fine to being banned from visiting China again for 10 years. Maybe prison, I don’t really know. Probably not, but for a while I really thought that was the penalty.
If you are willing to hop around, you technically could visit all 11 cities on the list by traveling back and forth from Hong Kong to Macau to Thailand to the Philippines. At that point, considering the cost of airplane tickets, it’s probably worth it to buy the visa or look to qualify for the 10 year visa.
For an awesome in depth guide, check out Travel China Guide. This is one of the resources we used when planning our trips. It has a lot of info that is hard to digest at first, but once you start to gather the pieces it’ll make sense.
- Many airlines are still getting used to this new procedure, and many employees won’t know what a Temporary Chinese Transit Visa is. Just get a supervisor involved and allow for extra time for check-in.
- There are strict website restrictions in China so you can’t go on social media an a number of other sites like XNXX. You can go on www.vpncompass.com to find out how unblock the site but just be aware that you aren’t able to have the same freedom online which may cause issues if you don’t plan ahead.
- If you aren’t staying in a hotel, you will need to register with the police station during your stay. Family Hint: Stay in a hotel – make life easier.
This may seem daunting at first, but it’s actually really simple. The idea is to gain more tourists, increase revenue and boost the economy. Follow the entry and exit rules and you have nothing to worry about.
► For Kids: China is a unique country steeped in tradition. The opportunities for world schooling are endless. Offering a hands on experience of the Great Wall of China, the most futuristic city in the world, or the terracotta sculptures present an experience and a story no history book could ever illustrate. Culture, language, population and cuisine provide so much for your children to learn about.
Have you utilized the 72 Hour Temporary Chinese Transit Visa in China? Was your experience as easy as we made it out to be? What did you visit during your stay?
► Nap-Time Version: How to visit China briefly sans expensive visa.
Check out our time at the Great Wall of China and the Forbidden City (coming soon). Don’t forget to read our review of the newest Disney park: Shanghai Disneyland, including riding the new astonishing Pirate’s of the Caribbean ride.
I see that I am not the only one enjoying short stopovers adding a nice bonus to my trip! I had stops in China before and well, it really left me with so-so memories. Particularly in Beijing. The level of control they have is so high that you basically can’t do anything. At the airport, everything takes twice the normal time because their controls are crazy. In Beijing, some places feel almost inaccessible because you keep being redirected to more and more checkpoints to be SURE you won’t put a bomb on Tiananmen Square. I hate to say it so bluntly but I think you can really feel the distatorship there. Uniforms all over the place. On my last visit, I totally gave up going back to the Fobidden City because I would have needed to spend half of my day queuing at all the checkpoints. I have heard that in Shanghai it is not as bad thought, I might try on another occasion!
We felt very similar in Beijing. Passing through security at the airport they took every single item out of our checked bags. Every last coin, every last mini shampoo bottle, every coloring crayon – it was all scrutinized. When we visited the Great Wall, I think we avoided all that by hiring a tour guide, but I did wonder how much of that was true to life in Beijing or just our random experience only being there for a few days. I appreciate your comment validating our experience. When we stepped out of the subway on the way to our hotel, we saw not just uniformed guards but their huge imposing over the shoulder guns as well. It really made me think about the things we give up willingly, or without choice, as members of a society. I tell everyone they should go to Beijing at least once to experience how life is there.
Definitely! It’s not really what we are looking for when we go on a holiday but i suppose it’s an experience worth living… makes you appreciate the freedom we have in our countries!
This is a great new travel hack I’ve just learnt haha, thank you for sharing this information. I’ve not been to China as of yet and I don’t really have a great want to travel the whole country however I do want to visit the great wall of china so maybe on my next trip to that side of the world I will put this into play 😀
We felt the same way, except that now that we’ve been we absolutely want to see everything else! Especially those floating mountains that Pandora was based off of! It’s an awesome introduction!
Thanks for breaking this down in an easy and manageable post! Sometimes planning travel can be daunting but I get excited when I find sites like this that lay it all out there nice and simple.
Thanks! When we were doing our research everything was so confusing, so it was important to me to make this as simple and concise as possible. I’m glad to hear we succeeded!
Oh, never heard about that! Very handy indeed! I’ve been wanting to go to Shanghai for a while now, so looks like this could be a great opportunity! 6 days in Shanghai as a city-trip? Added to the list!!
Right? I wish so badly we’d been able to go out and see the city! Added to our list too!
Probably this is in your nap-time version but I was happily surprised to have been granted a temporary 24-hour visa AND given a free one-night hotel stay plus shuttles to and fro for a long layover in Guangzhou!!!
Wow! That’s awesome, how did you swing that?
Wow Catherine, I had not heard of this visa before. I love a transit visa. I would definitely use it for Shanghai Disney…in fact, I’m forwarding this to my daughter…she might be able to do it soon.
I’d love to hear what she thinks about Shanghai Disney! We have a post on Shanghai Disneyland as well, including the onsite property hotels! Hopefully they’ll be a great resource to you as well!
As a Canadian who travels with kids, this is super helpful information that would save us alot of money and hassle! Thank you so much for the detailed breakdown with examples, and love how you clear up the hiccups. Those can be stressful when traveling with little ones who are as exhausted as you are while traveling!
I think our biggest meltdowns on a trip are always directly after the flight and before customs. That period of time when sleep and rest is so near and the stress of the flight is over, but still have this obstacle to hurdle is the worst!
I had no idea you could do this! This is such an informative post and could definitely come in hand in the future! I’ve never been to China but really hope to visit soon!
It’s a great introduction into the country and perfect as a layover! Definitely worth it to stand on the Great Wall of China!
Great suggestion! I love adding stop overs to my shorter trips. I went to China for the first time back in 1996 and loved every moment.
It is such a unique place, we loved it too. Definitely makes me wish we applied for the 10 year visa!
That’s an interesting travel hack to have in our back pocket, and I note everything you say about security and allowing time for checking. I don’t think I’ve been through security that stringent since we took a ferry back to the UK from France and had to unpack an entire camper van at the docks (two mums, four kids, so I don’t think we were entirely in a high risk category!). Still very much worth the option though, and I think these things are always easier to manage when you know the likely situation on arrival.
They can profile for everything except the things that make sense!
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