The People’s Republic of China is full of unique attractions and a dream destination for many. Some travellers might be distorted by China’s complicated visa application process, that’s rather expensive as well (more than €100 per person). There is a way to circumvent this – the 144-hour visa free transit rule. It allows travellers to spent up to six days in certain regions without applying for a full visa – but has restrictions as well:
- Your stay may not exceed 144 hours (six days) – in some regions even 72 hours (three days).
- Your stay in China must be a transition on a trip between to other states. Your itinerary has to be Country A -> China -> Country C.
- Country A and Country C have to be different states.
- You have to proof your possession of a valid ticket to Country C upon entry.
- Your stay is restricted to the province that issues your short term visa. You must not leave it!
The 144-hour visa free transit rule is not designed for trips like the one we’re suggesting. There’s no guarantee it will work, but we’re positive it will. Several members of Travel-Dealz tested this with success.
Country C is Near to Your Origin
Example: Germany – China – Switzerland – Germany
The transit rule allows you to travel nonstop from Germany to Shanghai, stay there for six days and fly back to Germany with a stop in Switzerland. In this case, your stay in China is a transit on your trip from Germany to Switzerland. This will work with more countries, even lying closer together, like:
- United States -> China -> Canada -> United States
- United Kingdom -> China -> France -> United Kingdom
- Netherlands -> China -> Belgium -> Netherlands
Routings like this can usually booked on one ticket within an airline alliance. Like United Airlines and Air Canada (Star Alliance) from American airports, Air France & KLM (SkyTeam) from Europe or British Airways & Iberia (Oneworld) for England & Spain. This is an example for Star Alliance carriers Lufthansa & Swiss:
Country C is Near to China
Example: Switzerland – China – Hong Kong – China – Switzerland
The second option is a routing that does not include a neighbouring country to your origin, but a neighbouring country to China. Interesting fact: Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan do not count as Chinese soil in this context. You can purchase either two seperate tickets like Hometown – Shanghai – Hometown and Shanghai – Hong Kong – Shanghai. Even easier – you can take advantage of a fare with free stopovers like this one:
Between your flight to Hong Kong and your flight back home, you can spend 2 x 6 days in Beijing, regardless of how long you plan to stay in Hong Kong. Theoretically, you can leave Hong Kong the same day you arrive and spend almost two visa free weeks in Beijing. Other fares may allow a stop in Beijing on one, and a stay in Shanghai on the other leg.
Conditions & Proceedings
The visa free transit is available for most EU citizens, US citizens, Canadians, Australians, Russians and a bevy of other nationalities (the full list can be seen here). You must arrive and leave via the same airports. Your port of entry also determines how long you may stay and which regions you may visit:
|Port of Entry||Max. Duration||Valid for|
|Shanghai||144||Shanghai, Jiangsu & Zhejiang Province|
|Nanjing||144||Shanghai, Jiangsu & Zhejiang Province|
|Hangzhou||144||Shanghai, Jiangsu & Zhejiang Province|
|Beijing||144||Beijing, Tianjin & Hebei Province|
|Tianjin||144||Beijing, Tianjin & Hebei Province|
|Shijiazhuang||144||Beijing, Tianjin & Hebei Province|
|Qinhuangdao||144||Beijing, Tianjin & Hebei Province|
Since you’re not allowed to leave the region you’ve originally entered, you can only explore a certain part of the country. But especially the Beijing & Shanghai area offer more than enough to do in six days!
Experience shows that the strictest control happens at the check-in counter of your departure airport. If you’re rejected by Chinese immigration, your airlines has to pay for your deportation (i.e. flight back home). Because of this, you need to show either your visa or onward ticket when checking in on any flight to the country. Counter staff is sometimes reluctant to check you in – we suggest to refer to the Chinese embassy’s official website in such cases.
In contrast, Chinese immigration is usually fast and smooth. Most airports have a special counter for visa free transit. More often then not, queues are much shorter there than at regular immigration counters. You need to show your valid passport, your onward ticket (preferrably a printed version) and the filled Arrival Card For Temporary Entry:
You can find this form (with a blue edge in contrast to the regular yellow edged immigration card) in the immigration area of your arrival airport. If you’re lucky, flight attendants will hand them out during your flight. Most airlines only have regular immigration cards in on board.
What to do in China?
While being limited to a specific region is not the best solution for an extended trip – especially the Beijing, Tianjin & Hebei province as well as the Shanghai, Jiangsu & Zhejiang province visas offer a lot of attractive destinations.
Beijing, Tianjin & Hebei Province
Beijing is not only the capital of China, it is also the closest metropolis to the Great Wall. The most famous section of China’s national symbol is at Badaling, just a 90 minute bus ride away from the city center. In addition to this, within Beijing’s city limits lie marvels like the Temple of Heaven, the Forbidden City and Tian’anmen Square, that is sorrounded by governt buildings and hosts Mao’s tomb.
If you prefer modern day China, you can go shopping at Wangfujing Dajie or enjoy western style nightlife around Houhai lake. Be sure not the miss the Summer Palace in the Nothern part of the city, sorounded by one of Beijing’s many beautiful parks.
To leave the city, you can take advantage of China’s amazing high speed rail system. Trains to neighbouring Tianjin leave almost every ten minutes and take as little as 30 minutes for the 120 kilometers between the two railway stations. Tianjin itself is home to more than 10 million inhabitants and features beautiful colonial architecture.
Information & Tips for Beijing
China’s capital Beijing is full of historically and contemporary important buildings. Most of them concentrate arround Tian’anmen square – which is sorrounded by government buildings and the entrance to the Forbidden City, the palace that hosted China’s emperors for more than 500 years. Beijing itself is full of attraction that take weeks to discover, but the fun doesn’t end there. Just a 90-minute bus ride away is The Great Wall at Badaling, the best known section of the Great Wall of China.
The Best Time to Visit
Beijing is located in a continental climate zone and is known for its hot, humid summers and its harsh, cold winters. Therefore, the best times to visit are from late March through May and late August through November.
Please be aware that during the Chinese National holidays, usually two weeks after October 1st, the city is overcrowded with Chinese tourists and should be avoided.
From the airport to the city
Beijing Capital Airport, the second busiest worldwide, is very well-connected by public transport. It is served by a regular subway line and an express rail way to the edge of the city centre, which takes 20 Minutes and costs about €3 one way. Further, there are 18 bus lines to different parts of the city (costing €3-5). Of course, taxis are an option as well. A trip to the city centre costs around €12-15, but often take over an hour.
It is not possible to rent a car in China without a Chinese drivers licence.
→ All Dealz for Beijing
Shanghai, Jiangsu & Zhejiang Province
The whole city of Shanghai itself is a modern day marvel, from the astonishing views from either side of Huangpu river to the shining lights of Nanjing Donglu. But outside the cities borders within and Jiangsu and Zhejiang Province lie even more sights to behold.
Just a seventy minute train ride from Hongqiao Railway Station lies Hangzhou. The city is famous for its iconic West Lake, which is printend on each CNY 1 note. Further, the city offers remote monasteries around the lake as well as a well restored old town.
When leaving Shanghai in North West instead of South West direction, the train tracks will guide you to Suzhou. The city is famous for its canals and gardens, earning the nickname Venice of the East (just as approx. twenty other Asian cities). It’s beauty makes it a hotspot for Chinese as well as international tourists. 100 kilometers further in the same direction lies Nanjing. The city has been China’s capital twice before the gorvernment moved to Beijing both times, the last time in 1949.
The city is a matter of national pride, hosting the tomb of the first Ming emporer (who drove the Mongols out of the country) and Sun Yat-sen (Sun Zhongshan), the founder of the Republic of China. The impressive Nanjing Massacre Memorial remembers the atrocities committed by Japanese Soldiers within the city during World War II.
Information & Tips for Shanghai
Shanghai is the most important financial and commercial center of China. But not only business travelers are welcome here. Also, regular tourists can get there money’s worth. And this is great because the city is connected to many major airports and therfor we’ll often present you with good deals for flights to Shanghai.
Best Time to Visit
Since Shanghai is located in a subtropical climate zone, spring and autumn are the best travel times thanks to moderate temperatures and a few rainy days. April, May, September, and October are particularly suitable for a visit to the Chinese city thanks to the low rainfall and humidity.
From the airport to the city
Shanghai Pudong Airport is located 40km east of the city center. Probably the fastest and most exciting method is the Maglev. The magnetic levitation train takes only 7 minutes, and with costs of around 5€ it is also a rather inexpensive (and of course faster!) alternative to a taxi, which would cost about 20€.
→ All Dealz for Shanghai
Information & Tips for Hangzhou
With its iconic West Lake and famous buddhist monasteries, Hangzhou is one of China’s premier cultural destinations. Large recreational areas and a rebuilt historic center make up a huge part of the city center. Excellent train connections to Shanghai (taking less than an hour) make Hangzhou a great alternative when travelling to China’s mega boomtown. But with more than six million inhabitants itself, Hangzhou is a buzzing city worth a visit.
Best Time to Visit
Since Hangzhou is located in a subtropical climate zone, spring and autumn are the best travel times thanks to moderate temperatures and a few rainy days. April, May and September particularly suitable for a visit to the Chinese city thanks to the low rainfall and humidity.
From the airport to the city
Hangzhou Xiaoshan Int’l Aiport enjoys a growing reputation and attracts more international airlines each year. It is approx. 30 kilometers away from downtown Hangzhou and connected through bus and taxi services. Bus services are offered to many points of interest like the East Railway Station (30 Minutes) where bullet trains to Shanghai depart, or the West Lake in the very heart of the city (50 Minutes). Buses cost around 3-5€ while a taxi to downtown Hangzhou takes about an hour, costing 12-15€.
→ All Dealz for Hangzhou
Of course, if you’re planning a longer trip, you can and should apply for a regular visa with a single or mutiple entries.
Cover Picture: © Fotolia.com / aphotostory