Friday, June 21, 2024

From 72 hours and up to 30 days, 5 visa-free ways to travel to mainland China

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And since late last year, Chinese immigration officials have placed 12 countries on a visa-free list and augmented older visa waiver schemes amid efforts to boost inbound travel.

1. Transit through 23 Chinese cities (3-6 days)

Passport holders from 54 nations, including Australia, Japan, the United States and countries throughout Europe, can reach much of mainland China via its international airports.

Airports in the likes of Beijing, Shanghai, Xian, Chengdu, Chongqing, Guilin, Kunming, Qingdao, Shenyang, Tianjin, Wuhan, Xiamen, Guangdong province and the Shanghai-Jiangsu-Zhejiang cluster can process visa-free arrivals for transit passengers for 72 to 144 hours.

The full list of cities spans 18 provinces and 31 entry points such as airports or seaports.

Travellers must stay within the designated city or surrounding provinces for the entire transit period.

They are not allowed to visit other parts of mainland China on the same trip, but travellers may enter from or depart to Hong Kong, Macau or Taiwan.

There is no charge and no application to fill out before travel, or on arrival.

Passengers must, however, prove to the airline before boarding and again to immigration authorities after arriving that they have a ticket to leave the city or province – usually by air – to a place outside mainland China where they did not start their journey.

For example, a passenger may reach Shanghai visa free from Singapore, and then proceed to Tokyo – or fly from the special administrative region of Macau to Xiamen and onwards to Taipei.

Proof of a hotel booking in China could speed up the immigration process.

The travel time of the outbound ticket must fall within the 72 or 144-hour window. The 72 or 144 hours technically starts from the first full calendar day after an arrival.

Round-trip tickets, though, are not allowed as they do not not qualify as “transit”.

Transit visa waivers began more than a decade ago to stimulate tourism spending and attendance at events such as trade shows, but they place no special limits on what travellers can do in China.

2. Hainan province (30 days)

This tropical island province of Hainan in China’s far south allows nationals from 59 countries to enter visa free.

Visitors need only to buy a round-trip flight to the province’s two main gateways of Sanya or Haikou and fill out an arrival form on the plane.

Seaports with immigration kiosks can also process visa-free arrivals.

The province once required visa-free visitors to arrange trips through Hainan-based travel agencies, but it has formally scrapped the requirement.

Hainan had kicked off visa-free travel in 2018 to stimulate tourism.

Travellers under this scheme are not allowed to visit other parts of China during the 30 days unless they have a visa.

3. Tour group from Hong Kong or Macau to Guangdong province (6 days)

Citizens of any country that has diplomatic ties with China may legally join tour groups arranged by agencies registered in Hong Kong or Macau to enter specific cities in the neighbouring Guangdong province.

Groups may enter Guangdong by land, sea or air, for 144 hours, with dozens of bus, rail and ferry routes connecting the province with Hong Kong.

To qualify, a tour group must have at least two people and no more than 40. They should enter and exit at the same time as arranged by the agency.

Nine Pearl River Delta cities of Dongguan, Foshan, Guangzhou, Huizhou, Jiangmen, Shenzhen, Zhaoqing, Zhongshan and Zhuhai are included.

Shantou, a coastal city located east of the delta, also falls under the same scheme.

03:23

Mainland Chinese social media Xiaohongshu highlights unlikely tourism spots in Hong Kong

Mainland Chinese social media Xiaohongshu highlights unlikely tourism spots in Hong Kong

But the Hong Kong Tourism Board’s website called the scheme “subject to change without prior notice” and suggested contacting a hotel concierge or tour operator for updated information.

And two major Hong Kong tour operators told the Post earlier in the year they were not offering visa-free tours to Guangdong.

A National Immigration Administration media representative in Beijing confirmed at the start of June that the 24-year-old policy still existed.

The media representative suggested travellers call the immigration hotline on +86 12367 with any related questions. The service is available to travellers both inside and outside mainland China. It operates 24-hours a day, seven days a week, with services available in Chinese and English.

Separately, citizens of the 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations countries may join tour groups of at least two people to visit the city of Guilin in China’s southern Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region visa free for 144 hours.

4. Arrive by cruise ship (15 days)

The rules grant entry to tour groups of at least two people via all of China’s 13 cruise ports, from the city of Dalian east of Beijing to Sanya in the south.

The policy is an extension of a pilot scheme from 2016 that had restricted the entry point to only the Shanghai Port International Cruise Terminal.

02:27

China expands visa-free travel to 6 new countries

China expands visa-free travel to 6 new countries

The Shanghai rule, which was suspended during the coronavirus pandemic before being reinstated last year, had allowed tourists to alight visa free at the Wusongkou International Cruise Terminal and stay for 15 days.

Travel agencies taking passengers to Shanghai must be registered in mainland China, and the entire tour group must enter and exit at the same time.

During the 15 days, visitors under the Shanghai scheme may travel to Beijing and any part of China’s coastline with seaports, as well as to the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region that borders Vietnam in the south.

5. Passport holders from 12 countries, mostly in western Europe (15 days)

At the end of November, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said passport holders from France, Germany, Italy, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Spain could enter China visa free for 15 days.

Since then, authorities have added Austria, Belgium, Hungary, Ireland, Luxembourg and Switzerland to the list.

Visitors under the arrangement are allowed to sightsee, conduct business, visit family or transit.

The scheme started on December 1 and runs until the end of 2025, according to the National Immigration Administration.

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