We are currently at the Waldorf-Astoria in Beijing on the last leg of our Asian holiday.
If you have been to China in recent years, you will know that the visa situation can be expensive and time consuming, especially if you don’t have easy access to a good agency.
We are currently in Beijing for a grand total of 36 hours. This was partly due to necessity – it was easy to get 4 seats on British Airways for Avios out of Beijing but impossible from Tokyo in peak season where we were – and partly because my wife wanted to see a friend who is working here.
You no longer need a visa for most major Chinese cities if you are in transit. ‘Transit’ is defined as ‘arriving from one country and leaving to another’ so you cannot use it for a brief visit to China from the UK and then head home.
It is perfectly fine to do what we did – Tokyo to Beijing to London.
You MUST take the transit visa in the first Chinese city that you touch on your routing. If, for example, you had booked Tokyo – Beijing (change of plane, not leaving the airport) – Shanghai, you CANNOT get a 72 hour visa for Shanghai. It must be done in Beijing or not at all.
You do NOT need to book both flights on the same ticket. They do not even need to be on the same airline. All that matters is that you can provide a copy of your eticket at immigration.
The time period varies by city – for Beijing you can have up to 72 hours. You cannot leave Beijing during this period.
It was, to be honest, a slow process. Only one line was handling the 72-hour transit visas. When we reached the front, we had to fill out an additional form on the spot (this form is needed if you are staying for 24+ hours) and our passports were then taken away for 20 minutes while we hung around. Once returned, we were allowed in.
It was a frustrating wait – about 75 minutes in total. All the passengers with visas were through immigration long before us. We got there in the end though.
PS. We paid the Waldorf-Astoria £150 to pick us up and, as usual in Asia, it was money well spent. We were met at the airbridge and walked to immigration. The rep waited for 75 minutes whist we were processed. When we eventually got to baggage reclaim, our bags had been removed from the belt but he knew where to find them. Even better, he then took us out of Beijing Airport via the VIP side exit where our car was waiting for us. The driver contacted the hotel as we approached and a welcome party was waiting at the front door and escorted us directly to our rooms where we were checked in. All very easy indeed. Mini review of the hotel to follow in a week or so.