Redeem Avios to Asia via China and benefit from a 72 hour ‘no visa’ stopover and better availability

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I have been to China a few times but always found the visa situation messy.  The quickest way used to be to fly first to Hong Kong and then apply locally, where one could be rustled up quickly and cheaply.

Back in January 2013, all this changed.  Beijing began offering a 72 hour stopover with no visa requirements.  Over the last two years, more and more cities have been added to the list.  It now comprises Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Chongqing, Shenyang, Dalian, Xian, Guilin, Kunming, Wuhan, Xiamen and Hangzhou.

Shanghai, Beijing and Chengdu are all available with British Airways.  The ability to visit a Chinese city for up to three days before catching a connecting flight elsewhere in Asia is an attractive one, in my view.  Onward flights are available with Avios points with a range of oneworld partners including Cathay Pacific / Dragonair via Hong Kong.

Virgin Atlantic also offers flights to Shanghai. 

In general, redemptions to China are easier to get than for other cities in Asia which is another reason to consider a stopover.


The rules governing the 72 hour stopovers are a little complex:

Only citizens of certain countries qualify  – the list circulated by British Airways this week says they are 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, United Kingdom, Ireland, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia, Albania, USA, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Australia, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Japan, Singapore, Brunei, United Arab Emirates, and Qatar.

The 72 hours starts from midnight on the following day, so in theory you can stay for up to 95 hours.  I did read that some officials do not understand this, however, and that it is best to leave within 72 hours of your actual arrival.

You must leave from the same airport as you arrived at, with the exception of Shanghai where you can depart from either airport.

Your stopover must be at the first Chinese city where your flight touches down.  If you route London – Beijing – Xi’an, for example, you can only take your stopover in Beijing.

The official page on the UK Chinese Embassy website has not been updated since the end of 2013.  Do make sure you research this topic in detail if you are thinking of taking advantage.

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  1. I did this last month in Shanghai en route to Tokyo. It’s very easy. You must use a certain channel at Immigration if you require the 72 hour visa. You just have to show them proof of your onward travel to a 3rd country within 72 hours and also your accomodation booking within the city for your stay. That’s it. Stamp in the passport!

  2. What's the Point says:

    Make sure you take the Maglev from Shanghai airport – its very very impressive (and fast)

  3. Flyoff says:

    It is important that you can prove you are in transit, proof of a ticket and visa if necessary of the third country you are travelling to will be asked for. Hong Kong and Macau are treated as different countries for this purpose.

    You also need to inform the airline when checking in for your flight to China that you will be requesting a Visa as they are required to inform the Chinese Authorities before your arrival.

    • pauldb says:

      But you aren’t going to be requesting a visa!

      • Well, you are: a 72hour transit visa.

        • Callum says:

          Well, you aren’t… The precise reason this is so easy is because it’s NOT a visa. It’s even in the name! (Transit Without Visa)

  4. Have I gone blind or does the United Kingodm not appear on that list?

  5. Worzel says:

    United Kingdom is there but perhaps not where you’d expect it on the list.

  6. John G says:

    Doing this in a few months in F on BA as there was good Avios availability to PVG. Spending two nights there before moving on to HKG. Have researched the TWOV and this will be fine. Only issue seems to be to convince the airline at the departing airport that this is ok to travel without a visa. Are BA at LHR generally clued up on this?

    Will of course take the Timaticweb info from the Star Alliance website with me.

  7. pauldb says:

    The other factor is that Chengdu and Peking are in a lower band so it may cost less not significantly more avios to stop over.

    According to the main FT thread the last rule is, I think, a bit misleading (out of date). You have to be flying on directly out of China so if you were flying LHR-PEK-Xi’an-HK, the Xi’an stop (even if it’s just a 1-stop flight) makes you ineligible for the 72hrs in PEK.

  8. Concerto says:

    I have a trip booked this Summer for Hong Kong with a stop in Xiamen (XMN). However, my stop will last about 7 hours in all, with the onward flight (with Xiamen Air,,interesting first experience) taking place the same evening. So I probably don’t even need a transit visa…or do I?

  9. Doreen says:

    It took a little time to convince the check in agent in Macau (ferry to HKG airport) that we didn’t need a visa for our 72 hour stay in Beijing – luckily I had printed off some details.

    • Flyoff says:

      At Manila they weren’t concerned other than knowing we had a confirmed onward flight from Beijing to the UK.

  10. I’m flying BA LHR-HKG-CGK-HGK-LHR later in the year

    Could I add an Avios flight from HKG (return) and enter into China using this option? Thanks

    • Flyoff says:

      No. You could take the trip by flying from HKG and back into Macau

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