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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.

Shanghai

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.

Comments (18)

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • Jeff says:

    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