Friday, January 4, 2013

Visa-free entry to China

Forbidden City in Beijing
Effective January 1, new transit visa rules went into effect for visitors to Beijing and Shanghai. Visas will not be required for U.S. citizens who stop over in China's two most important cities for stays of 72 hours or less. The rule only applies to air travelers with tickets leaving China within that time. Travelers must land at Beijing's Capital Airport or Shanghai's Pudong and Hongqiao airports and show ongoing tickets when they land.

Passengers who want to stay longer or who have China as their final destination will be required to have visas that must be obtained in advance as China does not issue visas at ports of entry.

The rule change is good news for travelers bound for other countries in that part of the world. Flying from the United States to China is long and tiring, even if you're leaving from the West Coast; imagine how tiring it is to fly straight through to other Asian and South Pacific destinations.. A stopover in Beijing gives travelers a chance to rest up before continuing their journeys and see a little of China as a bonus.

Seventy-two hours is enough time to see the major highlights of Beijing, such as the Great Wall and the Forbidden City. It is not enough time to really get to know Beijing or Shanghai, but it is better than not going at all.

Travelers should check with airlines to see if stopovers this long are allowed without charge.

There are two other instances when China does not require U.S. citizens to have visas: the travelers belong to organized tour groups visiting Hainan Ptovince and the Pearl River Delta region (Guangzhou) for short trips.

Is China in your 2013 travel plans?

If you're planning a trip to China, please check out my website, Cheryl's China, for travel ideas and recommendations. And feel free to email me if you have any questions.

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