Today I will write about the options for getting to China without a visa or alternative ways to make a visa upon arrival. I will explain more about the ways of what I tried. I will briefly mention other options.
If you have any questions, please, leave a comment.
The first and easiest option of having free visa entry to China is when you go to Hainan. Several years ago, China lifted the requirement for a visa before access. However, you had to book the travel package through the local travel agency. Since 2015, the Chinese government tried to boost travelling to Hainan as part of its strategy to make the island a developed tourist cluster and connect it with Guangdong province, Aomen (Macau SAR) and Xianggang (Hong Kong SAR). Before COVID, Hainan was being developed fast; several Film Festivals were launched there, bartenders travelled for guest shifts, and more hotels and real estate were built. The landmarks zones were created, and so on. Everything changed with COVID. In 2023, the local government resumed the no-visa travel allowance but changed the rules.
A. Now, you DO NOT need a travel itinerary. All you need is to book the tickets to Hainan WITHOUT flying to mainland China. For example, if it is a transit flight through Shenzhen, Guangzhou or Xiamen – it is NOT an option. If you fly from Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong or Macau – it is okay.
B. You must book a hotel and show them to the local immigration officers. You may cancel them later, for sure. But you should remember – you have to register at the police station in China upon your arrival during the first 24 hours. Many people neglect this rule. Sometimes, they are fined. How to register? Find a hotel on Trip.com or Booking.com, which registers foreigners. And everything will be done automatically. To check whether foreigners are allowed at the hotel – just check the feedback and comment from previous visitors. Remember: in China, not ALL hotels can register foreigners – before, there were many, but after COVID hit, there were not many. The numbers are slowly growing, though, you cannot register in popular Chinese hotel chains anymore like Hanting or Rujia, etc. By the way, these hotels are very popular among young couples – for obvious reasons.
C. You must fill out the form (on the photo above). Officers can help you. Many do not speak English – they will be keen to help and use translation software.
D. You NEED a return ticket.
Restrictions: you can only be in Hainan province. You cannot leave for another province, take a ferry to Guangdong, etc. If you are caught – you can be in big trouble.
What to see in Hainan?
– Haikou and its cocktail bars. Amazing.
– Coconuts. They are cheap everywhere. 10 RMB per coconut.
– Seafood. Everywhere. Especially my lovely oysters.
– Can go to Sanya to enjoy the sea.
– Sunsets and the moon.
– Buddha in Sanya.
– Surf camps. There are many surf parties in Hainan, even in summer.
It is very simple to go from Haikou to Sanya. You can buy a ticket on the 12306 app, but you must arrive 30 minutes before departure and print the ticket at the ticket office window. To avoid problems.
After this trip, I can see how Hainan changed. It became much better and more beautiful than before. It lost its fleur of crazy Wild East, as I remember it from my previous life there. But it gained a lot from the point of convenience and comfort. However, the city locals’ rudeness remains, which you should be prepared to.
Note: one of the travel agents sent me the photo (below) of the flights that guarantee free visa entry.
2. From Hong Kong to Shenzhen.
If you want to go to Shenzhen from Hong Kong you can cross the border in multiple places. The most famous are Lo Wu and Shenzhen Bay entry points. However, for now, Luo Wu seems the best option if you want to get a visa on the spot. What is that visa? For Shenzhen entry only – the duration is 5 days. You are not allowed to leave Shenzhen. Yet, nobody will chase you if you take a taxi or the bus from Shenzhen to, let’s say, Shunde, Foshan, Guangzhou and then will come back. It is possible if you buy a train ticket to these places. However, the attendant can check the visa. It never happened with me, though, you never know in China whether you get in trouble with this bureaucracy.
What do you need?
– To come EARLY to Lo Wu entry point. Some people say that you can also make a visa in Lok Ma Chau but I doubt it is so for 2023. You need to come early because there are many people who may want to make a visa. The visa point closes at 16:30 or so.
– You need to take the ticket (number). Officers turn it off when they prepare to close the point or when there are many people or when the officers go for a lunch break.
– You need to take a picture for a visa at the booth right outside of the point.
– You need to fill out the form and give your passport with the photo.
– Follow the instructions of the officer. For a visa, you need to pay around 300-500 RMB (depending on the country). To pay, you can use Alipay, Wechat pay, Visa, Mastercard and UnionPay. The mobile phone connection there is VERY bad. You may need several cards to be sure to pay for a visa. Then, wait.
– You will be called to another window. Collect your passport and proceed to the entry point.
Note: every time you enter China you need to fill out the health declaration form. Better make it in WeChat app. So, download it and register there. The declaration is in English and Putonghua (standard Chinese).
3. Other methods.
There are options for 144-hour transit visas in Beijing or Shanghai. But some people complained that Beijing officers do not allow visitors to use the option. So, if you really want to travel around China with no time restrictions it is better to apply for a visa at the visa centre or a consular office. The option is safer and cheaper. The only issue is the booking of the time slot. For example, in Hong Kong you can make a visa to China at the visa centre – you need to fill out all the documents online and then book a slot. The queue is long – you have to make a booking one month ahead.
It is a must to print all the supporting documents. Airplane tickets are not necessary for having a Chinese visa.