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The Chinese airlines offer ultra cheap long haul flights that are just too tempting to turn down. A bonus of flying through China is that you can take advantage of China’s 72 or 144 hour visa-free transit and see China en route to your final destination, for FREE!
Note: as of April 2019, Guangdong province, including Guangzhou now offers the 144 hour visa-free transit.
It sounds great, but is it that simple? Being a bureaucratic country, you want to make sure that you fully understand the requirements and are prepared with the right documentation. It is hard to get accurate information about just what those requirements are. In this post, we will review the requirements, the documentation and what to do when you arrive in China. With the right preparation, it really is an amazing opportunity to get a taste of China without going through the long and expensive China visa application process.
We used the visa-free transit for a 3-day stay in Guangzhou, but if you can route through Beijing, you could use it for a Beijing and Great Wall trip.
Read: How to Spend 3 Days in Guangzhou
China started the 72 hour visa-free transit in 2013, which has now been expanded in many cities to 144 hours. Note that your China transit visa starts at midnight the day after you arrive in China, which means you can often have longer than 72 or 144 hours.
144 Hour Visa-Free Transit Requirements
- Eligible for citizens of 53 countries (see below) and your passport must be valid for a minimum of 6 months.
- Must be in transit to a third country or region. You cannot return to the country you just came from or continue to another mainland China city. Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macau are treated as separate regions.
- You must enter and leave from an eligible airport (listed below).
- You must have onward air tickets departing within the 144 hours.
- Depending on the city you enter through, your region of movement is restricted. eg. if entering in Guangzhou, you cannot leave Guangdong province.
Eligible Passports Holders
- Schengen Countries: 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
- Other European Countries: Albania, Belarus, Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cyprus, Croatia, Ireland, Macedonia, Monaco, Republic of Montenegro, Romania, Russia, Serbia, UK, Ukraine
- America: US, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Chile
- Oceania: Australia, New Zealand
- Asia: Republic of Korea, Japan, Singapore, Brunei, UAE, Qatar
Ports of Entry
144 Hour Visa-Free Transit: Shanghai, Hangzhou, Nanjing, Beijing, Tianjin, Shijiazhuang, Qinghuangdao, Dalian, Shenyang, Xiamen, Qingdao, Wuhan, Chengdu, Kunming and Guangdong (Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Jieyang).
72 Hour Visa-Free Transit: Chongqing, Guilin, Xi’an, Changsha and Harbin
The key to using the China transit visa is to make sure that all your documentation is printed. We had some of it on emails, but they wanted printed copies of everything.
- A valid passport from the countries above with 6 months remaining.
- Completed blue and white Transit Immigration card (available at the customs area).
- Printed visas for the third country. If visas aren’t required for that country, you can ignore this. In our case, we were going to India and needed to show proof of visa.
- A confirmed ticket to the third country, leaving in 72 or 144 hours.
Guangzhou Transit Steps
I read lots of posts in advance of our transit claiming that it would only take 15 minutes at Immigration to get your China visa free transit through these steps. Unfortunately for us, it took over 3 hours of waiting around. Maybe that is unusual and because we didn’t have hard copies of some of the required documents, but after a long haul flight with three kids, it was frustrating. Hopefully for you, you will breeze right through.
- When checking in for your flight, inform the agent that you plan on using the 72/144 hour visa-free transit. They will likely check the above documentation. Remember to have it all printed out in advance.
- Once you land, go to Customs and follow the “72/144 Hour Visa-Free Transit” signs.
- Hand in your passports and get assigned a number written on a sticky note.
- Receive passports back with Temporary Entry Permit.
Guangzhou Transit Tips
- PRINT all documents!
- Be PATIENT! They seemed to be completely overwhelmed with the volume of travelers. There was a man in the back with stacks and stacks of passports. Every 20 minutes, a woman would bring a stack of processed passports out and every one would get up and hover to see if it was theirs.
- DO IT! Yes, you had to wade through these articles, requirements and documentation, but you get a cheap flight with the added bonus of a free stopover.
- Check out the best things to do in Guangzhou
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