Cut the cost of a China visa

BANGKOK, 4 August 2017: China has been making it easier to travel to and through the country without any cost since last year. But the message might not be getting through.

UK’s Independent newspaper alerted UK travellers that they can now visit Shanghai stay for up to six days on what is for all intents and purposes a free transit visa.

But apparently they have been shelling out on expensive China visas on the advise of their cruise ship operators.

The 144-hour visa states a visitor must arrive from outside of China. Bangkok or Singapore would be fine and they can stay for up to six days that expires one minute before the strike of midnight on the sixth day, regardless of the time of their arrival on the first day. A day clicks by at midnight.

They must depart to a different destination outside China.  Hong Kong would do nicely.

For example they could join a cruise out of Singapore to China, stay up to six days in Shanghai and then fly out to Bangkok visit a beach resort and head for home. They leave or enter through any of Shanghai’s recognised airports or sea ports serving international passengers.

This all is possible on a free transit visa introduced by a country that is supposed to notorious for making it difficult and expensive to get a visa. Officials call it the 144-hour visa.

According to the UK Independent the message is not getting through and at least one cruise line, Princess, still insists that its UK passengers pay for a visa to enter China. It costs a UK traveller around UKP200 to get the visa.

A spokesperson for ABTA the association representing the UK travel trade said: “While there are occasions where a visa to visit China is not required, China’s visa rules are complex with specific visas for difference circumstances.”

For the past 16 months, the Shanghai General Station of Immigration Inspection has provided a straightforward, English-language Interpretation of 144-hour Visa-exemption Transit Policy, which explains the rules.

  1. Arrive from an airport/port/railway station outside the People’s Republic of China (PRC) by air, ship or rail. For this purpose, Hong Kong is regarded as outside China.
  1. Show proof of booking to a destination airport/port/railway station in a different country.
  1. Remain within Shanghai Municipality, Jiangsu Province (a vast province stretching north of the city and including Nanjing) and Zhejiang Province (to the south).
  1. Leave before midnight six days after arriving in China (eg: arrive lunchtime on Saturday, must leave by 235 on Friday).

If the traveller meets these requirements, he or she can follow the signs on arrival to a special 144-hour transit desk for processing, saving money and the gruelling process of applying for a full Chinese visa.

The 144-hour visa-free transit policy is valid for travel to Shanghai, Jiangsu, and Zhejiang in east China to facilitate international travellers. It was introduced January 30th, 2016 and replaced the 73-hour transit visa. The policy, aims at boosting tourism and business in the Yangtze River Delta Region, allows passengers from 51 countries or regions to transit in Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang for no more than 144 hours (six days) without holding a visa. During the layover period, passengers can move around the three places, but are not permitted to visit other cities of China.

Interesting concept. Does it apply to travellers resident in ASEAN flying or taking a cruise to Shanghai or flying  from Singapore and then flying out to Hong Kong?  Just two lucky ASEAN nations, Singapore and Brunei, are listed on the eligible country list so their citizens can explore interesting options  to enjoy a  travel triangle that includes eastern seaboard China.

Eligible countries

24 Schengen Agreement 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

13 Other European countries: Russia, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia (FYROM), Albania

6 American countries: the United States, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Chile

2 Oceania countries: Australia, New Zealand

6 Asia/ Middle East countries: Korea, Japan, Singapore, Brunei, United Arab Emirates, Qatar

For more details see:

(Sources: Independent newspaper, Shanghai Immigration website)