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Shenzhen Layover: Visa Requirements and Things to Do

Written by Candice SongUpdated Aug. 7, 2023

Shenzhen borders Hong Kong and offers convenient transportation to nearby countries. The city itself is also a growing tourism city. If you are planning a trip to Asia, Shenzhen is a wonderful layover city.

Just read on to see if you need a visa to stay in Shenzhen and what you can expect to do during your layover time.

Do I Need a Visa for a Layover in Shenzhen?

At present, there are two policies for travelers to stay in Shenzhen for a period without applying for a full China visa: use the 144-hour visa-free transit policy or apply for a Visa on Arrival. Passport holders from certain countries can even enjoy a visa-free policy.

Visa-Free Countries

Passport holders from the following countries can visit Chinese mainland without a visa for a period, and Shenzhen is included, of course.

  • 90 days: Bosnia and Herzegovina, San Marino
  • 60 days: Mauritius
  • 30 days: the Bahamas, Barbados, Belarus, Ecuador, Fiji, Grenada, Qatar, Serbia, the Seychelles, Tonga, the United Arab Emirates
  • 15 days: Brunei, Japan, Singapore

Quick Test: Will My Route Qualify for China 72/144-Hour Visa-Free Transit?

1. I will depart from (only applies to direct or connected flight):

2. I will arrive in China at [city], [airport / railway station / port].

3. My arrival date is...

4. I will leave for [country/region] from China (the bounding destination on the air ticket):

5. My departure date is...

6. My nationality is...

144-Hour Visa-Free Transit

Enjoy 144-hour Visa Free TransitEnjoy 144-hour visa-free transit

This policy is valid for travelers from 53 specific countries who are transiting to a third country or region (Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan are each considered to be a third region). Travelers can stay within the whole of Guangdong Province (not just Shenzhen) for up to 144 hours (6 days).

If your nationality can enjoy this policy and you have planned to visit another country or region (such as Hong Kong or other Asian countries), using this policy is better than applying for a VOA.

Read detailed information about the 144-Hour Visa-Free Transit Policy as well as how to use it.

Visa on Arrival for 5 Days

Apply Visa on Arrival in ShenzhenApply visa on arrival in Shenzhen

Travelers from any country that has diplomatic relations with China can get this visa in Shenzhen Bao'an International Airport. Getting this VOA is quick, convenient, and cheap.

This VOA allows you to travel within Shenzhen then leave for any countries or region (including Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan) out of Chinese mainland. However, you cannot use this visa to visit any other cities in China.

Check out the detailed information about the Shenzhen Visa on Arrival and how to apply for it.

What to Do for Your Shenzhen Layover of 8 to 24 Hours

If you have a long layover and have qualified for one of these visa-free policies, you can plan to leave the airport and explore Shenzhen.

You may need a layover of at least 8 hours to explore the city then set off for the airport at least 2 hours before your flight departs.

Here, we have listed some activities to do during your layover. They don't need too much time and effort to experience but can offer a glimpse at the city and its development history.

1. Ascend a Skyscraper for a Bird's-Eye View of the City

Time needed: 1 hour

Pingan IFCPingan IFC

When ascending a skyscraper in Shenzhen, it might be hard to imagine that the view below used to be small fishing villages decades ago. Enjoying a bird's-eye view is the easiest and quickest way to get to know the city.

The following skyscrapers are suggested:

  • Ping An International Finance Centre - the tallest building in Shenzhen at present (599 meters / 1,965 feet high); take Metro Line 1 or 3 to Shopping Park Station
  • Shun Hing Square - this was the tallest tower for over 15 years (384 meters / 1,260 feet high); take Metro Line 1 or 2 to Grand Theater Station
  • The KK100 - a popular landmark near Shun Hing Square (442 meters / 1,450 feet high); take Metro Line 1 or 2 to Grand Theater Station

2. Enjoy Shopping in Shenzhen

Time needed: 2–3 hours


Shenzhen is a good shopping opportunity next to Hong Kong. The better buys include electrical appliances, digital products, clothing produced in China, and jewelry.

Shopping in Shenzhen is not just about buying items but is a good way to get to know the city from another perspective. The shopping areas or malls listed below may interest you.

  • Dongmen Pedestrian Street: This is a popular shopping and food street, which is also liked by local people. Take Metro Line 1 or 3 to Laojie Station.
  • Huaqiangbei: This is the largest electronics market in China where you can even find everything you need to create a smartphone. Take Metro Line 2 or 7 to Huangqiangbei Station.
  • COCO Park: This is a large and luxury shopping mall. Take Metro Line 1 to Shopping Park Station.

Check out more information about Shenzhen Shopping.

3. Taste Shenzhen Food

Time needed: ½ hour

Shenzhen cuisineShenzhen cuisine

Shenzhen is nowhere near being a gastronomical capital like Hong Kong but you'll find cuisines from all over China due to the migration of large numbers of people from across the country.

Shenzhen's local dishes are refreshing and tasty, and you are advised to try them. There are also many Asian restaurants and Western-style restaurants. They are notably less expensive than those in Hong Kong.

See more recommended Shenzhen food and restaurants.

4. Discover Shenzhen's "Urban Villages"

Time needed: 2 hours

Dafen Oil Painting VillageDafen Oil Painting Village

When you step away from the downtown area, you will discover the urban villages of Shenzhen. Today, 60% of the population in Shenzhen lives in over 1,000 urban villages.

Different from the slums in some countries and cities, the urban villages in Shenzhen are not about being dirty and disorderly but are lively places for people who go to Shenzhen to realize their dreams.

Here are some urban villages for you to visit:

  • Dafen Oil Painting Village: At its peak, over 60% of oil paintings sold on the market originated from this village. Take Metro Line 3 to Dafen Station.
  • Nanshan Village: This is the most historic urban village in Shenzhen with a series of old buildings. Take Metro Line 11 to Nanshan Station.
  • Shangsha/Xiasha Village: These are the most developed urban villages where over 100,000 young technology talents live. Take Metro Line 7 to Shangsha Station or Line 9 to Xiasha Station.

5. Visit Shenzhen's Interesting Theme Parks

Time needed: 4 hours

Window of the WorldWindow of the World

Although the theme parks in Shenzhen are not world class like the ones in Hong Kong, they are fun options to spend a day or half a day in, or when you are traveling with your kids.

They are clustered just north of Shenzhen Bay around Window of the World. You can take Metro Line 1 or 2 to Window of the World Station.

Can I Stay in Shenzhen Airport? Yes!

In Shenzhen Bao'an International Airport, there are layover and overnight rest areas on the second floor of the terminal. There are also 24-hour restaurants and stores to suffice for a short rest.

The Best Rest Areas in Shenzhen Airport

Shenzhen Baoan International AirportShenzhen Baoan International Airport

If you are holding airline tickets for a business-class seat or first-class seat, you can use the VIP rest areas on the third and fourth floors of the terminal. There are dining areas, reading areas, Internet cafés, children's areas, tea bars, and massage chairs.

Where to Sleep in Shenzhen Airport

There are no sleeping cabins in the rest areas mentioned above. If you want some sleep, there are two hotels in the airport terminal for you:

  • Hyatt Place Shenzhen Airport Hotel
  • Hyatt House Shenzhen Airport

Tips You Need to Know for a Layover in Shenzhen

How do I get to downtown Shenzhen from the airport?

Downtown ShenzhenDowntown Shenzhen

Two metro lines connect Shenzhen Bao'an International Airport, namely Line 1 (Airport East Station) and 11 (Airport North and Airport Station).

Taking Line 1, you can get to the central districts of Futian and Luohu. You can also get to Luohu District on Line 11.

You may also take a taxi, which is faster than the metro during non-rush hours.

How long and how much would it take to get to the downtown area and back?

By metro, you can get to downtown Futian in about 40 minutes and to downtown Luohu in about 1 hour. The cost is 7 to 8 yuan.

If you take a taxi, it will take you about 30 minutes to reach Futian District and about 50 minutes to get to Luohu District. The cost is 100 to 150 yuan.

Do I have time for my next flight?

You are advised to set aside at least 2 hours to return to the airport to ensure you don't miss your flight.

During the rush hours of 8 to 9am and 5 to 6pm, taking a taxi may not always be faster than taking the metro. Allow one more hour in rush hours.

Enjoy a Hassle-Free Shenzhen Layover with Us

Having a private tour for your layover time is recommended as you can choose the time we pick you up/see you off at the airport as well as your preferred experiences.

You will have an experienced guide and a private car to take you around and ensure you return to the airport on time.

Check out our most popular Shenzhen tour for inspiration:

Or contact us to create your unique itinerary.

Start planning your tailor-made tour with 1-1 help from our travel advisors. Create Your Trip

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