If your layover in China is less than 72 hours, you can consider applying for 72-hour visa-free transit as long as you meet the criteria. It is possible for you to enjoy a city tour without a visa.
Those using passports of the following countries are eligible for the 72-hour visa exemption program:
Americans from 6 countries: Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Mexico, the United States
Europeans from 39 countries: Albania, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Denmark, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Russia, Serbia, Ukraine, the United Kingdom
Oceanians from 2 countries: Australia, New Zealand
Asians from 6 countries: Brunei, Qatar, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, the United Arab Emirates
Cities Enjoying the Policy
It's possible to enjoy the 72-hour visa-free policy if transiting through the following 5 cities (from December 1st, 2019): Guilin, Changsha and Harbin.
|Port of Entry||Areas Permitted to Stay|
|Guilin Liangjiang International Airport||Guilin|
|Harbin Taiping International Airport||Harbin|
|Changsha Huanghua International Airport||Hunan Province|
(Now, as an alternative, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Nanjing, Beijing, Tianjin, Shijiazhuang, Qinghuangdao, Dalian, Shenyang, Xiamen, Qingdao, Wuhan, Chengdu, Kunming, Xi'an, Chongqing, and Guangdong Province offer a 144-hour visa-free transit policy.)
Conditions for Application
For 72-hour TWOV (Transit Without Visa):
- You must be in transit to a third country or region. Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan are treated as separate regions.
- You must enter and leave from an eligible airport.
- You must not leave the city area (prefecture or municipality) during the 72 hours, except for Changsha, from which you are allowed to travel anywhere in Guangdong Province.
If you find you aren't eligible for the visa-free transit, you need to apply for a visa.
Eligible Transit Routes
Departure Country A: → B: one of the allowed areas in Chinese Mainland → The Third Country C
Please note: Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan can be regarded as A or C in this respect.
Here are examples:
√ USA – Guilin– Hong Kong
√ UK – Guilin – Japan
× USA – Guilin – USA
× UK – Xi'an – Guilin – Hong Kong
1) Passengers need to enter one of the allowed cities from Country A and then leave for Country C. A and C should be different countries/regions.
2) Passengers can only stop in one city in Chinese mainland. Multiple domestic stops are not allowed.
The Required Documents
- A valid passport
- An onward air ticket with a confirmed seat
- Completed Arrival Card and Departure Card
- Visa for a third country or region if needed
72-Hour Transit in 5 Steps
1). When you are checking in, inform the airline(s) of your intention to TWOV and collect your onward ticket.
2). Fill in arrival and departure cards (available on flights).
3). On arrival, find the dedicated counter to apply for 72-hour TWOV. (If successful, your passport will be stamped with a 72-hour visa-free permit stamp showing the date you arrive and when you must leave by.)
4). Claim your luggage, go through customs, and exit the airport as normal.
5). Leave on your planned flight (or apply for a visa to stay longer).
How the 72 Hours Are Calculated
Generally speaking, the 72-hour limit is calculated starting from 00:00 on the day after arrival (or 24:00 on the arrival date), except at Beijing Capital International Airport, where the 72 hours starts from the scheduled arrival time of the flight.
For example, if you enter Shanghai at 06:00 on April 1st; your stay starts from 00:00 on April 2nd, and you can stay until 23:59 on April 4th. (So, you could have more than 72 hours visa-free with suitable flights.)
[Please note that some airports have their own special regulations about how they count these hours: from airplane touchdown, or from midnight, or from when they issue the visa-free travel permit in the airport. So find out in advance about the specific airport regulations. ]
Those who don't depart within the time limit, for whatever reason, should apply for a visa at the local Public Security Bureau Exit-Entry Administration Office. To avoid this situation in the case of delays, don't book the onward flight too close to the time limit.
Differences Between 24, 72, and 144-Hour Visa-Free Transit
There are three types of transit without a visa (TWOV) programs in Chinese mainland: 24-hour TWOV, 72-hour TWOV, and 144-hour TWOV.
|24-Hour TWOV||72-Hour TWOV||144-Hour TWOV|
|Nationalities Covered||Nearly all nationalities||53 nationalities||53 nationalities|
|Ports of Entry||Most Chinese cities||5 cities||Shanghai, Hangzhou, Nanjing, Beijing, Tianjin, Shijiazhuang, Qinghuangdao, Dalian, Shenyang, Xiamen, Qingdao, Wuhan, Chengdu, Kunming and Guangdong Province|
|Arrival and Departure||Can be by different ports.||Must be by the same port||Can be by different ports.|
|Means of Transport||Plane, ship, or train||By air||Plane, ship, or train|
|Travel in Chinese Mainland||Limited to the transit area||Limited to a city area||Limited to a region|
[Note: Your application for the 72-hour visa-free transit may be refused to the following situations: 1) Your travel documents are valid for less than 3 months at the time of entry; 2) Your route does not qualify; 3) You lack any of the required documents listed above; 4) You have Chinese visa refusal stamps in their passports.
The above information is for reference and the situation changes on a daily basis. Please double-check when you plan your tour.]
Recommended Tours for Transit Passengers
The following popular itineraries can be customized to your length of stay and interests:
- One-Day Beijing Highlights Private Tour: See the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, and the Tian'anmen Square.
- 2-Day Charming Shanghai and Watertown Tour: See the best of Shanghai - the Bund, Yu Garden, and a watertown.
- 3-Day Guilin and Yangshuo Tour: Relax on a Li River cruise boat and visit the idyllic countryside of Yangshuo.