If you’re planning on transiting in China and applying for the 24 hours, 72 hour or 144 hour free China transit visa, there are some rules on what you can and can’t do when you arrive. Some of these are different from the China tourist visa. There are lots of unfortunate stories of traveller’s plans being completely turned upside down to the point that they simply can’t leave the airport as the free China transit visa has been denied. For the passengers that do qualify for the visa and are approved at the airport, here is what you can and can’t do while you’re transiting in The Peoples Republic Of China.
First, let’s dive into what you CAN’T do
This one is more of a clarification on the most common reason why you won’t be approved in the first place. You cannot use the free transit visa if you are not transiting. For example, if you fly from the USA to China, then back to the USA, you will not be allowed entry. You will need to apply before your holiday for a tourist visa. If you’re flying from the USA to Thailand with a transit in a stopover in China, you will be allowed to apply for the transit visa and leave the airport.
Leave from where you arrived
You cannot leave the province you entered. What this means is that if you land in the Shanghai province, you cannot leave.
Stay in the same province
You have to leave from the same city you arrived in. For example, you cannot arrive in Shanghai and leave from Beijing.
Leave on time
You cannot stay longer than your visa permit has been approved for. If your visa is only 72 hours, then that’s all. There will be no last-minute extensions, so please ensure you allow enough time to return to the airport for your connecting flight.
Now to what you CAN do
Leave the airport "area"
You can leave the airport area, meaning you don’t need to stay at an airport transit hotel. You can head into the city to explore and sightsee.
Take a tour
You can do a day tour in your province, which we recommend to get the most out of your short stay. For example, if you arrive in Beijing, you can do a tour to the Great Wall of China.
Recommended day trips while transiting in China
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