To visit China you need to get a visa which is quite expensive and a little time consuming. Luckily, China recently eased up on their restrictions by offering transit visas which are free to visitors staying for 72 hours or less. For a full listing of participating Chinese cities and countries eligible to participate, check out China Travel Guide.
There are 2 different types of visas:
- 72 hour visa free transit
- 24 hour direct transit
Since we were only in Beijing for 12 hours we got the 24 hour direct transit visa.
To get your transit visa you need:
- Valid passport
- Ticket to onward country and visa for that country if needed
- Completed entry paperwork
Once you arrive at customs, don’t go through the standard customs lanes – wait for the transit visa or diplomat line. Once you are there just explain you need your transit visa. The customs agent will review your passport, connecting flight information and form. Once approved they will stamp your passport and include the exit date.
We almost had issues getting our transit visa when we arrived. We flew Thai Airways which didn’t print out our ticket for the final leg of our trip as it was on United. We had a printout of our flight which I printed for timing only and didn’t have our names on it. Fortunately I was able to pull up our netbook and prove that we did have onward travel even though the agent was still unsure why our seats had not yet been assigned for a flight that was so soon.