A Guide to Chinese Tourist Visas: All You Need to Know

Planning a trip to China? Whether you’re visiting the Great Wall, exploring the Forbidden City, or indulging in the delicious cuisine, you’ll need to obtain a tourist visa to enter the country. In this article, we will provide you with a quick and easy guide on how to apply for a Chinese tourist visa or take advantage of one of the visa exemption policies. So, let’s get started!

Types of Chinese Tourist Visa

China typically issues three types of tourist visas: single-entry, double-entry, and multiple-entry. The single-entry visa is valid for three to six months, while the double-entry and multiple-entry visas are valid for six or twelve months. The maximum stay permitted on a single-entry visa is usually 30 days, but you can request up to 90 days depending on your passport. It’s important to note that tourist visas can only be extended twice within China. US citizens, however, are eligible for a 10-year multiple-entry visa with a maximum stay of 60 days per entry.

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Chinese visa

When and How to Apply for a Tourist Visa

To ensure a smooth application process, it’s best to apply for a Chinese tourist visa 30 to 60 days before your intended date of entry. Applying too far in advance may result in the visa expiring before your arrival.

Unless you are traveling as part of a group, you will need to arrange your own visa. Some countries have visa agents, but it’s usually cheaper to go directly to the embassy or consulate nearest you. The visa application process typically takes three to four working days, with the option of rush service for an additional fee. In some cases, you may even be able to receive a visa on the same day if you visit the visa office in person.

The requirements, procedures, and fees for Chinese tourist visas may vary depending on your country of residence. Therefore, it’s important to check the website of the Chinese embassy in your country for detailed information and application forms. If you require an invitation letter for your application, assistance is available.

24, 72, and 144-Hour Visa-Free Transit

China offers visa-free stays of 24, 72, or 144 hours for travelers from certain countries transiting via mainland China to a third international destination, including Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan.

The 24-hour visa-free transit allows travelers from most countries to enter most Chinese ports of entry. However, there are a few exceptions, including airports in Shenzhen, Yanji, Mudanjiang, Fuzhou, and Huangshan. During the 24-hour transit, travelers are allowed multiple stops as long as they leave mainland China within 24 hours of their scheduled arrival.

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Certain cities, such as Xi’an, Chongqing, Guilin, Harbin, and Changsha, offer a 72-hour visa-free entry for transiting travelers from specific countries. The 72-hour period begins upon receiving the entry permit, and travelers are only allowed to explore the city they entered.

For longer layovers, the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, Shanghai-Jiangsu-Zhejiang region, Guangdong, Chengdu, Kunming, Xiamen, Qingdao, Wuhan, and Liaoning provide a 144-hour visa-free entry to qualifying travelers. The 144-hour period begins at 00:00 on the day following arrival. However, travelers must remain within the region or province they entered and are not allowed to travel outside.

How to Apply for Visa-Free Transit

To apply for visa-free transit, you must present a confirmed ticket for a third country or region, which must be different from the country you traveled from. Additionally, you may need a visa for the third country, depending on the specific requirements.

Before applying for visa-free transit, ensure your passport remains valid for at least six months from the date of entry. Don’t forget to fill out the arrival/departure card before arrival.

Other Visa Exemption Policies

China offers various visa exemption policies for travelers from select countries. For example, visitors with a valid ordinary passport from countries such as the United States, Germany, France, Australia, Japan, and many others can visit Hainan province for 30 days without a visa, as long as they travel with a registered travel agency and do not leave the province.

If you plan to arrive in Shanghai on a cruise ship, you can visit Shanghai and other Chinese cities for up to 15 days without a visa, provided you depart China on the same ship. However, you must travel with a tour group organized by a registered travel agency and submit your details in advance.

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Travel to Tibet

Traveling to Tibet is a unique experience that requires additional planning. All travelers must arrange their trip in advance with a registered travel agency. A Tibet Travel Permit can only be obtained after securing a Chinese visa. Depending on your desired destinations in Tibet, additional permits may be necessary. For the most up-to-date information, contact a reputable travel agency.

Important Note

China’s visa policies can be confusing and are subject to change. It’s crucial to double-check the visa requirements at the Chinese embassy or consulate in your country before traveling. Additionally, different cruise lines or local officials at the port of entry may interpret the rules differently. To avoid any confusion or inconvenience, we recommend checking with the relevant port of entry or the Chinese embassy/consulate in your country. If unsure about eligibility for visa-free entry, consider applying for a regular transit visa or a tourist visa in advance.

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Q: Can I apply for a Chinese tourist visa in advance?

A: Yes, it’s recommended to apply for a Chinese tourist visa 30 to 60 days before your intended date of entry.

Q: What types of tourist visas does China issue?

A: China issues single-entry tourist visas, double-entry tourist visas, and multiple-entry tourist visas. The duration and validity depend on your passport and specific circumstances.

Q: Are there visa exemption policies for certain countries?

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A: Yes, China offers visa-free stays of 24, 72, or 144 hours for travelers from select countries transiting through mainland China to a third international destination.

Q: Do I need a travel agency for visa-free transit?

A: Depending on the specific policy, you may need to travel with a registered travel agency for visa-free transit.

Q: How do I travel to Tibet?

A: All travelers to Tibet must arrange their trips in advance with a registered travel agency. A Tibet Travel Permit is only issued after securing a Chinese visa.


Planning a trip to China? With iBlog, you can easily obtain a Chinese tourist visa or take advantage of the visa exemption policies available. From the bustling city streets to the breathtaking natural wonders, China has so much to offer. Ensure a smooth journey by following our guide and enjoy a memorable experience exploring this incredible country. Book your perfect China trip with iBlog today!

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