Getting a 30-day Chinese visa for just $45, hassle-free and without any hotel reservations? Here is a free and not-sponsored step-by-step guide to avoid all the unnecessary bureaucracy.
China must be one of my favourite countries in the world. The only pain is to get a visa at your nearest embassy. You need to provide a detailed itinerary, a return ticket (!), proof of hotel reservations, transportation plan, and all sorts of other documents like invitation letters. All this bureaucracy adds extra costs to the already expensive visa itself.
The best way to get a Chinese visa therefore is to arrange the visa in Hong Kong. Not only is it incredibly cheap, it’s also super easy. This option is the perfect choice for those that do not wish to create detailed itineraries beforehand, or leave China in such a way that a return ticket doesn’t make sense (like overland travellers/cyclists). I will explain in 4 easy steps how I did it myself:
Step 1 – Fly to Hong Kong
Most likely you won’t need a visa to visit Hong Kong. Nationals of about 170 countries or territories are allowed to stay visa-free for at least 14 days. That’s more than enough to arrange the visa for the mainland of China, which should not take more than 4 working days. If you’re from the US, EU, Canada or Australia you can stay 90 days, British citizens can even stay 180 days.
To see the exact visa requirements for Hong Kong, check under heading “Part II” on this official page.
Step 2 – Go to a China Visa Agency
The cheapest way to get a Chinese visa is to apply for a single-entry individual tourist visa (type: L). You can easily get one at a China Visa Agency, of which there are several in Hong Kong. Myself I used Forever Bright, a popular visa agency in the heart of Kowloon.
All you need to do is bring your passport (with arrival sticker and a full blank page), a passport photo and cash. There is no need to show a hotel reservations or ticket out of China. The application form is obtained and filled out at the office and only takes a matter of minutes.
Getting to the office is easy. It’s located in Kowloon inside the building ‘New Mandarin Plaza Tower B’ on Science Museum Road 14. To get there it’s best to take the subway to Hung Hom station, exit D1 and walk from there (5 minutes, use the flyover). There are also other ways to get there, which are found on the company’s website. I personally always use an offline map, pin the location and find my way with GPS.
Step 3 – Explore Hong Kong
Assuming you won’t be using the same-day visa service, you got some time to explore Hong Kong. This magnificent city must be one of my most favourite places in the world. I could easily spend weeks here. If you have only limited time, do not miss the following spots (2-3 days):
- Mong Kok – The most vibrant shopping district of Kowloon.
- Tsim Sha Tsui Waterfront – Take a classic picture of the Hong Kong skyline and pose with Jackie Chan.
- The Peak – Breathtaking views over Hong Kong, it doesn’t get better than this.
- Lan Kwai Fong – Nightlife district. Expect crowded streets, a mix of foreigners and locals and quick trips to the 7 Eleven for cheaper alcohol.
- Public Parks – Escape from the buzz in a surreal oasis of calm. Public parks are found all over Hong Kong, I highly recommend visiting Hong Kong Park and Kowloon Park.
Step 4 – Collect your Chinese visa
Once the time has come, go back to the office around noon and obtain your fresh new visa. You now have 90 days to head out to the mainland of China and start your 30-day adventure!
It’s really as easy as that. Obviously there are other ways and agencies to get a visa, but personally I really like the fast and reliable service of Forever Bright. I do not get any commission for promoting their service, I just think it’s the easiest and best way to get a Chinese visa. It’s hard to find any disadvantages of doing it this way.
- Flights – If you need to fly into China, take the metro and go from nearby Shenzhen airport. Chinese domestic flights are usually cheaper than from Hong Kong Airport.
- Overland – To go overland, take the subway to Shenzhen and from there a train further into China. A good first stop could be Guangzhou.
- China itinerary – Not sure where you want to go in China? Check out my awesome 4-week itinerary to go off-the-beaten-path.