China 72 Hour Visa Rules

I have on two occasions “bopped” into Beijing on a 72 hour visa and it was fantastic both times. My first time was very soon after China started allowing these visas and I was worried because I would be entering China without even having yet booked my flight out of China. But instead of being tossed out, I was whisked through. I was the only one in the 72 hour line and that meant I got into China faster than all but a few who already had a longer term visa. The second time was not dissimilar. But the rules for 72 hour visas are complicated and somewhat limited.

The following Chinese cities qualify for the 72 hour visa:

  • Beijing
  • Chengdu
  • Chongqing
  • Dalian
  • Guangzhou
  • Guilin
  • Hangzhou
  • Kunming
  • Nanjing
  • Shanghai Pudong and Hongqiao airports
  • Shenyang
  • Tianjin
  • Wuhan
  • Xiamen
  • Xian

The key thing to remember about these visas is that you are not allowed to go outside your entry city. In other words, if you enter into China on a 72 hour visa in Beijing, you are not supposed to go even to Tianjin. You are required to have “a ticket proving an onward flight from the same China city to a ‘third country or region’ (not the originating country and not in Mainland China) with a confirmed date and seat within 72 hours of arrival. The arriving and departing tickets may be on different airlines. If required, you must also possess a visa for the third country or region.” But like I said, the first time I entered with a 72 hour visa I had no such return ticket and I was never asked about it. I do not even recall being asked the second time either, though of that I am not certain.