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 return 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 longer term visas. The second time was not dissimilar.

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

These visas do not allow you to go outside your entry city. This means if you enter 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.