China 72-Hour Visa-Free Transit Guide

Yesterday I entered China for the first time without a visa. Considering all the time and money I’ve spent in the past applying for them this was quite a revolution.

Starting earlier this year a number of big cities in China have begun a 72-hour visa-free transit policy which is intended to encourage citizens of certain countries to spend a couple of days in China while on their way to somewhere else (presumably to aid the local economy and business links).

As with most visa policies from China the details and rules are rather spread around and not entirely clear so I’ve put together a quick how to guide below based on my experience.
This does not constitute official guidance and you may want to contact immigration authorities or your airline for further details.


  1. You must have a passport from one of the eligible countries (see below)
  2. You must have a connecting flight ticket to a third country within 72 hours of arrival

Note: Passengers to and from Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan are regarded as international passengers.

Eligible Passports

  • Schengen countries in Europe: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovak, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland
  • Other European countries: Russia, Great Britain, Ireland, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Romania and Ukraine
  • American countries: The United States, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina and Chile
  • Oceanian countries: Australia and New Zealand
  • Asian countries: Republic of Korea, Japan, Singapore, Brunei, United Arab Emirates, and Qatar

Eligible Transit Airports

Note: you are not allowed to leave the transit city during the 72 hours.


  • Departure airport – at check-in tell the staff that you will be entering China on a 72-hour visa-free transit and show your connecting flight ticket (printout of e-ticket fine). The airline may make a copy of this.
  • Arrival airport – at immigration use the dedicated 72-hour visa-free transit lane if available. You will be asked to show your connecting flight ticket again after which they will place a special stamp in your passport and explain the conditions of stay.
  • Within china – if you are staying at someone’s home (opposed to a hotel) you must register at the local police station within 24 hours otherwise you may end up with a visit from the police and/or a hefty fine. It’s an annoying rule but one which is enforced (as I discovered).
  • Departure from China – you must leave within 72 hours or face deportation/fine/prison. In case of a special need to stay longer you should apply for the relevant visa to the exit-entry administration department of the municipal public security authorities.

Immigration Contacts

David avatar

11 responses

  1. Fantastic. Bookmarking this. Especially the North China (Dalian, etc) cities are very interesting, and worth a 2-3 day stay.

  2. Hi David, this policy is great and it works. The feeling of entering China – of all countries – on a whim, is awesome. Two clarifications:

    – As far as immigration is concerned, Hong Kong is totally a separate country. We entered Beijing Visa-free with a departing flight to HK. The flight was via Xiamen which puzzled the official a little, but it wasn’t a problem.

    – The airline doesn’t need to send any info to China, they usually check for Visa because they don’t know about the new policy. I had read that you should arrange something with them and tried, but the staff at LOT was clueless, they hadn’t even heard of that. Just leave the arrival card Visa field empty. The Chinese airport had no information of us beforehand and we got the stamp quickly and easily.

    – All you need is an eligible passport and a print-out of the departing flight ticket.


    1. Thanks Rado!

      – You were able to use the 72 hour transit through Xiamen? I didn’t see that on the list of cities providing this anywhere!
      – Regarding Hong Kong as a 3rd “country”, I read in a couple of places that this wasn’t possible so I’m surprised

      Moral of the story is that the policy isn’t getting uniformly enforced I guess.

      1. The departing flight to HK had a layover in Xiamen. The 72-hour transit was in Beijing. The official protested that it’s not an international flight, but after we explained it’s a layover and the final destination is HK, he agreed. If you have a direct flight Beijing/Shanghai/Guangzhou to HK, it’s straightforward. Anyway, HK is definitely international, just wanted to share this by real-life experience. Cheers.

    2. Pauli avatar

      Hi Rado,

      Do you know whether I need a connecting flight or just another flight ticket? I am planning to buy two separate tickets and am wondering whether that is okay.


  3. I’m resident of Mexico but still hold my nepalese Passport. I’ve a valid visa both in Mexico and U.S.
    I’m on a home leave and will be in a transit for 3 and half hours at the Guangzhou airpot (both ways). I’ve a confirmed connection flight to Ktm going by the same China Southern Airlines. Do I need a visa or automatically I’m eligible for the 72 hours free transit visa ? Do I have to inform the authority on my arrival at the Guangzhou airport or inform the cabin staff inside the aircraft ?

    Help assistance wanted.

  4. Phil avatar

    Air China disagrees with you:

    “Passengers must also have a ticket with confirmed reservations on a nonstop flight bound for the third country or region within 72 hours. Passengers to and from Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan are regarded as international passengers.”

    1. Thanks Phil, I suppose Air China should know better than most although that article was from 2012 and lots of new cities within mainland China have joined the scheme since then. It’s a shame the official rules are not terribly clear.

  5. Phil avatar

    Also the Flyertalk China Visa wiki disagrees with you:

    “Passenger must fly non-stop to/from China using two different countries. (For this context, Hong Kong and Macau are considered different countries)”

  6. […] Macau) is considered to be a 3rd country within the 72-hour transit visa context. Like this post:…transit-guide/ But then, Air China says Taiwan is a 3rd country: […]

  7. Tanya avatar

    I am flying from Russia to Beijing. My next flight is after 39 hours from Beijing to Guanzhou (2 hr layover there) and then to Auckland, N Z
    Am I eligible to a 72 hr transit visa
    Thank you


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