The same week that the Land of the Free imposed a xenophobic travel ban, my husband’s family came to visit us in China without visas! In the past, the process would have been long and expensive. But since the beginning of 2016, passport holders of 53 countries/regions can enter certain Chinese cities for either 72 or 144 hours on a special visa-free transit.

All you need is a departure ticket within the allotted time period and the address of your accommodation. You don’t need to worry about doing anything in advance. Just arrive at the airport, register your address of stay at the check in counter and make sure not to overstay your welcome.

Although we had read a lot about this new visa-free option we were still understandably nervous about it. Fortunately, everything went smoothly. Isaac’s family flew into Shanghai from Hong Kong and got into a ridiculously short immigration line dedicated for the 144-transit. Once again, they had to show their return flights, register their address of stay and finally smile for an obligatory photo. That was it!

Their departure from China would have been completely painless too if it wasn’t for the pair of fake handcuffs that they were taking home for us. But that’s a story for another time… Even though they flew in from Hong Kong on one airline and were leaving to the US on another, there were absolutely no issues. Did you know that most China-USA flights let each passenger check in two 23-kilo bags for free?

You can find out more about this visa-free transit, including the list of nations who are eligible, here. Please keep in mind that there are many specific rules about which airports you need to fly in/out of and you can’t freely travel to other cities by train, bus, etc. Otherwise it’s all pretty self-explanatory.

Cities with the 144 hour visa-free transit include Shanghai, Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Guangdong. Those offering a 72 hour visa-free transit pretty much include all visit-worthy Chinese cities: Beijing, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Chongqing, Harbin, Shenyang, Dalian, Xian, Guilin, Kunming, Wuhan, Xiamen, Tianjin, Nanjing, Qingdao, Changsha and Hangzhou.

Shanghai has already welcomed 39,000 visa-less foreigners since the beginning of 2016. Join them by booking your flights today!

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