By now we have requested and received three Chinese visa. Because it has become increasingly complex over the last few years to obtain Chinese visa while on the road we thought it would be good to write a blogpost about this.

Our first visa was a 30day visa which we obtained in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Our second visa was a 2x30day visa which we obtained in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. Our third visa is a 90day visa which we obtained in Seoul, South Korea. The following saying rings true in hour ears:

“Luck is a crossroad where preparation and opportunity meet.”

30 day visa Bishkek

To request the 30day visa in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan we approached an agency recommended by Caravanistan. This was our first attempt of applying for a Chinese visa and was in November 2014. We had heard and read a lot of other travellers and wanted to make sure to get this visa. Also we had planned to go to Mongolia, so we only needed 30 days. We went to the agency at 100 Moskovskaya and paid a whopping 150$ (110 application fee, 20 urgency and 20 registration stamp).

  • Two passport photos
  • Valid passport for 6 months or more
  • Process was 2 working days (20$ extra)

After two days we could pick up our passports with 30 day visa and we were ready to go. (We recently heard of a couple doing extensive efforts to request a 90day visa in Bishkek without success, we also heard of people going directly to the embassy for 30day visa with success and quite a bit cheaper). We traveled through the northwest of China in Xinjiang province. From there Martin cycled to the border in the east of Mongolia and Susanne took a train from Urumqi to Hohhot in Inner Mongolia and a bus to Ulaanbaatar.

2×30 double entry visa Ulaanbaatar

In Ulaanbaatar we applied for a double entry 2×30 days visa at the Chinese embassy. We supplied all the necessary paperwork:

  • Hotel booking in China for at least three nights
  • Return flights to and from China
  • Copy of previous Chinese visa
  • Copy of current Mongolian visa
  • Application form (found it online and had it filled in beforehand)
  • Two passport photos matching Chinese description for size
  • Passport valid 6 months or more
  • Travel itinerary

For the flights reservation there are many travel agents in Ulaanbaatar that will arrange an option (sort of reservation). They book the ticket with all your information but you don’t proceed to pay until after you have obtained your visa. When you have your visa you cancel the reservation at the agent. The agency we used was at the corner of Peace Avenue and Seoul Street next to outdoor shop Seven Summits. We had made a detailed itinerary ourselves including a visit to North Korea. We had planned to visit North Korea at the time. Payment was 60$ which we paid at the bank across the street. Pick-up was in three days and we received our double entry visa without hesitation. We cycled through Inner Mongolia, Hebei and Liaoning to Dalian, took a ferry to Yantai and another ferry to Incheon, South Korea. We didn’t use our second entry of the visa.

90 days visa Seoul

After traveling through South Korea we applied again for a Chinese visa, in Seoul this time. We still had our second entry for 30 days in China but wanted more time to discover more of China at a more easy pace. So we applied for a 90day visa at the Chinese Visa Application Centre, the official organisation dealing with visa applications in Seoul. Before applying for the visa we needed to have the right paperwork done. We prepared:

  • A detailed itinerary describing 88 days of travel through China,
  • We booked five hotels through (probably not necessary, just in case)
  • Filled in the application form online and printed
  • Flight reservation (see below)
  • Copies of previous Chinese visa
  • Copy of passport
  • Two passport photos matching Chinese description for size
  • Passport valid 6 months or more

Where the flight reservation was very easy in Ulaanbaatar, this was very hard in Seoul. We asked many agencies, but either they did not understand what we meant or they did not do flights. One agency wanted to help us but only for 10$ payment per ticket which would be 40$ total. Finally we found an agency on the 2nd floor of Hotel President next to Lotte Hotel called HIS International. They were willing to help us with a reservation for flights without payment which was very helpful. We applied on Tuesday at the application centre and received our visa on Friday with 90day visa for 55.000 KRW (49$).

We feel we were lucky to obtain the 90 day visa in Seoul and that regulations are less strict here than maybe in other parts of the world where visa are issued. At the same time we didn’t shy away from doing necessary preparations and requesting the visa we needed, even though there was no information about applying for a three months visa beforehand. We cycled from Qingdao, via Xian and Western China to the border with Laos. We hope this will work for more people in other locations too!