A Guide to China’s 72-hour Visa Exemption Program

WildChina > Insider Tips > A Guide to China’s 72-hour Visa Exemption Program

Before setting off for my first China adventure, I had the option to apply for a visa at a Chinese consulate in person or pay an agent to do it for me. Being a person who enjoys travel whether it be for business or leisure, I choose to make the 3-hour road trip to the nearest Chinese consulate to complete the two day process. Either way, foreigners jetting off to China must apply for a visa regardless of whether their intended stay lasts a few days or a few weeks. Now there is good news – a growing number of Chinese cities have passed 72-hour Transit Visa Exemption Programs. Hangzhou has been the latest to join this program, as recently as October 20th, while Kunming joined on October 1st.

How does the 72-hour visa program work?
This program applies to foreign visitors from 51 countries who have continuing flights to third countries. Travelers must already have tickets for a flight that departs for a third country within 72 hours of their having landed in China and possess valid international travel documents allowing them to enter their final destination.

The visa exemption program can’t be extended beyond 72 hours. If a traveler is unable to depart within 72 hours for unexpected reasons, such as a flight cancellation or sudden illness, they need to apply for a visa from the Municipal Public Security Bureau.


The 72-hour visa free stay only applies to transit via airports. Passengers by train or any other modes of transport are not eligible. Also, this program does not apply to passengers traveling on round trip flights, for example: a US citizen flying from Korea to Beijing for 3 days and then back to Korea would not be eligible.

What cities and airports offer 72-hour visa free transit?
Currently, Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Xi’an, Guilin, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Kunming, Dalian, Chongqing, and Shenyang. Visitors can only travel within the precinct they fly into, which means they cannot visit other cities in China or leave the administrative region where they have landed (for example, a traveler taking advantage of this policy in Beijing would not be able to go to Tianjin for a day).


What can I experience in 72 hours?
With a limited amount of time in China, it’s important to maximize your time and minimize your stress. Our Concierge service does just that: we can pick you up from the airport, provide you with a reliable driver and transport, and / or arrange flexible guided tours and return you the airport in time for your next flight. Take a look at our preexisting itineraries below to get an idea of what you can experience during 3 days. While nearly all of these itineraries are longer than 3 days, you can pick and choose any activities you like. All these itineraries are customizable to your preferences.

Explore China’s illustrious history at the Great Wall and Forbidden City or China’s modern side at the Olympic Park and 798 Art District. Check out our Beijing itinerary.

With 72 hours in Shanghai, we recommend going to the Bund, the French Concession, Yu Garden, or the Shanghai Museum. Browse our sample itinerary to discover all the “Paris of the East” has to offer.

Chengdu is famous for its iconic pandas, spicy cuisine, and face-changing opera. Look at our Chengdu itinerary for inspiration on how to spend 72 hours in Sichuan’s laidback capital.

You can get a special VIP view of the Terracotta Warriors or relax with a private taichi lesson on the city’s ancient wall while transiting through Xi’an. Our 3-day adventure is the perfect itinerary for 72 hours in Xi’an.

This area of China is so stunning that it’s featured on the 20 yuan bill. 72 hours in Guilin will afford you with enough time to discover this area’s natural beauty and diverse culture.

Beginning in March, Wuhan, one of China’s most ancient cities and the capital of Hubei province, will be open for 3 days of visa-free exploration.

For more information, contact us at info@wildchina.com

Find out more about 72-hour visa-free transit.