Do you need a travel visa if you are going to China?

I hope you plan it more in advance than I did.

Yes, you need a travel visa for China


First of all let’s determine what a visa actually is.  The Chinese consulate describes it as:

“Chinese visa is a permit issued to a foreigner by the Chinese visa authorities for entry into, exit from or transit through the Chinese territory. The Chinese visa authorities may issue a diplomatic, courtesy, service or ordinary visa to a foreigner according to his identity, purpose of visit to China and passport type.”


I have done quite a bit of traveling in Central America, United States and Cuba and never had to arrange for a travel visa in advance of my departure.  Or maybe I was supposed to and was lucky a visa was provided to me at the border entry of each country I planned on entering.  I do know that when backpacking through Central America there were some very interesting customs offices and the procedures we had to follow have given me enough material I could write many interesting stories about my experiences.


However, we are talking about China. My first introduction to needing a visa was a phone call I received from my son, who is currently teaching in China and he asked me “Have you arranged for a travel visa yet?”


“Oh dear” I wondered.  How could I admit my ignorance in these types of matters and let him know I hadn’t even considered the need for one. Instead I said, “Not yet” but assured him it was at the top of my list of things to do in preparing for my next great adventure.  After he gave me a bad time about not having done it already I changed the subject by asking him about some of the things we would be doing or seeing while I was there.


So, prior to traveling to China a person must apply for a Visa and it can get a bit complicated.  The first thing I did was search the internet and my plan was to apply online.  Not possible.  To apply for a Chinese travel visa you must either hand deliver the application or work through a travel agent.  It is not possible to mail in an application and hope to have it granted.

I was going to apply through a Visa Application Service but got a bit frustrated (Cranky) and because time was running out I went down to my local travel agent who happens to be an Expedia agent and pleaded ignorance.  They were so helpful and within half an hour, I had completed the application, paid the fees, arranged travel insurance and had the envelope in my hand to send special delivery from the post office.  The travel visa would be sent to them when issued and they would call me to pick it up.  How simple was that?


For anyone who is needing travel visa information visit Expedia’s website and everything you need to know regarding a trip to a foreign country is there for the asking.  Plus, my son booked my trip through Expedia because they had the best deals.  I noticed he also arranged for his travel arrangements to Holland, France and Germany through Expedia also – they must have had the best prices or he definitely would have gone elsewhere.  They were all purchased online with no problems at all.

The purpose of my trip was to visit my son and I was granted the applicable visa. Depending upon your reason for visiting China will determine the type of visa you should apply for.  My one recommendation is to fill out the forms completely and accurately so there are no issues or problems that will have to be resolved before you can travel.  I keep admiring my Chinese travel visa that is attached to my passport and think of all the wonderful things I will get to experience and see while visiting my son in China.

Resources: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China


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About Carol Ann 113 Articles
Writer, traveler, RVer sharing her travel logs and information.