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Since December 2017, a visa is not required anymore for people going to China in transit, coming from one country, leaving to another country. I checked that mine and my wife's nationality are covered, and we are going to the right places (Beijing and Shanghai).

Problem: We will start on a plane, London to Hong Kong, sailing to South Korea then to Beijing, stay for three days, sail to South Korea and stop there for five hours (travel summary calls it a "technical stop", then sail to Shanghai and finally fly from Shanghai airport to Hong Kong (and then back to London). Does that count as a "transit" since we will be going from South Korea to Beijing then again to South Korea?

And is it correct that all I need is valid passports (we both have passports valid for several years), and all would be sorted out when arriving in Beijing?

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    "Since December 2017, a visa is not required anymore for people going to China in transit" More like since 2013... – user67108 Jul 7 '18 at 6:28
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+50

The first visit, to Beijing, won't work under TWOV, as your ship is either doing a round-trip (South Korea<>China), or is sailing onwards to Shanghai, depending on how you look at it. You won't sail to Beijing, as it is inland, and doesn't have a harbour. You're probably sailing to Tianjin, which is eligible. However your routing isn't.

The TWOV rule is clear about this: you need to be in transit between two different countries. That's not the case. You will need a visa.

A → B: one of three areas in Mainland China → C

A and C should be different countries or regions out of Mainland China. * Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan can be the Destination A or C, so the route "UK-Shanghai-Hong Kong" is acceptable as the typical route "US-Hangzhou-Japan".

B refers to only one of the following three areas in China, and you cannot have a cross-area visa-free tour among the three:

  1. Shanghai, Jiangsu, and Zhejiang
  2. Beijing, Tianjin, and Hebei
  3. Liaoning

For Shanghai however, this is a perfectly valid TWOV example, as long as you're deemed to be arriving from Korea (ie you've been stamped out by Chinese immigration when you left Tianjin), which is why the cruise is sailing from China to Korea and back to China, I bet.

Arriving from Korea in Shanghai, you'll transfer to a plane to HK. That's considered as an international flight. So in this case you can apply for a TVOW.

Bottom line: you will need to apply for a Chinese tourist visa. Since applying for a one-entry or a two-entry visa is (generally) the same procedure, albeit a little more expensive, you might want to consider getting a double-entry visa.

The TWOV scheme has been in place for quite a few years, by the way. I used this facility in Beijing Capital Airport in 2013 or 2014. Back then it was 72 hours. What changed in December 2017 is that it went up to 144 hours, and Liaoning & Tianjin were added.

  • AFAIK the transit in Shanghai must be within 24h as the 72h/144h TWOV only applies to air travel!?!? – mts Jul 7 '18 at 6:39
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    @mts Nope. See the link I posted. It says, among many other things, "Shanghai: All air, sea and railway ports, including Pudong Airport, Hongqiao Airport, Shanghai Port International Cruise Terminal, Wusong Passenger Transport Center and all railway stations." and "Entry and Exit Ports. Passengers can enter and leave from any of the above ports. Eg: One can take a cruise to Shanghai and leave by air from Hangzhou or Nanjing." – user67108 Jul 7 '18 at 6:42

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