Getting Around China’s 72 Hour Transit Without Visa (Round Trip Travel Permitted)


Thorough write-ups about China’s 72 hour transit without Visa policy have been done by Hack My Trip, MilePoint, One Mile at a Time, and many other bloggers, so I would like to share is my experience from last year, taking on the advice of Rapid Travel Chai when I was in a bit of a jam, similar to the one Hack My Trip experienced.

The main requirement (also the most restrictive) is that you must be arriving from Country A into China (Country B) and show onward travel support to Country C. Thankfully, Hong Kong and Macau are not considered as part of China for this policy.

Why is this important? Cathay Pacific's hub is Hong Kong, which means almost all Cathay flights have to connect in HKG airport. This is a curse and a blessing:

  • A blessing because since Hong Kong is considered a different country than China in regards to this policy, transiting through China from Hong Kong is allowed
  • A curse because since HKG is the main hub for Cathay, that means you will likely have to connect in HKG both going into China and leaving, which is not allowed



Here is the portion of my trip that had issues last year: DXB – HKG (2hr connection) – PEK (70hr stopover) – HKG (2hr connection) – JFK (final destination). Seems reasonable, right? Flying from Dubai to Beijing, where I am spending close to 3 days transiting, and continuing onto New York City, my final destination.

I only realized that this was a problem when I was in Dubai and after posting a question on Travel China Guide, I was told that my itinerary was not permitted without a Visa because HKG was the last airport I touch before entering China and also the first airport I touch after leaving China.

As advised by Travel China Guide, I went to the Consulate in efforts to obtain a last minute China Visa, only to get rejected – they could only issue China Visas for UAE citizens. Since I was holding a US passport, I had to obtain the Visa from the US Embassy which was located in Abu Dhabi. There was no way I was going to spend a whole day trying to get a Visa – I was, after all, on vacation.


Thankfully, Rapid Travel Chai came to the rescue and warned that while he would not usually recommend it, given the jam I was in, he suggested I book a one way fully refundable ticket from PEK to some other location other than HKG. This would only be used to get through immigration when arriving in Beijing – genius! That’s exactly what I did, book a one way fully refundable coach ticket PEK – EWR on United for a total of (drum-roll please) $2,310.80 per person.

china ticket

It could not have worked better. When arriving in PEK airport, there was a separate line for those transiting 72 hour transit without Visa and the officer spent a total of 5 minutes scribbling down information before giving the stamp of approval. Just to play it safe, I waited another day before cancelling my tickets on United. Since the tickets were refundable, I got every dollar back. No issues leaving Beijing either – no cross checks to prior documents provided. So long as I had the stamp of approval and I was within the 72hr limit, I was permitted to leave.

How will this help you?  Similar to Rapid Travel Chai, I DO NOT recommend intentionally booking a fully refundable one way ticket out of China to an airport other than the one you touched last prior to entering China just to get around their restriction.  If you travel internationally often, I'm sure you want to avoid any hassles and delays due to visas.  But sometimes you get into a jam and need to be creative.

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  1. So get this, I did this thinking once I got through immigration I could use the 72 hour max. Unfortunately my “fake” return ticket departed the day after my arrival into PEK. What I didn’t realize was Chinese immigration stamped my passport that I was allowed to stay for only 24 hours, not the 72 max. So when I showed up three days later to fly onto another country, I had to pay a penalty fee, was held up in immigration for two hours and almost missed my flight.
    Realize one is granted UP TO 72 hours based upon the onward flight details you present at immigration.

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