In case you missed the news, China has just relaxed its visa rules for many foreign visitors transiting in Shanghai or Beijing. It now means travellers can spend up to three days taking in the sights in either city without applying for a visa.
I was one of the first Brits to take up this offer with a stopover in Shanghai. Here are my tips on how to make the most of your 72 hours in China’s thriving commercial capital.
Shanghai’s defining landmarks include the Pearl Oriental TV Tower: the bulbous symbol of the city skyline, which looks like a cartoon missile and the Bund: a picturesque boulevard that wouldn’t look out of place in any European capital.
The TV Tower is well worth the steep ¥150 (£15) entry fee for the views alone of The Bund and Pudong from the glass skywalk observation deck.
The price includes a trip to the Shanghai History Museum on the ground floor. Cultural relics including statues and models of Shanghai life through the years will keep you entertained for one of your transit hours.
The Bund is best seen at night when the lights of the Lujiazui district shine across the water and bathe the historic buildings in a radiant glow. The setting is a stark contrast to the Shanghai’s glitzy high rises on the other side of the water.
I don’t think the views rival Hong Kong’s impressive skyline (yet) but Shanghai’s beauty is not something that can be appreciated through photographs.
There’s one tourist attraction aimed at connecting you quickly to both of Shanghai’s main tourist draws – The Bund and the Oriental TV Pearl Tower – so they can both be easily visited in a morning.
The Bund Sightseeing Tunnel is a bizarre combination of light shows and sound effects that gives the impression you’re either hallucinating or travelling to the future. It’s so bad, it’s actually worth doing and you’d probably regret it if you didn’t. Watch the video below to see why:
The ride costs ¥50 (£5) for a round trip but once is enough so buy a single trip (¥40/£4) and catch the metro (around ¥4/£0.40) back to your starting point.
Shanghai’s ‘bullet train’
Shanghai is home to one of the world’s fastest commercial trains, the Maglev. It connects Pudong International Airport with downtown Shanghai and reaches speeds of up to 250mph, reducing travel time to just eight minutes. That means you could be sipping a cocktail within half an hour of picking up your bag at the airport. The high-speed train journey alone is worth stepping off the plane for.
A stopover in any city wouldn’t be complete without sampling the local cuisine. Shanghai’s night markets and street stalls serve up a delicious variety of Chinese and pan Asian food, including a local delicacy: Shanghai style pork dumplings.
Other tourist sights worth visiting include Nanjing Road – Shanghai’s answer to London’s Oxford Street or New York’s Fifth Avenue; The French Concession district, with its quaint passageways and restaurants pushing European fare and the Yuyuan gardens, a small piece of tranquil park life, filled with traditional pagodas and intricate statues.
All in all, it’s a great combination for a fun three days. Especially now there’s no entry fee!
Before the changes came in on January 1, passengers transiting in Beijing needed to apply for a visa. Shanghai already had a visa waiver in place, which gave transit passengers a 48 hour window to explore the city without a visa. The 24 hour extension brings its policy in line with Beijing’s new policy.
What to do when you land
When you arrive in Shanghai or Beijing, fill in the landing card and ask the airport border staff for a transit visa. You’ll need to show a confirmed onward ticket to a third country.
You aren’t allowed to leave the city during the transit period.
You will need to register your transit visa at a police station within 24 hours.
China is issuing the transit visa to residents of 45 countries, including the UK and most European cities, USA, Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, the UAE and Qatar. The full list of countries