Chinese visas have been much more difficult to come by in Central Asia since the Beijing Olympics and the unrest in Tibet and Xinjiang provinces. If possible, get your Chinese visa in your home country. Many sites already explain the ins and outs of the Chinese visa, so I will not repeat them. But if you are on the road already, here is what you can expect.
Have a read through all this and decide where you want to try. If you fail, flying to Hong Kong is the emergency exit. Hong Kong is smooth as silk: one photo, only the paragraph about your family has to be filled in and 50 euro is enough for a double entry 30 day tourist visa! Shoestring across the street from Chungking Mansions or Forever Bright have a good reputation as well.
Getting a Chinese visa in Central Asia
Chinese embassy in Astana
November 2012: Another success story. Double-entry tourist visa, 10 days processing.
October 2012: First day (Wednesday) we went at 9am and put our name on a list and were
numbers 41, 42 and 43. The list got to 19 before they closed for the day. We
were told to come back on Friday.
We arrived on Friday at 5am and got numbers 16, 17 and 18 on the list as
some people had been the night before. By the 10.45am they were at number 8
and so Nina (Australian and freezing in below zero temp) pushed through the
people opened the gate, shouted “we have a special case” (our Kazakh visa
was running out) and marched in. Moments later she called me and Sam to join
her. It felt a bit rude but once we were inside we realised that the queue
outside doesn’t move as there are agents inside with 30-40 passports each to
Luckily Sam speaks Mandarin and so spoke to the official about what we
We could only obtain a 30 day visa
- We had form 2012a and 2012b
- A flight itinerary (with all our names and stamped by the travel agent) from Almaty to Beijing (FAKE)
- Hotel booking confirmation for a week in Beijing from the arrival date (FAKE)
- An invitation letter from a friend in China (which they didn’t seem so bothered about)
- A copy of her China ID card (which they didn’t seem so bothered about)
- A copy of travel insurance (FAKE)
- A copy of bank account
- 2 passport photo’s
- 4200 Tenge
We presented all of the above but they rejected our photos which were not on a white background. They told us to come back on Monday and advised us that we did not need to queue as we only needed to present photo’s.
We returned on Monday and were called straight in. The man checked everything very carefully. He gave us a payment slip to take to the back but advised us not to pay until we have waited to see if they would call us with any problems by Wednesday. They hadn’t called by Thursday morning so I paid at the bank and we collected our visas the following Monday. Apparently Australians were quick to process but not English.
July 2012: We, two cyclists from Holland, today managed to get a double entry visa (60days) within a week. The same day a French hitchhiker was also able to arrange a double entry visa (60 days) within 10 days. We went to Astana because a couple of weeks ago another guy from Holland was able to get a 30 day tourist visa in one day.
Prices are cheap(42 dollars for our double-entry), you don’t need a LOI. You need flight tickets, hotel reservations, travel insurance, enough money on your bank account. They’ll check all the dates very carefully. But if you can make up a good solid story you’ll be alright and will be able to get visas from the embassy in Astana.
They don’t have English-application-forms, but make a print out for you within 10 minutes. And you’ll have to wait minimun 30 minutes before you can get in (they open at 9 o’clock but they first let the people in that come to pick up visas and agencies, so mostly around 10 o’clock applicants will be able to get in and apply), the embassy closes at 12 o’clock.
Multiply entry wasn’t possible for us or the French guy. Still don’t say you’re a cyclist or entering West- China.
Chinese embassy in Almaty
September 2012: We (two Brits) tried to get a Chinese visa in Almaty this morning. It was all a bit chaotic and not particularly clear who worked at the consulate and who was simply another visa applicant who’d been roped into helping us on the grounds that they could speak a little English.
We were initially told to go away and get a letter of invitation, but as we’d spent last Friday trawling round travel agencies asking unsuccessfully for visa support, we hung around and asked the consulate staff which travel agency they would recommend.
Eventually, after much more standing around, confusion, and asking random people if they could help us, we were taken through to the window where visas are issued. They spoke a little English there and knew some travel agency staff who we assume were there to get visas on behalf of their clients. The visa staff and travel agency staff conferred and we were told the travel agency could procure two Chinese visas for us for 15000 Tenge each and these would be ready in 9 days time.
We hadn’t planned to stay in Almaty that long and were discussing whether to take this offer or whether to go to Bishkek and try for visas there when the visa staff seemed to presume we were worried about the expiration date of our 30 day Kazakh visa. The Chinese visas would be ready on 12 Sep 2012 and our Kazakh visas expire on 17 Sep 2012 so in our mind this wasn’t a problem, but at that point the visa staff said that they couldn’t issue a Chinese visa as there wasn’t enough time left on our Kazakh visa.
Chinese embassy in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan:
January 2013: Ms Liu in Bishkek moved to this adress: 132 Chuy Street. From outside you can see: Asia Travel club with a panel with red LEDs for advertisement. 140$ for a simple entry visa. We will apply later but some friends of us from France, Netherlands and Great-Britain got it in 1 week without problem.
September 2012: Ms. Liu in Bishkek is useless and expensive. Chinese embassy doesn’t issue rush visas anymore.
May 2012: Another set of travelers went through Miss Liu and wrote a detailed report about it. It seems you can only get the Chinese visa one month in advance now in Bishkek, so be prepared!
April 2012: 2 Lithuanian travelers went through Miss Liu. Price was 120$ for 4 processing days.
Bishkek became easier again in 2011. It is possible to go through a travel agent and obtain a 30-day tourist visa. Price is around 100$, 250$ for Americans. Same-day delivery possible for 50$ extra. Good travel agents are Miss Liu at 181 Toktogul St, tel: +996 772128759 and Kyrgyz Concept on Chuy Prospekt.
Chinese embassy in Tashkent, Uzbekistan:
Opening hours: 9 – 12 on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Visas can be picked up Monday to Friday, on whatever day you have paid for ($100 for next day, $80 for 2-3 working days,
$60 for 4 working days). Be wary that the embassy will close for chinese
June 2012: Here’s how one cyclist got his Chinese visa.
You have to enter within 30 days of receiving the visa, so if you plan to travel in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan for longer than that time it’s no good. If you can make it to China within 30 days here is what you need:
- You are not traveling overland or to western china, you are flying to beijing from tashkent and staying in a hotel. You are not traveling to any other country before China.
- Flight booking: this can be done for no fee at China Southern travel agency in Borakat Center next to Kasmanatvli metro and is automatically cancelled after some time if you don’t pay. Make sure your outgoing flight is from Uzbekistan and the flight date is within the limits of your Uzbek visa. A flight back out of China could also help but is not essential. Also make sure they stamp your reservation. It could be useful to ask for a copy for each traveller as you will all be seen individually.
- Hotel booking: Booking.com gives you access to many hotels which you can book and cancel for no fee. I am told some don’t ask for credit card details. check what you book carefully cause some might charge a cancellation fee.
- Proof of employment, a letter on headed paper form your company (real or imaginary) should be enough.
- Bank statement
- 2 photos to very exacting standards, these can be made round the corner from embassy. If you are walking out of the embassy turn right and then take the first right, after that go as far as the next crossroads. The photos are made in a little kiosk on the opposite corner from which you are arriving. Be sure to ask for a white background.
- Photocopies of photo page of passport and Uzbek visa. It’s every man for himself on the pavement outside of embassies and the Chinese one is particularly busy so be prepared to stand your ground if you want to be seen at all. And turn up early as they do turn people away if they don’t have time to see them before 12.
May 2012: It seems Tashkent is now also very difficult. Many independent applicants have been refused recently. It seems possible still to get a visa through a travel agency for 200$, or to present a flight ticket showing you are flying over East Turkestan/Xinjiang province.
April 2012: 2 French travelers going through a travel agency were denied their Chinese visa. They were asked to show proof if they were students or working, which they did not have. It seems this rule only applies to French people, due to the actions of one French student girl earlier this year.
March 2012: 80$ for a 3 months single entry visa, rush service (same day pickup at 17:00), easy and helpful staff. You have to show a proof of employment though, if you are a student a copy of your student card should do.
60-day single or double-entry has been given the same day to travellers all throughout 2011. Cost is 100$ on the spot, 80$ for 3-day wait. Recent reports here, here and here. Be sure to NOT cycle to the embassy, and not mention anything about cycling. Several cyclists were denied their Chinese visa in 2011 in Tashkent because of this.
Chinese embassy in Dushanbe, Tajikistan:
June 2012: Serbian traveler reported the following: It was quite easy. I got invitation letter from a friend, who lives in Urumqi. She signed, scanned and sent it by mail so I printed it, and although they asked for original i persuaded them that’s not necessary. So, I applied, I explained plan of the trip to consul, and I got visa in 2 days. It costs 50$ for 2 days and 30$ for 7 days of waiting.
Chinese embassy in Istanbul:
Applying for the visa by yourself seems out of the question. Travel agent Ligarba can help though. Find a useful report here.
Embassy of China in Ankara
July 2012: 2 British travelers were refused.
Chinese embassy in Tehran:
February 2013: Dutch cyclist reports the rules have changed: no more visas for non-Iranians.
January 2013: Everybody needs a letter of support from their embassy. Some embassies don’t mind giving one, others do. The Swedish embassy (also responsible for Brits in Iran) does not give letters of support.
October 2012: From the comments: It’s very easy and reliable to get (myself Australian + UK +Spanish). We didn’t mention we were cycling.
Cost 40USD (For non-US citizens). Time to receive 4 days normally (up to 1 day for rushed service fee).
What they need:
- Application form printed double sided.
- Passport sized photos (not fanatic).
- Letter of Recommendation from home embassy (at least for Aust, UK, Spain). Aust charged me about $12, took 15 mins to receive.
July 2012: 2 British cyclists were refused.
June 2012: From the comments: the process is relatively painless. You have to go to the embassy with the two new forms (V2012.A and V2012.B)typed and printed (you could find a typable version on the website of Chinese embassy in NZ or AU), two pictures (43*33), a hotel booking (some chinese hotels don’t charge fee on hotel.info), a return flight ticket (more difficult. I photoshoped a airfrance.fr booking), your passport, and a letter of recommandation from your embassy.
It’s really easy to get one for french people : just go to the embassy during the opening hours with your passport, enter the door with “Chancellerie diplomatique et consulaire” written on it, explain to the policemen, and he will guide you to the frenchs people section, where you will be offered coffee and asked to fill a form. You’ll have to come back 2 days later to get your letter, but if you look desperate, they may give it to you in the afternoon.
Once you have all this, go the embassy (Darwazeh Dowlat St., metro Tajrish then bus to East) ask to the women at the second desk from the left (she speaks passable English), and pray : if the form is not printed recto verso, or not signed in the right color, or if saturn is not aligned with Jupiter, or aything like this, you will be refused. When i was here, there weren’t any possibility of fast procedures for foreigners, so come back 4 or 5 days later with the pick up form, and the bank deposit receipt (there’s a bank in front of the embassy)(40 USD for frenchs), and pick-up your visa.
if there’s a problem with the forms, you can ask some help to the ladies at the left door, on the third floor of the little building just in front of the bank, on the right : they will be happy to help fee, for a huge fee (150 000 rials for typing the 2 forms, 200 tomans per photocopy)
if there’s a problem with the photo, you can go to the photographer in the second floor of the second mall when heading west in the street of the embassy (150m). He will make a kind of professionnal visa photo (he will photoshop your wrinkles, …). 8 for 100 000 rials.
Don’t know how that qualifies as relatively painless though…
Chinese embassy in Tblisi
June 2012: No visa service available for travelers: you must be a local citizen or a legal resident within the countries. No travel agencies could help.
Chinese embassy in Baku
June 2012: No visa service available for travelers: you must be a local citizen or a legal resident within the countries. No travel agencies could help.
Chinese embassy in Laos
Opening hours: 9 to 11.30 Monday to Friday
July 2012: Chinese visas are issued to independent travellers in Vientiane, Laos. There are strict new requirements, though, which are as follows:
1x copy and original flight/bus/train ticket out of the country
1x copy and original flight/bus/train ticket into the country (this was actually not enforced on me)
1 x copy hotel reservation in China (a Hostelworld cheap dorm reservation will do, that is what we used)
1 x proof of employment (we used some print outs of emails with the respective “employers”)
1 x copy of passport
1 x copy of another ID
1 x picture
they have a photocopy machine and will copy some small stuff for you, but do not expect they will do everything. The consulate is moderately busy. They have express service, same day and two days, and the normal procedures is 4 days ie. drop off on monday, pick up on thursday. When I was there I could not speed up my process as they had some “important business” that not even money could dodge. I overheard upon collection that another traveller was denied this service… so be prepared to wait and drop your passport on a mon or tue. They also have frequent holidays, there is not much to do. I had to hang around Vientiane for 6 days because of a train delay from Thailand and the weekend in the middle. Be prepared and time you visit accordingly.
Chinese embassy in Bangkok
February 2013: We got turned down at the embassy in Bangkok. Letter of employment missing and they required a detailed planning of how we were going to spend our days!!! Although we had hotel reservations and plane tickets, this still wasn’t enough.
Chinese visa extension
Extending a Chinese visa is not so difficult, although it differs from region to region. You can extend your visa once, possibly twice.