Most succesfull option to apply for a Chinese visa for a silk road trip over land?

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Most succesfull option to apply for a Chinese visa for a silk road trip over land?

Postby anomalousbelgian » Thu Aug 03, 2017 8:38 am

Hi all,

First of, many thanks to this community for being an excellent resource on all things related to travel on the silk road!

In preparation for an overland silk road trip next year, I am looking at my options for applying for a Chinese visa (and formulating a plan B should my application get rejected).
My trip will take me overland from Western Europe via Turkey, Iran, the stans (hopefully, incl. Pamir highway) and then to China. My plan is to enter China at the Irkeshtam pass and then follow a route North of Taklamakan dessert (Kashgar-Aksu-Turpan-Hami-Jiuquan-Lanzhou) while making my way towards Xi'an and then onward toward Yantai where I hope to take a ferry to South Korea. A pretty standard itinerary for any silk road trip I'd say., though perhaps a bit long :D.

With the recent crack down on visas at Chinese embassies in central Asia, I am considering alternatives (it doesn't hurt to be prepared ;) ). Now, I do realize that the situation might have changed considerably when I will be in the region (a year from now). Anyway, these are my options for applying for a visa, ranked from least likely to succeed to most likely (by my perception):
  • Apply somewhere in Central Asia: Tashkent, Dushanbe. Currently impossible in the region, might change over the next year.
  • Apply in Tehran, unsuitable due to the limited one month validity period that is currently being handed out.
  • Apply in my home country during my trip using my main passport, asking a relative to do the application. My main passport will contain stamps from long stays in Turkey and Iran at this point. This might be cause for the visa services to schedule an interview, which I would be unable to attend thereby getting rejected. It might also work fine. It does require sending my passport back and forth from a stan country.
  • Apply in my home country during my trip using a second passport, asking a relative to do the application. The passport would be relatively unused (it contains a USA and a Middle East stamp at this point), which hopefully would aid in the application. The passport with visa should be mailed to me along the way however.
  • Apply in my home country before my trip, ask for a double/multiple entry visa which I might be able to get for 6 months validity. If a double entry visa prohibits extension, then this is an issue though as it would be difficult for me to leave mainland China during my overland travels.

Applying while on the road is risky because a) the visa services require you to drop of the paper work in person, you can however let someone else do it when you are e.g. seriously ill, b) it might prompt an interview at the consular services bureau and c) you have to send a passport (one way or two way).
When I apply using a second passport, it might be suspicious when I show my empty passport at the Chinese border (i.e. how did you get to the border)?
The multiple entry visa might be the best way to go, though it is never sure if you actually get what you ask for. I would probably have to say I am travelling by land and therefor require the six months period, which in itself might be cause for rejection. Any tips here for the application process would be greatly appreciated: e.g. which details do I include (bicycle?), do I give my true itinerary as mentioned above?

My plan B's include:
  • Continue my way North along Kazakstan, Try to apply for a visa in Kazahstan (Zharkent border crossing, though I hear North West China is unlikely to be opened to tourists due to the situation in Urumqi) or in Mongolia.
  • If rejected in Kazahstan, continue to Mongolia and apply in UB.
  • Fly to HK and apply there.
  • Skip china and continue my trip, but a silk road trip without China would be a shame.

Any feedback on the success rate and feasibility of the aforementioned options would be highly appreciated!
Take care and safe travels!
P.s.: I'm cautious about sharing personal information, as the Chinese embassy services are known for googling you :tinfoilhat:
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Re: Most succesfull option to apply for a Chinese visa for a silk road trip over land?

Postby 6thumbs » Thu Aug 03, 2017 11:40 am


it's impossible to know what the rules at all the central Asian chinese embassies will be like a year from now.

We recently met a traveller who arranged his visa at home and got 6months validity (on a 30day visa) by writing a letter to the consul explaining his trip. This would be the best option I guess. Least stressful, and would make it possible for you to plan your trip better.

If you don't care about planning too much, and think that getting visas on the road is part of the fun, I would just try in every embassies along the way that might have some chance of success. Or, if you're from the EU, it's supposed to be quite easy to do some volunteering in Georgia and get a residence permit there, with which you can then get the chinese visa.

Good luck!
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Re: Most succesfull option to apply for a Chinese visa for a silk road trip over land?

Postby bwv812 » Thu Aug 03, 2017 2:50 pm

Given recent reports of visas being denied (even in HK) as a result of visa stamps from Turkey, I would strongly suggest using your secondary passport when applying. And the most reliable way of obtaining a visa will likely continue to be sending your passport to your home country.
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My 2012 overland trip from Tokyo to Istanbul:

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Re: Most succesfull option to apply for a Chinese visa for a silk road trip over land?

Postby anomalousbelgian » Thu Aug 03, 2017 10:05 pm

Writing the consul is an option. Though I imagine I'd have to mention that I am travelling over land if I want to motivate the six month period. I hadn't heard about the Georgian trick. Could be interesting, thanks!.

After talking with someone from the Chinese embassy, it seems that the chances of getting a tourist visa from my local embassy are very slim when you mention anything to West China-related in your application. Said person also said that any itinerary where you enter China by land will be more thoroughly vetted than an itinerary where enter via air. Double entry with 6 months valid period is possible though, if backup ed by travel itinerary. Finally, said person mentioned that you must apply in person at the visa service center (this is also mentioned on the center's website).

For any application it would be best to avoid anything West China related and state that I will enter China by air (e.g. fly to HK) and only travel in the (South-) East e.g.

About the second passport: I am wondering if, when entering China overland, the Chinese border guards check your exit visa of the previous country? Say I switch passports in the no man's land between Kyrgyzstan and China, then the passport with the Chinese visa won't have any stamps from Kyrgyzstan in it. This is obviously not possible, hence I must have a second passport and this might arise suspicious with the border guards (i.e. why do you have two passports and the other one contains Turkisch/Iranian stamps. They might also not care; I have no idea)? I would need a stamp-free country to be able to switch passports. This might be possible in Tajikistan due to their e-visa on a separate piece of paper (though maybe they still stamp your actual passport)? I also don't require a visa in Kyrgyzstan but I'd imagine they still stamp your passport when you enter/leave. What's the default procedure for switching passports while on the road?
edit: this topic sheds some light on the matter, in Central Asia it should be fine.

About the double entry visa: is it possible to extend a double entry visa once you are in China? Probably you'd have to leave China and re-enter, granting you an additional 30 days?

If China is so strict on handing on visas for Western China, I'd imagine it is likely that I might be refused to enter via the Irkeshtam border crossing even when I have a visa... Is anyone entering Western China at all these days? Tdaglobalcycling is actually circumventing the entire issue by crossing in Mongolia. Though, Western China is quite different (religion, ethnicity) than Eastern China. Plus that itinerary does not take you to Xi'an :lol:
edit2: Naturally there is a topic about this on CS :)

Of course, the situation in the region might chance over the next year. So, what does not work today might work in a year. Still, I like to plan as best as possible in order to know my options should the situation require it.
Thanks for the responses so far!
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