It has been confirmed that from 1st January 2013 UK and US citizens, along with citizens of 43 other nations including most of Europe, will no longer need to obtain a Chinese Visa if they transit through Beijing or Shanghai for 72 hours or less. This scheme is applicable to tourists who have confirmed onward tickets for international flights to or from a third country (i.e. not their own country and not China). It applies only to those who arrive at Beijing International, Shanghai Hongqiao or Shanghai Pudong Airports and does not apply to visitors arriving at bus or railway stations in those cities, or international arrivals at any other airports in China at the moment, nor does it allow passengers to leave those cities before their departure flight.
In order to take advantage of the visa-waiver scheme, passengers must advise their airline that they wish to do so, and the airline will arrange this with Immigration in Beijing or Shanghai in advance so that on arrival their paperwork is in order.
Previously passengers in transit were required to stay within the airport precincts but this relaxation of visa regulations enables passengers to enjoy the sights of the city for up to 3 days, plenty of time to explore the well-trodden highlights as well as hidden gems. Shanghai has offered a 48-hour visa-free stay for several years but Beijing’s decision to go one better has prompted Shanghai to extend its scheme to match.
If you have 72 hours in Beijing or Shanghai do you book cheap group bus tours or do you go private?
When you book a group tour to China usually there is not much choice about what to see and when. Your day is packed from 8am to 7pm when you are taken to a restaurant where the menu is decided by the government. You are usually presented with a visit to the Great Wall of China without specifying which part of the Great Wall. To keep costs down most companies take you to the Badaling section which is close to Beijing and most of the time, very overcrowded.
If you are on a group tour you are not able to see any current exhibitions in any of the cities visited, because there’s just not time. In the evenings, you are booked to see a performance of Beijing Opera but without any explanation what is the significance of any of the colours or costumes or masks or dances, so you’ll sit there out of sheer politeness and stay till the bitter end like most tourists do. You’ll go to Shanghai but you won’t have time to catch a world-class performance in the magnificent Shanghai theatre (the seats are so cheap too!). Nor will you be able to ride the fastest train in China, the Maglev, as there is no time, nor will you be able to go to the charming Taikang Lu district as buses can’t park down the narrow streets.
However, on your group tour you will be taken on factory visits, so-called friendship shops, again earmarked by the government for tourists, in order to increase guides’ commission. Most of the time clients are get annoyed that they weren’t told about these visits (sometimes 3 a day) which can take up a considerable proportion of your time – for example, instead of spending some quality time at the Great Wall of China you have to go to the pearl shop and even if none of the group members buy anything, the guide will still get commission. On your group tour there will be at least 20 other people, sometimes 30 or 40, and just one guide – how many questions are you going to be able to answer? Are you going to be able to get close enough to hear them even?
For a perfect holiday in China, book your own guide and driver and set your own pace on a series of private day trips in each city, special discounts are available for more than 3 tours when booked together.
This is what you can see and do in Beijing or Shanghai in 72 hours with ReadyClickAndGo!
Day 1 Beijing
If you early starter get to the Tiananmen Square for flag rising ceremony. Later in the morning visit the magnificent Tiananmen Square bordered by Great Hall of the People and Mao’s Mausoleum. Later visit the impressive UNESCO site, the Forbidden City which was a home to a succession of Emperors for more than 500 years. Exit through the north gate of the Forbidden City and visit the Jingshan Park for panoramic views of the city. Visit another UNESCO site in Beijing, the beautiful Summer Palace, and the best preserved Imperial Garden in China. Spend the evening with the performers at the Beijing Opera learning about this uniquely Chinese art.
Day 2 Beijing
Drive to the less-crowded section of the Great Wall of China at Mutiyunu for a gentle walk.In the afternoon visit another UNESCO site and the Ming dynasty masterpiece, the Temple of Heaven and try Tai Chi. Opposite the Temple of Heaven visit one of the biggest market of fake goods in China, the Hongqiao Market where you can try your haggling skills. In the evening enjoy a traditional Peking Duck Dinner.
Day 3 Beijing
Start the day with a visit of the authentic Beijing hidden in the local Hutongs. Don’t miss the Lama and the Confucius Temple. Learn about modern Chinese art at the funky 798 street which was formerly a military industrial complex from the 50’s. What’s fascinating is that several of the factories within the complex are still operational. Spend the evening at the Hou Hai Lake among the modern bars and restaurants.
Day 1 Shanghai
Take the Maglev train from the airport to the city. Along with the usual visits to the Jade Buddha Temple and the Yuyuan garden. I suggest you walk to the fast-disappearing Jewish quarter around the Astor Hotel. You can even ask at the hotel reception and try to visit the room in which Albert Einstein received a phone call about his Nobel Prize. It’s still the same. Continue along the Bund and watch Chinese people performing tai chi. If you are hungry you can either go to the 8th floor of the Peace Hotel for a sumptuous Chinese meal at the Phoenix restaurant with fascinating views over the Huangpu River. If you prefer something more western why not visit Cloud 9 on the 88th floor of the Grand Hyatt Hotel on the other side of the river. The views are breathtaking…
Visit the Taikang Art Street full of art galleries, sculpture workshops, photography studios, pottery and woodcarving workshops, etc. Stroll through Xintiandi Concession area where bars, cafes and shops are housed in typical old Shanghai houses.
Day 2 Shanghai
Visit the world class Shanghai Museum. Check what’s on at the Shanghai Theatre and continue through the People’s Park to watch the locals relaxing playing cards, performing tai chi…If you are hungry try the Barbarossa restaurant situated in the middle of the People’s Park. Don’t miss a visit to the Shanghai Art Museum. It’s free entry for permanent exhibitions and there is a symbolic charge for temporary once.
Continue through the famous Nanjing Road towards the Peace Hotel and listen to jazz there at the bar which has been playing there since 1923. Take the stairs to the famous Phoenix restaurant for panoramic views of the Huangpu River. Continue to the Bund and take an evening cruise on the Huangpu River.
For more information about day trips in Beijing and Shanghai please email Tara@ReadyClickAndGo.com