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ben boyd

Travelled to 10 countries / regions

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Living in Hong Kong, travel to Shanghai often

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Asia > China > Shanghai > Useful Info
Updated on Nov 29, 2018 Useful Info

How to do a layover trip in Shanghai without a Chinese visa

  • Most nationalities require visa to visit China properly, but most people don't know that China offers what's called Transit Without a Visa (TWOV) that lets you visit China visa-free for 24-144 hours, for free. A lot of travelers to Asia take advantage of this option
  • Shanghai is one of few cities where you can do this for up to 144 hours (6 days). Most travelers are eligible for it. Here's a more detailed guide on the eligibility
  • Assuming you're eligible, here's 3 things you need to do the layover trip:
  1. You need to have a confirmed direct flight ticket out of China within 144 hours (6 days) to another country (flights to Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan are good). By direct I mean you can't connect through another Chinese city. Also, your flight out of China doesn't have to be on the same ticket as your inbound flight; you can book two separate tickets from two different airlines for your inbound and outbound flights
  2. I recommend having at least 8 hours of connection: it'll take 1.5-2 hours to get out of the airport and to the city, and 1.5-2 hours to get back, leaving you with 4-5 hours to explore, which is decent enough for a layover trip
  3. Some cash to convert to RMB as international credit card acceptance is still not that widespread, or a bank card to get RMB from the ATMs
  • Here's how to do it step by step:
  1. Before you land, you'll be offered a yellow arrival card on the plane. You don't need to fill it out
  2. Once you land, follow the crowd towards the customs and immigration area
  3. At the customs and immigration area, follow instructions to get your fingerprint and photo taken (all first time arrivals to China need to get fingerprinted, not just TWOV people)
  4. Once you're photographed and fingerprinted, look for signs that say "144-Hour Transit Area" (a blue sign) and then follow the sign to get to the dedicated line for it
  5. Before you line up, look for a blue arrival card in the vicinity. This is the version of the arrival card TWOV people need to fill out, in lieu of the yellow ones they gave you on the plane
  6. Line up, then give everything to the immigration official. That's it for paperwork
  7. If your luggage is not checked through to your final destination, get your luggage at the carousels. Then I recommend leaving them at the luggage storage service in the arrival area. In Pudong airport, the luggage storage service is between door 6 and 7 in terminal 1, and just left of the baggage area exit in terminal 2 (more details here)
  8. Then grab a taxi, bus, metro, or Maglev+metro to the city center. Pudong airport to the city center is about 40 minutes by Maglev+metro, 1 hour by metro, 40min-1 hour by taxi/bus assuming little traffic or 1.5-2 hours during commuting hours
  9. Start heading back to the airport 3 hours before your flight, or more if there's big traffic
  • Other things to keep in mind:
  • Even if you're eligible, it's not guaranteed that you'll get the TWOV as it's at the discretion of the immigration officer. People get rejected all the time. Apparently if you have Turkish stamp in your passport you have a much higher chance of getting rejected
  • You are not allowed to leave Shanghai during your layover with TWOV, even if you have enough time
  • If you're only in Shanghai for a day trip, I recommend taking the metro to People's Square Station (on line 2). It's a good starting point for your layover trip because it's at the heart of the historical city center. And don't bother going to Pudong. Just walk from People's Square to the riverfront (i.e. The Bund) to get a view of Pudong is enough. Shanghai is ideal for 3-5 days