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I am in a Guangzhou holding cell: Visa warning!

edited November 2009 in - China

Since I am sitting in the “holding room” at Guangzhou station, and where I have been for the last 2 hours , and will probably be for the next two, I have a bit of time on my hands.

How, might you ask, did I end up in this predicament ! Well, I arrived here and was asked at immigration for my visa. Having had it confirmed by the travel agent as to visa requirements both telephonically and in writing (see yellow below) that I did NOT need one, I have now discovered that I do.

Lesson One – Do visa research YOURSELF

The Chinese authorities are scary, repeat scary !! They bluntly told me that as I did not have the required entry documentation, I was to get on the train AT ONCE and go back to Hong Kong (I had just spent 2 hours on the train getting here) and apply for a visa .... My remonstrations and even showing them the email for the travel agent, were met with stony stares, as were my entreaties that I have been travelling for 24 hours. On reflection, the USA would have probably done the same ... but at least I could have worked better understanding the language and body speak !!

Lesson 2 : You don’t mess around with bureaucracy in China .... this is a place where you want zero defect on your papers.

The ray of light was that I was here for an official exhibition and this is where Cecilia (the Chinese importer waiting at the other side of customs and wondering why I was taking so long to get of the train !) was a absolute miracle worker. She managed to persuade them to let me apply for a visa (all this time I was in the holding room) . Problem ... I need a photo to go on the form ... nothing I had in terms of passport or driving licence was good enough. So miracle no 2, Cecilia get a photographer to come complete with camera and printer, and take a photo of me in the holding room.

Aha ... but never underestimate a bureaucrat (I shudder to think how those other than us must have suffered at time in the old SA .... A faxed copy of the visa was not good enough .. it had to be an original, and this had to come by hand ... so hence the four hour wait for the original to arrive.

And then the coup de grace ! I need to pay for the visa (about R590 in China money but being in my little room, the bank machine the other side of customs could have been a million miles away .... and obviously, not having set foot Chinese soil, I had no Chinese cash ... .... lucky I had some time while incarcerated to ponder on this one.

The solution came from the least likely source ...... after an hour one of them Immigration Officials asked me to buy two bottles of duty free brandy for them .. and presents me with 800 Chinese Yuans (about R800.00) in cash . Voila ... paid with my credit card and now I was Chinese cash rich and could pay for the visa when it eventually arrived.

I am wondering why I came here ... .. but at least I know you are never too old to learn.


  • edited 7:22PM
    I wish your travel agent had read this Word Travels entry on China visa requirements!
  • edited 7:22PM
    Not all Chinese Travel agencies have no reputation or good service, I guess you did not find the right one, they were really very bad not to help you.
    Also, some immigration rules are different in different country, the China Officials might fulfill their job.
    Anyway, to a strange country, it is better to confirm the Visa first, as I know, in China the Travel agent has no right to issue any China Visa, the agent can just provide the Invitation Letter. I guess you did not get the correct information.
    A fall in pit, a gain in your wit. China is still very worthy to visit for some reason.
  • edited 7:22PM
    It can be terrifying getting into trouble in a country like China. They have rules and are not afraid to enforce them. You are lucky you were not send straight back to where you came from. In these situatins always keep calm, smile and never make things worse by trying to bribe someone!
  • edited 7:22PM
    I have never found Chinese officials scary at all. They always seem friendly and efficient to me; much more so than in many other countries I have visited. It is not difficult to check a country's visa requirements. Look on it's embassy or consulate website. China's requirements can hardly be described as difficult. A valid passport, completion of a simple form with few lines of basic information, a photo, signature, and the fee is all that is required.Much easier than many countries. Of course , if you have to get an 'express service' visa, it will cost you a lot more!
  • edited 7:22PM
    Not all China visa agents are created equally. Know where to go and services rendered will be to your satisfaction (for instance www(dot)ilaowai(dot)net.
  • edited 7:22PM
    Duuhhhh! Sorry, but this cannot be blamed on anyone but yourself! Anyone traveling abroad should do their own research, but also any travel agency who verifies that China, or any other country requiring a visa, does not need one should be sued for malpractice. If you have it in writing, I think you have legal recourse and they should at least compensate you for your lost time by giving you a free ticket to the destination of your choice.
  • edited 7:22PM
    I agree with Craig, sorry but what where you thinking. Really, what where you thinking, America has freedom to go anywhere anytime. Why didn't you log on to the Chinese Embassy website it's in English. Actually, alittle glad to here you had trouble, it would scare me even more if they said, ohh, I see, an agency said you didn't need a visa, we're terribly sorry, you just go on through and make yourself at home, here let me book a hotel room for you, coffee sir.
  • edited 7:22PM
    you didn't bother to do any r/s into this before you decided to travel? lmaorofl
  • edited 7:22PM
    The rules about visas get change anytime they want, they don't even need to have accurate information on their website and do they care.... NO!!
    I just picked up the visas from their embassy in Brisbane Australia and was slapped a AUD$75 "service fee" on top of the visa fee which was no where mentioned in their website. When I rang to enquiry, the attitude was "yeah, you went to the wrong website" Are you kidding me?? Which country in the world would allow different websites to represent their country and tell users pot luck which one you land on when you do your research, it is simply unacceptable but afterall, China is a big power in name, talking about being up there on equal footings with the big countries, sadly, reality is, still centuries away.
  • Currently the Chinese Consulate in Manchester is requesting Confirmed flights and Confirmed Hotel bookings to be submitted with your Tourism China Visa application, Please bare this in mind and leave yourself enough time to organize your chinese visa.
  • edited 7:22PM
    OMG Are you retarted? No visa to get into China?? What are you thinking??
  • edited May 2013
    Yes, only citizens of some countries holding appropriate passports may enter China without a visa provided that their stay in China shall not exceed 30 days from the date of entry into China. While in China, they should apply to the department concerned for the extension of the duration of stay in advance if they want to stay longer.
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