A Slightly Last Minute Trip To China
Updated: Feb 6, 2019
Now this was a close call
China is one country that I’ve always wanted to visit. My dad used to spend a lot of time in Hong Kong and really enjoyed it. Now I wouldn’t be going to Hong Kong, (that’s for July), but who doesn’t want to see the Great Wall of China?
When I found out my mom was headed to China for a work trip, I knew it was my shot. After some (a lot) convincing, she agreed to let me accompany her. I immediately called my sisters and turned this into a crazy family weekend getaway. (my sisters ended up staying in Beijing for less than 48 hours, but we’ll get to that soon). Now I’m ecstatic thinking “Hey, I’m going to China!”. Not quite…
A Chinese visa is HARD to get. All kinds of documentation and paperwork are required before a visa application can be submitted to a Chinese embassy for review. Ok no problem. I’ll get all the documents I need and get this process moving. Except I was leaving in less than a week. Yikes. I searched the internet like crazy to find a travel agency that could get me a visa in time for my upcoming trip. I finally found VisaHq, (which I highly recommend they were fantastic), and used FedEx to overnight my passport and paperwork to the Chinese consulate in Chicago.
One day before departure
It’s 3 pm the day before I’m supposed to leave for China and I still have no visa, and more importantly no passport. I hadn’t heard anything from the consulate and was sure that I was going to be missing my flight tomorrow. Then something miraculous happened, I got a phone call. My application was accepted and my passport was being shipped overnight back to me along with the visa. It arrived a couple of hours before I had to leave for the airport and it wouldn’t have worked out better.
A quick trip to the other side of the world
As per usual, it took a couple stops to get to our final destination. My sister Tamar and I planned to meet our other sister Tania at LAX in the morning to fly to Beijing together. We headed to DTW, and after a quick stop in Chicago we were hanging out at the Admirals Club in terminal 5 watching planes depart LAX.
After our 13 and a half hour flight to Beijing, (I’ll write about this in a separate post), we still had one obstacle left, customs. One condition you must agree to when applying for a Chinese visa is that (if granted) you can be denied entry at any time, for any reason. I made sure to take extra copies of all hotel reservations, onward flights, invitational letters from my mothers business, etc. To my surprise, I wasn’t asked anything. In fact, the border agent barely looked at me, but rather scanned my passport, handed it back and I was off!
It was a little more difficult for my sisters. I was the only one out of the three of us that actually had a visa. Neither of them had time to apply for one by the time I convinced them to go, so they were left with one option; 144-hour visa-free transit. This status could be granted upon arrival assuming you meet specific requirements. In addition to having all the paperwork I needed for my visa, they needed onward tickets to a separate country before returning to the U.S. for it to be considered “transit”. Hong Kong is considered a separate country for transit purposes given its considered a foreign entity (Hong Kong has their own currency and border separate from mainland China since they were under British rule until 1997. We purchased tickets for them from Beijing to Hong Kong and then onward from there back to the United States.
After clearing immigration, I met my mom outside arrivals, (she took a different flight and had arrived an hour before), and we waited for my sisters. After 45 minutes of waiting my sister had still not come out of arrivals. The next image to go through my head was them on another 13 and a half hour flight back to the U.S. after they were rejected transit status. Thankfully they soon appeared and were allowed to enter the country.
So yeah, that’s the time I just barley managed to secure a Chinese Visa. I ended up having a great time with my mother and sisters in Beijing and enjoyed traveling to Chongqing, (which I’ll be writing a separate post about)!