This is a brief message from the present, where we are currently holed up in Hong Kong at the infamous Chungking Mansions in Tsim Sha Tsui. We came to Hong Kong originally to get visas to mainland China, but after corresponding with a local visa agency, we ran into a problem: we can’t get the visa we want with what we currently have.
Here were our options:
- A standard tourist visa, good for at least 30 days and single, double, or multi-entry. Requirements: application, passport photos, copies or proof of ant previous Chinese visas, current passport, and old passport if your current passport was issued in 2015 or later.
- A “group” tourist visa, good only for 30 days and single entry, but we must enter within 15 days of receiving the visa. Requirements: application, passport photos, and current passport.
This left us in a bit of a pickle because we didn’t bring our old passports along for our trip, so option 1 was a no-go. But if we chose option 2, we were committing ourselves to entering China within 15 days, which would make our trip to Japan less than 2 weeks. It was also risky to be on such a tight schedule. Flight delays could result in us arriving after 15 days had passed, invalidating our visa and throwing off our travel plans.
So we opted not to get the visa to mainland China, and we’ll instead hop over to Taiwan for a week or two. I’ll get to practice Mandarin a bit, which is better than not at all (although I will be an illiterate peasant, thanks to my education in simplified characters). From there we will head on to Japan, then fly to Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia to start the trans-Siberian railway mid-June. It’s a shame we can’t take it from Beijing all the way to Moscow, but I think Ulaanbaatar to Moscow will be plenty of railway for us.
For people looking to get a visa here in Hong Kong to mainland China, here are some details that are current as of May 2017:
- We have U.S. passports, although from talking with others it sounds like many of the things mentioned in this post apply to all passports that require a visa.
- We worked with Forever Bright. They were professional and honest throughout the process. Though we ultimately couldn’t get a visa and made no payment to them, they were still willing to help us.
- If you want a tourist visa and your passport was issued in 2015 or later, you will need to bring your old passport for the visa application process. Forever Bright suggested a copy would work, but I’m not sure if that’s just a copy of the first page or all of the pages of the passport.
- If you have visited Turkey, it will be an issue and you may not be able to get a visa in Hong Kong, so contact a visa company in advance to find out more. This problem is due to the somewhat strained Chinese-Turkish relations.
- If you come here to Hong Kong hoping to get a visa to mainland China and failed, you can always drown your sorrows in amazing food. Go out for dim sum at Tim Ho Wan (formerly the cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant in the world) or Dim Dim Sum, then relax and repeat.