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Guangzhou Becomes Third City In China With No Visa Requirement For Visits Under 72 Hours

by on July 27, 2013 · 8 comments

in China, China Southern, Delta Air Lines, skyteam

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Back in January, the Chinese government announced that in-transit travelers from 45 countries could visit Beijing for up to 72 hours without applying for a visa, a policy that had already been put into place in Shanghai. Now China has announced that starting August 1, Guangzhou will be the third city allowing visits of up to 72 hour without an advance visa application for passengers transiting on.

Now you can stop off in Guangzhou for 72 hours without an advance visa.

Now you can stop off in Guangzhou for 72 hours without an advance visa.

The only requirements for these 72-hour transit visas are that passengers must be in possession of a confirmed ticket for onward travel to a third country (no roundtrips and no staying in China), that they have to be arriving by plane (so no bus, train or ferry), and they cannot leave the city they land in during that 72-hour period – although in the case of Guangzhou they can travel throughout the Guangdong Province, which is good because Guangzhou is mainly an industrial megalopolis.

The transit visa is issued upon arrival and foreign visitors must register at a police station within 24 hours, but that’s pretty much it. The 45 countries on the waiver list include the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, the UAE, Qatar and several European countries (find the full list here). China Southern also has details of the full announcement and a helpful Q&A section here.

I went to China last year and found 72 hours to be enough time to explore either Beijing or Shanghai and get a good feel for each city, which are both becoming bigger and bigger hubs both for US airlines like American and United, as well as for onward flights to other parts of Asia, so if you’re thinking of using your miles to get to Asia but have had to avoid China in the past, this is a great way to build in a cool little stopover and explore another city along the way.

You can use Delta SkyMiles to fly the China Southern A380.

You can use Delta SkyMiles to fly the China Southern A380.

The Guangzhou announcement is good news for SkyTeam flyers because it’s the hub of China Southern Airlines, so you can use your Delta or Flying Blue miles (both of which are American Express Membership Rewards transfer partners) to fly there and then continue on to other parts of Asia or even to Australia and New Zealand.

China Southern flies its A380 on the Los Angeles-Guangzhou route and will start flying it on the Guangzhou-Sydney route starting on October 27, 2013. Plus, there is tons of low-level award availability on those routes in economy, business and first class – even the very first week that the airline will begin those services. (Just note: on the China Southern A380 website, they call their business class “First Class” and their first class a “Platinum Private Suite” so you might have to clear that up with a Delta rep if you call to book an award ticket).

Per the Delta award chart, you need 70,000 or 120,000 miles roundtrip to travel in economy or business respectively from the continental US to Northern Asia (including China), but you would need 100,000 miles or 150,000 miles in economy and business respectively to fly on to the Southwest Pacific including Australia and New Zealand (China Southern is the only Chinese airline to fly to Auckland) – so for an extra 30,000 miles you’re getting a stopover and another long-haul in your class of choice.

Just a quick search of ExpertFlyer shows award availability on pretty much every day the first week of November from Los Angeles to Guangzhou aboard the A380 with 5 seats in first class, 9 in business and 1 economy award:

LAX CAN A380

And then you could connect from Guangzhou to Sydney a few days later also aboard the A380:

CAN SYD A380

While you can’t actually book these awards online using Delta.com, you can call Delta to book them once you find award availability using ExpertFlyer (or if you don’t have a subscription, you can just call up Delta and ask them to search since there is a ton of availability).

I have only seen pictures, but the China Southern A380 looks like a nice product and it’s been well reviewed. The 70 business seats onboard are laid out in a 1 x 2 x 1 configuration and seats have 87 inches of pitch and are 24 inches wide with a large personal table and built-in minibars, laptop stowage, reading lights, USB and power ports, and 15.4-inch digital TV screens as well as satellite telephones.

I wouldn't mind mind trying out China Southern's A380 business class myself.

I wouldn’t mind mind trying out China Southern’s A380 business class myself.

Although I might personally prefer to use my SkyMiles to book a non-stop flight from Los Angeles to Sydney or Brisbane on Virgin Australia, award availability on those routes can be pretty tight, so this is a great other option to have, especially if you have a little extra time and want to explore a city in China.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • nico

    Would landing in Beijing and staying for 48 hours and then flying to Hong Kong qualify as a valid transit? HK doesn’t require visa. (US traveller)

  • CVG_Traveler

    I flew the CZ A380 in November. The “first class” business class was nice. I had window seats that were lie-flat. They gave out a nice amenity kit, pajamas, a thin “mattress” and a duvet, so it was fairly comfortable. The food, however, was a bit of a disappointment. I slept probably 7-8 hours on the way back, although it could be due to the fact that I had a 7 hour layover. Neither the CZ lounge nor the CAN airport is all that exciting, so I would have taken advantage of the transit visa if it had been available. Taipei has a free half-day city tour program for transit passengers and I have taken advantage of it in the past to kill a long layover.

  • gavinmac

    Good information. Thanks, TPG.

  • jack

    I know in Beijing, you can check in at your hotel instead of going to a police station. I assume this to be the same here yes?

  • Travis

    Chengdu where the pandas are also now has it. 72hrs transit. Different cities are different lengths of time.

  • xlax

    Any thoughts on whether it’s worthwhile to spend a day or tow in Guangzhou or better off just moving on to final destination?

  • Traveler

    Stopped over 2x en route to the Maldives and really not too much to do or see in the city. I’ve spent a ton of time in Asia so personally don’t recommend it– or the airport for that matter. If you have to stop over, fine but I wouldn’t make a point of doing so. A380 lax flight is good though so I recommend that flight.

  • Patrick

    Agree with Traveler – not really. My wife is from Guangzhou and we have visited together several times, and I love it – but it’s not a tourist city. There is really very little to do or see; I enjoy it because it’s the only city I can visit in China where I’m not a “tourist” (thanks to local family & friends), but I wouldn’t visit alone or recommend others to visit.

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