Back in November, a friend I met in Hungary came to visit for the week and went to Shenzhen for a couple days. Ani wrote a bit about how to cross the border from HK to the nearby city to get Visa on Arrival. Eventually I will get to writing about that, and everything else I need to catch up on.
Thanks for visiting and writing, Ani!
So you want to go to Shenzhen…
You will definitely need a visa! While visiting my friend Scarlett in Hong Kong, I decided to take a trip to Shenzhen, a city in China that is right across the de-facto border zone. Even though they are only separated by 30 km, it is at least a half day’s journey to get from one side to the other. It takes significantly longer to go from Hong Kong to China, as opposed to China to Hong Kong.
There are many different ways to go across the border, and the most common seems to be via bullet train. However, if you do not already have a visa and need to get a visa-on-arrival, you will need to instead cross the border at the Lo Wu MTR station on the end of the East Rail Line (light blue). I made the mistake of trying to buy a train ticket from the Kowloon rail station, but they told me there that without a visa, I cannot purchase a ticket and would need to get the visa-on-arrival (VoA) from Lo Wu. I incorrectly assumed that I could get the VoA at any checkpoint, but learned that it was only available from Lo Wu and one other border crossing point. So once I made my way to the East Rail Line, it took about one hour to get to the Lo Wu station, and that’s where the real fun begins.
Once you get there, there will be masses of people from both directions descending to the checkpoint. Again, I wrongly assumed that I could just get in the line to cross without first getting the visa. I should have known this of course but I was overwhelmed and confused by the different lines for citizens, visitors, permanent residents, etc. The special VoA office is located upstairs behind the escalators and there is absolutely no signage at all for this office. I was able to find it by asking one of the scary mask-wearing people at the health-check up desk. Once you get upstairs, the process to get the visa has several steps and is time consuming. The first thing you need to do is take a number. That number is going to dictate the rest of the process. The next step is to get in the free photo booth and take a photo for the visa. It takes two photos and chooses the best one. You will put in your passport number in the machine so it is automatically registered to your name once you complete the visa application, which is a piece of paper located on the tables next to the photo booths. With your ticket and application in hand, you are ready to sit and wait for your number to appear at the first window, which is the application submission window. When your number is there, you take all your papers, passport, including your Hong Kong entry slip, to the window and give it to the worker. They might ask you some questions and inform you about the conditions of the visa, which are that you are to remain in Shenzhen for up to 5 days only. They also tell you the cost of the visa, which for Americans is pretty expensive – about $135 USD. I was waiting quietly in the waiting room reading a book while some other (Dutch) tourists were talking loudly and attracting a lot of attention to themselves. I overheard them say that the border officer scolded them for their bad behavior. I was a bit nervous about getting the visa because I heard they can reject you for any number of reasons. My passport is full of stamps and visas and I saw the guy inspecting some of them, especially the stamp for Ukraine. I’m not sure what constitutes a visa rejection but I can only assume a stamp from certain no-go countries would warrant that.
Once you’ve submitted the application, you go back to waiting until your number is called at the payment station. You have to pay for the visa either with RMB (Chinese) currency or with a credit card. I had RMB just in case, but I was able to pay for the visa with my VISA credit card. After that, I sat back down and waited for them to prepare my passport with the China visa. They worked in bunches of 10, so every time I saw a basket with passports come out, they had done ten at a time. Finally I was able to get my passport after 3 hours of waiting, and made my way downstairs to the checkpoint. It is also important to pick up the arrival/departure card and fill it out before going to the line. You should have your hotel address ready to go because there is no WiFi at the station. After crossing that checkpoint you are officially in China! Hope you have some small bills ready, because you need them to buy a subway ticket (
plastic token) at the station…