Visa-free guide to Beijing

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If the thought of applying for a visa ever kept you from visiting Beijing, consider your travel excuse busted. Earlier this year, China introduced a visa-free transit policy for visitors from 45 countries, including the U.S., to visit Beijing for up to 72 hours without a visa.

If the thought of applying for a visa ever kept you from visiting Beijing, consider your travel excuse busted. Earlier this year, China introduced a visa-free transit policy for visitors from 45 countries, including the U.S., to visit Beijing for up to 72 hours without a visa.

Here’s what you need to know about a visa-free stay in Beijing, plus recommendations on how to make the most of you 72 hours in the Chinese capital.

Chinese visa (Image: Heidi in Cleveland)
Chinese visa (Image: Heidi in Cleveland)

The Rules

With a U.S. passport, you can spend up to 72 hours in Beijing without a visa. You can’t book a roundtrip flight to Beijing, though – the visa-free stay only applies to those who are “in transit,” or stopping in Beijing before flying to a third country. A flight from New York to Beijing to New York, for example, would not quality, but a New York to Beijing to Tokyo route would. It’s also worth noting that you can only be granted a visa-free stay if traveling to Beijing by plane.

To apply for the visa waiver, you’ll need to let the airline know that you intend to take advantage of this program when you check in. Then, the airline will inform immigration. Once you land, you’ll apply for the waiver with customs and immigration. You’ll also need to show proof that you’ll be leaving Beijing within 72 hours.

The Must-Sees

Badaling Great Wall (Image: Dayou_X used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license)
Badaling Great Wall (Image: Dayou_X used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license)

With three days to spend in Beijing, you can see quite a bit of China’s capital city. Some of the top local attractions include the Great Wall at Badaling, one of the most popular stretches of the iconic structure, Tiananmen Square and the imperial palace better known as the Forbidden City. You could also spend a few hours strolling through the massive landscape garden at Summer Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, or head to the Temple of Heaven, once a sacrificial altar where offerings and prayers were made for good harvests.

Peking duck at Da Dong (Image: Charles Haynes used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license)
Duck at Da Dong (Image: Charles Haynes used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license)

Of course, a trip to Beijing isn’t complete without sampling the city’s most famed dish: peking duck. Before your 72 hours are up, be sure to dig into the crispy skin and juicy meat at Da Dong restaurant, one of the city’s top spots for peking duck. Reservations are definitely recommended.

(Main image: Keith Roper)

Visa-free guide to Beijing was last modified: June 26th, 2019 by Marissa Willman
Author: Marissa Willman (786 posts)

Marissa Willman earned a bachelor's degree in journalism before downsizing her life into two suitcases for a teaching gig in South Korea. Seoul was her home base for two years of wanderlusting throughout six countries in Asia. In 2011, Marissa swapped teaching for travel writing and now calls Southern California home.