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16/05/2014

Hong Kong Visa Run: What You Need to Know

The Visa run is an indispensible part of living in China and if you’re going to do it it’s better to know what you’re getting into rather than make it up as you go along. This report is based on the experiences of a number of CW reporters and the most recent being my own in July of 2013. This is what we’ve learned first-hand about the visa run. Divided into three parts, we’ll share what we know about getting there, being there, and getting back Hong Kong tour.

Part I - Getting There

Now if you’re as lucky as I was there’ll be someone in the Human Resources department at your company that handles the immigration work for foreign employees. They’ll arrange air travel, accommodations and get you set up with the basics of what you’ll need for your work visa. If you're a student or a backpacker you'll be considerably more on your own. In any case you’ll absolutely need the following:

Your passport
A formal letter of appointment, an invitation or admission letter from a school
Health Check Report
passport photo (at least one, but bring three to make sure)
HK$1,400 to cover the visa fee (for a rushed visa).
Your flight itinerary and accommodation information (for your own use so you’re on time and not lost)
A pen to use at the consulate

Be sure and check here for all the requirements based on what kind of visa you're after. With all that in hand you’re ready to go, double check with your host/school/company before you leave so you get on the plane knowing you have absolutely everything.

A Note on What To Pack

Bring a day’s worth of clothes; you won’t need much more. Pack a sweatshirt, whatever the season is (I’ll explain later). Basic toiletries will be at the hotel so don’t fuss with packing shampoo or a razor for a 48-hour trip. I went light and packed just what my messenger bag could hold along with my camera bag. I brought a larger bag on the second trip to do a little shopping (more on that later Hong Kong travel guide). The idea is to travel light and stay mobile, remember that you’ll be checking out of your hotel at noon the next day so you don’t want a bunch of baggage weighing you down. That and the more stuff you have on you the more you have to keep track of.

Prepare for Takeoff

There are many ways of getting to Hong Kong. The quickest way is to fly direct to the Hong Kong International Airport. Air China, China Eastern Air and Dragonair fly there on a daily basis. Prices vary during the seasons, so check out Ctrip or eLong for flight deals. Spring Airlines, though, has the most consistently cheap flights. Book ahead and you can get fares for as little as RMB1,200 (return, taxes included).

To do the visa run on the cheap, you can fly into Shenzhen with Air China. Shenzhen airport is far from the city, which will add some time to your total journey. The Kowloon - Canton Railway (KCR) terminates right in the center of Shenzhen city - literally - and you can immigrate there. This is the busiest crossing into the SAR, however, so long line-ups are inevitable.

To cut down on immigration time, there are Citibuses that run directly from Shenzhen Airport to Kowloon Hong Kong scenic spots (HK$50). They go through a quieter border and the journey takes more than two hours in total. The other option is to take the boat from Shenzhen Airport (around RMB200), and the journey takes about one hour. You can complete immigration procedures on the boat, meaning you don't have to wait in line.

With your flight booked you’ll now need to get to Pudong international airport. There’s a few ways to get there either by taxi, subway, the mag-lev or by bus. This depends all on your location. I live in the former French Concession so it made the most sense to take the bus at Jing ‘an Temple. This is by far the cheapest and best option if you don’t mind hauling yourself down there at dawn. Buses leave regularly from the underground area right next to subway exit 3 at Jing ‘an Temple starting at 5:30 am. For only RMB20 you’ll get a ride straight to the terminal. You’ll skip all the traffic and reach the airport with plenty of time.

We Have Liftoff

Once you’re airborne either get some sleep if it’s early in the morning or catch up on your reading. We’ve got two and half hours to kill from take-off to landing.

tags:China tourism

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