Travel can be both exhilarating and stressful, and planning a stopover is never easy. It’s common to have a lot of questions. So here are the 8 most asked questions to help plan your stopover in Beijing.
Remember there’s no such thing as a stupid question so if you have any that you don’t see on this list, feel free to post them in the comments and I’ll answer as fully as I can.
1: Can I leave the airport during a layover or stopover in Beijing?
Yes, you can. If your layover time is nine hours or more you can manage spending time on the Great Wall of China or Tiananmen, Forbidden City etc. in the center of the city. Beijing is one of the few cities where even a short layover can be turned into an inspiring look. Of course you need the right visa to be able to get through customs.
2: Do I need a visa to visit Beijing during a layover?
That depends on how long of your transit in Beijing is.
Transit under 24 hours
If your transit in Beijing is no more than 24 hours, you can apply for temporary visa / permission to leave the airport upon arrival at immigration control. There is a special counter / lane for the 24 -hour free transit at the immigration. Just make sure you get in the line for Transit Without Visa.
After the request to enjoy the free transit is approved, the officer will stamp a stay permit on your passport. The duration of stay is written on the passport. There are currently no fees charged for this. 24-hour direct transit is available for most nationality passenger, except for the passengers transiting on Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Malaysia, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Turkey, United Arab Emirates and Yemen passports.
Transit under 72 hours
You can get out of the airport for short sightseeing stints by applying apply for temporary visa / permission at immigration control. Beijing immigration has a lane set aside for 72-hour, visa-free stopovers. At immigration, be sure to have the boarding pass from your first flight and an onward plane ticket to (or airline confirmation for) a third destination.
Qualified Countries for 72-Hour Visa-Free Transit in China: 24 Schengen Agreement Countries: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland. 15 Other European Countries: Russia, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia (FYROM), Albania, Belarus, Monaco. 6 American Countries: the United States, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Chile. 2 Oceania Countries: Australia, New Zealand. 6 Asian Countries: Korea, Japan, Singapore, Brunei, United Arab Emirates, Qatar
3: How long of a layover do I need to visit the Great Wall of China?
To really enjoy your trip, and to not be rushed, 10 hours layover in Beijing is comfortably sufficient to visit Mutianyu Great Wall– the closest section from the airport.
Beijing airport is usually quite busy, there are usually long passport/security control queues. If you are in Terminal 3, it will take you anything from 3 – 3.5 hours to get through the customs. Then it may take approx. 1.5 hours from the airport to Mutianyu depending on traffic.
Give yourself approx. 1.5 hours to spend on the Wall, which is enough. Once you are done, its pretty much reverse the route to get to the airport; another 1.5 hours. Then you’ll have to check-in at least 2 hours before an international flight.
Remember to check the opening hours of Mutianyu Great Wall. It opens 8am-5pm in summer, 8:30am – 4:30pm in winter. To make sure you get to the Wall before it closes, early morning arrival in Beijing is highly recommended as long immigration times are expected.
4: The time gives 3 hour and a half to go through customs. Will it take that long? If we get through sooner can we get started earlier?
Recently it’s reported online the new travel rules require visitors to do an application for entry into China when leaving the airport during layover, and longer immigration times–usually 3-3.5 hours are expected.
Your driver will wait for you at the airport however long it takes you get through customs. Your flight number will be used to track your flight and ensure your driver is waiting for you when you land.
5: I’m fine with a non English driver. Will he meet us outside the customs with a placard or how will we make contact with him?
Your driver will hold up a sign with your name at the arrival exit of whichever Terminal (outside baggage claim) for your layover trip.
6: Would it be ok and safe for us to leave our carry on luggage in the car/trunk as that would save us time from having to store this at the airport?
Your carry on luggage can be stored in car / trunk and transported to the sites and back to the airport to make good use of your time. You driver will stay in or near the car / trunk whilst you are not. Even if you are traveling with a lot of luggage, your driver will take care of them during the visiting time.
7: Should I bring some local currency for a stopover in Beijing Airport?
It’s advisable to exchange some money at the airport counters or ATM as you may need to buy entrance tickets for the sites, food or drink. Its handy to have some RMB when you arrive. There are 24 hour currency exchange counters at Beijing airport in all terminals as well as ATMs.
8: Is it easy to purchase Great Wall tickets there? Could you buy the tickets ahead of time for us, to go up on the chair lift (prefer the enclosed chair lift if possible) & the toboggan ride down?
You can easily buy entrance tickets upon your arrival. As Mutianyu Great Wall office requires visitors to buy entrance / cable car tickets on the spot– You can usually waltz up to the door and get right in—maybe you’ll have to wait all of five minutes in line.
Do you have any more questions about Beijing layover tours? Post them in the comments below!