How to get a 72-hour Chinese visa at the Beijing Capital International Airport

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You need to obtain a visa through a Chinese consulate before visiting China. Despite the visa requirement to enter China, you can still obtain a 72-hour Chinese Visa that offers a quick excursion from the Beijing Capital International Airport.  To my surprise, the process is fairly easy and, depending what time of day you arrive, it can take only minutes to get through customs to explore what Beijing has to offer.


Beijing Capital International Airport Arrival

Upon arriving, you will pass through a thermal screening to detect if you have an increased body temperature. This is done to ensure you have not contracted any type of illness during your trip. While I have never been pulled aside for additional screening, I assume they will run a few types of tests to ensure its nothing contagious before admitting you back through customs.  If you are planning to take advantage of the 72-hour Chinese Visa at Beijing Capital International Airport, you need to follow the signs for Exit and Baggage Claim. To make your International connecting flight, follow the International Transfer sign.

72-hour Chinese Visa Beijing Capital International Airport
Directions at Beijing Capital International Airport


How to get a 72-Hour Chinese Visa

A dedicated lane for the 72-hour Chinese visa is located on the left-hand side of the immigration inspection station. Make sure you’re standing in the lane that says International Transit Passenger (leaving airport). I saw a lot foreigners still unsure on where to go, as it can be confusing for some. Sadly, there aren’t any airport employees directing traffic, so make sure you pay attention!

72-hour Chinese Visa Immigration Station
Immigration Station
72-hour Chinese Visa Beijing Capital International Airport
This is the lane to get your 72 hour visa

If you don’t have enough time to go outside the Beijing Capital International Airport, you will have to proceed to the international transfer line.

72-hour Chinese Visa International Transfer
International transfer customs line

The Bald Thoughts

It’s always great to take advantage of a long layover or stopover and explore a country you may not otherwise be able to. I purposely book trips with extended time in between transfers for this reason alone. With this 72-hour Chinese Visa, you can explore the Great Wall of China, as I did during a recent layover.

The Great Wall of China is approximately 90 minutes from the airport without traffic. I’d advise a minimum 6 hour layover if you want to visit, not be rushed, and ensure you won’t miss your flight.

A good rule of thumb when traveling abroad is to carry a card that has no foreign transaction fees! A cab ride here and there can add up quickly on your monthly statement.

72-hour Chinese Visa Great Wall of China
Great Wall of China


  1. Yes there is a 72 hour visa free entry system in China for passengers in transit to another location. However, be prepared to wait an indeterminate time to be processed. There is also no logic to the order in which people are allowed entry.

    I travel a lot (180 days per year all intercontinental travel) and I found it less than straight forwards.

    There are forms to fill in, some in English and another only in Chinese, so download Google translates simplified Chinese language and use the camera facility to check what you are signing.

    I went through Beijing recently with my wife. There are no toilets or facilities for drinks, not even a water fountain. It took a little over 3 hours with no seats to get through, and we were not the slowest to be processed. It appears the officials take your forms and call the hotel you are staying at to verify you have a booking. They may also call the airline you are leaving with.

    Also be prepared for your luggage to have been removed from the carousel and taken to lost luggage, or be missing entirely like mine.

    • Great tips and a cautionary tale. Thanks for sharing. Sometimes people forget that traveling through foreign countries is not as nice or fast as when you travel domestically. Nor do they always have the amenities (like toilets) easily available like we’re used to. Unless I’m traveling with my young kids, I always carry-on my luggage so I don’t have to worry about losing them at baggage claim. This also helps if you’re looking to get bumped from a flight or change your itinerary! Have fun on your next adventure!!!


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