Visa in the pocket!
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Getting a visa for China is not easy these days. Due to the protests during the Olympic torch tour, the rules for a Chinese visa are tightened. 9 months ago, the four of us booked our plain ticket:
arrival in Hongkong on the 16/07/08
departure from Beijing on the 16/08/08
A tourist visit into China could last 60 days in September 07, so everything seemed fine.
But suddenly, papers are starting to write about tightened rules. The standard 60 day tourist visa is changed to a 30 day variant. We plan to visit China for 32 days and are getting scared. After further investigation we can relax again. We start our trip in Hong Kong and this proves to be our luck. Hong Kong does not belong to mainland China and has different laws. Our 30 day visa period starts when we leave Hong Kong and travel to Mainland China. Fewwww... the money spend on the expensive tickets is not down the drain..
Other strict rules apply. For every night spend in China, hotel confirmations have to be shown. Not sure about how strict these rules are going to be, me and Bjorn travel to The Hague and enter a huge queue in front of the Chinese embassy. After 2.5 hours in the queue, we are pretty sure we are not going to pass the visa checks today. Dozens of people without confirmations are send back.. It's our turn and a polite Chinese girl gives us the bad news, no visa (yet) for you boys.. The girl gives us the very usefull advice to make sure we book and print our train ticket confirmation from Hong-Kong to mainland China the next time we enter the queue. A friendly Chinese smile, but no visa.
2 weeks and many creditcard transactions later, we are standing in the same queue at the same location. WELL prepared this time. An unfriendly Chinese girl carefully screens our confirmations. She looks dissapointed when she concludes all the papers are correct. Never mind the angry girl, we are going to get our visa!
Well, it takes 4 days before you can pick up your visa.. :-) The good news is, you can bypass the queue showing your pink pick up form. After being part of a 2.5 hour queue in front of the embassy in The Hague TWICE I happily bypass it this time. I pick up our passports containing the visas without any problems. Walking past a 2.5 hour line holding what everybody standing in the queue is trying to get feels good.. I walk back to the tram, smiling of course..