Express Hong Kong China Visa Run

Travel Stories — By on 20/07/2012 3:36 pm

flying home Express Hong Kong China Visa Run

Flying home with a new visa in hand

What is a Hong Kong China Visa Run?
With few exceptions every foreigner living in China is here on a visa that last for 3, 6 or 12 months and must be renewed before expiry. Normally renewing a visa is trouble free BUT some times due circumstances beyond our control such as forgetful (negligent) schools or companies, changes in visa regulations or “technical difficulties”, we can’t get our visas renewed before they expire.

When this happens, you go to Hong Kong as fast as you can to get a new visa. This happens a lot and is called the Hong Kong China visa run. Hong Kong is the best place to get a visa because it’s cheap to get to, has visa free entry, fun to visit and getting Chinese visas in Hong Kong is a piece of cake.

My Chinese Visa
Lately there has been a lot of public attention on foreigners breaking the law in China with the recent case of an English man attempting to rape a Chinese girl in Beijing receiving a lot of attention.

In response the Chinese government has tightened visa laws for at least 100 days and my visa was one of the victims.  I had 5 days left on my visa with no hope of renewal in China so time for a Hong Kong China Visa run. I called a mate who is a whizz at buying airline tickets and arranged the cheapest tickets to Hong Kong I could get. Ended up with a ticket to Shenzhen and a return ticket from Hong Kong.

Arriving in Shenzhen
Getting from Shenzhen to Hong Kong is easy and you can walk across the border at the Luohu border crossing, catch a ferry, catch a bus or take a train. Hong Kong is expensive so if I’m on a visa run, I normally stay in Shenzhen overnight and cross into Hong Kong the next morning.   Arrived at Shenzhen airport at around 8pm, caught the subway (MTR) at the airport to Luohu subway station at the other end of the line.

I stayed at the Home Inn which is very close to the Luohu subway station and was comfortably in my room showered and relaxing 30 minutes after arriving at Luohu. The Home Inn is cheap, comfortable, has good staff and is ideally located so if you ever need a hotel near the border, check it out. Click here for Details on the Home In Shenzhen

Getting to Hong Kong
The border crossing opens at 6:00am so I was awake and out of the hotel by around 6:30 skipping the complimentary 7am breakfast. The walk from the hotel to the border crossing takes literally 10 minutes at the longest and early in the morning there is no queue for foreigners. You fill in the departure form and breeze through customs. The beauty of the Luohu border crossing is you arrive on the Hong Kong side at the KCR station and the train goes all the way to Hunghom in Tsim Sha Tsui which is ideal because Hong Kong’s best visa agency Forever Bright is next to the station. I arrived there at 8:20am, submitted my passport and visa application and was out the front door by 8:30am.

If you submit your passport before 11am, you can come back and pick it up by 2pm. This means that you don’t even need to be in Hong Kong for a full day to do the visa run. I gave myself two days in Hong Kong in case of difficulties and had a hostel booked in Mongkok that night.

 The Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival
With five hours to wait, there was not time to really enjoy Hong Kong and hanging out in a cheap hotel on a beautiful summer day is crazy so I took a 5 minute walk to the waterfront on Victoria Harbor and got very lucky. The Hong Kong Dragon Boat Racing Festival was just kicking off so I found a comfortable seat in the stands with incredible views of Victoria Harbor and Hong Kong. Dragon boat racing in Hong Kong is a great spectator event and watching the dragon boats dash around the harbor was a lot of fun. You can read up here on the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Racing Festival

The Wrong Visa
After a delicious lunch of lemon chicken and rice in a restaurant several floors below the visa office, I went up to collect my passport which was ready at 1:50pm. Bad news! Due to a misunderstanding (mostly my fault) I had the wrong visa. After a very civilized dispute with the manager and a dignified tantrum, I arranged to return the next day to apply for the correct visa.

First though I had to get rid of my new visa which meant a trip back to Shenzhen, a stamp on my visa, a few hours loitering in Shenzhen and back across the border in to Hong Kong again.

I arrived at my hostel at around 9pm which is a real dive and chatted to a couple of British guys who were sharing the dorm with me. The hotel is the Dragon Hostel Hong Kong which is cheap, clean, conveniently located and safe and has no other redeeming features. If you are on a tight budget, not fussy about poor service, horrible rooms, lack of privacy and zero facilities, the Dragon Hostel is for you. Click here for details on the Dragon Hostel Hong Kong

Visa Success
With passport submitted by 9am it was time for day two of the Dragon Boat racing, a stroll along the Victora Harbor water front and a wander through the back lanes of Tsim Sha Tsui. Back to pick up the passport again after a very nice lunch of BBQ pork on rice at the same restaurant.

After Lining up outside with every one else the to collect their passports, I received mine and the visa was fine. My plan left at 6pm so it was time to race to the airport. With four hours to get there, there was no need to panic. Getting from Tsim Sha Tsui to the airport is a little expensive and very easy.

The fastest and most reliable way of reaching the airport involved taking three different subways. I caught the first subway at Hunghom subway station on the new East Tsim Sha Tsui subway line. Got off at Nam Cheong station and switched to the Tung Chung Line for the second subway. Finally switched subways again at the Tsing Yi station to the airport express. Sounds confusing but if you look at a map of the Hong Kong subway below, it makes sense. The trip should take no more than an hour in total and that includes the two change overs.

I had a chat on the train with a really nice lady from Taiwan who was going back home after a year in Shenzhen and was at the boarding gate for my flight with at least an hour to spare. The flight back was long, delayed and uneventful and I was home some time after midnight with my shiny new visa.

If you would like more information on getting a Chinese visa in Hong Kong, click here How to Apply For a Chinese Visa in Hong Kong

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12 Comments

  1. Ian says:

    Unless cost was an absolute priority I think I would have just taken a taxi from HungHom to Kolwoon and got the Airport Express from there.
    IF LuoHu looks like being crowded you can also use Futian 'Port' or Checkpoint which is at the end of Metro 4 line. You just go upstairs and through the checkpoint and you are in LokMaChau station. (note it is not called the LokMaChau crossing -that is a vehicle crossing nearby). This joins the LoWu line at SheungShui and ends up at HongHom too. It is a good alternative to be aware of, especially if you are around Futian.

    • Brendon says:

      Hi Ian, Great points. A taxi to Kowloon would save a lot of trouble. I have a phobia about being stuck in traffic so I find subways a lot less stressful when in a hurry. The Futian ‘port’ option sounds good, thanks for the tip :)

  2. Annet says:

    UPDATE: rush service is no longer available for visa runners. I was just told to come back in four days… When I asked why, the woman said something about two governments. Such BS! Anyway, now you know

    • Brendon says:

      Hi Annet, Thank you very much for that update. You mean the rush service at the China Visa Office don’t you?

  3. Chuck says:

    Just got back from Hong Kong and the rush service is still available at least to a few of the Visa Agents, I did mine in two days, but if I had wanted to pay a much larger fee, they would have done it in one.  That was for the Z visa,  they were doing almost all the normal tourist visas in one day

    • Brendon says:

      Hi Chuck, good to know, thank you. Which visa agent did you go through?

    • jimmy says:

      hi chuck,Im american, living in beijing,  I will be doing a chinese Z run visa in hong kong, which agency did you used?  do I need a round ticket trip to enter hong kong (concerning hong kong entry policies )  ? i mean i dont want to book myself for 1 week trip if I can get the visa in less than 3 days.. 

      • Brendon says:

        Jimmy I’ve used Foreverbright on my last 3 visa runs and they were great. You find their address and other details on their website here http://www.fbt-chinavisa.com.hk/

        You don’t need a round trip ticket to enter Hong Kong and should be able to get your visa in 1 day and definitely in two days.

  4. Laura says:

    When I was there in August 2012 there was no rush service for some European countries / France, Spain, Italy, Finland, …), it needed 4 working days.

    I contacted Foreverbright on my trips to Hong Kong, and they never answered to me, so I could not use their services, let´s see next time. And I don´t know anyone who has enjoyed the "half day" service ever, those were nice news to read, everyone I know got the rush service (24h) or ordinary service, but half day are good news!

  5. lesh says:

    i am a filipino, my visa was about to expire on april 11, afradid that some unavoidable circumtances might happen, i visit the immigration as early as now and too bad to hear, they advised me to go home for a while or visit hongkong. i just need that entry/exit stamp… i stil have 15 days left before my visa expires… i plan to travel to hongkong before my visa get expired. clueless of what to do… sugggestions and advise please? if in case my visa is stilll unexpired, do i have to get a new visa in HK or used the old one to re-enter in China?

    • Brendon says:

      Hi Lesh, from what you has said, I don’t see any problem with you going to Hong Kong and getting a new visa. How long you have on your current visa is not relevant and I regularly have 5-10 days on my visas when i ignore them. Re-entering China on your old visa depends on if your visa is a single or multiple entry.

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