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
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