Easier Than Ever To Visit, Even To Stay In This Beautiful, Exotic, And Affordable Land
Vicki and I just picked up 10-year, multiple-entry visas to China. Each entry is good for up to 60 days. The 10-year visas cost the same as a single-entry visa, about US$160.
The new 10-year visas became available after Obama’s visit to Xi in China last month. Obama and Xi agreed that citizens of each country can now visit the other over and over under the new visa program. Obama trumpeted the expected increase in Chinese tourists to the United States. More Chinese tourism will benefit the U.S. economy.
We Americans who like to travel to China will benefit, too. China visas cost a lot, and we need to present ourselves in person at Chinese consulates. Under the new program, one time will do it, and we’re good to go for 10 years. If your passport expires during the 10-year period, just carry your expired passport—the one with the visa in it—along with your new passport. Make sure the passport details, such as your name, remain exactly the same.
In most cases, you’ll have to apply for the visa in the United States at one of the Chinese consulates. Vicki and I managed to get our China visas here in Chiang Mai, Thailand. We have long-stay visas to Thailand and needed to present copies of our long-stay Thai visas to the Chinese consul. If we’d had simple tourist visas to Thailand or no Thai visa at all, I’d guess the Chinese consul would have asked us to apply for China visas in the United States.
Besides the basic stuff (passport, photo, fee, application), we needed a round-trip plane ticket, at least one hotel reservation, and an itinerary. We’re traveling over land, via Laos, so we presented a detailed itinerary instead of plane tickets. For the hotel reservation, I emailed hotels where we plan to stay. The hotels confirmed right back, no deposit or credit card required. See more visa details here.
Vicki and I like Yunnan province in southwest China. I’ve written about the area before, suggesting that the capital city Kunming or old Dali would make fine retirement choices.
“Start with weather,” I wrote. “Central Yunnan comes close to eternal spring. The area suffers none of the hot and sticky farther south or the cold and icy farther north.
“Move on to cost of living. Central Yunnan offers real bargains. Vicki and I routinely eat a Chinese breakfast for a buck or two, and a full splurge dinner for two with beer in a family-run restaurant is US$4 to US$7. A cab across town costs a dollar or two.
“You can spend less if you work at it. You can also spend more, as the boom here offers more and more high-end choice.”
If you choose to spend time in the area you face, or faced, two problems: visa and language. Now the visa problem has largely disappeared, at least for Americans. Just pop over to Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Mongolia, or even Hong Kong or Macao for a week or two. Every now and again you might fly to Europe or the United States for longer stays. Return to China and you’re good to go for another two months. China offers competitive airfares, including low-cost Air Asia flights to many cities in the region.
The second problem, language, remained a challenge last time we were in Yunnan. Desk clerks in Chinese hotels (as opposed to international hotels), cab drivers, bus drivers, waiters, and sales clerks spoke no English at all. But, increasingly, students approached us to chat. And big wigs around town often spoke English perfectly. We met them at construction sites—engineers, I’d guess, or the developers themselves—or in the international hotels or on airplanes.
Do more Chinese speak English today? I’ll let you know. We plan to be there by the end of the month.