So, I’m leaving for a grand trip to China/Taiwan/Japan in about 5 days. A few friends and I decided to journey out east for ~3 weeks to visit hackerspaces and manufacturing plants. And there are so many things to experience culturally, crazy things to see, and delicious things to eat!
Even though I’m asian, asia seems pretty distant, and I look forward to closing that gap a bit. It’ll be really great to meet people out there, learn some things, see a bit more of the world. I want to know what life is like, what is the norm. I want to know what computer science means over there, what their engineers are like. Chinese class, though extremely time-consuming, has actually taught me a lot about China’s recent history, and really makes me want to see the real thing — complete with real people and real problems.
How to get a Chinese Visa
That said, though China has come a long way, Chinese websites are still difficult to navigate. Here’s a blurb on how to get yourself a Chinese Visa, quickly and easily. If you’re planning a similar trip, one of the first things you’ll want to do is apply for a visa to China. (Taiwan and Japan each allow visits from US citizens for up to 30 days without a visa.)
Pull the official Q1 form off of the Chinese Embassy website. The application must be filled out electronically. You will need your passport and a 2”x2” passport photo. If you’re a first-time applicant, you can only apply for double-entry at most (though they were generous and granted me multiple entry anyway). If you are a tourist, a random (-ahem- carefully selected) Holiday Inn in downtown Beijing will suffice for the fields asking for where you’ll be staying.
Unless you live in Washington DC, NYC, Chicago, SF, LA, or Houston, and can go directly to the consulate (where the fee is $130), you’ll want an agency to process your visa paperwork for you. I would avoid using mail-in visa agents, though they are probably legitimate, because they are expensive and/or slow. The cheapest option is $200 for 15 business days, whereas an expedited option puts you at $300 for “as soon as possible,” not counting the time it takes for you to mail your paperwork to them. Luckily, local travel agencies often process visas. If you are local to Boston, I went to Cross Culture Travel, where they got me my visa in just over a week for $175.