I already have a visa to visit China by the end of March and I will be staying in Guangzhou before moving on to Shenzhen for a stay of around 4 days. Do I need a “special” visa to go there? I’ve heard things like since Shenzhen is a Special Economic zone, I need a special visa to be able to enter into Shenzhen. Please explain.
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The designation “Special Economic Zone” is kind of like a designation of a “business district” with special taxing rules designed to encourage development, it is not a designation about a border. (At one time, a long time ago, businessmen could get a special visa from Hong Kong just to visit Shenzhen, but those days are past.)
However, both cities are very close to Hong Kong. Your visa is worth talking about in the context of Hong Kong, because you do have to go through passport control to get into Hong Kong from China. An American citizen does not need a visa to get into Hong Kong, but you would need a visa entry for each and every time you enter China from Hong Kong.
I hope you will visit Hong Kong while you are in China, because it’s a great city with a lot to see and do. Some mainland Chinese will tell you that Hong Kong is nothing special, but that’s not true! It’s definitely worth making time to see. If you leave China to visit Hong Kong, then getting back into China after that visit does require another visa entry. Plenty of people have gone to visit Hong Kong during their trip to China and then found that they couldn’t get back into China without waiting for a new China visa!
If you haven’t yet applied for your visa, you should apply for at least a double entry. It’s just a matter of which box you check on the visa application. Even if you don’t plan to use the extra entry (assuming you apply for a double entry), it’s nice to have the option of leaving the country and coming back again. If you have already obtained your visa, you can look at what was issued to see how many visa entries you have. Typically, a tourist visa is either one or two entries, and a business visa will be either one, two, or multiple entries, but in order to know you have to look at it.
If it happens that you only have one entry and you would like to see Hong Kong, generally it is very easy to get a new visa while you are in Hong Kong, but it will take a visa agent one full day to get it for you. What you would do in that event is take the train to Hong Kong, then after you arrive at the train station you give your passport and visa application to a travel agent at one of the agencies inside the train station. You would then pick up your passport from them after you return for your train ride back into China. However, don’t leave China without talking to a travel agency ahead of time to make sure you could get back into the country. As long as you are not working illegally, it shouldn’t be a problem but last year it became significantly more difficult to obtain a visa while in Hong Kong and some tourists were turned away from China during the Olympics. I even heard of one French tour group that had their complete itinerary booked and were planning to get their China visas in Macau, and their visas were denied (this was right after the Olympic torch went through Paris and the Chinese girl was the subject of French protests). The visa agents in Guangzhou and Shenzhen will know if there would be any problem getting a visa. Once you are in China on your last entry, don’t leave the country again (if you want to come back), unless you have some reassurance from a visa agent that you could indeed get a new visa issued.
Macau is another destination that ought not to be overlooked. From Macau, you can also fly very cheaply to other places such as Manilla or Bangkok. … Think about it!
Have a great trip!