AND YOUR 144 HOURS STARTS NOW
Can you please clarify our visa requirements if we are departing from Shanghai on a cruise?
China offers many types of visas, which can often make the process seem somewhat confusing. They vary according to where and how you enter the country, how long you intend to stay and what you are there for.
Currently, there is a transit visa available for Australian passport holders departing on a cruise from Shanghai. You must be staying in China less than 144 hours and you are restricted to remaining in the Yangtze Delta region (Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang). You also need to be heading on to a third country, so this will not suit if you are travelling to China then returning straight back to Australia. You will be required to present your cruise boarding pass and itinerary to the immigration officials upon entering the country. You may also need to show these to your airline at check-in in Australia. When you arrive in China there is a desk issuing visa-free documents. You should head to that rather than the main hall.
This 144-hour visa exemption also applies if you are not cruising but simply want to visit this region for less than six days, or the area of BeijingTianjin-Hebei. You must remain within the regions, depart to a third country and the hours begin from midnight the day after your arrival.
Other arrangements also exist, allowing Australian passport holders to transit certain areas of mainland China and airports without a visa. There is the Direct Transit approval. This is provided if you are transiting China by air, staying within the airport and will not enter their border control. It is valid for 24 hours and you must have a confirmed seat on a connecting flight.
Next, if you are transiting through either Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Chongqing, Shenyang, Dalian or Xian’s International airports to a third country or region and will be there less than 72 hours, you will be exempt from a visa. Again you will need a confirmed seat on a flight to a third country.
Hong Kong or Macau are Special Administrative Regions and Australian passport holders do not require a visa for stays up to 30 days. If you are joining a tour from either of these regions to the Chinese Pearl River Delta or Hainan Island, for less than six days, you are also exempt from a visa.
However if you are in China and exit to visit Hong Kong or Macau, you may need a new Chinese visa to re- enter. And, if you intend to apply for a visa at the border of Shenzhen and Hong Kong or Zhuhai and Macau and you have previously held a Chinese visa in an old passport you may be required to show this. The Chinese authorities are strict with their entry and exit requirements. They are subject to change at any time and I strongly suggest you keep up to date by checking with your nearest Chinese Embassy. If things do change before your departure, fast or rush visas are available.
It’s worth noting the embassies will not process an out-of-state application. If your state doesn’t have a visa centre (South Australia, for example) you must send applications to Canberra. A postal application will take about 14 days turnaround.
PRINCESS DI TOURS
I am travelling with my husband to London in the first week of August. I would like to see where Princess Diana grew up, but can’t find any information on tours. Are there day tours from London? DOC ¿
You can choose from either a guided day tour to Althorp or a do-it-yourself visit. If you’re interested in a guided trip, Voel Coaches (voelcoaches.com) have a day tour from London to Althorp House, built in 1508 and home to the Spencer family.
The actual estate is more than 500ha and encompasses farms, woodlands and villages. You can wander the smaller grounds of the home and view the exhibitions, Diana Princess of Wales and Walking in Her Shoes. You can also explore the interior of this house featuring one of Europe’s finest private collections of furniture, pictures and ceramics. You can walk through six rooms depicting Diana’s childhood, her wedding, her charitable work and her influence on fashion and style, plus enjoy the grounds, lake and summerhouse. There’s also a collection of images by Mario Testino in the stables block, a gift shop and cafe.
Alternatively, if you’d rather explore at leisure, there is a train service from London Euston to Northampton. From Northampton train station, you could grab a taxi for about $40, or catch the public bus. Gates open at noon and close at 5pm. Note it will be closed to the public the weekend of August 25-26.
TIME FOR JOHANNESBURG
I will be taking my first overseas trip to South Africa in August on a booked tour, travelling alone. On the way home I have a stopover in Johannesburg from 3.05pm to 9.15pm. Would this allow time for sightseeing and what would you suggest? DOC ¿
Johannesburg Airport is 22km from the city. It’s a $70 taxi ride taking about 30 minutes. You will have about 3-4 hours to spare, if your luggage has been through-checked to Australia. The roads can become congested during those hours, so if you do want to leave the airport, use the Gautrain (gautrain.co.za). From the airport, it will take 20 minutes to reach the station at Sandton. There are many interesting sites in Johannesburg such as the Apartheid Museum, Constitution Hill and Soweto, but they require a leisurely visit to truly appreciate and absorb. I suggest you avoid the stress and use this time to relax at the airport. Add a few days in Johannesburg to your next trip.
There are many types of visas for China and some exemptions; Johannesburg needs time to truly appreciate it, and Althorp House, the Spencer family home, is where Princess Diana grew up.