I am the most paranoid person when it comes to visas because of the list of visa disasters that I have referenced in the past. I wrote the book on China Transit Visas and have shared my missteps as they have become a regular occurrence.
- Care for a Margarita? You’ll Need a Visa
- The Customs of the Chinese
- Why Am I in Hong Kong?
- Do You Have a Visa?
- The Idiot’s Guide to Getting a Myanmar Visa
Here’s another story to prove that paranoia can’t cure stupidity which is what I’m comfortable calling myself after another near disaster for my Tahiti Triumph trip. This all began because Thai Airways kept cancelling my flight from AKL-PVG. After the third time it happened, I said enough is enough and called United to change the routing. The agent wouldn’t book PPT-AKL-SYD-PVG and suggested another route. I would go from AKL-PEK-SHA on AirChina. I looked up the reviews for AirChina flights on this route and was satisfied that it was much better than Thai Airways’ hard product via BKK. The ticket was confirmed and everything was fine.
Only it was not fine. It is the passenger’s responsibility to have the proper visa when making a reservation not the airline. No one can blame the airline if he doesn’t do his homework before making a reservation only to find out that a visa is required. In my meek defense, I have to say that I was consumed with addressing my flight vanishing and completely overlooked that this routing violated China’s Visa-Free Transit Policy. As was exactly the case in October 2014, I was trying to get to Shanghai via Beijing in order to stay in Shanghai for the permissible time of 144 hours (formerly 72 hours).
However, the rule clearly states that passengers must fly directly to Shanghai and out of Shanghai (see Travel Guide China’s 144-Hour Visa-Free Transit Guide). Like two years ago, I overlooked that I was coming through Beijing and leaving from Shanghai. That’s a big no-no. Unlike two years ago, this time the mistake was discovered before arriving in Beijing where I tried to smooth talk the immigration agent.
Having dealt with many travel hiccups both of my doing and out of my control, I remained calm. I went to United’s website and searched for flights. What I found and subsequently booked with no change fee made the drama and feeling of ineptitude worth it.
Instead of going on AirChina or Thai Airways, I am now routing through Tokyo on Air New Zealand’s Dreamliner and ANA’s Dreamliner on the outbound and the inbound segments.
The agent had a good laugh at my story and said I was lucky that the error was caught. He also said I was lucky that Air New Zealand had availability because it rarely does.
I agreed, thanked my stupidity for this good fortune, and away I will go.
Feel free to share your China Visa-Free horror stories so I’m not the only feeling silly.