We’d read a number of tales from other travellers about their difficulties getting a Chinese Tourist visa while on the road, and that made us a little apprehensive, especially because Julie’s parents are due to meet us in Beijing!
After visiting the busy Chinese Embassy in Ulaanbaatar and picking up the 4-page application form, the attached 2-page supplementary form, and noting the supporting documentation required, we felt a little better, but knew it would still be more involved than extending our Mongolian visas.
Andrew’s Chinese Visa
The Chinese visa application is straightforward, but there are a few more additional requirements. I’ll list the information we provided with our applications, and where we got it, as our applications were accepted without question and 30-day tourist (L) visas granted.
What you need
- Invitation letter – more on this below
- Mongolian Resident permission card – for non-Mongolians like us, we took this to mean a photocopy of our Mongolian Visa, which we included with our application
- Hotel booking in China – we understand you need a minimum of 3 nights accommodation booked in your arrival city
- Round ticket – more on this below
- Economic assurance – we didn’t provide this, and it wasn’t asked for when we applied
Proof of Kinship (if visiting family members)– didn’t apply to us
- Visa application form (and 2-page supplementary form)
We asked in a number of travel agents and flight booking shops (of which there are many) in Ulaanbaatar, but none of them could help us arrange an invitation letter from an individual or company in China, until we found Tatiana of Legend Tours, located near Sukhbaatar Square on Seoul Street.
Not only did she arrange 3 nights accommodation in Beijing and the accompanying and all-important Invitation Letter, but she also organised our Ulaanbaatar to Beijing train tickets. The Traveler Inn Hua Qiao hotel is a little more expensive than what we have been used to thus far, but it looks nice and seems to be in a great location in Beijing.
Essentially, China is looking for confirmation of your entry and exit dates. Even if you intend to get the train to Beijing, but don’t yet have your ticket, all of the (many) flight booking / travel agencies in Ulaanbaatar will print out and stamp a flight reservation for you – at no charge.
As we had the inbound train ticket, we asked an AirMarket branch near our guesthouse to provide details of an outbound flight from Beijing to Bangkok, 30 days after our train ticket said we’d arrive in China. The staff were very efficient (you’ll need your passport), and spoke enough English to help us.
If you don’t have a train ticket from Ulaanbaatar to Beijing, then you could submit flight reservations instead and buy your train ticket once you have your Chinese visa.
Application and Supplementary form
The application form looks daunting at first, but it’s mostly tick-boxes. We left sections we didn’t have answers for blank, or crossed through sections that we were certain didn’t apply.
There is a section that asks where you’ll be staying in China, and there are spaces for 4 addresses. We used the details of our Beijing hotel first, then we used booking.com, the Lonely Planet and google searches to find addresses and telephone numbers for the remaining 3 spaces, which worked out nicely according to our loosely planned itinerary. I don’t think you need to fill in 4 addresses.
We did not contact the other hotels, nor did we make online reservations.
The 2-page Supplementary form is attached to the Application form, and asks for additional information because you aren’t applying from your home country.
We crossed through the first 3 quarters of the form, filling in the last section with the details of our Mongolian visa.
At the Chinese Embassy
Their working hours are Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and they were closed for the entire week of the Mongolian Naadam festival in Ulaanbaatar (11th to 13th of July in 2013). Visa applications are taken in the morning from 9am to 12pm, and collections are done in the afternoon from 4pm to 5pm.
The queue was long, but moved steadily. We handed our applications and supporting documentation in together, and the very friendly and helpful gentleman asked only which service we’d like (i.e. how fast do we want them to process our applications). We opted for the standard 1-week, which meant collection on the same day the following week.
There are faster services available if you’re in a hurry, but naturally these cost extra.
In return for our application we got a receipt and a slip of paper with the service we’d asked for. We then took this to the bank opposite the Chinese Embassy (through a door that looks like it might be for staff only!), and queued longer to pay our visa fee than we did to hand in our applications! Prices are in USD, but we paid in MNT.
The queue was a little bit smaller for collections, and the friendly girl was very efficient! After handing her our receipt and proof of payment from the bank, she put her hand on our passports and applications almost immediately – despite the fact we’d actually left it almost two weeks because we’d been on a tour of the Gobi desert.
In summary, it was straightforward with a little help from Tatiana.
That does sound fairly straight forward! Especially as they don’t mind reservations rather than actually bookings! Glad you’re making it to china – sooooo jealous. Xx
I was very worried about whether we would get our Chinese visas on the first attempt as we’d heard quite a few stories of people getting knocked back several times, but we got everything organised and it was fine. We’re loving China so far. Our hotel is on a little back street with all sorts of shops and hole-in-the-wall restaurants – it reminds us a bit of Mumbai! xx
Glad you’ve made it! Hope your parents arrive safely. Sounds great fun – think I need to trick James into going at some point ;)
Btw thanks for the postcard from Mongolia! It arrived a while ago!
The countdown to Nepal has started with the first injection today! :))))
It’s amazing how having to apply for a visa can provoke a little anxiety. I too was told how difficult it was getting the Chinese visa abroad and it was easy peasy! I hope you don’t mind I added a link to your post here to my post about getting my Chinese visa in Kuala Lumpur (http://megantasker.com/getting-your-chinese-visa-abroad/2013/05/)!
It’s always refreshing to hear about a relatively easy visa submission :).
Great! Thanks for the link, especially as we’re planning to come back through China next year on the way to South Korea and Japan – that’s another country you’ve added to our list!
Thanks for sharing your experience. I am planning to apply for a chinese tourist visa in Ulanbator (EU passport) next summer and I keep reading conflicting information . Is it required to provide a stamped bank statement and insurance letter ?
You’re welcome Sophie :o)
We didn’t need to provide a stamped bank statement or proof of our insurance, but I know what it’s like to hear conflicting information – one we heard often was “the rules changed recently and now they’re asking for xyz!” – as this blog post is a couple of years old, if you have time I’d drop Tatiana a quick email and ask her what the latest requirements are. It may also depend on your home nationality so don’t forget to mention it!
It sounded daunting to us before we applied but we found the people in the Chinese embassy in Ulanbataar were pretty helpful – best of luck!
great thank you for the quick reply. I have just sent her an email. I ll give you an update once I have successfully managed to get my visa !
Hi Sophi and Andrew,
it’s very interesting for me to read your posts. We (two germans) plan to do a cycling tour in summer 2016 and we also need a chinese visa in UB. Do you have any feedback if it is still possible to get a visa in UB? Our plan is to cycle from russia via mongolia and china to laos or vietnam. Would be very nice, if you have an answer or idea (visa / cycling in mongolia). thanks a lot. BR Helmut
Hi it was very easy to get a Chinese visa in ub And way cheaper than in France (30$ vs 65 Euros). Appart from the long application form 6 pages they only asked for return plane tickets and kept some of the hotel bookings .They didn’t even bother to look at the invitation we had . it took 4 days (1 in express) and was very easy. The queue was full of tourists ( mostly Germans and French ). So don’t worry about applying for your Chinese visa in ub. Don’t pay for an agency , you can do it yourself. Regarding your bike trip you might be interested. My cousin is currently doing a cycling tour around the world including Vietnam and laos. The Facebook page of his tour is called les roues libres ( in English ) if you want to check it out . Good luck in your travels. Mongolia is breathtaking !
Hi Sophie, thanks a lot for your fast reply and the interesting informations. I will check your brothers page. Did you do an organized tour in mongolia? I know there are many travel promotors in UB but maybe you have a good hint? thx br Helmut
Thanks for your reply. It’s good to know that our information is still relevant
Your cycling tour sounds like an amazing trip. We did two organised tours in Mongolia:
One to the Gobi Desert with a group which we arranged through the Golden Gobi Guesthouse (we didn’t stay there). The other to Eastern Mongolia with just a driver which we arranged through Chinggis Guesthouse.
Pretty much all the guesthouses in UB can arrange tours and possibly hook you up with other travellers to share costs. There are also a number of travel agencies offering tours but from our experience their prices were quite a bit higher.
We did a tour with meg s guesthouse (250usd for 5 day tour with 4 others) it was great . and we also stayed at her guesthouse ( it was cheap and comfortable for us students so if you want something maybe more convenient other guesthouses might be a better bet. Meg is very easily contactable via email and she replied to many of our queries to make sure the tour would suit our financial needs. The money of her tours goes towards charity actions so i d advise to check her website out ( if i remember well it s meg adventures tour) dont hesistate to ask more questions
Hi Helmut, Julie, Andrew and Sophie,
I’ve been reading lots of blogs in preparation also for a cycling trip and finding this one particularly useful.
It’s good to know that it’s possible to get a Chinese visa en route as applying for one back in UK would mean it was expired before I even reached that far.
What I was wondering though is, regarding onward journeys. My. route plan takes me through Russia, Mongolia, China then back into Russia for the last leg to Vladivostok.
Will my Russian visa be suffice to proof of my intent to exit China.
Once again, great blog and be great to hear any more stories or advice.
It sounds like you’ve got an amazing journey planned :) I doubt if your Russian visa would be sufficient. To be on the safe side I would recommend getting flight reservations from one of the many agencies in UB. It is very quick to do, doesn’t cost anything and there is no obligation to buy any other service from the agency. Also the flights/destinations are not mentioned on the actual visa so no-one will be able to check when you exit China. For example, the reservations we got were for flights from Beijing to Bangkok but we actually exited by train to Hong Kong.
Best wishes and good luck!
Hi I recently got a Chinese visa in Ulan Bator, thanks for the info that you wrote it did help. Would it be okay if I added a link to the post I wrote on the Thorn tree so people have up to date info – your post comes up number 1 when you search Chinese visa in UB. I would copy but I’m using a kindle and its not so easy to do.
Okay hope this works -https://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree/forums/asia-north-east-asia/mongolia/china-visa-invitation-letter
Some of the agencies were charging for flight bookings when I was there but it was a minimal amount. I heard the Chinese were cracking down on the practice, but it was still fairly straightforward to do – you just need to watch how you word it when you visit an agency.
I have a question; Did you leave your passport at the Chinese Embassy during your trip to the Gobi-desert?
Hi Eliana, yes, we left our passports and visa application with the Chinese Embassy while we went on a 9 day trip to the Gobi desert. We took photocopies of our passports and Mongolian visas (and extensions) before we handed them over :)
So sorry I didn’t respond earlier. I’m going to try somewhere this week since I’m now flying to ulaanbaatar. Will let you know what happens :-)
Good luck Eliana! :o)
Thank you for the very thorough information. Are you a US citizen? I’m sorry if you said this somewhere in your blog post. I didn’t see it.
Hi Karin, thank you – we hoped it helped you :o) We’re from the United Kingdom and you’re right, I don’t think it’s mentioned in the post.
is there anyone of you dear travellers who knows if its still possible to get the chinese tourist visa in UB ?
My girlfriend an I will travell the Transmongolian railway and would love to skip the chinese Visa application in Germany. Would be so great if we can do it whilst in UB.
As far as we know it’s still possible Michael. All the best!
As of the end of August 2016, the embassy is not giving visas to any foreigners not resident in Mongolia. There are a lof of people with interrupted travel plans wandering about Ulaanbaatar. They even cancelled visas of some Swiss women who had already been granted the visas but had been out on a tour and didn’t collect them in time. No nationalities are getting visas – we’ve talked to Americans, French, Swiss, Italian, Israeli and we’re Dutch. Be aware of that before you come and don’t plan on getting your visa here for the next little while at least. No one is quite sure why they’ve changed but apparently it’s also affecting other regional offices (such as Korea, Vietnam and Hong Kong) so get very recent information before making plans.
Thanks for the update CopperLioness – hopefully this is just a short-term decision :o/
We would like to apply for the Chinese visa in Ulaanbatar. We met foreigners who managed to do that back in August. However, now there is a rumour that foreigners without a residence permit in Mongolia cannot apply for the visa in Ulaanbatar. Has anyone heard of this and could tell more? Thanks!
Hi Dovile, according to CopperLioness it looks like the Chinese embassy has suspended tourist visa applications. Hopefully this is just a short-term decision but I don’t know any more than you at the moment.
Atention!!! Date: 2nd June 2017
Bad news for the chinese visa… You could possibly get it in Ulaanbaatar, but they made it much harder
At first you need real tickets instead of flight reservations as usual. For income and for the day you leave.
The second point, that brings the real problems is, that you need your former Pasport, at least a Photokopy of each page. They want to check all your older Visas, so maybe it’s possible if yours is not that new, but I don’t believe so. The only way around that is a official process where they send your Passport to Peking, wich takes a month…
Thanks for the update Julian, even though it’s bad news for Chinese Visa applications :o/
Still, we found plenty to do in Mongolia so we’d recommend registering and extending your stay to six weeks (as we did) which would give your passport extra time to return from Beijing!
Best of luck, A & J :o)