Flying to China, is not like flying to Mexico.
I purchased a last minute ticket to Beijing to stay with a friend and thought it was no problem. But things didn't go quite as planned, here's how it went...
So after a whirlwind morning all over Korea it is confirmed that I can not go to Beijing during my six day break.
My morning started out great, I arrived at the airport with plenty of time. Then I was standing in line to check in and I was flipping through my new Beijing book and came across one lousy paragraph that stated all persons visiting China need a Visa. Of course I justified this crappy paragraph in my head. I have traveled all over Europe and to Mexico numerous times with only my passport. I have even been to Korea with only my passport. So this visa thing must be like Mexico where when you book a ticket the tourist visa fee is already included in your ticket and paid for right?
Not exactly, as soon as I saw the lady from China Southern airlines searching my passport frantically I knew there was a problem! She stated that I could not travel to China and that I would have to return to Seoul and get a tourist visa from the embassy.
Right after this I called about the plane ticket and got everything figured out with the airline. My hope was to get the tourist visa back in Seoul, and hop on a later flight.
I saw one process online where you can get a rush tourist visa in 1 day. So then I got on the first bus from the airport back to Seoul.
Two hours later in Seoul I took a cab to the Chinese Embassy to see about getting a visa. The cab driver pointed down some narrow alley way and said "China Visa right there!" So I ventured down the hill and was freaking out when a guy at the door of the embassy would not let me on the site. The man at the embassy pointed me to a written statement stating that all persons in Korea need to get their visa through their travel company.
Somehow I wound up with a Korean that new how to speak perfect English. She told me that the Chinese government canceled the express 1 to 2 day tourist visa service. The quickest I could get a visa would be four days later for about $300! I was shocked because according to the China Embassy website it takes about 3-5 business days to get a tourist visa without the express service. The women that helped me was right across the street in some sort of office. I am not sure what kind of service or company they are, but she took my passport and made a bunch of calls in
So next time I will be prepared and will have to plan a trip out there in advance!
I am oddly very ok with the situation, partly because it was so funny navigating Seoul with no Korean language skills in the pooring rain. I was treking around Seoul with a big wet suitcase trying to get a Chinese visa! At least I know exactly how to get to and from the Incheon airport in Seoul, and how to get directly to the Chinese Embassy from my neighborhood. I only had to pay $50 to cancel my entire flight and I received a full refund which was great.
Now that I am back at my hotel, the website TravelChinaGuide.com states that the visa applicant rules for China changed last month. I will provide the new info for teachers in my situation in my next post!