[Nonstop to Shanghai] Part 1: How to Get a Chinese Tourist Visa in Guam (where there is no Chinese Embassy)

I live in a constant state of travel daydream and am always thinking of the next destination to explore. I love my island dearly but, when it comes to travel, Guam is about as remote as you can get from just about anywhere outside of Micronesia. Planning a trip can be disheartening and even depressing because of the expense. Fortunately, there are a number of direct flights from Guam to cities around the Pacific Rim that are affordable and quick. Nonstop destinations like Tokyo, Hong Kong and Manila are some of the small trips I rely on to curb wanderlust between bigger trips.

In October 2014, United Airlines inaugurated nonstop service between Guam and Shanghai. This historic route presented a first-time opportunity for Chinese travelers to fly to Guam on scheduled flights, and also opened up a new destination for residents of Guam to explore. This was exciting news to me because I’ve always been curious about China but it’s been a sort of back-burner destination. That all changed when China suddenly became easily accessible via United.

I woke up in a room with an amazing view of Shanghai

I woke up in a room with a view

The United route offers twice-weekly service between Guam and Shanghai – every Thursday and Sunday. Whether you’re looking to make the most of a long holiday weekend (hint: Thanksgiving is coming up) or are just short on vacation time, the flight schedule is great for a 3 or 4-day getaway (you can, of course, stay longer than 3 or 4 days). The flight to Shanghai is only 4 and a half hours.

I flew out on a Thursday, returned home on Sunday and had an amazing time in between. I’ll come around to that in the next few posts, and I have plenty of information and pictures of the sights, culture, food and attractions of Shanghai.

Shanghai selfie

Shanghai selfie

First things first. If you’re going to go to Shanghai, you’re going to need a Chinese Tourist Visa. Without a visa, you will not be allowed to enter the country. You probably won’t be allowed to board the plane at the Guam airport.

China isn’t the first country I’ve traveled to that requires a tourist visa. Some countries require a visa but allow you to apply online. In other countries I was able to obtain a visa at the airport just before going through immigration. It’s not so easy with China. China does not grant tourist visas online, by mail or fax, or upon arrival. To apply for a Chinese tourist visa, your passport and application must be presented at a Chinese Embassy, which is tricky for Guam residents because there is no Chinese Embassy here.

So how do you get a Chinese tourist visa if you live in Guam? You have a couple of options. You can apply for a visa the next time you’re in a city that has a Chinese Embassy. Just walk in and apply. Another option is to send your passport and documents to someone who will take it to a Chinese embassy for you. I know someone who obtained a Chinese tourist visa by sending their documents to a relative in Los Angeles. If you don’t know anyone who can do that for you, there are several local travel agencies that offer this service for Guam residents. I applied for and received my Chinese visa through One Stop Travel, located in the Tumon Sands Plaza. I went to their office, worked with an agent to complete the forms, and they sent my packet via express courier to an agent in San Francisco. Two weeks later, I was handed back my passport, which included a new Chinese tourist visa.

Thank you, China!

Thank you, China!

The Chinese government charges a fee for the visa and information about that can be found here. If you decide to utilize a travel agent, expect to pay additional fees for the agent’s service as well as express courier service (aka pouching fee). I called around and found that travel agency fees vary by company but be prepared to pay at least $300 for everything (visa + agent + pouching fees). The good news is, the Chinese government recently began granting tourist visas that are good for up to 10 years (multiple entry) so once you get one you won’t have to go through this process again for another 10 years.

I know. The Chinese tourist visa is an expense that is kind of a bummer to have to factor in, but look at it this way: Once you get one, a sizable chunk of the world is now open to you. China is a country that, for many people, is still one of real mystery. With a visa you’ll have 10 years to explore it, and it’ll probably take that long to cover all that ground. That, in my opinion, makes it totally worth the expense and effort.

Once I received my Chinese tourist visa, traveling to Shanghai via United’s direct flight was a cakewalk.

I’ll be posting more about the trip in a few days. If you have any questions about traveling to Shanghai from Guam, feel free to leave them in the comments and I’ll answer as best as I can.

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  1. Pingback: Latitude13 | [Nonstop to Shanghai] Part 2: The Lay of the Land

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