I originally planned on getting our Chinese visas in Hong Kong – it was supposed to be quite easy. But then I read some conflicting information that suggested that non-residents of Hong Kong might need to use an agent, pushing up the cost considerably, and discovered that there was a Chinese consulate here, so it seemed easier to apply for a Chinese tourist visa in Chiang Mai.
My pre-application research had told me that for a simple 8-day trip I would need evidence of flights in and out, and hotel bookings covering the duration of the trip. As we were going to be travelling via Hong Kong and entering China by train (for which I didn’t yet have tickets) I gave them the Hong Kong flight details and our Hong Kong hotel details too. If you plan to stay with friends in China they will want signed letters of invitation etc, so it’s probably better to book a hotel (even if you cancel it later).
Applicants who are not Thai also have to provide proof that they are in Thailand legally, which for us meant a photocopy of our Thai visa and extension stamp, as well a a copy of the passport main page. You also need one passport sized photo (light background).
If you have been to China before, they ask for a photocopy of your previous visa, even if it was in a now expired passport – in which case they also want a photocopy of the main page of that passport, and evidence of the name change if it was in a previous name! If your visit was in pre-computerised times, say, 30 years ago, and if the passport in question either no longer exists or is in storage halfway around the world, it might be prudent to forget that you’ve visited previously (hey, your memory goes when you get old, right?!).
The consulate is on the south side of the moat, close to the Saen Pung Gate. It’s not very prominently signed, but it’s just past the big electronics mall. Unhelpfully, the consulate’s website didn’t list the holiday closures for 2016. We assumed that it would be closed Mon-Wed for the 3-day Chinese New Year holiday, but when we showed up on the Friday it was still closed. So we returned the following Wednesday.
There are no photo or photocopying facilities at the consulate, so get everything done before you go. The nearest copy shop I saw is on the other side of the moat – directly opposite the consulate, but midway between 2 bridges. The nearest photo shop that I know of is on the south side of the moat, just east of the traffic lights by Chiang Mai Gate. The consulate does have scissors and glue sticks, but take your own pen.
The consulate is open for visa applications from 09:00-11:30, Mon-Fri. There is a form to download here, or collect one from the guys in the gatehouse on the way in. Take a numbered ticket from the machine just inside the door of the visa office. The form is 4 pages long and they want a lot of detail, including the full address of every hotel in which you plan to stay. Pay attention when filling in dates – they want them yyy-mm-dd. You have to state how many entries you need (and remember, if you enter China, go to Hong Kong or Macau, then go back to the mainland, that’s 2 entries) but not how long you want to stay in China – they will determine the length of visa they give, based on your flights and hotel bookings. We got 30 days for our 8-day itinerary.
When your number is called just hand over your form, photo, passport and supporting documents. The clerk will check through them, highlighting names and dates to make sure everything is there, and give you a receipt. They don’t take money at this stage. There were very few people there when we applied, even though we didn’t turn up until around 10:00, and we were done in 30 minutes.
Because the following Monday was a Thai holiday and the consulate was closed again, our pick-up was the following Tuesday – the 4th working day, including the day of application. We turned up at 09:15 and it was quite busy, with about 25 people waiting – but once the clerk at window 1 returned from her tea break she zipped through all the collections, so we only waited 45 mins (it’s a differently numbered ticket when you collect, so make sure you take the right one from the machine). The cost of visas varies enormously depending on your nationality and how many entries you require.
|Number of entries||Thai citizen||US citizen||Others|
|Multiple entry for 6 months||฿3000||฿4560||฿2200|
|Multiple entry for 12 months||฿4500||฿4560||฿3300|
For us, as UK citizens, it was considerably cheaper than getting a visa in London would have been (£85, plus £15 if you do it by post). If I was American, I probably wouldn’t bother with a short trip to China!
For us, getting a Chinese tourist visa in Chiang Mai proved to be very easy – but ours was a very simple situation. More complex cases will involve more paperwork, but the same would be true wherever you apply. I suspect that doing it in Chiang Mai is as least stressful as it gets!