What to Know Before You Go: How to Explore Shanghai During a Layover

If you’re traveling from the United States to Southeast Asia, chances are you’ll have a connecting flight in Shanghai. While traveling from the Philippines to the states in late 2019, I had an extensive layover totaling 11 hours and 45 minutes. Before comprehending the 24-hour visa-free transit entry permit process, the thought alone made me restless. Unfamiliar with the procedure, I quickly had to learn for myself. Here’s how I did it in 3 easy steps.

Step 1: Plan Ahead
Believe me, I have a way of going with the flow. I make zero plans beforehand and favor allowing the trip to take me wherever it’s supposed to. Nevertheless, if you intend to tour Shanghai through a lengthened layover, this isn’t a possibility. Arrangements must be made in advance. If you neglect to do this, you forfeit your eligibility to exit the airport. Following hours of research, I organized this tour the day before entering China. I reserved this through Trip Advisor. Several options were available depending on the sights I wanted to see, the activities I could partake in, and the restaurants we would indulge in. Later, I received an email from my tour guide, Alana. Enclosed were guidelines to obtain the entry permit, papers required to do so, and directions to meet my chauffeur. A travel voucher was put together by Alana. It provides the trip outline in full detail including, the itinerary for the day (with times included), the site in which the excursion was booked, and all the information about Shanghai Jinlu International Agency. The email was helpful. It incorporated text intended to be presented to a local or an airport employee if I got lost or was simply confused. Prepare your documents before embarking on the flight to Shanghai.

Step 2: Receive Transit Visa
Admittedly, this was the most complicated element. In addition to completing standard immigration entrance papers, there is a particular form needed for transit visas. I found a bit of difficulty navigating before making my way to China Immigration Inspection and getting a hold of the necessary form. Fortunately, I made a friend. We completed this piece collectively, and he pointed me in the right direction. The entry form summarized the prepared paperwork. Interviewing with the Chinese Immigration Officer was the most nerve-wracking part. Typically, I’m not nervous or frightened by this process, but this was unconventional. Smiling and giggling with this distinct officer was a no-no. He was very solemn. Understanding that individuals are frequently denied, I behaved in a manner that I presumed he would appreciate. My assumption of the encounter was that my permit would not be granted. I ended up believing that until the immigration officer fixed the adhesive on my passport. I immediately let out a sigh of relief.

Step 3: Enjoy Shanghai!
Here’s the fun part. Upon obtaining my visa, I proceeded to join the chauffeur at the location disclosed in the email. I approached him as my name waved in the air on a small sign. Our language limitations pushed us to communicate with hand movements because my phone (and translator) did not operate in this space. He grabbed my luggage, and we promptly made our way to the van. It’s roughly an hour to get from Pudong Airport to the center of Shanghai. As we approached the city, we stopped to pick up Alana. My 8 hours of exploring as much as possible came shortly after.

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