Application System: You must provide hotel bookings, return flights, an itinerary etc although there is nothing on your final visa to stop you from changing your itinerary from that on your application form.
Cycling: As a cyclist you don’t fit the correct categories so it would be better to not mention it.
You can always book hotels and tickets and then cancel them when you get the visa.
Do NOT mention Tibet (it is part of China not a place), Xinjiang or anywhere near the earthquake area. Only mention tourist destinations described in the Lonely Planet
Entry Date: You are given 3 months to enter China from the date of issue.
Length of visa: At the moment you have no chance of getting longer than 30 days although you may get a double entry (30 days each) visa.
Renewal: It is possible to renew your visa several times and it is best to do this in smaller towns.
Applying in HK
The system there is very easy, you just go to a travel agency – check the Thorn Tree for suggestions for Travel Agents, and they will ask you to fill in some forms and provide everything for your application for a fee of about $70 (including visa). It normally takes 2-3 days but it is possible to pay more for a 24 hour service.
Applying in Kazakhstan
It used to be possible to do this through a travel agent but for since April 2008 this has been impossible. Ask David at Stan Tours for advice about the present situation.
Applying in Kyrgyzstan
It has been possible to get a Chinese Visa with a special Xinjiang Letter of Invitation from ITMC or Celestial Mountains in Bishkek. Contact either of these agencies or Stan Tours for advice about the present situation. Do this before you arrive as your only alternative if there are no visas being issued is to fly home or to HK or to get to Uzbeksitan or maybe Tajikistan to pick up a visa.
Applying in Uzbekistan
It is again possible to get a 30 day Chinese visa in Tashkent, you need the normal hotel bookings but travellers are reporting that they are getting one in 4 days at the moment (April 2009)
Applying in Tajikistan
We have heard reports that the Chinese embassy there has been issuing visas but would recommend trying Tashkent until we hear something more certain.
Onward Travel from Xinjiang
Tibet - and you might get through to Nepal if you are lucky. Check the Thorn Tree for Info about the up to date situation. Between April 2008 and March 2009 nobody was getting through to Tibet from Xinjiang province but the situation may change.
Pakistan over the Khunjerab Pass (visa on arrival in Pakistan)
China….although many of the areas such as the Bayambulak Grasslands in the Tien Shan are restricted to foreigners. Yining is also restricted as is the Ile valley. With a HK ID card you should be able to get through any of the mountain roads North of Kucha, Or Korla with few problems. If you are really desperate to explore restricted areas of China a HK ID card can be got in HK if you stay for 4 weeks or longer in HK. It might be worth it. Ours allowed us to stay in cheap hotels and to get through many police and army checkposts where others were being turned around.
You are fine for cycling to Urumqi along the edge of the Taklamakan Desert.