Since the trouble in Tibet and the change to the visa regulations a week later (no apparent connection)it has become almost impossible for touring cyclists to cross China. Until April we could have got a three month visa (or sometimes even 6 month) in HK. However the restrictions now prevent people from staying longer than a month in China.
To get the Chinese visa in HK is relatively easy - you just go through a travel agent (listed in the following post) although the restrictions this year on getting visas has meant we've had to change our trip to start from Ulaan Baatar and take the long way round rather than up through Yunnan to Tibet.
As of now it is possible to get a double entry visa but not to extend a visa once in China - it may be that you could get lucky but we decided to avoid the uncertainty. Our only option had been to leave our bikes and fly out of China and use our second entry to give us the time we needed to get to Tibet. We weren't prepared to take that chance as the lady at the travel agent suggested that no-one could guarantee that we would be given the second entry under current circumstances.
The final straw was some friends of ours who are journalists said that no-one was getting in to Tibet (even now) and that even if you got past any checkpoints you would be sent back at some point in your journey and there was no way anybody not on an organised tour was getting anywhere near Lhassa - cyclists being such a dangerous threat to China's security. We also thought that our video camera wouldn't have gone down very well.
Here's our visa - it's no use to us now - they only told us we couldn't extend it after we got it so we're stuck with a useless visa:
People are now being given at best 30 days to be started anytime within 3 months.
We would advise anyone to get the Chinese visa for the area near Urumqi (near the Kazakh border) before you start the trip as we have heard that it can be hard to get the Chinese visa at the Chinese Kazakh embassy (update: travellers are saying that they have been getting Chinese visas from Travel agents in Almaty for an extra fee)
Our friends who write guide books for Central Asia suggest that the Visa restrictions may well change after the Olympics....fat lot of use for us though. We will post updates in the comments and feel free to add more info via the comments as well.
- Useful Links