Going abroad is finally less of a challenge for Ukrainians. Right after the EU approved visa-free travel, Western Europe became one of the most popular destinations for our summer vacations. Nevertheless, there are, and were, still plenty of visa-free opportunities.
As of 1 January 2017, Ukrainian citizens with ordinary Ukrainian passports had visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to 82 countries and territories, thus ranking the Ukrainian passport 58th in terms of travel freedom according to the Henley visa restrictions index. With the exception of the UK and Ireland, Ukrainian citizens have been able to travel visa-free to the EU and Schengen Area countries since 11 June 2017. Doors have opened, but when it comes to the Far East few were aware there was a way to visit China without applying for a visa. In fact, the Heavenly Empire provides visa-free transit for tourists from 51 countries, and Ukraine is one of them. Visa-free transit means a person who comes to China from one country and then goes to another country by air can stay in any of 18 Chinese cities for 72 or more hours without a visa. On a direct flight from Kyiv to Beijing this summer, we got better acquainted with China and its “north capital”. Luckily, 72 hours was enough to gain useful tips for travellers, testing visa-free transit to Beijing for themselves!
If you land in Beijing during the day, you can go to the underground, take the Airport Express, and get to the city centre. Don’t worry if you arrive by night – there are dozens of taxis waiting for you near the airport entrance. After choosing a car, ask the driver to switch on the counter. Unfortunately, the Chinese are not very strong in English. Save or print all necessary addresses in Chinese characters. Take into consideration that each metro line has certain working hours. Entering one of the subway stations at night does not mean you will get wherever you need to after changing the line.
Try to buy Chinese yuan before your trip. Currency rates in the airport exchange offices are far lower than in city banks. Also, they require a service fee, while in banks the procedure is free of charge. Don’t forget to take your passport when you are going to the bank. Also, you might need a passport while buying tickets to museums or other places of interest.
The first day of your unforgettable stay in Beijing should start at Tiananmen Square. It combines two out of three architectural styles present in the city: traditional Chinese architecture of the Imperial City and Soviet-like state buildings constructed in the 1950s-1970s. On the north side find the Gate of Heavenly Peace. It is adorned with a world famous portrait of Mao Zedung, and hundreds of selfies with the former Chinese leader are made here every day. The Imperial City also includes the Forbidden City – the residence of Chinese Emperors since the 16th century. Put on a pair of comfortable shoes and get ready for miles of walking. If one of ten biggest squares in the world and 980 buildings in the Forbidden City aren’t enough, you can still enjoy modern architecture in Beijing. Near Tiananmen Square you will find the National Centre for the Performing Arts. Its glass and titanium dome is reminiscent of a huge egg floating right in the middle of a man-made lake.
Start your morning with traditional Chinese cuisine in one of many small eateries dotted along the streets. It is easy to identify them by their bamboo steamer baskets with fresh dumplings called baozi. The most charming thing about such venues is that you get to have breakfast in the company of local Chinese! And don’t forget about Peking Duck. Quanjude is a place where devotion to the roasted duck is reborn every day. Its signature recipes and unique way of serving won this restaurant great popularity, and is where Peking Duck has been served since 1864.
- Keep exploring!
A trip to the Far East does not always means extra expenditure. Asia is famous for its low-cost airlines, and is easy and cheap to organise flights throughout the region. Beijing, or any other of the 17 Chinese cities available for visa-free transit, has become an urban gateway for your adventures. Sound tempting? Pack your bags – Asia is waiting.