I think that most people who get stationed in South Korea are afraid to travel to China. The general feel that I got from the Spouses’ networks were that they are to intimidated to even try… so you know me, it had to be the first place we went! I want to debunk everyone’s fears. So what is it like to travel to China is your Active Duty (AD) Spouse?
1. Getting Your Tourist Visa
First things first, you have to find out the visa requirements for your trip. If you determine that you are going to need a visa, check out my blog Chinese Tourist Visa from South Korea: Step by step instructions!. It seriously isn’t as intimidating or as complicated as you might think!
2. Do Your Briefings
Your AD will have to do a special briefing about OpSec. It is really just a Memorandum For Record stating that s/he understands how to be aware of their surroundings and do not jeopardize their clearances. If you want to know more about your roll in Operational Security, check out my post on 10 Things to do Before You Travel to China.
2. Pack All Documents
The typical documents that you need whenever you travel from one country to the next is your passport… obviously. If you got your Chinese Tourist Visa then you will have a sticker in your passport, so make sure that is the passport that you take. Most people have an official passport and a tourist passport. Anytime you travel you should travel on your tourist passport, which should be the passport that you have your Chinese Visa.
Aside from that, the only other thing that you need is your leave slip. They will ask for it at two separate locations on the way to China and one on the way back.
Smart to have:
If you like to print your flight tickets before the flight, you can bring those too. I usually pick them up at the airport. In the states I use the app on my phone to save my tickets to scan. Most likely you will not have access to your email, some apps, or your data plan in China, so best not to rely solely on that option.
You will also want to have information on your hotel, namely the address.
3. Getting Out of South Korea.
At the ticket desk in Incheon International Airport, I as the spouse, only had to provide my passport and my tickets were printed for me like any other trip. When my AD gave his passport the lady behind the counter scanned it, made a face and then asked if he had a second form of ID. He handed her his CAC and we were on our way.
Upon arriving at the security line we were asked for our tickets and our passports. They checked them quickly and we were waved on. We flew China Air which allowed us a free checked bag each, so we checked our small bags and just had a backpack on the plane with us. It was very smooth. We saw many people getting wanded aggressively. I thought that they were doing it to everyone, but we were waved on. I thought we might be singled out for being white, but we were not.
Finally, we had to go through an immigration desk on the way out. I handed over my ticket and my passport and went through quickly. There was a small camera and I had to provide my finger print. I turned around to see that Mike had been stopped at the counter. I waited for him feeling a little worried that the other shoe had finally dropped. He was asked for a second form of ID, again, and his leave slip. Then a supervisor came over and three people were looking at the computer, the leave form, and the passport. Finally, he was waved on. “Whew, I thought they weren’t going to let you through for a minute.”
Once we got to the gate all we needed was to provide our ticket to get on the place.
4. Getting Out of Beijing International Airport and into China!
Once we were off of the plane and slowly being herded from the plane through the Beijing International Airport I noticed that there were no adds or shops. There were signs that said that if we refused to provide our fingerprints we would be refused entry into China. There were automated machines where you scan you passport and provide all ten fingers worth of prints. We then had to fill in a document that listed why we were in China and what address we were going to. I was able to open my Expedia app to provide the address to our hotel. I did not connect to the WiFi at the airport, this is not a good idea, it opens you to being hacked.
No phones were allowed in the line to the immigration desks, but I wish I could have provided you a picture (found this one on Google) of the hoard of people that were there. This was the first thing that I noticed upon entering China. There were SO many people in the line, and so many ticket counters open, the line moved surprisingly quick. If there is one thing that China knows how to do, it is how to move tons of people.
Again, I moved through the gates smoothly and Mike was held up. A second man had to come over and review my husband’s passport. There was red flashing light on the back of the station like at a grocery store, indicating that they needed assistance.
5. Getting Back to South Korea
Getting out of China all they did was check our passports and print our tickets. Getting off the plane and going through customs to get back into Korea was another long process. There were three choke points where we had to provide a different form at each location.
First: We had to sign a document that stated that we didn’t get sick while we were in China. If you were caught lying about this you could get a 10,000,000 ($10,000) won fine. No running noses, no coughs, no diarrhea, and no itching.
Second was immigration: Passports and leave slips again. We had to provide fingerprints and look into a camera again. We had to provide our address and phone numbers.
Finally, customs. We didn’t have anything to declare, but we still have to provide the form and our luggage x-rayed.
So that was it! Totally easy as long as you are prepared and TOTALLY worth it! I absolutely loved Beijing!
Check out my other blogs on China: