Beijing, Tianjin, and Hebei to Offer 144 hour Visa Free Entry by 2018August 10, 2017
It’s not often that an official government announcement gets us excited, but we were certainly excited to hear that the municipalities of Beijing and Tianjin, along with surrounding Hebei Province, are set to offer 144-hour visa-free entry for nationals from certain countries and regions by the end of 2018.
At present, Beijing offers 72-hour visa-free entry to residents of 53 countries and regions transiting through Beijing on the way to a third country. Travelers that take advantage of the 72-hour visa-free entry are not permitted to leave the Beijing municipal region. As of the time of writing, the exact date when the new 144-hour policy will come into effect has not been announced.
With the longer transit time, visitors will be able to get away from the well-trodden center of Beijing and its close surroundings and explore some of the amazing countryside and sites slightly further afield. Below is our guide to some of the best destinations to visit in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region.
Three hours away from Beijing lies the pleasant city of Chengde, where Qing emperors used to escape to relax during the scorching summer days. Chengde has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1994. Chengde is most famous for the Summer Mountain Resort (think of the Summer Palace in Beijing but on a much grander scale), which was completed in 1790 and at the height of its popularity covered an area of 5,640,000 square meters, making it the biggest royal garden in the country. Outside the walls of the Summer Mountain Resort lies the Eight Outer Temples, each designed to embody a different aspect of Han and Tibetan religious culture. The most famous of the temples is the Putuo Zongcheng Temple, which is loosely based on the Potala Palace in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa (giving it the nickname “Mini Potala Palace).
Tianjin is located about 140 kilometers southwest of Beijing and is reachable in 30 minutes via high-speed train from Beijing South Station. The city lies along the Hai River, which connects the Yellow and Yangtze Rivers via the Grand Canal. Tianjin’s highlights include the Five Great Avenues, five parallel streets running east to west that include 230 buildings with architecture representing styles from Great Britain, Germany, France, Spain, and Italy. Tianjin is a great place to enjoy old architecture, but it is also home to plenty of modern architecture and sights, such as the Tianjin Eye, a 120-meter-tall Ferris wheel with great views over the river and the city).
The port city of Qinhuangdao lies about 300 km east of Beijing on the coast of the Bohai Sea. The city is a popular tourist destination thanks to the seaside resort district of Beidaihe, long a preferred getaway for government officials, and the district of Shanhaiguan, which is home to the old walled city and, most notably, the easternmost end of the Great Wall. Qinhuangdao can be visited in a day from Beijing if you just want to pay a visit to where the Great Wall meets the sea (known colloquially as the “Old Dragon’s Head”) but we recommend staying overnight if you want to make the most of the seaside atmosphere.
The northern part of Hebei Province borders the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, sharing that region’s topography of high altitude, grass-covered plains. One of the most popular grassland areas is known as the Bashang Grasslands, covering around 16,000 square kilometers in northwestern Hebei, around 300 km from Beijing. Visitors can explore the rolling hills during the day then enjoy a nighttime lamb barbecue while gazing at the stars. The grasslands are the perfect place to escape Beijing’s summer heat, with temperatures around 10℃ cooler than in the city. You’ll feel more like you’re in the English countryside than in Beijing! ■