15-Day Visa-Free Cruise Trip in China

Written by Sally Guo Updated May. 26, 2023

Since October 1, 2016, the 15-day visa-free policy has been operating for foreign tour groups entering China from Shanghai by cruise, which means you can experience local culture and life without the inconvenience of applying for a Chinese visa.

Here’s the most important information you may need for planning a trip to Shanghai and other Chinese coastal provinces.


cruise ship

Note: You should book your tour at least 2 weeks in advance so that your travel agency has enough time to apply for a visa-free cruise trip for you. Feel free to contact us if you plan a 15-day visa-free cruise trip to China.

How to Calculate the 15 Days?

The 15 days start from 00:00 after your arrival by a cruise in Shanghai and end exactly 360 hours (15 days) later.

For example, if you enter Shanghai by a cruise at 8:00 am on April 1st, your permitted stay period begins counting down from 00:00 on April 2nd and you can stay until 23:59 on April 16th, which means your visa-free cruise trip may actually be longer than 15 (but less than 16) days – depending on your times for arrival and departure.

Do I Need to be Hosted by a Registered Travel Agency?

cruise over the ocean

Yes. If you come to Shanghai by cruise, you need to be part of a tour group organized by a travel agency legally registered in the mainland of china. Two or more people can form such a group.

The receiving travel agency will declare the tour group name list to Shanghai Immigration Inspection Authority at least 24 hours in advance.

Only after examination and approval of the Shanghai Immigration Inspection Authority can visa-free entry procedures be conducted for the tour group.

What If I Decide on Board to Join a Group, Instead of in Advance?


If you apply to join a 15-day visa-free tour group on board, you need to confirm with the cruise company and the host travel agency first. The travel agency will first submit an emergency application and later adjust the list of passengers who are enrolled.

Only after examination and approval of the Shanghai Immigration Inspection Authority can the visa-free entry procedures be conducted for these individual passengers.

What Documents Are Required for Visa-Free Entry?


Is It Possible to Travel to Other Port Cities in China?

the Bund in Shanghai

Yes. Tour groups can call at and depart from any port within the permitted areas in China, as long as the group travels together on the same cruise ship.

You may only travel within the following areas for the 15-day visa-free policy:

Shanghai, Beijing, Tianjin, and provinces including Liaoning, Hebei, Shandong, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Fujian, Guangdong, Guangxi, and Hainan.

Can I Transfer to a Third Country (Region) by Means of Other Transport?

Tianjin cruise port

If you don’t join the 15-day visa-free tour group and don’t leave China with the same cruise ship, there are two options that may be available to you, on condition that you have booked tickets to a third country (region) and your transit application declared by the cruise company is approved by the immigration inspection authority:

What if I Need to Overstay or Exit Earlier?

hotel room

What Documents are Needed to Check in to a Hotel During the Visit?

If you have entered China on a visa-free cruise, you can check in to a hotel with your own valid international travel documents and a copy of your tour group name list stamped by the Immigration Inspection Authority.

Who Should I Contact If I Want to Learn More About the Policy?

Take a Visa-Free Cruise Tour with China Travel

Eating Shanghai Xiaolongbao

Eating Shanghai Xiaolongbao

Since the cruise entering from Shanghai can call at and depart from any port within the permitted areas in China, China Travel can definitely offer some private journeys to tour group members. Most importantly, we can arrange trips from cruise terminals including visa exemptions (based on your nationality of course), which will help your excursions more convenient and time-smart.

Here are three local tours we recommend for your cruise trip:

We can also help you to create a 15-day visa-free cruise tour to make the most of your time and meet your interests.

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