When you decide to travel to Beijing, you have to apply for a visa. This means filling out a massive form with just about everything there could possibly be about you and your family for about 15 generations.
It also means booking your flight and accommodation beforehand (they want copies of the bookings) or you wont get it. Of course, as you’ve paid for your flight, you’d lose the payment if your visa is denied…unless you pay almost twice as much to guarantee a full payment. This is somewhat annoying.
Given the fact that the visa only lasts for three months, means you can’t apply for it much before two months before you travel (they suggest one month). Given most people book holidays a long way ahead, makes it a bit of a gamble.
Anyway, that’s how it is so that’s what we had to do…so there’s little point in moaning about it. Particularly given the Chinese Government couldn’t give a stuff what I think.
Having filled out the 835 page document that is the visa application form, the next thing to be done is to book an appointment at the Chinese visa centre, in our case, in London. Appointment booked and you just wait for the day to arrive and hope you have everything you need.
And today was the day. So, armed with a small library of information, I set off for London first thing, to make my 9:30 appointment.
The visa centre is not far from Bank tube station so I joined the masses waiting for the highly popular Waterloo to Bank line. The train only goes one stop and everyone who works in the City and catches a train into Waterloo, catches it. There were so many people, I missed out on three trains before actually setting off.
You’d think I’d be stressing about the time while waiting for the tube train but, not at all. The crowd moved very quickly onto trains that appeared within minutes of each other. Another example of the excellent Tube system.
Leaving Bank station, I was a bit worried it may be a bit hard finding the visa centre until I turned into Old Jewry. At the end of the short road, hanging out from the wall was a massive Chinese flag. Very handy.
Although you book an appointment, you have to report at the desk and collect a ticket then sit and wait for it to be called. I had ticket 1044. I was a bit concerned at first (there was a lot of people waiting) but then the next ticket number was called. It was 1020.
The numbers flew by and, before I knew it, 1044 was called. I went to the counter I’d been assigned and handed over my papers.
What they don’t tell you is that you need to photocopy certain pages of your passport (it depends on whether you’ve been to China before or not as to what is photocopied) to go with the rest of the paperwork. This isn’t really a problem because the guy just told me to go downstairs and photocopy them.
The queue for the single photocopier was very long…which makes sense because there were so many people in the same situation. The thing is, you don’t have to queue up for the counter again, which is a blessing.
Anyway, I photocopied what I had to photocopy and went back to the counter where everything was stapled together and swapped for a bit of paper telling me when to come back.
And that was it.
All up, it took about half an hour.
Very slick. And I was home by lunchtime. I need to go and pick them up any time after next Tuesday.