Stranded in the Beijing Aiport – How NOT to get your visa

Ever have one of those mistakes that could have cost you everything? Well, mine happened before I had even stepped foot in Asia.

I stepped off the twelve and a half hour flight from San Francisco to Beijing, bright eyed and bushy tailed at the adventure I was about to begin. The airport terminal was just a few arrival gates, a heat detector, an immigration station, and an airline desk. Everything else was on the other side of immigration – baggage claim, food, an ATM, and a whole world waiting for me to stumble into and consume.

Now, my plan was a connecting flight to Hong Kong where I was planning on getting my visa. I didn’t have enough time before leaving to guarantee I’d be approved for my visa before my flight, and so I booked another flight in hopes to be approved in Hong Kong.

The problem? When I landed in Beijing I had NO CONNECTING FLIGHT. I had booked a flight to Hong Kong for the day before. I had not properly calculated the time difference so I had booked the wrong flight.

And then it gets worse.

No flight, no big deal right? Just book another one. Except, that there’s no way to. No wifi. I can’t connect my devices because I don’t have a phone number to confirm with the airport login page.

So I can’t book a flight. And I can’t get my luggage on the other side. And everyone doesn’t speak English so I’m struggling to ask for help. I can’t get Yuan to pay someone to buy me a ticket. I haven’t slept in 30 hours, I can’t get food even though I’m desperately hungry, and I can’t contact anyone from the United States for help.

I looked like this dude in this photo, only as a white girl that’s panicking and trying not to cry.

But I’m writing this now, so it must have worked out right?

I kept asking employees and using my translate app to ask people for help, explaining my situation. A REALLY nice employee decided she would help me try to get a ticket if I could just wire her money. Too bad I can’t wire her money or have any Yuan.

After 4 hours stuck in this part of the terminal, I finally found an employee that had a wifi hotspot. All is well! Huzzah! I was able to book tickets and get through immigration.

And then spent a 9 hr layover sleeping on the floor of an airport in Yantai, China. Apparently, it’s just easy to get stuck in Chinese airports? I wasn’t allowed into the airport until 7 am. I was stuck in a small terminal with a few chairs (all taken) and an adjacent parking garage that made the whole room cold. So I slept on the ground behind a potted plant.

To add to my chagrin, by the time I finally landed in Hong Kong I had to rush straight to the visa office on about 8 hours of sleep in 72 hours. Finally, in an act of kindness from the universe, I got there and was the last one they processed, getting there about 3 minutes before they closed.

And after all that, I’m happy to announce… I got my visa! 🙂

Visa Office in Hong Kong


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