Getting stuck at the border in Shenzhen China

Shenzhen China is about an hour away on the subway from Hong Kong, so we arranged for a tour guide to meet us there and show us around the city.

I didn’t realise that Hong Kong (and I’m guessing Shenzhen) doesn’t really start until 11am, so when I planned this at home, I decided 9am at the Lo Wo Border crossing would be a good time. Turns out it’s super early. We walked to Prince Edward MTR station, and then connected through to the MTR East Rail Line, which goes directly to Lo Wo. It’s a 40 minute train ride, pretty uneventful, though with beautiful views of the tree-covered hills and mountains of the New Territories of Hong Kong.

I’d done a bunch of reading about how to do the border crossing to China, and the process is a bit tricky. If you’re from New Zealand, you need a visa to enter China. Normally, you apply for one while you’re in New Zealand, send your passport in the mail, pay the $140 NZD, and then get your passport back with a visa in it. However, Shenzhen is a special economic area, which offers a five day visa at the land border, for a cost of 168 RMB, or $34 NZD.

First, exit the MTR station. Next, do currency exchange. The Chinese Renminbi or RMB is the currency of China, so exchange your Hong Kong Dollars here. The ratio is close enough to one-to-one (technically 1 RMB = 1.13 HKD). Now, go through Hong Kong Border Security. This next bit is so important, it gets its own paragraph.

Grab your Hong Kong entry slip. You can’t get a Chinese visa without it.

So, as you can imagine, we didn’t grab these. Now, we had our NZ Passports with no record of ever being in Hong Kong. If all of that seems weird, Hong Kong (and Macau) don’t stamp your passport with entry or exit stamps. Instead, you get a little slip of paper with your name printed on it which counts as your permission to be in the country. When we left Macao Kathryn didn’t have her slip after Border Control. We thought that Hong Kong might be bothered, but turns out they don’t care.

Turns out the Chinese Border cares heaps! So anyways, we walk from Hong Kong across the Lo Wu Bridge. There’s a handful of duty free stores. Next, there’s a sign for Foreigners. Follow that, then swing a hard left, and go up these random escalators. Then fill in a little form, press a button, and wait to get your five day port visa.

This is where it went wrong for us. We didn’t have our Hong Kong entry slip, so the lady shooed us away. We were then told to go to immigration person. We explained what happened, and the lady took our passports. It was about now that Kathryn had a pretty uneasy look on her face. She doesn’t feel happy when she’s at a border without her passport. I had a fatalistic attitude. I mean, what could we do? We’re stuck between Hong Kong and China, with no passport. Can’t really do much!

What had happened was the Chinese immigration person had sent the passports back to the Hong Kong side to get the Hong Kong entry slip. Unfortunately, they only grabbed Kathryn’s one, and so, we had to walk back to the Hong Kong side. There’s a border guard to stop people doing this, so we had to show our passports to him. On the Hong Kong side we explained what happened, and a border guard printed a new copy of my entry slip, without having to enter the border. Now, with both slips, we walked back to the visa office, with our forms, slips, and 168 RMB.

10 minutes later, we had our visa! We crossed through the border, and that was it, we were in Shenzhen China. Unfortunately, this took about an hour, and we were 20 minutes late to the meeting point with our private tour guide. She was nowhere to be found. We did email her, but alas. So we were exploring Shenzhen on our own.