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Why Visa-free travel to China is Great News!

Visa-free travel to China
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Visa-free travel to China

About a month ago a friend asked that we travel to China for holidays.  Although I loved the idea, and had thought about it prior to her request, my immediate response was that China is going to be a problem. Why? Because, as an Australian passport holder, I needed a visa but because I lived remote, in Alice Springs to be specific, I was far away from the nearest Chinese Embassy or visa processing centre.

1. What was the problem with China visa?

You see, although I could apply for a Chinese visa online, there was a condition that I must attend in person at the  consulate for a visa interview.  The nearest consulate or visa centre from Alice Springs is Adelaide, which is 2 hours away and costs between $350 to over $1000, depending on whether you fly Virgin Airlines or Qantas.

2. Why physical visa interview is outdated

It is long since I physically attended at an embassy for a visa interview.  The last time I did was in April 2010 at the American Embassy in Surabaya, Indonesia.

USA visa interview

To be honest, I didn’t like the cost and the inconvenience – I had to take leave from work, and fly from Dili, East Timor to Bali, then Surabaya, and pay for hotel accommodation and food.

The visa interview itself took less than 3 minutes. I knew they already knew everything about me before I rocked up; all they wanted was to see my face and how I presented.

Then, the next morning I missed my return flight to Dili, and had to contend with my girlfriend’s chiding for being “silly”.  Grumpily, I forked out another $400 or so to fly back to Dili.

So, the idea of a China visa interview brought back bad memories; I didn’t like it.

3. Remote travel requires special government assistance

As a person who lives and works remote, travel in and out of this beautiful central Australian town is a hassle.  Flights are unjustifiably expensive.

A flight from Alice Springs to Brisbane, Sydney or Melbourne, for example, will take on average, two and a half hours, and cost approximately $900 return. The cheap flights that other remote towns enjoy from Jetstar are completely out of reach for Alice Springs residents.

Jetstar-flight-deals

It does not make sense for a one way flight from Darwin to Adelaide to cost $150, but a flight from Alice Springs to Adelaide, which is half way, to cost $500.

It is high time government intervened to make flights cheaper for remote workers and families, either by providing travel allowance, subsidising flight operators or imposing restrictions on prices. For example, government should have subsidised Fly Bonza to prevent it from going under; instead it looked on, and the nascent airline, trying to do good to remote Australians, sunk!

The free market does not always work, and is not a solution to everything. Government intervention in key areas such as transport is critical.

4. Visa-Free Travel for Australians is a Big Win

That said, the bilateral arrangement between Australia and China to allow Australian citizens to visit China without a visa for 15 days is big news! Not only will it cut on costs for most Africans who are already under significant financial strain, it will allow us to plan a brief China visit for tourism or business on our way to Africa. For more information about the visa please check Smarttraveller.gov.au.

China acts as an affordable link between Australia and Africa. For example, China Southern, a major Chinese airline that flies Melbourne to Guangzhou, also has direct flights from Guangzhou to Nairobi.

Recently, I flew China Southern from Melbourne to Guangzhou to Incheon and back, and it was an amazing flight. The planes are new, the check-in process was a breeze, and the onboard services were good quality for the price.

Conclusion

The travel arrangement between Australia and China is a welcome idea. Bookings to China from Australia will skyrocket and business relationships will increase.

Now, get online and book your holiday flights folks. The visa-free travel to China is here, to stay I hope!

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