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The Cheapest Visa Run: Jinmen Island
How to leave and re-enter the mainland for much, much cheaper than going to Hong Kong or Macau, all in one day. It's Jinmen Island.
By Apr 10, 2014 Activities

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If you're in China on an L (Leisure), F (Fun), or other dubious visa, you probably need to leave the mainland every 60 or 90 days or face a giant fine and other dire repercussions. It doesn't matter where you go, Antarctica and Macau are both acceptable, but most end up jetting to Hong Kong. If you don't have a place to stay, a weekend in Hong Kong including a flight and hotel will cost at least 3,000rmb, and that's with none of the shopping or dining that you'll naturally want to do.

So how do you leave and come back on the cheap? Well, for around 1,200rmb round-trip you can go to a little island called Jinmen (also known as Kinmen), a part of Taiwan so close to the Mainland that the PRC and ROC used to shoot cannonballs over the water at each other back in the day when Grandpa Zhou fought in the war. This counts as leaving the Mainland — same as going to Macau or Hong Kong. You'll need to go to Xiamen first, then take a forty minute boat ride, pass through Taiwan immigration, then turn around and come right back. The best part is you can do this all in one day.



You can leave Shanghai in the morning and return later that night. If you're not in a rush, drop an extra 1,000rmb and stay in Xiamen for a few days and enjoy some of the freshest air in China, solid street food on Zhongshan Lu, and some cheap home-brewed beer at Amoy Brau (73 Daxue Lu). We found a five-star hotel for 400rmb a night, complete with a massage pool, full gym, and KTV. There's beaches too, but you're better off swimming in one of the pools by the beach and avoiding that murky soup of sticks and boat fuel called "the ocean". Good vibes down in Xiamen; loads of old colonial architecture. Nice place to spend a few days with your significant other.

Here are the two realistic ways to get there:

Train: Eight hours one way from Hongqiao Station, 320rmb each way. If you're in no hurry, do it, and peep the lush Fujian mountain scenery on the way down. Unfortunately, even the 7am train will land you in Xiamen at around 3pm, and the last boat returns from Jinmen at 5.30pm so you're really pushing it. There's no way to do the train round trip in one day. Luckily you can find flights for around the same price as a train if you book early enough.

Plane: Just ninety minutes one way from Hongqiao Airport. I booked my flight four hours before departure and paid 875rmb round trip with tax on Spring Airlines, the airline that's cheap because you have to buy water and listen to ads on a loudspeaker for most of the flight.

Once you get there, breathe in that smog-free air and take a 20rmb cab to Wutong Matou (五通码头) at 2500 Huandao Lu (环岛路). This is where you take the boat to Jinmen (金门). Yes there's another dock but that's way on the other side of the island and the ferry takes longer; stick with Wutong.



Ferry tickets cost 160rmb one-way, and boats leave roughly every ninety minutes. It's painless and there's no line at immigration. Noticeably better attitudes over here than on the Hong Kong border, too. All you need to do is take the boat forty minutes to Jinmen, then turn right around and take the next boat back to Xiamen. You'll have to change some RMB to Taiwan money to buy the ticket back, but that takes about thirty seconds. You might have 30–40 minutes to kill, and there's a decent cafe with Taiwanese food, coffee and free wi-fi right next to the port. Pick up a few bags of that Kinmen beef jerky and some 62% baijiu.



If you time it right, this boat/immigration process will take about two hours, or you could spend the whole day in Jinmen. Be careful though because the last boat to Xiamen departs at 5.30pm, and there are not many places to stay on the island. Camping may be an option. Jinmen is the total opposite of Hong Kong. Almost no businesses, no tall buildings — just temples and military zones for days. No sidewalks. Most people ride motorbikes and wear helmets. The cars, buses, and trucks move around harmoniously. It's low-tech in a refreshing way, but there's also a military presence that would probably respond pretty damn fast in an emergency. You probably don't want to go wandering too far off the road.



The area I explored was like a Buddhist village, with lots of cool old dragon buildings and detached houses that you'd never see in Shanghai. One downside: all of these houses are guarded by dogs. Yours truly got barked at and harassed by not one but six different large-breed dogs. One huge mutt chased me down the block barking to the point where I picked up a brick because I thought he was gonna come at me. Luckily an old man appeared and coaxed him away. Later, I sat outside the 7-11 drinking Taiwan beer and eating popcorn chicken while a particularly vicious beast barked at me non-stop from across the street. I was back in Shanghai a few hours later, and about 1,400rmb lighter.



A few notes. Before you go, check if you need a Taiwan visa. People from the USA, Canada, several European countries, Korea, Japan, and many other places can get a 90-day visa-upon-arrival for free, but citizens of other countries will need to apply ahead of time. Mainland citizens will have to apply for a Taiwan visa about a week before this trip. Check the weather too, because the ferries may not run if a storm hits. Also, as we've already stated, this is a military island, so don't go wandering around too much or you might not ever come back. Watch out for those dogs.

**

If you're up north and need to do a cheap visa run, check out our article on SmartBeijing about going on a bizarre, rainbow dinosaur adventure to the Mongolian hinterlands for even cheaper visa run.

We're also got an in-depth guide to getting a visa in Shenzhen right here. And if you want the most current visa information, check out the China Visa subreddit over on Reddit. Good luck.

TELL EVERYONE


11 comments.

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  • 5 years ago Sill

    Thank you so much for this information!
    I'm definitly going to do this option:)

  • 5 years ago Sill

    Do you know how to arrange the train ticket?
    Do I need to book in advance?
    Thanks a lot for the clear info:) Helps me a so much!

  • 5 years ago Ian L

    The train ticket is about 350rmb each way, if I remember correctly. Yes, you should always book tickets in advance to be sure you'll get a seat. Many neighborhoods have kiosks where you can buy a train ticket, or you can always go to the train station and buy a ticket there. Train ticket is to Xiamen. Good luck.

  • 5 years ago Sill

    Thanks:)

  • 5 years ago bigblutch

    Have you goy an address of the bureau which delivers the visa ? it's briefly mention in this description..

  • 4 years ago GreeknChina

    So what is the address for the visa office once you arrive on the island? Where do you go? Does anyone speak English there? Why do we need a visa on arrival? Is it part of Taiwan and not China? Does it cost anything to stamp your passport?

  • 3 years ago Bobinov Unverified User

    Thanks for the advice - I'm just back from doing the visa run to Jinmen from Xiamen (May 2016).

    I just wanted to update that the southern ferry port (Dongdu) was no longer running ferries to Jinmen, so you have to use the northern port of Wutong Matou (五通码头) as advised above.

  • 2 years ago Mike M Unverified User

    I took this trip from Shanghai this weekend - 2/25-2/26/2017. I was able to book the earliest high speed train available that departed Shanghai Hongqiao Station at 6:56 am on Saturday and arrived in Xiamen at 13:31.. plenty of time. The train travels at a top speed of 302 km/h and makes a few stops on the way but the wait time is minimal per stop. The high speed train was ¥449 one way, the normal (8 hour) train is ¥320 if I remember correctly, but this is really pushing your time as it arrives at around 15:00 in Xiamen.

    The taxi ride from Xiamen North train station to Wutong Ferry Port (2500 Huangdao Lu - Wutong DuChuan Gang) was ¥54 and took about 20-25 minutes but there was barely any traffic at all, the taxis in Xiamen start at ¥10 vs Shanghai's ¥14-16. I was able to catch the 14:30 Ferry from Xiamen to Jinmen, the cost was ¥155 RMB.

    Immediately after arriving in Jinmen (Be careful about calling this Taiwan to Chinese people

  • 2 years ago belcanto

    I hold French passport, I know that in Hong Kong, you need a minimum of 4 working days to get a tourist visa for China for most Western European citizenships (except UK and Ireland). Is that also the case in Jinmen or as a French National I could also get it the same day ?

  • 1 year ago Derek12342312 Unverified User

    I followed these instructions today. Worked out great. I was in Taiwan for maybe 15 min but didn’t not see any dogs.

    Thanks for the info!

  • 1 year ago Jblacksky Unverified User

    Only 360rmb roundtrip by train from Xiamen to Shenzhen North by train. Then subway train south to Futian Checkpoint.........thru immigration into HK and back......

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