Last Thursday, I woke up hungover shortly before 11am. Upon gathering my senses, I decided I was going to China on the following week. I checked how long it would take to get the visa, and realized it would be best to apply on that day and pay for Urgent processing to claim the visa in time for my flight. This meant that I needed to hand in my application by 2pm, even if the visa centre was open until 4pm. Right at that moment, I went through all the necessary steps – booking flights, booking a hostel, filling up the form (twice!), going to the visa application center – as quickly as humanly possible. I then felt like I was in the middle of a challenge on The Amazing Race. Three hours after waking up and making that decision, I got my Chinese visa approved.Incredible? Sort of. To be fair, I wasn’t exactly going about this blindly. I’d been planning a trip to China for more than a month prior to applying for the visa. I knew the process and the requirements (at least I thought I knew what they were; more on this later). I also knew which flight I wanted to take. Still, to complete the process from scratch in roughly three hours was incredible. And things didn’t go smoothly, either. For one, I had to deal with making a mistake in filling up the form, so I had to do it a second time. Then, when I arrived at the visa centre, I was told I was missing a requirement that wasn’t listed on their website, further cutting the time I had to apply for the visa. I needed bank statements from the last three months. I’d only brought my last bank statement, but thankfully my bank had a branch on the ground level of the same building. In the end, I was amazed that I got to finish everything in such a short amount of time.

The whole experience showed me how I’m now used to travel and all its trappings. Even mere months ago, I wouldn’t have considered applying for a visa at the last minute (thus violating one of my own tips to make visa application hassle-free). Now I pack for trips, look for accommodation, and apply for visas right at the last possible minute. Stressful? A little bit. Fun? Heck yeah!

Never mind if the whole process was rushed. The important thing is: I got a visa for China!

I’ll be in Beijing (and Shanghai) next week. If anyone has any tips for a five-day trip to Beijing and Shanghai, please let me know in the comments below!