Visitors from the United States and Canada are required to obtain a visa before traveling to Suzhou. Here are some simple steps to take to ensure your documentation meets Chinese guidelines.
WHAT YOU WILL NEED
There are 16 types of Chinese visas. The tourist visa, or “L” visa, is one of the most common. The items below pertain to those who plan to complete the “L” visa.
- Valid passport that won’t expire for at least six months from the final date of travel and includes at least two blank pages for stamping.
- Photocopy of your passport with your picture in it.
- Completed application.
- One 2"x2" photo of yourself, similar to your passport photo.
- Proof of residence (if not applying in the country of citizenship).
- Photocopy of any previous Chinese passports or visas.
- Any additional documentation. For example, for “L” visas, you must provide proof of round-trip airfare and hotel reservations, or an invitation letter issued by a relevant entity or individual in China.
- Fee(s) paid by Visa, MasterCard or cashier’s check payable to “Chinese Embassy.” Be mindful that personal checks are not accepted.
WHEN TO APPLY
Timing is everything — we recommend you apply for your visa one month prior to travel. If you apply too late, you may not get it in time.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?
Application fees for U.S. citizens start at $140, while Canadian application fees start at $50. Expect to pay more if you plan to visit anywhere outside of Mainland China in addition to your trip to Suzhou. U.S. fees and Canadian fees differ, so be sure to check their respective websites.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE
Pending accurate documentation, it normally takes four business days to hear back, processing the visa will take additional days. For an additional fee, applicants can request express service (two or three business days) or rush service (24 hours).
WHERE TO SEND YOUR APPLICATION
All applications must be hand-delivered — not mailed — to your country’s Chinese Embassy or Consulate General. If you do not live near your jurisdiction’s Consulate General or Chinese Embassy, you can hire a travel document courier service or have someone deliver your application for you.
In the United States, there are five Consulates General (New York, Chicago, Houston, San Francisco and Los Angeles) and one Chinese Embassy (Washington D.C.). Check the U.S. website to see where you will need to submit your application.
In Canada, there are four Consulates General (Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal) and one Chinese Embassy (Ottawa). Check the Canadian website to see where you will need to submit your application.
More information can be found on these websites.
Featured Tour Packages
13-Days : Gardens, Culture, History, People, and Nature
Day 11 - 13 : You will visit the Urban Planning Exhibition and Shanghai Museum, a world-class museum with a collection of bronze, jade, pottery, ceramics, paintings, calligraphy, old coins, and furniture. Tour the Lingering Garden (Liuyuan) and Tiger Hill Pagoda (Huqiu Shan) including the Bonsai (Panji) Nursery on the grounds of Wanjing Villa. After lunch visit the Master of the Nets Garden (Wangshi Yuan) and Blue Wave Pavilion (Canlang Ting).
10-Days : Idyllic Water Towns
Day 7 - 8 : Garden art is one of the region’s most famous cultural expressions, and Suzhou is home to its greatest gardens. Here the Chinese literatis have integrated architecture, water and rock, and painting into a unified spiritual expression.
11-Days : Enchanting China
Day 9 - 10: Suzhou, which dates back to 514 BC, is sometimes called the "Venice of the East". And visit Shan Tang Street, which has always been regarded as the first name of Suzhou ancient streets. It has a long history of about 1,100 years, its layout and architecture are the best to represent the characteristics of Suzhou's old alleys, and it has connections to many ancient Chinese celebrities and anecdotes.
Humble Administrator’s Garden is one of China’s finest, the centerpiece of a UNESCO World Heritage Site that comprises nine classical Suzhou gardens. Visitors during spring and summer may attend the azalea or lotus festival. Adjacent, the Suzhou Museum is the latest masterpiece of China’s most famous architect, I.M. Pei. For transportation, take tourist buses No.1, 2 or 5.
Traveling with children? Don't miss the Suzhou Amusement Park at Junji Lake with zipline ride, a dancing water fountain show on weekends and one of the world's tallest Ferris Wheels. The 60 cabins carrying a total of 300 passengers take 20 minutes per rotation, providing great views of the lake and the Suzhou skyline.
Currency in Suzhou, and throughout China, is abbreviated as CNY for Chinese Yen or as RMB for Renminbi. Along with 13 other major currencies, US dollars can be exchanged at all the outlets of the state banks of China at the same rate. Bring a passport to make any transaction.
Known as the "Silk Capital of the World", those keen to see silkworms in action can be guided through the process from mulberry leaves to finished product at Suzhou No. 1 Silk Mill. The region's temperate, subtropical zone that's ideal for deciduous mulberry trees has supported 5,000 years of silk cultivation.
Picturesque canals, stone bridges, temples, gardens and pagodas make the ancient city of Suzhou one of China's top tourism destinations. Calligraphy carved onto Tiger Hill rocks indicate that it has attracted visitors for thousands of years. A Song Dynasty poet, Su Shi, said, "It is a lifelong pity if having visited Suzhou you did not visit Tiger Hill."
In Suzhou, the regional Chinese language is called Wu, the subgroup is called Taihu, and the local dialect, one of nine, is known as Suzhounese, considered one of the most elegant, flowing in all of China. Most people are bilingual in Mandarin used in schools, because Suzhounese is not mutually intelligible with either Mandarin or Cantonese.
Atop Tiger Hill, the Yunyan Pagoda, nicknamed the Leaning Tower of China, stands as a symbol of Suzhou. Completed during the Song Dynasty in the year 961, the 1,000-year-old pagoda is taller than the Leaning Tower of Pisa and has become a symbol of Suzhou. The 3-degree tilt means that since 2010, visitors are no longer permitted entry.
Visit an authentic Buddhist monastery and temple just 3 miles west Suzhou old town. The temple has been well-known since the Tang Dynasty of the 7th and 8th centuries. Take bus No. 3, 6, 9, 17, 21, 31, 301 or Y3 and get off at Fengqaio Station.
Suzhou Railway Station, one of China's busiest, dates back to 1906. Now throughly modernized, the fast train connection with a design speed of 217 miles per hour covers the 52 miles to Shanghai in a journey of only a 24 minutes.
One of the best ways to tour the "Venice of the East" is from a front row seat on a hand-steered canal boat. Afterwards, stop into 130-year-old Pin Von Teahouse for exotic teas served in private booths on the second floor. It overlooks Pingjiang Lu, an 800-year-old lively pedestrian street, one of China's "National Historic and Cultural Streets."