Guide to Traveling to Chicago from China

Guide to Traveling to Chicago from China

Chicago, known worldwide as ‘the windy city’ is one of the largest metropolitan areas in the United States. Located on the shores of Lake Michigan in northeast USA, Chicago was first incorporated as a city on March 4th, 1837 and since then has grown to include a spectacular skyline including a number of iconic skyscrapers.

Chicago is also becoming an increasingly popular destination for Chinese tourists traveling to the US, who are drawn by the city’s authentic American culture and stunning architecture, as well as its ties to China.

When planning a vacation to Chicago, Chinese travelers are advised to avoid the peak tourist season between from June to August when the city is at its busiest. Spring is an ideal time to visit the city, and those who plan a trip in March are able to take in the incredible spectacle of the the Chicago River dyed green for Saint Patrick’s Day.

Read on for further tips about traveling to Chicago for Chinese visitors and the type of U.S. tourist visa they may require to travel to the USA and visit Chicago.

Obtaining a Visa for Chicago for Chinese Travelers

All Chinese visitors visiting the United States, including Illinois and Chicago, are required to have an approved visa to enter the country.

To travel to the USA for purposes of tourism, business, or medical treatment, it is necessary to apply for and recieve an approved 10-year B1/B2 non-immigrant visa from a US embassy or consulate before departure.

Additionally, all Chinese travelers with a approved B1/B2 visa for the United States are also required to register with the US visa update system (EVUS) before they can plan to visit Chicago.

U.S. EVUS for Chicago

People’s Republic of China passport holders are currently on the list of EVUS countries for the United States, as all tourists from Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan who hold a Chinese passport.

This means that, in addition to obtaining an approved visa for the US, Chinese citizens are required to register an online EVUS form before they can travel to Chicago.

An approved EVUS visa update registration is valid for 2 years from the date of issue, or until the associated passport expires, and allows the holder of a B1/B2 visa to enter the US multiple times during its validity.

Chinese travelers are advised to submit an EVUS registration at least 72 hours before the intended date of arrival in the United States. It is a compulsory requirements for all visitors to Chicago from China.

Arriving at the Airports in Chicago

There are two International Airports in Chicago that serve travelers arriving from China:

  • O'Hare International Airport (ORD) is located on the Northwest Side of Chicago, 4 miles northwest of the Chicago Loop business district.
  • Chicago Midway International Airport, meanwhile, is located on the south side of the city, 8 miles from the Loop district.

Rockford International Airport, 85 miles northwest of Chicago, is an additional International airport in Illinois that Chinese travelers may arrive at if planning to visit the city.

How to Get to Chicago from the Airports

The Orange Line train service operates from Midway Airport to downtown Chicago via elevated tracks. All trains from Midway go to the Loop business district.

Midway is closer to downtown than Chicago O’Hare Airport, which makes it popular with travelers visiting Chicago for business. It only takes around 20-25 minutes to reach the city center by train.

Chinese travelers arriving at ORD airport are able to get to downtown Chicago in around 45 minutes by taking the Blue Line 'L' train of the Chicago metro. The platform can be easily located by following the signs for “CTA Trains” or “Trains to the City.”

Declaring Money upon Arrival in Chicago

When planning a budget to travel to Chicago, it is important to understand how much money you can bring to the US from China undeclared:

  • Chinese citizens are permitted to bring up to $10,000 or the equivalent in Yuan or other foreign currency into the United States without having to declare it.
  • Visitors who plan to carry an excess of this amount are required to register a declaration upon arrival at an airport in Chicago.
  • The limit of $10,000 applies whether a Chinese national is traveling alone or in a group. The total amount may not be split among group members.

Those who do not make a declaration while carrying more than the equivalent of $10,000 cash currency into the United States may have the money seized by border agents. They may also face criminal charges such as a fine or jail time if illegal activity is suspected by the police. However, most travelers arriving in Chicago from China will not have to worry about making a declaration, as approximately US $180 is estimated to be enough for a daily budget for a tourist stay in the city.

What to See in Chicago as a Tourist

Chicago is a vast city with a population of over 2 million in its metropolitan area, so at first, it may seem daunting to plan a travel itinerary for the city.

However, the general consensus is that tourists are able to get around most of the major attractions in Chicago in 3 days, including plenty of time to try one of the city’s most popular exports, deep-dish pizza.

Some of the most-visited tourist attractions in the downtown neighborhood of Chicago include:

  • Art Institute of Chicago
  • Buckingham Fountain
  • Cloud Gate sculpture
  • Millennium Park
  • Navy Pier
  • Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower)

Travelers from China visiting with a family are advised to take children on a Chicago architecture river cruise, a kid-friendly boat adventure that will allow them to take some stunning photographs of the Chicago skyline.

Travelers who are unsure when to visit Chicago could consider timing their trip to coincide with one of the following seasonal events:

  • St. Patrick's Day, when the Chicago River is tinted green
  • Magnificent Mile Lights Festival in November/December
  • Christkindlmarket, a German Christmas market that takes over Daley Plaza during the holiday season.

Chicago’s Chinatown

If you look at a map of Chicago you will see that the city is home to a small Chinatown, located just off the Cermak red line stop on the metro in the South-Loop of Chicago.

Although quite small compared to some other Chinatowns in major American cities, this vibrant, tight-knit community is full of appealing attractions, including:

  • Chinatown Square - One of the largest Chinese malls in America, this charming outdoor mall is home to a range of shops and restaurants.
  • Chinese American Museum of Chicago - Opened in 2005, this institute hosts a series of rotating exhibits of stunning artwork and educational events for all ages.
  • Ping Tom Memorial Park - A pleasant green space that offers a river with kayak rental and some stunning Chinese artwork.
  • Chinese Lunar New Year celebration - A huge annual parade which includes floats, marching bands, costumed dancers, and a 100-foot dragon.

Visiting other cities in Illinois

Chinese travelers who are planning to spend up to a couple of weeks in Illinois are advised to rent a car and take a road trip outside of the city to discover some of the other attractions in the state, including:

  • Galena, a small town in northwest Illinois famous for its charming 19th-century architecture.
  • Springfield, the capital of Illinois, home to the iconic dome of the Illinois State Capitol building and the Lincoln Tomb.
  • One of the several incredible state parks in Illinois, such as Starved Rock State Park, Shawnee National Forest, or Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site.

Traveling to Chicago from China

In 2016, approximately 3 million People’s Republic of China passport holders entered the United States. Of these roughly 235,000 Chinese travelers visited Chicago and the state of Illinois, an increase of 41.5 percent from 2015.

Because of this increase in demand, the Illinois Office of Tourism opened 4 new offices in China in 2017.

The promotional push seems to have worked, as according to statistics regarding Chinese travelers in the US in 2018, approximately 2.1 percent of all international travelers arriving at airports in Chicago were from China.

Acting consul general of the Chinese Consulate General in Chicago, Jun Liu, has speculated about the reasons why an increasing number of travelers from China are choosing the city for a vacation.

He suggests that Chinese tourists are drawn to Chicago because, unlike cosmopolitan New York, the city “has authentic American culture”, and that many visitors from China are “impressed by the beauty, the landscaping, and the architecture”.

If you are planning a tourist trip to Chicago from the People’s Republic, don’t forget that it is necessary to obtain both an approved visa and submit an EVUS enrollment before you can visit the city.

Chinese Consulate in Chicago

Find below the details of the Chinese consulate in Chicago in case you need to contact the embassy for whatever reason during your trip to the city.

Consulate General of the People's Republic of China in Chicago

1 E Erie Street Chicago, Illinois 60611 Contact telephone: +1 (312) 803-0095

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