I fly to Beijing at the start of May. But the 3 1/2 months prior to this flight will be spent in South America/Los Angeles.
From what I've read I don't believe it's possible to get a visa this far in advance prior to travelling.
Has anyone else had any experience of trying to get a Chinese visa outside of their home country, e.g. LA or Peru?
As far as I know it it relatively straight forward to get a visa at any Chinese consulate. Fill in form, drop form, passport and fee, maybe photos(I cant remember) at the consulate, wait a few days.....
It may be of interest to u to read about Howies experience in the following thread. Start at post 12.
You can get a Chinese Visa from most countries at any Chinese consulate or travel agents, you will only be issued with a 30 days visa but you can apply for it 90 days before you enter the country, in effect it's a 90 day visa valid from the date you complete the application form, once you enter the country your visa will be valid from the date you enter or 30 days. (I have confused myself now but I'm sure you understand).
The type of visa you want is "L".
Your visa should be issued to you within 3-5 days of the application but you can fast track it and get one within 24 hours (I did from Thailand).
When asked on the application form try to list standard tourist destinations such as BeiJing, Chengde etc...
If you are toying with the idea of goint to Tibet or XinJiang just leave it off the for as it may raise eyebrows!
A Chinese Visa covers almost the whole of China although some restricted areas still exist which will require an additional permit from the PSB. In addition to the Chinese visa permits are also requires to travel into Tibet.
Hope the above helps?
My experience with this was in South Korea, not South America...but it was my experience with the Chinese consulate in Seoul that they were extremely unhelpful and difficult to deal with, and I ended up having to go through a company that specializes in getting visas for travelers. It ended up only costing me an additional USD $20, a fee which might be less in SA, and might not... Anyhow, it would be something you might consider.
I have spent a lot of time in Chinese consulates and embassies and never had a problem. There is a consulate in LA and here is their website