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China's Major Airports

Beijing International Capital Airport

Beijing's new Terminal 3 airport was built in conjunction with the 2008 Olympic games. Most of the international flights in and out of Beijing go through Terminal 3. Be aware there is also a Terminal 1 and Terminal 2. They are much smaller and in some ways very convenient. Terminal 3 has rows of restaurants upstairs before you go through immigration. Burger King is particularly popular with foreigners. There are also some restaurants on the other side of security in Terminal 3, most notable a Pizza Hut.

You normally need to arrive at the airport 2 hours before an international flight. The lines can be long. If you can do internet check-in this is an advantage on some airlines, you may be able to get in a shorter line. We normally pack a picnic to take on the international flights as our kids are hungry at odd times and the food is never that good. You can take food through security as long as it does not contain liquids. You can buy bottled water on the departure side, there are some vending machines which are quite cheap. But if you are flying to the USA they won't let you on the plane with liquids, even if you bought them after security. There is a second security check at the gate for USA flights. Suggest you take an empty bottle on the plane, then fill it up on board.

There is free internet available at the airport, but you must get a login and password from a vending machine or information desk. They will scan your passport.

Beijing Airport Express Train

The Airport Express train service in Beijing opened in July 2008 in conjunction with the Olympic games and the opening of Terminal 3. It connects to the subway at Dongzhimen and Sanyuanqiao stations. It is convenient if you do not have a lot of luggage. If you do have a lot of luggage, you might prefer to book a car or take a taxi, as the distance between interchanges in the subway is far. Its one major advantage is it avoids traffic jams which are common on Beijing's airport highway. The train operates from about 6:30am to 10:30pm. When it is closed in the evening the line for taxis often gets quite long. For this reason it may be advisable to book a driver and guide to pick you up, it is not uncommon to wait 1 - 2 hours in line for a taxi.

Shanghai Pudong International Airport

The Pudong Airport (PGV) is the newer of Shanghai's two commercial airports and handles international flights from overseas. The other airport in Shanghai is the Hongqiao Domestic Airport which is used for internal China flights. The Pudong International Airport is located 19 miles (30 km) east of the center of Shanghai. It can be reached by road, subway and Maglev train. The Maglev train is quite interesting, being the fastest commercial train in the world.

The airport has reasonably good restaurants, cafes and shops on the inside of security. You can also buy bottled drinks easily enough.

When you are flying out of Shanghai confirm which airport and terminal number you are departing from so you get to the right place. Some domestic flights do go through Pudong, but most go through the Hongqiao domestic airport.

Shanghai Pudong Maglev Airport Express Train

The Shanghai Maglev Train is a magnetic levitation train that and is the first commercially operated high-speed magnetic levitation line in the world. The train line connects Shanghai Pudong International Airport to the Shanghai city center.

It was constructed between 2001 and 2004. The top operational speed is 431 km/h (268 mph), making it the world's fastest train in regular commercial services. It is faster than TGV in France and also faster than the latest CRH conventional wheel train in China at 350 km/h (217 mph). During a non-commercial test run on 12 November 2003, the maglev train achieved a Chinese record speed of 501 km/h (311 mph). The top operational speed of 431 km/h (268 mph) is faster than the top speed of any Formula One car and MotoGp prototype.

Shanghai Hongqiao Airport

The Shanghai Hongqiao airport (SHA) is considered an international airport since it does have flights to Japan, Korea and Taiwan but mainly operates domestic flights with China. It was Shanghai's major airport until the Pudong airport opened in 1999. Much smaller and older then Pudong, it is easy to navigate and is closer to the city center being 8 miles (13km) from downtown Shanghai. It is quite far away from the Pudong airport. From the Hongqiao airport it is possible to take the subway or a taxi to the city. There is a queue for metered taxis, do not get involved with a private driver, you are certain to be cheated. If you are on a tour we recommend you have your guide and driver pick you up.

The Hongqiao airport originally opened in 1907 for military flights, and came into use for civilians in 1923. It was occupied by the Japanese air force during World War II. The runways and terminals received an upgrade before the world expo in Shanghai in 2010.

Hong Kong International Airport

Hong Kong International Airport (HKG) is also known as Chek Lap Kok Airport. Opened in 1998 it replaced Kai Tak airport (originally built in 1925), which was located much more centrally and was famous for its landings over buildings and in between mountains. The new airport is farther out on the island of Lantau and borders the ocean, giving planes much more room to maneuver. The Hong Kong International Airport is one of Asia's major hubs with services to most countries in the region. It is a hub for several major airlines. A modern and well run airport, you can find all kinds of facilities there, internet, good dining and shopping. The airport is the world's busiest air cargo terminal.

Hong Kong Airport Express Train

Take advantage of the in-city check-in counters which work in conjunction with Hong Kong's Airport Express train. You can leave you bags and get your boarding pass in the city at Hong Kong Central station or Kowloon station. This way you can check in hours in advance, get rid of your bags and have more time to tour, shop or have a meal before heading to the airport. The system connects with the rest of the Hong Kong subway, bus and taxi system.

Xi'an Xianyang International Airport

Xi'an Xianyang International Airport (XIY) is the hub through which visitors to the Terracotta Warriors will fly. It was opened in 1991.

If traveling between Beijing and Xi'an then another good option to flying is the overnight train, which runs on schedule, is cheaper and saves on a night of accommodation. It leaves in the evening after dinner and arrives in the morning before breakfast.

Guilin Liangjiang International Airport

Guilin is the gateway to a popular tourist area in the south of China. It is also the landing place for visits to Yangshuo. Many visitors will arrive at Guilin airport (KWL) and go straight to Yangshuo, about 1 1/2 hours away, without visiting Guilin. Guilin airport is not huge but is modern and well equipped. Tourists commonly fly to Guilin from Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai and Xi'an which all have direct services. The Guilin airport was used by the United States military from 1942 to 1945 attacking Japanese targets and supporting Chinese troops.

Hangzhou Xiaoshan International Airport

The Hangzhou Xiaoshan International Airport (HGH) is 16 miles (27 km) east of downtown Hangzhou. It is a new and modern airport, put into operation in the year 2000. Famously there is speculation of a UFO arriving at the airport on July 9, 2010 which shut down the airport for some hours and garnered international attention. Unfortunately the aliens did not take a tour with The China Guide. If they had perhaps they would have stayed longer.


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