the china guide blog

Major International Airports in China

Last updated on 2020-05-08

Being a large country, China has many international airports with flights to/from most countries in the world. Depending on the country and city you live in, as well as the cities you plan to visit in China, different international routes to/from China may apply. Below is a general introduction to the major international airports in China, meant to serve as a reference for those who are planning a trip to China.

Beijing Capital International Airport

Beijing Capital International Airport terminal 3

Located 25 km northeast from the center of Beijing, the capital of China, Beijing Capital International Airport (IATA: PEK; ICAO: ZBAA) is the busiest airport in China both domestically and internationally. Compared to other international airports in China, Beijing Capital International Airport has the largest number of international routes, especially to/from North America and Europe. It is also a main hub for domestic routes and has direct lines to/from all major cities in China. Beijing Capital International Airport is definitely the number-one airport for international travelers traveling to/from China.

Beijing Capital International Airport has three terminals: T1, T2, and T3. There are free shuttle buses commuting between the terminals. The airport facilities are modern with plenty of places to dine and shop while waiting for your flight. The airport also provides free WiFi for passengers. To access the WiFi, you will need to acquire the login information and password from a vending machine or information desk by scanning your passport.

You can easily travel between downtown Beijing and the airport via the Airport Express train. The Airport Express operates from 6:30 am to 10:30 pm, takes about 30 minutes one-way, and costs 25 CNY per person. The major advantage of the Airport Express is that it allows you to avoid any potential traffic jams on the main highway to/from the airport.

If you're carrying a lot of luggage, you may want to get a cab instead. Beijing Capital International Airport has English signs to guide passengers, and you will easily find the ground floor where you can get in line to board a cab. Depending on your arrival time, you may be able to catch a cab in 5 minutes, or you may have to wait in line for over an hour.

Long and tedious traffic jams are not uncommon in Beijing. This might make the cab ride expensive depending on how far you’re traveling. It would be best to book a driver for pick-up and/or drop-off in advance. Be sure to allow enough time for the drive to the airport, especially during rush hour.

Beijing Daxing International Airport

Located 46 km (29 mi) south of the centre of Beijing, Beijing Daxing International Airport (IATA: PKX) is the second global gateway in Beijing. Being the newest major international airport in China, it boasts modern facilities and many latest technologies.

Despite its mega size, Beijing Daxing International Airport features a single terminal. Thanks to the compact design resembling a giant hexagonal starfish, the farthest boarding gate is no more than 600 meters (650 yards) and can be accessed in a walking time of less than 8 minutes from the terminal’s main central court where all passenger services and amenities are located. International travelers arrive at floor 1 and depart from floor 4.

The airport is an integrated transportation hub with high-speed rail and downtown-to-airport express trains stopping right beneath the terminal, as well as a highway connecting downtown Beijing. The airport express trains, traveling at a top speed of 160 kilometers an hour (100 mph), can take passengers to the terminal in less than 20 minutes from Caoqiao station which also serves as the City Terminal where passengers can check in. Be aware that Caoqiao station is about 10 km away from the center of Beijing.

Shanghai Pudong International Airport

Shanghai Pudong International Airport

Located in Pudong New Area, about 30 km to the east of the center of Shanghai, Shanghai Pudong International Airport (IATA: PVG; ICAO: ZSPD) is the second busiest airport in China. The airport has the second largest number of international routes in China and offers many flights to/from North America and Europe. Being one of the three main air hubs in China, Shanghai Pudong International Airport has direct routes to/from almost all major cities in China.

Shanghai Pudong International Airport has two terminals: T1 and T2. The airport can be accessed by cab, subway, or the Maglev train from downtown. The Maglev train is an experience in its own right, as it is the first commercially operated high-speed magnetic levitation line in the world. The Maglev train was constructed between 2001 and 2004, and it’s the world’s fastest train in regular commercial service. Traveling at 431 km/h (268 mph), it is faster than France’s TGV.

Pudong airport provides free WiFi for passengers. You can acquire the login information and password from a vending machine or information desk by scanning your passport.

Hong Kong International Airport

Hong Kong International Airport

Located on the island of Lantau, Hong Kong International Airport (IATA: HKG; ICAO: VHHH) is one of Asia's major transportation hubs and services most of the countries in the region.

Being adjacent to mainland China, Hong Kong International Airport has flights to/from many cities throughout China. In addition, it is possible to travel from Hong Kong to Guangzhou by bullet train in just one hour, and from Hong Kong to Guilin (one of China’s top tourist destinations) in about 3.5 hours. All of this makes Hong Kong a convenient gateway for destinations in mainland China.

One of the best features of the airport is its in-town check-in counters located in the Airport Express train terminal. You can drop off your bags and get your boarding pass at Hong Kong Central station or Kowloon station. This way you can check in hours in advance and have more time to tour, shop, or have a meal before heading to the airport. The service connects with the rest of the Hong Kong subway, bus, and taxi systems.

Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport

Located about 30 km to the south of Guangzhou city center, Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport (IATA: CAN; ICAO: ZGGG) is one of the three major international airports in mainland China. Compared to Beijing Capital and Shanghai Pudong International Airports, Baiyun Airport has fewer international flights to/from North America and Europe, but offers a larger number of flights to/from Australia and New Zealand. Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport is also a major hub for domestic flights, so travelers can fly to other Chinese cities conveniently from this airport.

Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport has two terminals: T1 and T2. There are subways and airport express lines connecting the airport to downtown Guangzhou.

Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport

Located in Chengdu city in Sichuan province, Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport is the busiest aviation hub in midwest China. In addition, Shuangliu airport is the biggest transit gateway to Gonggar Airport in Lhasa.

Although Shuangliu Airport has fewer international routes than Beijing Capital, Shanghai Pudong, and Guangzhou Baiyun International Airports, Chengdu is geographically closer to Europe, making it a good gateway for European travelers whose China trip includes a visit to Chengdu, Tibet, or other areas near Chengdu.

Kunming Changshui International Airport

Located in Kunming, an important center in southwest China, Kunming Changshui International Airport (IATA: KMG; ICAO: ZPPP) operates routes to/from many countries in Southeast Asia and South Asia. Travelers who want to visit other countries in South or Southeast Asia before or after visiting China can choose Changshui Airport as their arrival or departure point in China, and tour Yunnan as their first or final travel destination in China. ■

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