China's Major Airports
Beijing Capital International Airport
In 2008, Beijing built Terminal 3 in conjunction with the Olympic games. Most inbound and outbound international flights to Beijing arrive and depart from Terminal 3. The Terminal 3 has restaurants both before and after the security checkpoints. There are also a Terminal 1 and 2 for domestic flights.
You should arrive to the airport at least two hours before an international flight. Note that the lines for immigration and security can be long at peak travel times and around national holidays such as Chinese New Year, so it’s best to show up at the airport slightly over two hours ahead your scheduled departure.
The airport provides free WiFi for the passengers. All you need to do is get a login and password from a vending machine or information desk (they will scan your passport).
You can easily travel between downtown Beijing and the Airport with the Beijing Airport Express Train, which connects the Capital Airport with the city's subway stations Dongzhimen (Lines 2 and 13) and Sanyuanqiao (Line 10). The Beijing Airport Express operates from 6.30 am to 10.30 pm, and it's 25 yuan. The major advantage of the Airport Express is that it avoids the traffic jams which are common on Beijing's main airport highway.
If you're carrying too much luggage, you may want to get a cab instead. The Beijing Capital Airport has English signs to guide passengers, and you will find the floor level where you can get in line to board a cab. However, depending on your arrival time you may be able to catch a cab in 10 minutes, or wait in line for over two hours.
Long and tedious traffic jams are not unheard or uncommon in Beijing. This might make the cab ride expensive depending on how far you’re traveling in the city. Our best advice is to book a driver, and even a guide for pick-up or drop-off.
Shanghai Pudong International Airport
Pudong Airport (PGV) opened in 1999, making it the newer of Shanghai’s two commercial airports, and handles international flights. Pudong International Airport is located 30 kilometers east of the city center, and can be accessed by cab, subway or the Maglev train.
The Pudong Airport has all of the amenities a passenger needs to kill time while waiting for their flight.
The Maglev train is an experience on 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 431km/h (268 mph) is faster than France’s TGV.
Shanghai Hongqiao Airport
The Shanghai Hongqiao airport (SHA) services flights to Japan, Korea and Taiwan, but mainly operates domestic flights within China. It's important for foreign travelers to check from which Shanghainese airport they're departing from when traveling inside China, as their flight might be scheduled to leave from Hongqiao Airport, and both airports are located far from each other.
Built in 1907 for military flights, the Hongqiao Airport used to be Shanghai's most important airport until the Pudong Airport took that spot. However, Hongqiao retains its old airport vibe, given that it wasn't until 1923 when civilians were able to use it, and it's easy to navigate. What's more, it's only 13 kilometers (8 miles) from downtown Shanghai.
As with Beijing, you may take the subway or a taxi from Hongqiao to the city. And just like in Beijing, the waiting times for cabs are hard to predict. There might be lots of "black cabs" available near the airport, we strongly discourage using their services, as they can easily cheat newly arrived travelers. Book a driver for faster and more convenient transportation.
Hong Kong International Airport
Also known as Chek Lap Kok Airport, the Hong Kong International Airport (HKG) opened in 1998 to replace the centrally located Kai Tak Airport built in 1925, known for its famous and breathtaking landings flying over buildings and between mountains.
The Hong Kong International Airport is located on the island of Lantau, and planes fly above the sea before landing. It is also one of Asia's major flying hubs and services most of the countries in the region. Several renowned airlines fly into this airport.
Hong Kong International Airport offers passengers excellent dining, shopping and many other fine experiences.
One of the best features of the airport is it's 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.
Xi'an Xianyang International Airport
Opened in 1991 the Xi'an Xianyang International Airport (XIY) is favored by travelers seeking to visit the famous Terracotta Warriors.
Guilin Liangjiang International Airport
Guilin is one of the major gateways to Southern China, and Guilin Liangjiang International Airport (KWL) is well connected with several major Chinese cities. Although it's not as huge as its Pekinese and Shanghainese counterparts, the Guilin Liangjiang International Airport is modern and well equipped.
Many visitors will arrive at Guilin airport and go straight to Yangshuo, about one and half hours away, without visiting Guilin.
Hangzhou Xiaoshan International Airport
Hangzhou Xiaoshan International Airport (HGH) is located 27 kilometers (16 miles) east of downtown Hangzhou. It is a new and modern airport started operating in 2000.
The Hangzhou Xiaoshan International Airport (HGH) was the scenario of a curious incident back in July 2010 when an alleged UFO sighting led to the airport temporary closure. Unfortunately the aliens did not take a tour with The China Guide. If they had perhaps they would have stayed longer.