China's Major Airports
Beijing Capital International Airport
In 2008, Beijing built Terminal 3 in preparation for the Olympic games. Most inbound and outbound international flights to Beijing arrive and depart from Terminal 3. 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 at 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 a little more than two hours ahead of your scheduled departure.
The airport 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 with the Airport Express train, which connects the airport with Dongzhimen (Lines 2 and 13) and Sanyuanqiao (Line 10) subway stations. The Airport Express operates from 6:30 am to 10:30 pm, and it costs 25 CNY. 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 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. However, depending on your arrival time, you may be able to catch a cab in 10 minutes, or you may wait in line for over two hours.
Long and tedious traffic jams are not uncommon in Beijing. This might make the cab ride expensive depending on how far you’re traveling. Our best advice is to book a driver and even a guide for pick-up and/or drop-off.
Shanghai Pudong International Airport
Shanghai Pudong International 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 431 km/h (268 mph), it is faster than France’s TGV.
Shanghai Hongqiao Airport
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 which Shanghai airport they're departing from when traveling inside China, as their flight might be scheduled to leave from Pudong Airport, and the two airports are quite far from each other.
Built in 1907 for military flights, Hongqiao Airport used to be Shanghai's most important airport until Pudong Airport took that spot. However, Hongqiao retains a “vintage” vibe, and it's relatively easy to navigate. What's more, it's only 13 kilometers (8 miles) from downtown Shanghai.
As with Beijing, you can 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 unofficial cabs available near the airport, but we strongly discourage using their services, as they often cheat newly arrived travelers. We suggest booking a private driver for faster and more convenient transportation.
Hong Kong International Airport
Also known as Chek Lap Kok Airport, Hong Kong International Airport (HKG) opened in 1998 to replace the centrally located Kai Tak Airport built in 1925, which was known for its famous landings between buildings and mountains.
Hong Kong International Airport is located on the island of Lantau, and planes fly over the sea before landing. It is one of Asia's major hubs and services most of the countries in the region. Several well-known airlines fly into this airport.
Hong Kong International Airport offers passengers excellent dining, shopping, and many other amenities.
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.
Xi'an Xianyang International Airport
Guilin Liangjiang International Airport
Guilin is one of the major gateways to Southern China, and Guilin Liangjiang International Airport (KWL) is well connected to 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 arrive at Guilin airport and go straight to Yangshuo, about an hour and a half away.
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 that started operations in 2000.
Hangzhou Xiaoshan International Airport was the site 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.