Navigating Air Travel in China – Be Careful

by Jason Luong

Navigating Air Travel in China – Be Careful

By Thomas.fanghaenel (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons

Besides taking a high speed train, the next most comfortable and convenient way to travel across China is to take a plane. Buses are extremely dirty, crowded, and uncomfortable. It gets worst when you have migrant workers sitting next to you who obviously haven’t showered in over a week. Booking a car is not economical for far away destinations. So just book a flight.

Book with Ctrip

If you don’t want to get ripped off, never buy your domestic plane tickets in China from Expedia, Orbitz, or any of those international travel sites. Instead, buy them from Ctrip – China’s leading travel website. Ctrip offers significant savings. For example, a flight from Guangzhou to Shanghai could cost over $200.00 on Expedia. On Ctrip, it might cost only $120.00. It’s the same exact flight. And yes, they take international credit cards. You can pay in U.S. dollars. And they only charge a three percent transaction fee for using a foreign credit card.

If you live in a major city that has direct train connections to the airport, then just use the train or subway. If your city doesn’t have that, many hotels offer shuttle services to the airport. Ask around and you’re bound to find one. It’s not always cheap to book a private car and driver to the airport. Taking a taxi is not recommended because if you don’t know where you’re going or don’t speak Chinese, they’ll charge you whatever they want.

Get to the airport early at least one hour before your flight’s departure time. Usually, if you arrive after 40 minutes before departure, you won’t be able to check in any baggage.

Using domestic air terminals

Ask for directions if you get lost. Domestic terminals are very well managed and even at very large airports like Guangzhou or Pudong, you won’t have nearly the same amount of hassle getting through security as you would if you were at LAX or some other airport in the U.S. Seeing the difference in efficiency makes you wonder about things sometimes. China’s such a huge country with five times the U.S. population, yet its airports and terminals are so well managed. It’s nothing like what you’ll experience in the States.

Throw away your cigarette lighter or matches before you go through security. If you don’t, they’ll take them from you anyway.

When arriving at your destination, look for shuttle buses outside the airport to take you to the city or whatever district you’re headed to. Avoid touts. Those guys are driving unregistered cars. You can be taken to some remote part of town and robbed. This happens more often than you think.

If traveling to far away, unfamiliar locations, it might be best to have the hotel pick you up from the airport. It’s safer than going at it alone, especially if you don’t speak Chinese.

Traveling throughout China will let you see what a difference each province makes. The people, culture, food, language—everything is so vastly different. It’s surprising everything is even lumped into one big country.

This place is amazing. See as much as you can while you’re young. You won’t want to when you’re old. I won’t need to explain why. You’ll know what I mean after being here for a while.

Jason Luong is an EFL teacher and author of Teaching English in China – How to Negotiate the Best Package, Salary, and Avoid Getting Screwed.


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