Transportation in China

by Cristina  

Beijing links China to cities from all over the world, hence Beijing’s airport is the most crowded in the country (and also the busiest in Asia and second busiest in the world). Once in China, travelers can choose between domestic flights, train travel or bus travel. Long distances in China can be easily tackled either by flying or by taking the high speed trains. Within the cities, the options are often metro lines (in large cities) as well as bus lines.

Arriving and Departing China

There are three main international gateways to mainland China: Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. For flying into the islands, Hong Kong’s airport is the one used but Macau’s airport is slowly and steadily adding more affordable flights.

Arriving and Departing Beijing

The most important airport serving China and its capital, Beijing, is Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK). The large airport handles flights from all over the world and is linked to the city center by buses , as well as train and metro.

>>book a flight to Beijing

Arriving and Departing Shanghai

Most international flights arrive and depart from Pudong International Airport (PVG). It is the main hub for China Eastern Airlines and Shanghai Airlines. Most domestic flights arrive and depart from Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport (SHA).

The two airports are linked by a metro line, so getting between them is fast and easy.

>>book a flight to Shanghai

Arriving and Departing Guangzhou

Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport (CAN) is a major hub in Southern China , competing only with Hong Kong for flights and passengers. It is base for China Southern Airlines and handles flights from all over the world. The airport is connected to the city center by a metro line.

Arriving and Departing Macau

You can fly directly into Macau using the Macau International Airport (MFM). It only handles domestic flight and flight from Asia , so the alternative would be to fly into Hong Kong’s airport and then catch a ferry to Macau.

>>book a flight to Macau

Getting Around China

China is a large country so getting around it means you’ll have to use some sort of method of transportation. You need to figure out how to get from the airport to the hotel, from the hotel to the attraction and also from one city to another.

From the Airport to the City Center

In Guangzhou, use Metro Line 3 which connects the airport to the city center between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. Airport Express bus is another option but it’s not as reliable as the metro.

In Beijing, take the Airport Express train to connect to the metro lines in the city. The airport shuttle is a cheaper option, while the taxicab will be the most expensive choice.

In Shanghai, take metro line 2 from the Pudong airport to the city center or the bus (90 minutes). From Hongqiao take metro line 2 or the Hongqiao Airport Special Line bus. Both airports are also serviced by taxis.

From One City to Another

Driving in China

You cannot drive in China even if you have an international driving license so you need a Chinese driving license. However, you can get a provisional driving license when you visit large cities. It’s best to rent a car with a driver , should you plan to get around the country in a car. That’s because the local drivers tend to be…quite crazy.

Bus Travel in China

It is the cheapest way to get around but the travel distances are long and the ride is not always pleasant. Still, luxury coaches might be a good option.

Train Travel in China

With the development of high speed trains in China, getting between large cities is a pleasure. Most of the country is served by trains and they are the best way to get around especially for long distances.

Flying in China

All larger cities in China are served by airports and there are plenty of domestic flights available. Some routes are really busy so make sure to book the ticket in advance.

>>read more about Airports in China

Ferries in China

There are regular ferries between Hong Kong, Macau and the mainland. Also, you can get to China by ferries from Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand.

Public Transportation, Walking and Biking in the Cities

The best way to get around Beijing is by metro. It is clearly marked in English , is clean, modern and fast. Trains run between 5 a.m. and 10:30 p.m. The bus system is cheaper and covers the entire city but it’s difficult to use if you don’t speak Chinese.

You can also use a bike to get around Beijing as the bike lanes are clearly marked and the city is easily negotiated (it’s really flat).

In Shanghai, the first option is also the metro (there are 12 lines open and another 7 under construction). It’s fast and easy to use. The buses are cheaper, cover the entire city and operate when the metro stops (overnight) but the signs are only in Chinese, making it hard for foreigners to use it.

The older parts of Shanghai can be easily negotiated on foot. However, pay attention to traffic when crossing the streets and use the underpasses where available. Bicycles are a good option, too, but be aware that you are not allowed to ride on one major roads or in tunnels. E-bikes and scooters are better options , though, and neither require a driving license.

Photo credits: bikes in Shanghai ; train in Beijing ; airport in Shanghai

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