When you plan to travel to a country the size of China, there aren’t many excuses for avoiding a flight. Sure, you can arrive by train , bus or ferry from neighboring countries but chances are you’ll fly here. And when it comes to traveling within the country, if you need to cover a lot of ground on a limited vacation time, you’ll have to fly.
Thankfully, every sizable city in China is serviced by an airport but the flights are generally domestic. Some airports also receive flights from South Korea, Japan or Southeast Asia.
Bejing is served by two airports, but the most important one — and the one handling international flights — is Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK). The airport underwent a massive expansion for the 2008 Olympic Games and now has 3 terminals. It is hub for Air China, China Southern Airlines and Hainan Airlines. Handling traffic to/from all over the world, it is the busiest airport in Asia in terms of passenger. To get to the city center, take either the Airport Express train — which offers connections to the metro lines- or the airport shuttle.
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Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport (CAN) is a major hub in Southern China and is base for China Southern Airlines. It is also hub for Shenzhen Airlines. The airport handles flights to/from all over the world. It is China’s second busiest airport. Located 28 km from the city center, it is connected to it by metro and buses.
Shanghai is also served by two airports. Pudong International Airport (PVG) is the main airport serving the city and is located 40 km from the city center. It has two huge terminals, connected by a shuttle bus and conveyor belts. The airport is hub for Air China, China Eastern Airlines, Juneyao Airlines, Shanghai Airlines and Spring Airlines. It handles flights to/from all over the world.
For domestic flights, you’ll most likely use Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport (SHA). It does handle some limited international traffic, too. The airport is located just 13 km from the city center and is hub for China Eastern Airlines, Juneyao Airlines, Shanghai Airlines and Spring Air.
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Hong Kong International Airport (HKG) is a major gateway for mainland China and also a good option for traveling to Macau. It is hub for Air Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific, Dragonair, Evergreen International Airlines, Hong Kong Airlines and Hong Kong Express Airways. The airport handles flights to/from all over the world. The Airport Express train is the quickest way to get to the city center but you can also catch the bus. Do remember that flying from Hong Kong to mainland China is considered an international flight.
Shenzhen Airport (SZX) is a good alternative to Hong Kong’s airport (hence avoiding the higher fares which come with international flights). It is hub for Shenzhen Airlines and handles domestic flights as well as flights to/from Asia. For flying to/from Europe or North America, you still have to either come via Hong Kong or connect through other Asian airport.
Other important airports in China are: Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport (CTU), serving the city of Chengdu; Kunming Wujiaba International Airport (KMG), serving the city of Kunming ; Xi’an Xianyang International Airport (XIY), serving Xi’an ; Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport (CKG) , serving Chongqing and Hangzhou Xiaoshan International Airport (HGH), serving Hangzhou.