In a previous post here on the Getin2China blog, we looked at the joys of taking the high-speed rail to satisfy any travel urges during your internship in China. This post will look at flying in the Middle Kingdom – when it’s a good idea, when it isn’t and what you need to know.
Gi2C will place you on the mainland at either an internship in Beijing or an internship in Shanghai – the country’s two most globally connected cities. They’re also of course two of the most domestically connected cities as well. If you’ve got travel on your mind as an intern in China (in addition to kicking butt during your China internship program), Shanghai and Beijing are the best cities to base yourself.
Websites. The best English-language (and multi-language) website to check flights and prices is the user-friendly Ctrip. The site has regular promotions on flights and vacation packages to popular - and not so popular - destination in China. The site is also great for booking hotels and even high-speed train tickets.
Ctrip also has its own points rewards program, so if you plan on staying in China long term, signing up is recommended (don't worry, it's free). There's also an English hotline to call if you have any questions.
A similar site to Ctrip is elong.com which is a partner of Expedia.
If you read Chinese, qunar.com is a popular site used locally, in addition to Ctrip. International flights can also be found on both sites.
Tickets can be purchased online with a valid credit card. Alternately, head to a ticket office, or shoupiaochu - 售票处 - to buy tickets in person. Shoupiaochu's are plentiful in both Beijing and Shanghai - just keep an eye out for the three characters.
Getting to the airport. The easiest and fastest ways to get to the airport in Beijing is by the Airport Express Train or taxi - both of which are generally cheap. The Express Train is connected to the subway at the centrally located Dongzhimen station on Lines 2 and 13 and also stops at the Sanyuanqiao station on Line 10. For 25 yuan ($4.1, €3, £2.5), you'll reach the airport in roughly 25 minutes.
A cab to the airport should cost roughly 80 yuan. But be warned: Beijing's traffic is notoriously bad. Avoid taking a cab during the morning and evening rush hours, but expect heavy traffic at anytime, especially during holidays. The Express Train is a safe and cheaper bet.
The subway in Shanghai connects to the airport. Just give yourself plenty of time to get there, perhaps an hour or so of travel time.
Other notes. Although high-speed train tickets are a good bargain, don't expect the same for flights, especially for routes that aren't covered by the high-speed network. High-speed trains have brought down the price of plane tickets - and sometimes flying is cheaper than taking the train. Although plenty of things in China are cheap, flying isn't one of them. It isn't outrageously expensive to fly in China, but don't expect Ryanair prices.
Expect your flight to be delayed. According to a report by travel industry monitor FlightStats, a mere 18 percent of flights from Beijing departed on time - the lowest out of 35 airports worldwide. Shanghai came in at second worst with 29 percent of flights delayed.
Hopes are high that a new airport currently under construction in one of Beijing's southern suburbs will lead to less congestion and flight delays at the main airport.