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In this article, we list 10 things you need to know about layovers in Beijing Capital International Airport (airport code PEK) that will ease many of your concerns and ensure you make the most of your Beijing stopover.
At present, China offers three types of TWOV (Transit Without Visa) policy suited to different passport holders, which will enable you to transit at Beijing Capital International Airport without a travel visa. You can either apply at the airport or apply for one in advance.
All you need are a valid passport, an airplane ticket that displays confirmed seats for your connecting flight, and a completed arrival/departure card, which can be filled out either at the airport or while you’re on the airplane. The policies are:
So, when does my Beijing visa-free transit period actually start? Your first visa-free hour starts at midnight on the day of your arrival. If you arrive at 5 am local time in Beijing, your visa-free time is activated at midnight on that day, which is 5 hours beforehand.
If you qualify for any of the visa-free policies, you can leave the airport during your transit hours. All you need to do is fill in a Temporary Entry Card at the immigration desk in the airport.
If you have a long layover and qualified for one of these visa-free policies, you can plan to leave the airport and explore the city of Beijing (a layover time of 8 hours is needed).
Take advantage of a visa-free policy and visit the magnificent Great Wall of China (a layover time of at least 10 hours is needed).
Step 1. Pass the health/quarantine check. In the rare event of a major international epidemic outbreak or during some special periods, you will be asked to file a health declaration form upon your entry/exit.
Step 2. Pass the immigration inspection. Prepare your passport, your visa (if required), and your departure/arrival card. Before you fly to China, print out the confirmation of your onward flight that takes you out of China.
Step 3. Submit an application to the immigration inspection authority to leave the restricted area. This is a small white and blue form called “Arrival Card for Temporary Entry Foreigners”.
Step 4. Claim your luggage. Most Air China airplanes will land at Terminal 3, and there is an APM train to take you from Zone E to Zone C to the baggage claim area.
Step 5. Pass through the China customs inspection and declare your goods. Your luggage has to pass a quarantine and customs inspection.If you have items to declare, please pass through the red lane and fill in the form; if not, just pass through the green lane. Learn more about what you can’t take into China oninternational flights.
Step 6. Exit the airport!
In this case, the procedures are similar except there is no need to fill out the temporary entry card. When you have completed the procedures, go straight to the restrictive zone to wait for your next flight.
You will find all sorts of facilities there designed for layover passengers, such as restrooms, charging points, café bars, a smoking room, and a Wi-Fi lounge, etc.
First, you need to know that the Great Wall of China is divided into different sections that are located some 70 kilometers north of Beijing city.
Some of them are closer to Beijing, such as the Great Wall at Badaling and the Great Wall at Mutianyu; others, such as the Simatai and Jinshanling sections, are wilder and less touristy although they are located further away.
The former sections take about 1½ hours to drive to from the airport while the latter sections take about 2 to 2½ hours to drive to.
Beijing Capital International Airport is located 32 kilometers (20 miles) northeast of Beijing's city center. It normally takes about 1 hour to get to the downtown area.
The most comfortable way to travel there is driving in a car rental and there is also an Airport Express operating to the downtown area.
Please note: If you are arriving at the weekend, during Chinese national holidays, or going into the city during the rush hours,the time to get there can be stretched even longer due to the bigger volume of traffic or traffic jams.
If you have a layover of more than 8 hours in Beijing, you have enough time to see the Great Wall.
As the capital city, Beijing has traffic problems like anywhere else in the world, and there is no efficient public bus service that goes to the Great Wall direct from Beijing airport.
Therefore, arrange a layover tour in advance with a private vehicle and an English-speaking guide to save time and any hassle. This is the best way to maximize your Beijing layover time and is quite affordable too.
Below is a simple suggested timeline for visiting the Great Wall during a 10-hour Beijing layover.If you only have 8 hours, the time spent on the Great Wall and for lunch can be shortened slightly to suit your flight schedule:
You can consider adding some city sights into your itinerary, such as the Forbidden City (2–3 hours), when you have a layover of 12 hours or more.
You can also add these optional choices according to your preferences and layover duration: walk through the hutongs to see the Drum and Bell towers (2 hours), visit the Lama Temple (1 hour), or go boating in Beihai Park to relax in the summer (1–2 hours).
Below is a simple suggested timeline for visiting the Great Wall and the Forbidden City during a 12-hour Beijing layover:
Contact us and we can always arrange for your tour guide to bring you a warm jacket and to pick you up at the airport if you want to do more traveling but are not wearing winter clothes. Learn more about Beijing weather.
In this case, going to the Great Wall becomes almost impossible due to taxi arrangements, bargaining, and the language barrier. We have listed a simple 11-hour Beijing layover city sightseeing timeline to help you get a basic idea of what you can do:
You can reduce the time by flagging down taxis both ways as you go to and from the Forbidden City. This will take 50 minutes each way and cost about 150 yuan ($22).
This is because the whole area, including Tian’anmen Square, is restricted for parking, so the taxis won’t stop unless you can locate the correct place to flag down a taxi from.
The first and last 2 hours will be spent dealing with customs and immigration, so you only actually have to kill about 4 hours.
Freshen up: Terminal 3’s E Gate has a few free showers that are tucked away in the shopping area. These facilities are convenient and free.
Get some sleep: T3 is recommended to stretch out for a short period of time as it is the most recently built terminal with a larger space and better facilities. You can also go to sleep in one of the capsules or head to the airport business lounges for some rest - an hourly rate is charged for these.
Activity rooms for kids are available if you are traveling with children. They are located at all the terminals and offer toys, games, and cartoons. Comfortable nursing rooms are provided for mothers and kids too.
Get Wi-Fi at the cafés and surf online.
You can sleep in Beijing airport in many ways. There are sleeping capsules and the airlines’ business lounges in T3, which are charged at an hourly rate, and hotels for all budgets near PEK for some proper rest.
You don’t have to fly first class to enjoy an airline lounge. Many of them are accessible to all travelers.
You can book a single-visit pass online in advance or become a member of some airlines to gain access to several lounges’ services - most of them will have shower facilities as well.
Some major airline brands in China, such as Air China, China Southern Airlines, and Hainan Airlines, have comfortable business or VIP lounges located in PEK.
Recommended hotels near PEK:
You can choose the time we pick you up/see you off at the airport and your preferred destination, whether it’s the stunning Great Wall or the magnificent Forbidden City. Discover Beijing your way!
Our most popular suggested itineraries:
We provide a tailor-made tour to suit your flight schedules to present you with a worry-free and unforgettable Beijing layover experience.