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Understanding Air Travel in China - Domestic China Flights

Flying is the most convenient means of domestic transportation in China, though it is also the most expensive. For tourists who are only in town for a few days, it's worth it to pay a little more and spend more time seeing the sights that matter.

We've got some helpful tips on flying domestic in China that could save you precious time and energy. More time for you to enjoy the attractions of your destination is what we are all about.

Flying International to China?

Learn tips on how to navigate international flights through China.

5 Tips to Know Before You Fly

Flying domestic in China can be a stressful experience if you don't know what you're doing. Most travelers enjoy the fast paced travel of the common domestic flights as opposed to the slower option in bullet trains. While China's bullet train system may be the right fit for certain trips, let's focus on the efficient domestic flight options. Follow our tips to streamline the experience.

1. Plan For Crowds

Arriving early and avoiding national holidays is the best tip to ensure you make your flight on time. The Chinese habit of never forming lines can make airports a stressful place to navigate for foreigners. Give yourself plenty of extra time to avoid any mishaps.

2. Know The Restrictions

Be sure to examine the flight restrictions online to ensure you bring only what's allowed to the airport. Lighters, liquids, pets, and even some technological devices are banned on flights in China. Check with your airline to make sure all your goods are in compliance with the rules.

3. Have A VPN (or other way to contact someone for assistance)

Internet access to popular Western sites is limited in China. If you're worried about letting loved ones know you made your flight, make sure to have a VPN installed on your devices to access the Internet.

4. Be Aware of Cultural Differences

Understand that you are a visitor and expect things to be a little different. From a rice and fish style in-flight meal to the personal space you can expect from your in-flight neighbor, things are sure to vary from what you're used to. Be ready for the adventure.

5. Avoid Poor Weather

Airlines in China are much more likely to ground flights due to weather than airlines in America. Don't be surprised if a rainstorm throws off your flight plans. Traveling is all about flexibility and it's better to be safe than sorry. You can avoid any unnecessary delays by choosing clear weather days for all your flights in China.

The Ups and Downs of Flying in China

Air TravelMake navigating the airport in China easier with these tips.

Let's explore the merits and the drawbacks to flying domestically in China.


  • Less time spent getting to your next destination, which gives you more time to explore.
  • Similar in-flight experience to what you are used to at home. Airlines are standard and many offer English guidance on board.
  • In flight meals reflect the culture. Flying can give you a unique insight into travel in China for locals.
  • Bird's eye views of China's best cities. When flying into Hong Kong and Beijing, you're sure to be greeted with a unique view for your scrapbook.
  • Plenty of room for your luggage. Chinese airlines have similar guidelines when it comes to carry on items and checked luggage. Keep your items safe in cargo as you zip around the country.


  • Too much air time. After a long international flight, some travelers find it exhausting to spend more time in flight than necessary and prefer taking high speed trains to navigate domestic China.
  • The high cost of air travel. Plane tickets can add up quickly when traveling in China. It's generally always cheaper (yet slower) to travel by train.
  • Crowds can be excessive at Chinese airports. Especially during national holidays and events, crowds in airports and on airplanes can be especially jarring for visitors. It's best to avoid these seasons and plan to arrive early to beat the crowds.
  • Flying means you miss out on seeing more of China's unique landscape. For such a great height, you'll miss the farmland, villages, and small towns you'd pass through via train.
  • Restrictions mean your luggage is limited. Liquids and other restricted items can't be taken in the cabin of flights. This means you'll have to throw out your mouthwash, medicine, and other items if you plan to fly.

Flight Examples To Help You Plan

Chinese AirportChinese Airport

Shanghai Hongqiao Airport to Beijing Airport: 2 hours and 15 minutes / $170

Beijing Airport to Hong Kong Airport: 3 hours and 40 minutes / $190

Hong Kong Airport to Shanghai Pudong Airport: 2 hours and 35 minutes / $150

Shanghai Hongqiao Airportto Chengdu Shuangliu Airport: 3 hours and 20 minutes / $350

Helpful Check-in Tips for Your Domestic Flight

Airport Check inCheck in early to beat the crowds.

1. Get to the airport ahead of time

Please get to the airport at least one hour before your flight departs, and 2 hours for international flights.

In Shanghai, and many other Chinese cities, there are 2 airports, namely Hongqiao and Pudong International. Please make sure you are arriving at the right airport and terminal to make your flight on time.

2. Get to the counter for boarding pass and luggage check-in

The electronic message board will indicate at which counter you are supposed to check in. Find the counter, and present your passport.

After checking, the clerk will give you the boarding pass, which shows your name, flight number, departure place, destination, seat number, boarding gate and time. At the same time, you can have your luggage checked in.

3. Go through security check

The screening line will be long during peak seasons. DO NOT accept any items from strangers. Keep your belongings close to you all the times.

4. Wait for boarding

Your boarding pass shows at which gate you are going to board, and you will easily find the corresponding waiting hall, which is indicated on the electronic message board. Now you can have a rest at the waiting hall.

Please pay close attention to the broadcast for your flight. Most airports will read out boarding calls over the audio speaker in Chinese only. Keep your eyes on the board to make sure you don't miss any details.

5. Board the flight

After hearing the boarding announcement, go to the boarding gate. The attendant will wait at the boarding gate to check your boarding pass. Now you can board the flight.

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