Most seasoned travelers will agree that traveling around China can be a bit different than what they’re used to. It isn’t always as easy and simple as it would be in most other places around the world. For those who regularly take to the skies to reach their desired location, most airports develop a familiar feeling to them. The languages being bounced about may differ. However, the check-in counters will still be in their place, the lines at security checkpoints will still be long, and your air hostess will still run through a few pre-flight safety reminders once you’re on board. China, on the other hand, can offer up a few differences you’re unlikely to face elsewhere. Knowing some useful air travel tips for China before your trip can save you time and hassle!
1. Check Your Luggage Weight Limit
Something most travelers always have high on their list. Seems simple enough, right? What many first-time travelers to China forget is that the luggage weight limit for domestic trips differs from that of the limits they had on their international flight. Domestic flights only allow 20 kgs (about 45 lbs) per person, whilst international flights usually allow 30 kgs (66 lbs) per person. One of the most useful air travel tips for China to remember, and a potentially costly detail to forget!
2. Expect Flight Delays – and Prepare for Them
A familiar pain for those accustomed to air travel, especially in China. If you’re planning on traveling by air, it’s best to expect delays on your trip. According to the latest figures, less than 60% of China’s domestic flights depart on time. Hangzhou airport only sees 42% of its flights depart on time, the second worst figure globally. Savvy travelers to China usually pack an extra set of clothes in their carry-on luggage, in case they are caught by delays that leave them in a hotel for an extra night. If the delay is expected to last a couple of hours, Business Class travelers can spend their time in the comfort of the high-standard airport lounges for first and business class passengers.
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3. Avoid Airline Food
In fairness, this is one of the air travel tips for China that could easily apply to many countries around the world. On the whole, airline food has improved drastically in China and across the world in recent years. However, it remains a smart choice to avoid it where you can. Most people have stories of themselves, friends, colleagues, or family members who have suffered at the hands of a suspect airline meal. If you’re traveling on business, the last thing you’ll want is to fall ill upon your arrival and jeopardize any business interests you have in China.
4. Be Prepared With Your Phone
As with every country, China prohibits the use of cell phones on board the aircraft. Until the flight is at cruising altitude, and even then, the device should be on “flight mode”. Once you land, however, it’s best to be prepared. Chinese airports are still fairly restrictive with wifi use. Not every airport has it, and those which do often require text verification codes to access their networks. Meaning, your number will have to be enabled to receive text messages in China, which could incur additional costs from your carrier. Another very important point to remember is that China heavily censors its internet traffic! Therefore, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Gmail, and many other of your go-to apps will need VPNs installed on your device to access. If you’re arriving in Shanghai, here is a guide on how to access the wifi at Shanghai’s airports.
5. Buying China Flight Tickets
Buying tickets for traveling around China can be tricky. Most travelers find their tickets online with international travel sites. While convenient, the prices offered on international sites and agencies will often differ from what you’re able to find on local Chinese travel sites. Expats residing in China and locals traveling frequently have learned that tickets are usually at their cheapest between 1 -2 months prior to departure.
All in all, travel in China is generally different from what you would expect. Flights rarely arrive on time, which could lead to your schedule spiraling out of control. If you require an airport transfer when arriving in China, ensure you’ve done your research ahead of time. Taxis are known to have a dismissive attitude towards tourists with whom they can’t communicate with; train schedules are not 24-hours in every city; and bus routes can be quite complicated. If your flight is delayed, arranging a car service to provide your airport transfer will save you the stress and hassle of trying to find last minute transportation. Safe travels!