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Travel to China

Enter China By Plane

While several major airlines fly to Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hong Kong, budget seats can prove hard to come by. For good offers, book as early as you can.

Particularly busy periods are usually when Chinese students are flying home for Summer, flying back to Universities around the world after Summer or around Chinese New Year (early February). Tickets at these times are often hard to get and/or more expensive.

If you live somewhere like Toronto or San Francisco with a large overseas Chinese community, check for cheap flights with someone in that community. Sometimes flights advertised only in the Chinese newspapers are significantly less.

Tiger Airways and Air Asia offer low-priced flights from Southeast Asia (Bangkok, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Manila) to various destinations in southern China, including Xiamen, Guangzhou, Haikou and Macau.

Oasis Airways is due to start flying in late October 2006, offering cheap no-frills flights between Hong Kong and Europe. Initial route will be Hong Kong to London with fares starting at $1000 HK ($125 US) one way, $6600 HK ($825 US) for business class. Flights to several other European cities plus Oakland and Chicago in the US are planned for later.

Many fliers prefer Asian airlines, which generally have more cabin staff and better service. Hong Kong based Cathay Pacific is an obvious possibility for flights to China. Others include Singapore Airlines, Japan Airlines, and Indonesia's Garuda.

Taiwan-based China Airlines does not fly to mainland China, but their Amsterdam-Bangkok-Taipei-Hong Kong route is sometimes cheaper than more direct flights and stopovers are possible.

Korean Air often have good prices on flights from various places in Asia, such as Bangkok via Seoul to North America. One person on a mailing list reported that taking a train to Southern China, cheap Macau-Bangkok flight, then Korean Air Bangkok-Seoul-LA was $200 cheaper than flying direct Shanghai-LA. Korean Air also fly to a dozen or so Chinese cities, including Shanghai, but we do not know if the big discounts are available there.

China's own airlines are growing rapidly (500 planes in 2000, 863 as of May 2006; they say 1580 by 2010 and 3200 by 2024) and working hard at becoming highly competitive in both service and pricing. They include China Southern, China Eastern, and Air China.

North American airlines: United Airlines, the dominant US carrier serving China, currently flies to Hong Kong, Beijing, and Shanghai from Chicago and San Francisco. Northwest Airlines and American Airlines also fly to China. Air Canada has flights from Toronto and Vancouver to Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong.

European airlines: Air France flies from Paris to Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai. British Airways goes to Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing. KLM fly direct Amsterdam-Chengdu, as well as to other Chinese cities. Finnish Airlines have a direct Helsinki-Guangzhou flight.

If you are coming into Hong Kong or Macau and then flying on to somewhere in mainland China, consider crossing the border to Shenzhen or Zhuhai and picking up a flight there. These are usually significantly cheaper.


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Enter China By Train

The Trans-Siberian railway originates in Moscow and terminates in Beijing, stopping in various other Russian cities, as well as Ulaan Baator, Mongolia.

From Almaty, Kazakhstan one can travel by rail to Urumqi in the northwestern province of Xinjiang. There are long waits at the border crossing for customs, as well as for changing the wheelbase for the next country's track.

Regular rail service links mainland China with Hong Kong.

There is also a train from Nanning in Guangxi province into Vietnam.

There are four weekly connections between the North Korean capital Pyongyang and Beijing.

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Enter China By Car

It is illegal for foreigners to drive in China without a Chinese license. International licenses are currently not recognised, and importing a foreign vehicle is nearly impossible. You may however rent a car with a driver.

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Enter China By Bus

From Vietnam

For most travellers Hanoi is the origin for any overland journey to China. There are at the moment 3 border gates open for foreigners:

  • Dong Dang (V) - Huu Nghi (C)
You can catch a local bus from Hanoi's eastern bus station (Ben Xe Gia Lam, Ben Xe St., Gia Lam District, Phone: 04/827-1529). That will take you to Lang Son, where you have to switch transport to minibus or motorbike to reach the border at Dong Dang. Alternatively there are many offers from Open-Tour-Providers. If you are in a hurry, they might be a good option for they take you directly from your hotel to the border gate.
You can change money with freelance-moneychangers, but check the rate carefully and beforehand.
Formalities take about 30 minutes. On the Chinese side, walk up past the "Friendship-gate" and catch a taxi (about ¥20, bargain hard!) to Pinxiang. A seat in a minibus is ¥5. There is a Bank of China branch right across the street from the main bus station. You can use maestro-cards on the ATM.
You can either travel by bus or train to Nanning
  • Lao Cai (V) - Hekou (C)
  • Mong Cai (V) - Dongxing (C)
At Dongxing, you can take a bus to Nanning, a sleeper bus to Guangzhou (approximately ¥180), or a sleeper bus to Shenzhen (approximately ¥230 and 12 hours).

From Laos

From Luang Namtha you can get a bus leaving at around 8 a.m. going to Boten (Chinese border) and Mengla. You need to have a Chinese visa beforehand as there is no way to get one on arrival. The border is close (about 1 hr). Customs procedures will eat up another good hour. The trip costs about 45k Kip.

Also, there is a direct Chinese sleeper bus connection from Vientiane to Kunming (about 32 hours). You can jump in this bus at the border, when the minibus from Luang Namtha and the sleeper meet. Don't pay more than ¥200, though.

From Pakistan

The Karakoram Highway from northern Pakistan into Western China is one of the most spectacular roads in the world. It's closed for tourists for a few months in winter.

From Nepal

The road from Nepal to Tibet passes near Mount Everest, and through amazing mountain scenery. Entering Tibet from Nepal is only possible for tourists on package tours.

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This article is based on information from an article on Wikitravel contributed by Anonymous and is distributed under the terms of Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 1.0

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