Arriving by air

Beijing Capital Airport is a large, modern, busy airport.  It was recently upgraded and extended to meet the needs of the 2008 Olympic Games held in Beijing. It is English friendly and you will see English signage and hear announcements in Mandarin as well as English.

Check out this link for the Beijing Capital Airport:  http://en.bcia.com.cn/

Transit At Beijing

Many travellers use Beijing for a connecting flight.  Beijing is one of the least efficient, time-consuming, rude and painful experiences a traveler might have for a connecting flight.

If you have a limited transit time, immediately contact the staff and hope that they will make a special accommodation for you.  But don't be surprised if they won't as this would be unusual and they aren't known for customer service. It can't hurt to try.

It usually takes 90 minutes or more to get thorugh customs and "re-checking security".  Plan on a minimum of 2 hours.  A combination of understaffing and poor design help ensure that every possible inefficiency is attended to with precision.

It all starts with a simple "Transfer Documentation Check" and passport stamp. They simply validate that one has a ticket from Bejing to another destination, take your photo and stamp your passport. Unfortunately, there are typically only 2 agents available (maximum of 4), so this is the first of many bottlenecks. 

Next comes a new queue for SECURITY.  This will take a very long time.  The first part is a documentation check.  Essentially, an agent will re-check the documentation that was just checked 200 feet behind you and take another photo in case all of that was somehow lost.  This will take a LOT longer than the last one, as this queue is dependent on the subsequent baggage check.  So, it will back-up in a very excessive fashion. 

Unfortunately, this  worst is still yet to come, The true security and baggage check.  If you read through all of this, you can help to limit a bit of the time.

The physical space just before the baggage screening is extremely limited so no real efficiency is possible. There is only room for One-Person-At-a-Time to lay out your belongings and get ready to get them scanned.  There is plenty of room for them to move them back and add a few tables for more people to queue-up their baggage.  This would be a tremendous help and one may only hope that Beijing will consider making this change. Also, there are only 2 machines available for all transfers!  This was certainly true for an arriving flight from Bangkok. Beijing is a massive airport with many transfers so this is just inexplicable.

Body Scan

The body scan sensors at Beijing are VERY sensitive.  If they beep in any way, you will be patted-down and hand-scanned!  Most people don't put enough things in the bin and this "special attention" greatly contributes to extra delays for everyone!  Be smart - put everything in a bin!  Rimless glasses usually won't set off the machine but your mileage may vary.

Do yourself (and others!) a favor and take everything out of your pockets.  Everything.  Remove your belt and shoes - even if they don't apparently contain metal.  Put all of it in a bin for scanning! 

Luggage Scan

Everything that is "electronic"- in any way - must be taken out of your baggage and put into a bin for scanning.  This is far beyond the usual or any posted list.  Most people are caught unawares and their bags will be brought back, opened-up, stuff taken out and then re-scanned, sometimes more than once.

Again - everything that uses electricity must be take out of your luggage and placed into a bin.  Not just the usual laptop/phone.  Everything. They will catch even the smallest thing (usb drive, phone wall charger), and you'll lose more time so make sure that all of it ends up in that bin the first time around!  Don't forget those wall adapters, extra camera batteries, usb hard drives, usb memory sticks, laptop adapters, usb power stations, etc.

They also have a particular desire to finding every lighter (real or "possible") and confiscating them.  They are also on the lookout for anything that MIGHT be one like a partially eaten roll of cough drops or toffee candy).  So put all those into the bin also!!  Otherwise, they'll see it on the scan, then repeatedly bark at you, "lighter, lighter", open your bag, see what it is and then re-scan your bag anyway ...

Be assured, they will catch everything, take their job very seriously and do not have a sense of humor about it.  Be polite, smile and thank them.  Plan ahead and you'll save some time for yourself and everyone behind you.

No Beverages are allowed on departing flights!!!

DO NOT BUY ANY DRINKS TO TAKE ON YOUR NEXT FLIGHT.  They will confiscate them, including the expensive beverages that you just bought in the secure area.  Same goes for bottles purchased at the Duty Free.  It is the least sensible thing one can imagine but they started doing this at Beijing airport.

Arrival with Beijing as final Destination

As with most large airports it may take some time to proceed through the arrival formalities. You need to have completed the arrival card. Cards are available if you weren't given them on the plane or at check in time. If you lose the departure card portion of that card, you will find plenty more at the counters when you depart.

Once in the terminal area you should ignore anyone who approaches you offering a taxi, as these will be unmetered or unlicensed taxis and will overcharge. If you want to take a taxi, go to the taxi queue outside. It is preferable to have your hotel address printed out in Chinese together with the phone number to ensure you do actually get to your intended destination (especially where chain-hotels have more than one outlet in the city). This thread points to one resource where you can print out a hotel address: http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-...  

Occasionally a taxi driver may try to offer you a fixed price instead of using the meter. Insist that he turns it on before beginning the trip, if he does not, leave the taxi. In addition to the amount on the meter, taxis will charge an additional fee for the toll on the airport road, currently 10 yuan to and from Terminal 3, and 5 yuan when travelling to Terminals 1 & 2 (there is no toll fee from these terminals to town). The driver will normally pay this at the toll booth and add it to the fare when you get to your destination. If, unusually, you are asked for the toll fare upfront, make sure you get the receipt from the person in the booth to avoid any later confusion. It might be a good idea to split a 100 yuan note under such circumstances in order to have change. A taxi ride to Wangfujing will take about 45 minutes in good traffic and cost in the region of 100-120rmb. Taxis are relatively cheap and plentiful, even in the early hours, and the recommended way to get into the city. The rank just outside the arrivals hall is well-staffed, usually moves along pretty swiftly, and the taxis are of the reliable, legitimate variety. There are also some taxi vans available for large groups but these will charge an inflated fixed fee of about 450RMB. Further information is given in the 'Taxis and Rental Cars' travel article.

You can withdraw money from an ATM - Check it has international access and displays the Maestro, Plus or Cirrus sign. Or change cash or travelers checks at a bank window.  Exchange rates and fees are controlled, so it is acceptable to exchange money in the airport.  There are several major Chinese Banks and they are open 24 hours a day. Save receipts as these are needed to change Renminbi (yuan) back into foreign currency.

IC and IP Phonecards are available for purchase from the post office. There is a branch of The Beijing Tourist Information Centre in the arrivals hall. 

There is a hotel information window.  If you are taking a taxi and do not have the name of the hotel in Chinese characters the people at this desk can help you. They can also help make hotel reservations. There are, of course, air ticketing counters as well as a train ticket counter which opens from 7am to midnight. The train ticket office at T2 is in on the main concourse between international and domestic arrivals. At T3 it is on the departures level at the extreme left of the domestic check-in counters.

Airport Shuttle buses are the cheapest way to get into the city at 15-24rmb per person, depending on distance travelled, but convenient only if you do not have much luggage or already know where the buses are going to drop you off. If you are traveling to the route terminus you can stow luggage underneath, otherwise it has to go in the coach and there is a lack of any dedicated space for storage. At the ticket desk there is a board showing the stops each route will take. They do not do unscheduled stops and drivers may not always stop at smaller drop-points if they don't see anybody getting ready to disembark. Automated announcements are made in English as well as Chinese on some but not all buses. Buses may go when full (seated passengers only), otherwise they follow the schedules advertised - normally departing at 15 or 30 minute intervals. Buses originate from T3 then call at T2 and T1 in succession. If they are already full you will have to wait for the next one. The various destinations and stops of the shuttle buses as well as inter-city buses are listed here:  http://en.bcia.com.cn/traffic/airbus/...

There is also the Airport Express rail link which joins up with the subway system. Tickets cost 25rmb one-way. Details can be found at http://www.explorebj.com/subway/ Like the shuttle bus services, if you depart from T3 you will call at T2 before heading into town.

It is possible to arrange for a car to pick you up from most hotels, and there are many private operators who provide transfer services.  This will usually cost much more than a taxi, but eliminate possible problems finding your hotel or being overcharged.

Departing

International check-ins usually open 3 hours prior to departure and close 1 hour before departure. Allow yourself sufficient time to get to the airport, queue up for check-in and to go through exit procedures, security etc. Terminals 1 & 2 are adjacent but Terminal 3 is located on the other side of the airport area. It is very important that you go to the correct terminal in order to avoid any delays. There is, however, a frequent free shuttle bus between the terminals. Different airlines are based at different terminals so check beforehand which one you need to go to as it is not organized based on international vs domestic flights.

Domestic air travel

Many travellers will use domestic air services and transfers to and from Beijing city are no different than those for international passengers. Domestic check-in desks usually close 45 minutes before departure at Terminal 3 and 30 minutes before at Terminals 1 & 2.

Beijing also has another very small commercial airport located in the south of the city called Nanyuan Airport. There are only a few flights from this airport. The main carrier is China United. There is an airport shuttle bus that operates to/from Xidan but taxis are generally available. Further information can be viewed here: http://www.thebeijinger.com/blog/2010...

Services at Beijing Capital Internation Airport

Free WIFI   - Free Wifi is available in the airport area. You need login password to connect to Free Wifi and that is valid for 6 hours. You need to get password again after 6 hrs. To get passord either you scan your passort at one of the self service machines at departure/transit area or provide valid phone number to receive pasword via SMS. Alternatively, you can visit any of the information desks to get the wifi access login. Sometime when you move around, wifi might disconnect and connect again. When its reconnected you might have to go to your browser again to login. If you dont have your own device to browse internet, then you can find computers at specific area where you can browse internet. For travellers who are new to China note that facebook, google search, gmail, youtube etc are blocked in China, so you wont be able to access from your device, so if you need anything keep it in local storage or by some other means. if you would like to search baidu.com is popular and works great. 

Food/Drink  - There are lot of restaurants and coffee shop available in departure/transit area. Some shop also accept other currencies but provide CNY as return change. Free water units are installed mostly near the washrooms at airport, you get warm/hot water in those machines. 

Rest Area - Beijing airport is quite huge and you can find comfortable sitting area easily and at most of the departure gates. There are specific area where you can also find comfortable long relaxing chairs. 

Charging Points - Beijing airport has one very small charging area at each gate, with 4 outlets and 2 USB ports.  With such a busy airport one might be available if you are lucky.  With this in mind, you may wish to have a 3-to-1 splitter.