The cheapest tickets to Hong Kong and China can often be found either online or in discount agencies in Chinatowns around the world. Other budget and student travel agents offer cheap tickets, but the real bargains are with agents that deal with the Chinese who regularly return home (travelling at festival times such as the Chinese New Year will be more expensive). Firms such as STA Travel (www.statravel.com) with offices worldwide also offer competitive prices to most destinations. The cheapest flights to China are with airlines requiring a stopover at the home airport, such as with Air France to Běijīng via Paris or Malaysian Airlines to Běijīng via Kuala Lumpur. Air fares to China peak between June and September.
An increasing number of airlines fly to China, with Air China and China Eastern offering some of the cheapest fares. The cheapest available airline ticket is called an APEX (Advance Purchase Excursion) ticket, although this type of ticket includes expensive penalties for cancellation and changing dates of travel. Tickets listed in this section are quoted by airline offices and you will be able to find cheaper rates through travel agencies.
For browsing and buying tickets on the internet, try these online booking services:
Cheapflights.com (www.cheapflights.com) No-frills website offering flights to numerous destinations.
Expedia (www.expedia.com) Offers discounted tickets.
Fly China (www.flychina.com) Offers discounted tickets.
Lonely Planet (www.lonelyplanet.com) Use Travel Services to book multistop trips.
Lowest Fare (www.lowestfare.com) Offers discounted tickets.
One Travel.com (www.onetravel.com) Offers some good deals.
Opodo (www.opodo.com) Offers discounted tickets.
Orbitz (www.orbitz.com) Offers discounted tickets.
Travel.com.au (www.travel.com.au) A New Zealand version also exists (www.travel.co.nz).
Travelbag (www.travelbag.co.uk) Good for holiday bargains and speciality travel.
To bid for last-minute tickets online, try Skyauction (www.skyauction.com).
Priceline (www.priceline.com) aims to match the ticket price to your budget.
Discounted air-courier tickets are a cheap possibility, but they carry restrictions. As a courier, you transport documents or freight internationally and see it through customs. You usually have to sacrifice your baggage and take carry-on luggage. Generally trips are on fixed, round-trip tickets and offer an inflexible period in the destination country. For more information, check out organisations such as the Courier Association (www.aircourier.org) or the International Association of Air Travel Couriers (IAATC; www.courier.org).
Some ships still ply the waters between Hong Kong and the mainland, but numbers and destinations have been cut back and largely travel to destinations in Guǎngdōng.
There are weekly ferries between Osaka and Shànghǎi (roughly 44 hours) and twice-monthly services between Kōbe and Shànghǎi (roughly 44 hours). Ticket prices to both destinations range from Y1300 to Y6500. Boats depart from Shànghǎi at 1pm on Saturday and arrive in Kōbe at 9.30am on Monday. Boats leaves Kōbe on Tuesday at noon and arrive in Shànghǎi at 9.30am on Thursday. Ticket prices start at Y1300.
From Tiānjīn (Tánggū), there is a weekly ferry to Kōbe in Japan (Y1540 to Y5250, 51 hours). Check in two hours before departure for international sailings. The Tianjin Jinshen Ferry Company (022-2420 5777; www.tifeco.com.cn/jinshen) operates a boat that departs from Tiānjīn at 11am on Monday and arrives in Kōbe at 2pm on Wednesday. From Kōbe, it departs at noon on Friday and arrives in Tiānjīn at 2pm on Sunday.
There are also boats from Qīngdǎo to Shimonoseki (Y1200) every two weeks.
Travelling from Korea, international ferries connect the South Korean port of Incheon with Wēihǎi, Qīngdǎo, Tiānjīn (Tánggū), Dàlián and Dāndōng.
The Weidong Ferry Company (822-3271 6710; www.weidong.com; 10th fl, 1005 Sungji Bldg, 585 Dohwa-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul) runs boats on the routes to Wēihǎi (Y750 to Y1370, three weekly in each direction) and Qīngdǎo (Y750 to Y1370, three weekly in each direction) in Shāndōng province. It can also be contacted at the International Passenger Terminal Incheon (8232-777 0490; 71-2 Hang-dong); Wēihǎi (0631-522 6173; 48 Haibin Beilu); Qīngdǎo (0532-8280 3574; 4 Xinjiang Lu). Check its website for the latest timetables and prices. Children under two years are free; children between two and 12 years get 30% discounts, while seniors over 65 years garner discounts of 20%.
In Seoul, tickets for any boats to China can be bought from the International Union Travel Agency (822-777 6722; Room 707, 7th fl, Daehan Ilbo Bldg, 340 Taepyonglo 2-ga, Chung-gu). Prices cost US$88 to US$300, and depending on the destination, boats leave anytime from once to three times weekly.
For the Tiānjīn ferry you can also get tickets in Seoul from Taeya Travel (822-514 6226), in Kangnam-gu by the Shinsa subway station. In China, tickets can be bought cheaply at the pier, or from CITS – for a very steep premium. The cheapest price is Y888 for a dorm bed.
To reach the International Passenger Terminal from Seoul, take the Seoul–Incheon commuter train (subway line 1 from the city centre) and get off at the Dongincheon station. The train journey takes 50 minutes. From Dongincheon station it’s either a 45-minute walk or five-minute taxi ride to the ferry terminal.
Incheon to Wēihǎi
There are three boat services a week between Incheon and Wēihǎi (2nd/1st class Y750/1370, 15 hours, departs Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday at 7pm from Wēihǎi). Check Weidong Ferry (www.weidong.com) for an updated schedule.
Incheon to Qīngdǎo
There are three boats a week between Qīngdǎo and Incheon (Y750 to Y1370, 15 hours, departs Monday, Wednesday and Friday). Phone or consult the website of Weidong Ferry (0532-8280 3574; www.weidong.com; 4 Xinjiang Lu) in Qīngdǎo to confirm days.
Incheon to Tiānjīn
There are two boats a week between Tiānjīn and Incheon (from Y1000, 25 hours). Boats from Incheon depart at 1pm and 9pm on Tuesday, and boats leave Tiānjīn at 11am on Thursday and Sunday. As with boats from Japan, the boat does not dock at Tiānjīn proper, but rather at the nearby port of Tánggū, where there are buses to speed you to either Tiānjīn or Běijīng. Boats to Tiānjīn are run by the Jinchon Ferry Company Seoul (822-517 8671); Incheon (8232-777 8260); Tiānjīn (022-2331 1657).
Incheon to Dàlián
A boat leaves for Incheon in South Korea at 3.30pm on Monday, Wednesday and Friday (Y850 to Y1469, 18 hours) from Dàlián; tickets can be bought at the ferry terminal. Boats leave Incheon for Dàlián at 4.30pm on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Contact Da-In Ferry Seoul (822-3218 6551); Incheon (8232-891 7100); Dàlián (0411-8270 5082).
Incheon to Dāndōng
Three boats a week run between Dāndōng and Incheon in South Korea. Boats leave for Incheon at 3pm on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday (Y1000 to Y1900, 15 hours). Boats leave Incheon for Dāndōng at 5pm on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Contact Dandong Ferry Incheon (8232-891 3322); Dāndōng (0415-317 0081).
If you’re starting in Europe or Asia, it’s possible to travel all the way to China by land. Numerous routes include the Trans-Mongolian and Trans-Manchurian Railway trek from Europe or the border crossings of China–Vietnam, Tibet–Nepal, Xīnjiāng–Pakistan, Xīnjiāng–Kyrgyzstan and Xīnjiāng–Kazakhstan.
Travel Alert: Travellers entering China by land report that Lonely Planet China guidebooks have been confiscated by border officials. The majority of these incidents have occurred at the La Cai – Hekou crossing on the Vietnam border, but other confiscations have been reported at the Lo Wu – Shenzhen crossing at the Hong Kong frontier and the Zhangmu crossing point between Nepal and Tibet. Some travellers have experienced similar problems at Lhasa Airport. This is due to sensitivity regarding maps of China that do not include Taiwan and references to the Dalai Lama in both the China and Tibet books. Travellers should consider putting a cover on the book to make it less recognisable and just to be safe, copy down any crucial details you might need while in the country.
For good advice from other travellers check out the Thorn Tree travel forum.
China shares borders with Afghanistan, Bhutan, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Vietnam. China also has official border crossings between its special administrative regions, Hong Kong and Macau. The borders with Afghanistan, Bhutan and India are closed. If planning an extensive trip to China overland, make sure you enter China within the given time after your visa is issued. Note that some travellers, as they enter China, have had their Lonely Planet China guides confiscated by officials, primarily at the Vietnam–China border. We recommend you copy any essential details before you cross and put a cover on your guide.
Hong Kong is an excellent place to enter China and there is a range of options for crossing over the border by land.
There are border crossings from Ürümqi to Kazakhstan via the border post at Korgas, Ālāshānkǒu, Tǎchéng and Jímǔnǎi; crossing the border shouldn’t really be a problem as long as you have a valid Kazakhstan (obtainable in Běijīng) or China visa. Apart from Ālāshānkǒu, China’s rail link with Kazakhstan, all of these borders crossings are by bus, though you can generally get a bike over. Remember that borders open and close frequently due to changes in government policy; additionally, many are only open when the weather permits. It’s always best to check with the Public Security Bureau (PSB; Gōngānjú) in Ürümqi for the official line, or Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree to see what other travellers are saying.
Two trains weekly also run between Ürümqi and Almaty.
There is a weekly bus from Kashgar via Irkeshtam to Osh. Ensure you have a valid Kyrgyzstan visa (available from Běijīng or Hong Kong). From June to September it’s theoretically possible to cross the dramatic 3752m Torugart Pass on a rough road from Kashgar to Bishkek.
From the Měnglà district in China’s southern Yúnnán province it’s legal to enter Laos via Boten in Luang Nam Tha province if you possess a valid Lao visa. The good news is that you can now get an on-the-spot visa for Laos at the border, the price of which depends on your nationality (but you cannot get a China visa here). From Měnglà there are buses to Móhān every 20 minutes or so from 8am. Although the border doesn’t officially close until 5.30pm Běijīng time (and don’t forget that Laos is an hour ahead), things often wrap up earlier on the Lao side. The majority of travellers from Kūnmíng go via Jǐnghóng to Měnglà and then on to the border at Mohan (which shuts at 5.30pm). As the bus journey from Jǐnghóng will take the better part of the day, you will probably have to stay overnight at Měnglà.
Lao visas can be obtained in Běijīng; alternatively, the Lao consulate in Kūnmíng issues 15-day tourist visas (valid for two months from date of issue; visa extensions in Laos are possible).
As well as Trans-Mongolian Railway trains that run from Běijīng to Ulaanbaatar via Dàtóng, the K23 departs from Beijing Train Station at 7.40am every Tuesday, reaching Ulaanbaatar at 1.20pm the next day. In the other direction, the K24 departs from Ulaanbaatar every Thursday at 8.05am, reaching Běijīng the following day at 2.31pm. Two trains weekly also run between Hohhot and Ulaanbaatar.
The famous Burma Road, originally built to supply the forces of Chiang Kaishek in his struggle against the Japanese, runs from Kūnmíng, in China’s Yúnnán province, to the city of Lashio. Today the road is open to travellers carrying permits for the region north of Lashio, although you can legally cross the border in only one direction – from the Chinese side (Ruìlì) into Myanmar via Muse in the northern Shan State. Land crossings from China are only possible if you join an organised tour group from a Chinese travel agency (eg Ko Wai Lin Travel in Kūnmíng or Way Thar Li Tour & Travel Company Ltd in Ruìlì), who can arrange visas and permits.
A second route, a little further northwest, from Lwaigyai to Bhamo, is also open in the same direction. You cannot legally leave Myanmar by either route.
The 920km road connecting Lhasa with Kathmandu is known as the Friendship Hwy. It’s a spectacular trip across the Tibetan plateau, the highest point being Gyatso-la Pass (5220m). By far the most popular option for the trip is hiring a 4WD through a hotel or travel agency and then organising a private itinerary with a driver.
Visas for Nepal can be obtained in Lhasa, or even at the Nepalese border. When travelling from Nepal to Lhasa, foreigners still have to arrange transport through tour agencies in Kathmandu.
If you already have a Chinese visa, you could try turning up at the border and organising a permit in Zhāngmù, but transport out will be a problem and rules and regulations regularly change – it’s far better to join an economy tour to Lhasa in Kathmandu.
In 2005 Nepal’s state bus company Sahja Yatayat started a weekly direct bus service between Kathmandu and Lhasa. The service costs US$70 per person, plus US$60 for three nights’ accommodation and a service fee. Foreigners currently aren’t allowed to take the bus due to Chinese visa and permit hassles but this could change.
The following agencies in Kathmandu operate trips to Tibet. Most agencies advertising in Thamel are agents only; they don’t actually run the trips.
Ecotrek (442 4112; www.ecotrek.com.np, www.kailashtour.com; Thamel)
Explore Nepal Richa Tours & Travel (442 3064; www.explorenepalricha.com; 2nd fl, Namche Bazaar Bldg, Tri Devi Marg, Thamel)
Green Hill Tours (470 0968; www.greenhilltours.com.np; Thamel)
Royal Mount Trekking (424 1452; www.royal-mt-trekking.com, www.royaltibet.com; Durbar Marg)
Tashi Delek Nepal Treks & Expeditions (441 0746; www.tashidelektreks.com; Thamel)
Visas are difficult to arrange to North Korea, and at the time of writing it was impossible for US and South Korean citizens. Those interested in travelling to North Korea from Běijīng should get in touch with Nicholas Bonner or Simon Cockerell at Koryo Tours (010-6416 7544; www.koryogroup.com; Red House, 10 Chunxiu Lu, Chaoyang), who can get you there (and back).
There are five weekly flights and four international express trains (K27 and K28) between Běijīng and Pyongyang.
The exciting trip on the Karakoram Hwy, over the 4800m Khunjerab Pass and what is said to be the world’s highest public international highway, is an excellent way to get to or from Chinese Central Asia. There are daily buses (10am) from Kashgar for the two-day trip to Sost when the pass is open, with customs procedures conducted at Tashkurgan.
A twice-weekly train (N23 and N24, Wednesday and Saturday) connects Haerbin East train station with Vladivostok. Also see Trans-Siberian Railway for information on trains to Moscow from Běijīng. The Russian border 9km from Mǎnzhōulǐ is quite busy and reliable. Officially, the only public transport that crosses the border is the Trans-Manchurian, but there are also ample opportunities for picking up a lift in Mǎnzhōulǐ or at the border.
The Kulma Pass (4362m), linking Kashgar with Murghob (via Tashkurgan), opened in 2004, with three monthly buses making the trip. At the time of writing the pass was not open to foreign travellers: go to Travel Tajikistan (www.traveltajikistan.com/roadrail/road.html) for the latest updates.
Travellers can enter Vietnam overland from China and exit Vietnam to China on a standard visa. You cannot obtain visas at the border, but Vietnam visas can be acquired in Běijīng or Kūnmíng. Chinese visas can be obtained in Hanoi. The Vietnam–China border crossing is open from 7am to 4pm, Vietnam time, or 8am to 5pm, China time. Set your watch when you cross the border – the time in China is one hour later than in Vietnam. There are currently two border checkpoints where foreigners are permitted to cross between Vietnam and China.
There are two weekly trains from Běijīng to Hanoi. Trains leave Beijing West Train Station at 4.16pm on Monday and Friday, arriving in Hanoi at 6.50am on Wednesday and Sunday. Trains depart from Hanoi at 6.50pm on Tuesday and Friday and arrive in Běijīng at 1.38pm on Thursday and Sunday. The train stops at Shíjiāzhuāng, Zhèngzhōu, Hànkǒu (in Wǔhàn), Wǔchāng (Wǔhàn), Chángshā, Héngyáng, Yǒngzhōu, Guìlín North, Guìlín, Liǔzhōu, Nánníng and Píngxiáng.
The busiest border crossing is at the Vietnamese town of Dong Dang, an obscure town (nearest city is Lang Son 18km to the south) 164km northeast of Hanoi. The closest Chinese town to the border is Píngxiáng in Guǎngxī province, but it’s about 10km north of the actual border gate. The only place in Guǎngxī where foreigners can cross is Friendship Pass, known as Huu Nghi Quan in Vietnamese or Yǒuyì Guān in Chinese. Buses and minibuses on the Hanoi–Lang Son route are frequent.
Píngxiáng is connected by train to Nánníng, capital of China’s Guǎngxī province, 220km away. Train 5518 to Nánníng departs from Píngxiáng at 2.40pm, arriving in Nánníng at 6.36pm. In the other direction, train 5517 departs from Nánníng at 7.58am, arriving in Píngxiáng at 11.40am. There are more frequent buses (once every 30 minutes), which take four hours to make the journey and cost US$4.
A word of caution – because train tickets to China are expensive in Hanoi, some travellers buy a ticket to Dong Dang, walk across the border and then buy a train ticket on the Chinese side. This isn’t the best way because it’s several kilometres from Dong Dang to Friendship Pass, and you’ll have to hire someone to take you by motorbike. If you’re going by train, it’s best to buy a ticket from Hanoi to Píngxiáng, and then in Píngxiáng buy a ticket to Nánníng or beyond.
From Nánníng, there’s a daily Hanoi-bound bus (Y110, 10 hours, 8am) that runs to the Friendship Pass, after which you can cross into Vietnam on foot and board a Vietnamese bus to Hanoi.
A 762km metre-gauge railway, inaugurated in 1910, links Hanoi with Kūnmíng, although at the time of writing the twice-weekly international train service had been suspended due to floods and landslide damage. The border town on the Vietnamese side is Lao Cai, 294km from Hanoi. On the Chinese side, the border town is Hékǒu, 468km from Kūnmíng.
When operational, domestic trains run daily on both sides of the border. On the Chinese side, Kūnmíng–Hékǒu takes about 16 hours.
Vietnam’s third, but little known, border crossing is at Mong Cai in the northeast corner of the country, just opposite the Chinese city of Dōngxīng.
Travelling the Trans-Siberian railway
The Trans-Siberian Railway and connecting routes comprise one of the most famous, romantic and potentially enjoyable of the world’s great train journeys. Rolling out of Europe and into Asia, through eight time zones and over 9289km of taiga, steppe and desert, the Trans-Siberian makes all other train rides seem like once around the block with Thomas the Tank Engine.
There is some confusion here as there are, in fact, three railways. The ‘true’ Trans-Siberian line runs from Moscow to Vladivostok. But the routes traditionally referred to as the Trans-Siberian Railway are the two branches that veer off the main line in eastern Siberia to make a beeline for Běijīng.
Since the first option excludes China, most readers will be making the decision between the Trans-Manchurian and the Trans-Mongolian; however, it makes little difference. The Trans-Mongolian (Běijīng to Moscow, 7865km) is faster, but requires you to purchase an additional visa and endure another border crossing, although you do at least get to see the Mongolian countryside roll past your window. The Trans-Manchurian is longer (Běijīng to Moscow, 9025km). A useful source of information on the Trans-Siberian Railway can be found at www.seat61.com/Trans-Siberian.htm.
Train K3 leaves Běijīng on its five-day journey at 7.40am every Wednesday (arriving in Moscow on the following Monday at 2.19pm), passes through Dàtóng and travels to the Mongolian border at Erenhot, 842km from Běijīng. The train continues to Ulaanbaatar before reaching the last stop in Mongolia, Sukhe Bator. From Moscow, train K4 leaves at 10.03pm on Tuesdays, arriving in Běijīng on the following Monday at 2.31pm. Departure and arrival times may fluctuate slightly.
The train offers deluxe two-berth compartments (with shared shower), 1st-class four-berth compartments and 2nd-class four-berth compartments. Fares start at around US$253 one way in 2nd class or US$418 in 1st class.
Departing from Běijīng at 10.56pm Saturday (arriving in Moscow the following Friday at 5.55pm), train K19 travels through Tiānjīn, Shānhǎiguān, Shěnyáng, Chángchūn and Hāěrbīn before arriving at the border post Mǎnzhōulǐ, 2347km from Běijīng. Zabaykal’sk is the Russian border post and the train continues from here to Tarskaya, where it connects with the Trans-Siberian line. Train K20 leaves Moscow at 11.58pm every Friday, arriving in Běijīng on the following Friday at 5.20am. Note that departure and arrival times may fluctuate slightly.
Trains have 1st-class two-berth compartments and 2nd-class four-berth compartments, with prices similar to the Trans-Mongolian Railway.
Travellers will need Russian and Mongolian visas if they take the Trans-Mongolian Railway, as well as a Chinese visa. These can often be arranged along with your ticket by travel agents such as China International Travel Service (CITS, Zhōngguó Guójì Lǚxíngshè). Mongolian visas come as two-day transit visas (three-day process US$30, express process US$60) or 90-day tourist visas (three-day process US$40, express process US$60). A transit visa is easy enough to get (just present a through ticket and a visa for your onward destination). The situation regarding visas changes regularly, so check with a Mongolian embassy or consulate. All Mongolian embassies shut down for the week of National Day (Naadam), which officially falls around 11 to 13 July.
Russian transit visas (one-week process US$50, three-day process US$80, one-day process US$120) are valid for 10 days if you take the train, and will only give you three or four days in Moscow at the end of your journey. You will need one photo, your passport and the exact amount in US dollars. For a transit visa, you will also need a valid entry visa for a third country plus a through ticket from Russia to the third country.
In Běijīng, tickets can be conveniently purchased from China International Travel Service (CITS; 010-6512 0507; www.cits.com.cn; Beijing International Hotel, 9 Jianguomen Neidajie). Monkey Business Shrine (www.monkeyshrine.com; Běijīng; Youyi Youth Hostel, 43 Beisanlitun Lu; Hong Kong %852-2723 1376; Liberty Mansion, Kowloon) also arranges trips, and has an informative website with a downloadable brochure.
Abroad, tickets can be arranged through one of the following agencies.
Intourist Travel (www.intourist.com) has branches in the UK, USA, Canada, Finland and Poland
White Nights (/fax 1800 490 5008; www.wnights.com; 610 Sierra Dr, Sacramento, CA) in the USA offers a range of trips.
The Russia Experience (020-8566 8846; www.trans-siberian.co.uk; Research House, Fraser Rd, Perivale, Middlesex) in the UK has a great choice of tickets.
Entering the destination
Entering the country
There are no particular difficulties for travellers entering China. The main requirement is a passport (valid for travel for six months after the expiry date of your visa) and a visa. As a general rule, visas cannot be obtained at the border. At the time of writing visas were not required for most Western nationals to visit Hong Kong or Macau and some visa-free transits exist. Chinese Immigration officers are scrupulous and, by definition, highly bureaucratic, but not difficult or overly officious. Travellers arriving in China will be given a health declaration form and an arrivals form to complete.
Airports & airlines
Hong Kong, Běijīng and Shànghǎi are China’s main international air gateways. Hong Kong International Airport (HKG;0852-2181 0000; www.hkairport.com) is located at Chek Lap Kok on Lantau Island in the west of the territory. Běijīng’s Capital airport (PEK; arrivals & departures 010-6454 1100) has benefited from considerable investment and new terminals. Shànghǎi has two airports: Hongqiao airport (SHA;021-6268 8899/3659) in the west of the city and Pudong airport (PVG;021-6834 1000, flight information 021-6834 6912) in the east.
The best direct ticket deals are available from China’s international carriers, such as China Eastern. Air China, China’s national flag carrier, has a good safety record, and to date it has only had one fatal crash (in 2002). Air China should not be confused with China Airlines, the crash-prone Taiwan carrier.
Airlines flying to and from China:
Aeroflot Russian Airlines (SU; www.aeroflot.org) Běijīng (010-6500 2412); Shànghǎi (021-6279 8033)
AirAsia (FD; www.airasia.com) Macau (853-2886 1388)
Air Astana (KC; www.airastana.com) Běijīng (010-64566970)
Air Canada (AC; www.aircanada.ca) Běijīng (010-6468 2001); Shànghǎi (021-6279 2999)
Air China (CA; www.airchina.com.cn) Běijīng (800 810 1111); Shànghǎi (021-5239 7227)
Air France (AF; www.airfrance.com) Běijīng (4008 808 808); Shànghǎi (4008 808 808)
Air Macau (NX; www.airmacau.com.mo) Běijīng (010-6515 8988); Shànghǎi (021-6248 1110)
Air New Zealand (NZ; www.airnz.com) Hong Kong (852-2862 8988)
All Nippon Airways (NH, ANA; www.ana.co.jp) Běijīng (800 820 1122); Shànghǎi (021-5696 2525)
Asiana Airlines (OZ; www.us.flyasiana.com) Běijīng (010-6468 4000); Shànghǎi (021-6219 4000)
Austrian Airlines (OS; www.aua.com) Běijīng (010-6462 2161); Shànghǎi (021-6340 3411)
British Airways (BA; www.british-airways.com) Běijīng (010-8511 5599); Shànghǎi (021-6375 8866)
Cathay Pacific (CX; www.cathaypacific.com) Běijīng (010-8486 8532); Hong Kong (852-2747 5000)
China Eastern Airlines (MU; www.ce-air.com) Běijīng (010-6464 1166); Shànghǎi (021-95108)
China Southern Airlines (CZ; www.cs-air.com) Běijīng (010-950 333); Shànghǎi (021-950 333); Guǎngzhōu (020-950333)
Dragonair (KA; www.dragonair.com) Běijīng (010-6518 2533); Shànghǎi (021-6375 6375)
El Al Israel Airlines (LY; www.elal.co.il) Běijīng (010-6597 4512)
EVA Airways (BR; www.evaair.com) Macau (853-2872 6866)
Garuda Indonesia (GA; www.garuda-indonesia.com) Běijīng (010-6505 2901)
Iran Air (IR; www.iranair.com) Běijīng (010-6512 4945)
Japan Airlines (JL, JAL; www.jal.com) Běijīng (010-6513 0888); Shànghǎi (4008 880 808)
KLM (KL; www.klm.nl) Běijīng (010-6505 3505); Shànghǎi (021-6884 6884)
Korean Air (KE; 4006 588 888; www.koreanair.com) Běijīng (010-8453 8137); Shànghǎi (021-6275 2000)
Koryo Air Běijīng (JS; 010-6501 1557)
Lao Airlines (QV; www.laoairlines.com) Kūnmíng (0871-312 5748)
Lufthansa Airlines (LH; www.lufthansa.com) Běijīng (010-6468 8838); Shànghǎi (021-5352 4999)
Malaysia Airlines (MH; www.malaysia-airlines.com.my) Běijīng (010-6505 2681); Shànghǎi (021-6279 8607)
MIAT Mongolian Airlines (OM; www.miat.com) Běijīng (010-6507 9297)
Nepal Airlines (TG; www.royalnepal-airlines.com) Běijīng (010-6505 5071); Shànghǎi (021-6270 8352)
Northwest Airlines (NW; www.nwa.com) Běijīng (010-6505 3505); Shànghǎi (021-6884 6884)
Pakistan International Airlines (PK, PIA; www.piac.com.pk) Běijīng (010-6505 1681)
Qantas Airways (QF; www.qantas.com.au) Běijīng (010-6567 9006); Shànghǎi (021-6145 0188)
Scandinavian Airlines (SK, SAS; www.sas.dk) Běijīng (010-8527 6100); Shànghǎi (021-5228 5001)
Shanghai Airlines (www.shanghai-air.com); Shànghǎi (021-6255 0550, 800 620 8888)
Singapore Airlines (SQ; www.singaporeair.com) Běijīng (010-6505 2233); Shànghǎi (021-6289 1000)
Thai Airways International (TG; www.thaiairways.com) Běijīng (010-6460 8899); Shànghǎi (021-5298 5555); Kūnmíng (0871-351 1515)
Tiger Airways (TR; www.tigerairways.com)
Trans Asia Airways (GE; www.tna.com.tw) Macau (853-2870 3438, 853-2870 1777)
United Airlines (UA: www.ual.com) Běijīng (010-6463 1111); Shànghǎi (021-3311 4567)
Uzbekistan Airways (HY; www.uzbekistan-airways.com) Běijīng (010-6500 6442); Shànghǎi (021-6307 1896)
Virgin Atlantic (VS; www.virgin-atlantic.com) Shànghǎi (021-5353 4600)
Viva Macau (ZG; www.flyvivamacau.com)
STA Travel (1300 733 035; www.statravel.com.au) has offices in all major cities and on many university campuses. Flight Centre (133 133; www.flightcentre.com.au) has offices throughout Australia.
From Australia, Hong Kong is a popular destination and is also the closest entry point into China. Although it’s a shorter flight, fares from Australia to Hong Kong are generally not that much cheaper than fares to Běijīng or Shànghǎi. Low-season return fares to Shànghǎi or Běijīng from the east coast of Australia start at around A$1000, with fares to Hong Kong starting from A$910.
China Southern Airlines has a daily flight from Phnom Penh to Guǎngzhōu (one way/return US$280/400). Shanghai Airlines flies three times weekly to Phnom Penh (one way/return US$290/390).
Canadian discount air ticket sellers are also known as consolidators and their air fares tend to be about 10% higher than those sold in the USA. Check out travel agents in your local Chinatown for some real deals and browse agency ads in the Globe & Mail, the Toronto Star, the Montreal Gazette and the Vancouver Sun. Travel CUTS (1866 246 9762; www.travelcuts.com) is Canada’s national student travel agency and has offices in all major cities. For online bookings try Expedia (www.expedia.ca) and Travelocity (www.travelocity.ca).
From Canada, fares to Hong Kong are often higher than those to Běijīng. Air Canada has daily flights to Běijīng and Shànghǎi from Vancouver. Air Canada, Air China and China Eastern Airlines sometimes run super cheap fares. Return low-season fares between Vancouver and Běijīng start at around US$700.
Generally there is not much variation in air fare prices from the main European cities. The major airlines and travel agents usually have a number of deals on offer, so shop around. STA Travel (www.statravel.com) and Nouvelles Frontières (www.nouvelles-frontieres.fr) have branches throughout Europe.
Return fares to Běijīng from major Western European cities start at around €900 with Lufthansa, Air France and KLM. Flights to Hong Kong are slightly more expensive, with return fares starting from around €1000 to €1100.
France has a network of student travel agencies that can supply discount tickets to travellers of all ages.
Anyway (0892 302 301; www.anyway.fr)
Lastminute (0899 785 000; www.fr.lastminute.com)
Nouvelles Frontières (0825 000 747; www.nouvelles-frontieres.fr)
OTU Voyages (0155 823 232; www.otu.fr) This agency specialises in student and youth travellers.
Voyageurs du Monde (01 40 15 11 15; www.vdm.com)
Just Travel (089-747 3330; www.justtravel.de) An English-language travel agency.
Lastminute (01805-284 366; www.lastminute.de)
STA Travel (0697-4303 292; www.statravel.de) For travellers under the age of 26; branches in major cities.
A good agent, specialising in student and youth travel, is CTS Viaggi (06-462 0431; www.cts.it).
A recommended agency is Airfair (0900 -7717 717; www.airfair.nl).
Recommended agencies include Barcelo Viajes (902 200 400; www.barceloviajes.com) and Nouvelles Frontières (902 124 212).
Dragonair has 11 flights daily from Běijīng to Hong Kong (one way Y2530) and 15 flights from Hong Kong to Shànghǎi (one way Y1780). It’s cheaper to fly to Guǎngzhōu or Shēnzhèn and then take the train or bus to Hong Kong.
Iran Air has twice-weekly flights from Tehran to Běijīng (one way/return US$620/900).
El Al Israel Airlines has twice-weekly flights between Běijīng and Tel Aviv (one way US$630).
There are daily flights operating between Tokyo and Běijīng, with one-way fares starting at around US$775. There are also regular flights between Osaka and Běijīng, with one-way fares at around US$600. Daily flights link Shànghǎi to Tokyo and Osaka, and there are also flights from Japan to other major cities in China, including Dàlián and Qīngdǎo.
Reliable travel agencies used to dealing with foreigners:
No1 Travel (03-3205 6073; www.no1-travel.com)
STA Travel (www.statravel.co.jp) Tokyo (03-5391 2922); Osaka (06-262 7066)
China Southern Airlines has four flights weekly between Ürümqi and Almaty (one way US$290). There are three flights weekly between Běijīng and Almaty with Kazakhstan Airlines (one way US$390).
There are flights from Ürümqi to Bishkek and Osh.
Laos Airlines has two flights weekly from Vientiane to Kūnmíng. China Eastern Airlines has three flights weekly between the two cities (one way/return US$140/260)
Air Macau has daily flights between Běijīng and Macau (return US$510) and several flights daily between Shànghǎi and Macau (return US$360).
Malaysia Airlines operates four flights weekly between Běijīng and Kuala Lumpur (return US$630) and two flights daily between Shànghǎi and Kuala Lumpur (return US$480).
MIAT Mongolian Airlines has five flights weekly between Běijīng and Ulaanbaatar (return US$410). Air China also flies between Běijīng and Ulaanbaatar. It can sometimes take a week to get a ticket and schedules are reduced in winter.
Air China has two flights weekly from Yangon to Běijīng, with a stopover in Kūnmíng (one way US$694). There are two flights weekly from Kūnmíng to Yangon (Y1630, Wednesday and Sunday) and three flights from Kūnmíng to Mandalay (Y1450, Monday, Wednesday and Friday). Air tickets and visas are available from the Myanmar consulate in Kūnmíng.
Royal Nepal Airlines operates two flights weekly between Kathmandu and Shànghǎi (one way/return US$200/400) and three flights weekly between Hong Kong (one way/return US$200/400) and Kathmandu. There are also two or three flights weekly from Lhasa to Kathmandu (Y2511).
Both Flight Centre (0800 243 544; www.flightcentre.co.nz) and STA Travel (0508 782 872; www.statravel.co.nz) have branches throughout the country.
International airlines such as Malaysia Airlines, Thai Airways International and Air New Zealand have return fares from Auckland to Shànghǎi for around NZ$1380 during the low season. Return low-season fares to Běijīng start at around NZ$1560.
There are four flights weekly between Běijīng and Pyongyang with Koryo Air and China Northern Airlines (one way/return US$160/300).
Pakistan International Airlines operates two flights weekly from Karachi to Běijīng (one way/return US$510/950). Air China has a weekly flight to Karachi from Běijīng. There is one weekly flight between Ürümqi and Islamabad on Xinjiang Airlines (one way US$280). A flight to Lahore from Ürümqi is a possible new route in the future.
Aeroflot has daily direct flights connecting Běijīng and Moscow (one way US$510), and China Eastern Airlines has three flights weekly between Shànghǎi and Moscow (one way US$560). Moscow and Novosibirsk are also connected to Ürümqi by air.
STA Travel (head office 6737 7188; www.statravel.com.sg) has three offices in Singapore. Singapore, like Bangkok, has hundreds of travel agents offering competitive discount fares for Asian destinations and beyond. Chinatown Point Shopping Centre on New Bridge Rd has a good selection of travel agents.
Fares to Běijīng are about US$550 return, while fares to Hong Kong start at US$350 return; there are also daily flights to Shànghǎi for US$500 return.
Discount travel agencies in Seoul include Xanadu Travel (02-795 7771; fax 797 7667; www.xanadu.co.kr).
Air China, Asiana Airlines and Korean Air have daily flights between Běijīng and Seoul (return US$510). Flights to Shànghǎi with China Eastern Airlines and Asiana Airlines are similar (return US$490). Seoul is also connected by air to Hong Kong, Tiānjīn, Shěnyáng, Qīngdǎo and Guǎngzhōu.
Khao San Rd in Bangkok is the budget travellers headquarters. Bangkok has a number of excellent travel agents but there are also some suspect ones; ask the advice of other travellers before handing over your cash. STA Travel (02-236 0262; www.statravel.co.th; Room 1406, 14th fl, Wall Street Tower, 33/70 Surawong Rd) is a good and reliable place to start.
One-way fares from Bangkok to Běijīng with Thai Airways or Air China are around US$300 or US$470 return. Other one-way fares from Bangkok include Hong Kong for around US$200, Chéngdū for US$230, Kūnmíng for US$190 and Shànghǎi for US$300. There are two flights weekly between Kūnmíng and Chiang Mai (Y1344, Thursday and Sunday).
UK & Ireland
Discount air travel is big business in London. Advertisements for many travel agencies appear in the travel pages of the weekend broadsheet newspapers, in Time Out, the Evening Standard and in the free magazine TNT.
Travel agents in London’s Chinatown that deal with flights to China include Jade Travel (0870-898 8928; www.jadetravel.co.uk; 5 Newport Place, London), Sagitta Travel Agency (0207 484 8900; fax 0207 839 5066; www.sagitta-tvl.com; 11A Charing Cross Rd, London) and Reliance Tours Ltd (0800-018 0503; www.reliance-tours.co.uk; 12-13 Little Newport St, London).
For further agents, look at Chinatown Online (www.chinatown-online.co.uk), which also includes a list of travel agents outside London that specialise in tickets to China.
From the UK, the cheapest low-season return fares to Běijīng start at around UK£350 with British Airways; flights to Hong Kong are a little bit pricier.
Recommended travel agencies:
Flightbookers (0870-814 4001; www.ebookers.com)
Flight Centre (0870-499 0040; www.flightcentre.co.uk)
North-South Travel (01245-608 291; www.northsouthtravel.co.uk) Donates part of its profit to projects in the developing world.
Omega Travel (0870-027 8668; www.omegatravel.ltd.uk)
Quest Travel (0871-423 0135; www.questtravel.co.uk)
STA Travel (0870-163 0026; www.statravel.co.uk) For travellers under 26 years.
Trailfinders (0845-058 5858; www.trailfinders.co.uk)
Travel Bag (0800-082 5000; www.travelbag.co.uk)
Discount travel agents in the USA are known as consolidators. San Francisco is the ticket-consolidator capital of America, although some good deals can also be found in Los Angeles, New York and other big cities. Consolidators can be found through the Yellow Pages or the travel sections of major daily newspapers.
From the US west coast, low-season return fares to Hong Kong or Běijīng start at around US$850. Fares increase dramatically during summer and the Chinese New Year. From New York to Běijīng or Hong Kong, low-season return fares start at around US$890.
STA Travel (800-781-4040; www.sta-travel.com) has offices in most major US cities.
The following agencies and websites are recommended for online bookings:
From Běijīng there are thrice-weekly flights to Tashkent with Uzbekistan Airways (one way/return US$450/600), and there are also flights between Ürümqi and Tashkent.
Air China and Vietnam Airlines fly between Ho Chi Minh City and Běijīng (return US$410). China Southern Airlines flights are via Guǎngzhōu. From Běijīng to Hanoi there are two flights weekly with either China Southern Airlines or Vietnam Airlines (one way/return US$180/350). Shanghai Airlines has five flights weekly to Ho Chi Minh City (return US$420) from Shànghǎi.
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