Beijing Capital International Airport

The departure hall in Terminal 3.

Beijing Capital International Airport (北京首都国际机场 Běijīng Shǒudū Guójì Jīchǎng, IATA: PEK) is the primary airport of the Chinese capital city of Beijing.

Understand

Beijing Capital is the world's second busiest airport by passenger numbers. The impressively huge, gleaming roof arching over Terminal 3, designed by noted British architect Sir Norman Foster, illustrates the expansion efforts made as part of preparations for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. This terminal is considered to be one of the best designed airport terminal buildings in the world from an architectural point of view, and the sixth largest building (and second-largest airport terminal) in the world by area size.

In comparison, the grey concrete architecture of Terminals 1 and 2 is somewhat underwhelming and seems to show China as it was before its rapid economic modernization and expansion: functional but not impressive at all.

Flights

Scams at the airport

Arrival: Take your taxis from the stand outside, not the touts or desks inside, and insist on the meter. If you are in a group of three or more or have a lot of luggage, touts will claim you need a minibus, and then lead you towards a people carrier in a car park, but then it will turn out they are actually leading you to a shabby taxi parked behind it, which will charge far more than the regulated fare.

Be aware of another scam where impostors who pretend to work for the taxi company pose at the official-looking stands outside offering rides to the city (especially in the non-regular hours where there are not many people about). You will be led into a "taxi" with a fake meter (which could be hidden) which runs very quickly (¥200-300 to the city, and even up to ¥400 to the Birds' Nest Stadium). Read the section on taxis for details on how to distinguish between fake and legitimate taxis.

Departure: Ignore any people walking around offering to sell you an exit fee ticket/receipt. There used to be an airport construction (or exit) fee of ¥90, but now it is included in the plane ticket.

The airport now has three terminals, with flights and airlines roughly divided as follows:

Terminal 3 is huge: it alone is bigger than all five of London Heathrow's terminals. Additional time should be allocated when flying from here. Terminal 3 check-in closes 45 minutes before flights depart.

Ground transportation

By taxi

Many people use taxicabs to reach town from the airport. The taxi driver will almost certainly not read or speak English, so do try to get the name in Chinese characters of your hotel so that you can let your taxi driver read where you want to go. Many drivers are recent arrivals from the countryside and do not know the city well.

A taxi from the airport to the city should cost between ¥70 and ¥120 and takes between 30 minutes to an hour depending on traffic (traffic jams are common). You will have to pay the fee shown on the meter (make sure the driver uses it) plus the ¥10 toll for the airport expressway.

Taxis are your sole option at night since the earliest arrival time by subway at the airport is 06:30 (taking the first subway at about 05:30, depending on station, and the first airport express at 06:00 to T3 or T2).

By train

The Airport Express train to the airport opened in July 2008. The train runs in a one-way loop from T3 to T2/T1 then Sanyuanqiao (transfer to subway line 10) and Dongzhimen (lines 2, 13). A one-way fare is ¥25, and the trip takes about 20 minutes from Dongzhimen to T3, 30 min to T2. Do not take the train just to get from T3 to T2/T1, as this will cost you the full ¥25; use the free shuttle bus instead.

By shuttle bus

Airport bus Line 7 to Beijing West Railway Station

A slightly cheaper way to get to the city centre is to take the airport shuttle (机场巴士 Jīchǎng Bāshì),  +86 10 6459-4375, +86 6459-4376. Buses for each route leave every 10-30 minutes. There are several lines running to different locations throughout Beijing. The shuttle bus website also has a map available. ¥24 for a one-way trip.

A number of youth hostels and luxury hotels run their own complimentary shuttle buses services - ask the place where you are staying if they have one.

By bus

The cheapest way to get to the city would be to take public bus #359 or bus #640. The former runs from the airport to Dongzhimen, where you can catch subway line 2 or line 13. If you go to the airport by taking either of the buses, you need to transfer to Konggang #1 (空港1路) at Jichangdaokou (机场道口), which then takes you to Terminal 2. After that, if you go to Terminal 3, you need to take the free shuttle. Taking buses is not very fast or convenient.

Get around

Travel between Terminals 1 and 2 is via a long corridor with travelators. A fit person can make the route in about 10 minutes. A free shuttle bus runs between Terminal 2 and the new Terminal 3. It departs every ten minutes or so (every 30 minutes from 23:00 till 06:00), and the journey time is about 10 minutes.

Wait

Terminals 1 & 2 have very little going for them. Try and plan to spend as little time here as you can.

Terminal 3 is a much nicer environment with many options for eating, drinking and shopping.

Eat and Drink

Most eating options are higher priced than in Beijing itself.

Terminal 1

Land-side there is a KFC.

Terminal 2

Land-side there are two KFC chicken outlets, and the restaurants in the basement have relatively low prices compared to what's above. A meal at any of these places should cost around ¥20.

Air-side there are really very few options, and no great ones. There is a Starbucks, a generic cafe and a couple of Chinese noodle restaurants.

Terminal 3

Land-side there are lots of options, with leading Western chains available.

Air-side there are also a few Western chains, however a much more limited selection than Land-side.

Buy

Terminal 2

Airside there is a large shop directly after immigration (and before Starbucks) selling 'traditional' Chinese souvenirs. The moon cakes and other bean paste pastries may make good gifts.

Connect

There is free Wi-Fi available, although to comply with local laws you will need to either:

  1. Find an automated registration machine that will scan your passport and print out an access code. These machines are rather hard to find so you should ask the help desk.
  2. Log onto the free Wi-Fi, type in the phone number of your Chinese mobile phone and wait for the SMS with an access code. (Somewhat curious, since a pay-as-you-go SIM can be purchased many places with no registration at all.)
  3. Go to a help desk and show them your ID (such as your passport), and they will give you an access code.

Cope

Facilities on arrival include ATMs and money changers. Be aware that upon departure, porters may want ¥10 to wheel your bags 50m to check-in.

Signs throughout Terminal 3 are in both Chinese and English. Signs are also often shown in Korean as well.

Sleep

There are nearby accommodations in Beijing's Chaoyang District and Shunyi District. Note that the taxi drivers may not be very familiar with these areas so print out the name of the hotel in Chinese and a map if possible.

Nearby

The airport is very much outside of Beijing centre, although it is on the way to the Great Wall of China to the North.

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Monday, December 07, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.