Getting There Away By Plane

Beijing's Capital Airport (Shoudu Jichang; information: & 010/962-580 or 010/6457-1666, Mandarin only; domestic ticketing: & 010/6601-3336; international ticketing: & 010/6601-6667), is 25km (16 miles) northeast of the city center. Arrivals are on the first floor; departures are on the second. Change money at one of the handful of exchange counters on either floor upon arrival (open 24 hr.), as taxi drivers and shuttle buses will not accept foreign currency. There are also ATM and automatic exchange machines on both floors. Rates are the same across China, so get what you need now.

Taxis queue outside the international arrivals gate and take 30 minutes to an hour to reach the city center (¥60-¥100/$8-$12, including ¥10/$1 toll), depending on traffic. Bypass any drivers who approach you inside the airport, and head for the rank instead. Insist on using the meter. Air-conditioned airport shuttle buses, the cheapest way to get into the city, leave from in front of the domestic arrivals area. The most useful line (A) runs 24 hours a day (departs every 15 min., 8am-10pm; less frequently at other times; ¥16/$2). Destinations include Sanyuan Qiao (near the Hilton and Renaissance hotels), the Dong Zhi Men and Dong Si Shitiao metro stations, Beijing Railway Station, the CAAC ticket office in Xi Dan, Hang Tian Qiao (near the Marriott West), and the International Hotel. Air-conditioned Iveco buses to Tianjln (9am-10pm; 2j/4 hr.; ¥70/$9) leave from just inside the parking garage opposite door 9 in the domestic arrivals section.

Tickets for domestic flights and international flights on Chinese airlines are best purchased either through a reliable agent (see below) or in one of two main ticketing halls: the Aviation Building (Minhang Dalou; & 010/6601-7755; fax 010/6601-7585; 24 hr.) at Xi Chan'an Jie 15, just east of the Xi Dan metro station; or at the Airlines Ticketing Hall (Minhang Yingye Da Ting; & 010/84028198; fax 010/6401-5307; 8am-5pm), opposite the north end of Wangfujing Dajie at Dongs! Xi Dajie 155. Both accept credit cards and offer discounts similar to those you'll get with an agent. There are daily direct flights from the Capital Airport to nearly every major Chinese city, including Shanghai, Guangzhou, Xi'an, Chengdu, and Lhasa.

Most hotels can arrange tickets for flights on foreign airlines, but they tend to levy hefty service fees. Reliable booking agents, such as Airtrans (next to the Jianguo Hotel; & 010/6595-2255), are often the cheapest option, but also check directly with the airlines themselves, if only to get an idea of standard prices. Most major international airlines have offices in Beijing; check websites for contact information.

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