Beijing Capital International Airport lies 32km north-east of the city centre, and is the world's second busiest airport. It has three terminals, in separate buildings (though a walkway links Terminals 1 and 2):
Travelling between terminals
Distances between Beijing’s Terminals are large. It is strongly recommended to have enough time to go from one terminal to another.
You can take a free shuttle bus between all three terminals. Shuttles leave roughly every 10 minutes from 06:00-23:00, and every 30 minutes from 01:00-05:00. Stops are located at Terminal 1, level 1, outside Gate 7. Terminal 2, level 1, outside Gate 7. Terminal 3, level 1, Gate 5
Terminals 1 and 2 lie close together, and there's a walkway between them, requiring a walk of around 10-15 minutes.
The airport is far from the city centre, and traffic in Beijing can be a nightmare, so if you're travelling light, we recommend taking the train. On the other hand, taxis are relatively cheap and if you have plenty time, can be an easier option if you want to avoid negotiating public transport, and arrive directly at your accommodation.
The Airport Express Line of the Beijing Subway offers a reliable service - taking you from Terminal 3 to Terminal 2, and then to the city with stops at Sanyuanqiao (for Line10) and Dongzhimen (for Lines 2 and 13) in only 16-20 minutes. From here, you'll have to take a taxi or public transport to your final destination, which can be difficult if you’re carrying a lot of luggage. Trains leave every 10 minutes. Running times are 06:35-23:10 for Terminal 2 and 06:20-22:50 for Terminal 3.
Cost: CNY 25 one-way
Location: Airport Express stations in Terminals 2 and 3
A taxi should take around an hour in regular traffic - but that time (and fare) can double during rush hour. Tip: Instead of waiting in long queues, you can call a cab while waiting for your luggage using the Didi Taxi app (滴滴打车), which is in Chinese as well as English. Or ask a nearby local who has the app.
Cost: CNY 100-200 to central Beijing (including any tolls, which must be paid by the passenger)
For the heavily laden, yet budget-conscious traveller, it can be easier to take one of the airport buses. There are nine different shuttle bus routes available to and from various points in Beijing. The routes that terminate at Beijing Railway Station or the International Hotel are the most useful for going to the city centre. Other bus routes include Xidan, Fangzhuang, Zhongguancun as well as Nanyuan Airport.
Cost: CNY 16
Buying tickets: The airport buses accept only paper tickets that are sold at each terminal and certain bus stops in the city
If you’re from one of these countries, you don't need to get a visa in advance for trips less than 72 hours. Print out the details of your connecting flight and fill in an Arrival Form to enjoy visa-free travel for 72 hours in China. Other cities offer visas on arrival, for a fee, but this service is offered free to facilitate the travel of international visitors. Be aware that you must fly out of the same airport you flew into.
When transferring between international flights, you will have to collect your new boarding pass and go downstairs to Departures. There is a queue designated to airside transit (don't use the immigration queue), which is to the right of the main passport control. There are generally only two people on the desk so getting through can take upwards of an hour.
Your passport will be stamped for China entry, at which point you will head downstairs and your passport will be stamped for China exit – typically by the same person. Allow two hours for the whole procedure.
Beijing immigration has a lane set aside for 72-hour, visa-free stopovers. When you arrive at the immigration control, be sure to have the boarding pass from your first flight and an onward plane ticket for a third destination (not a return flight) available to show to immigration officers.
If you need to exchange money, you’re better off waiting until you’re at your hotel. The airport exchange offices charge hefty fees, up to RMB 60 per exchange. Hotels, on the other hand, have cash points that allow you to exchange major currency (EUR, GBP, USD) for just RMB 20 in amounts up to USD 400.
The airport’s business centre offers access to a fax machine, photocopier, mobile phone chargers, printers and personal workstations. It’s a great place to get some work done and meet other professionals travelling between Beijing and other business hubs.
Terminal 2, after security, departures hall, opposite Gate 14
Hours: 6:30-21:30 daily
There are many lounges in Beijing airport, though most of them are operated by local Chinese or Asian airlines.
Terminal 3 has sleep pods that can be rented by the hour. Rooms start at RMB 120/hour for a single bed with a shower room and toilet. A full day costs RMB 720.
Be aware that the pods are outside the security and immigration checkpoint, so you will need a visa or an onward flight within 72 hours to leave the secure area.
Terminal 3, before security
There are no International Duty Free shops or a money exchange office at the domestic departure gates. So if you have a connecting flight in the domestic departure hall of the terminal and planned on exchanging cash, it’s best to do it upon arrival. The fee for exchanging currencies is RMB 60 at the airport.
You can book a private room with a bed and shower access for hourly rates at the Hourly Lounges:
Alternatively you can use the public lounge in terminal 3, which also has a shower:
In the Children’s Play Area can play with toys and watch cartoons throughout the day.
Terminal 2, after security, domsteic departures, floor 2, near gates 10, 25 and 35
Terminal 3C, after security, near gate 10 and gate 30
Terminal 3E, after security, near the imperial garden
For nursing mums, the airport provides a private space for diaper changing, nursing, and napping. The nursing rooms are located beside the toilets, where you can use the baby care platforms, water pool, chairs and other facilities to help you take care of your baby’s needs.
The Hilton can be reached on foot from Terminal 3 and you will have access to a spa, indoor pool, gym, and Chinese and Western restaurants. While staying here is an option, the restaurants are open to the public and if you book a spa appointment, you will have access to the pool and gym without booking a room.
A shuttle departs from Terminal 3 near Gate 5 every 15 minutes. Rooms start at RMB 1,618 per night, including Wi-Fi and breakfast.
Rental cars for international guests are not common in China. Driving requires a Chinese license which can be hard to get and traffic in China is often considered dangerous. Therefore there is no specific rental car center.
However there is a AVIS rental station in a hotel next to the airport:
Jinjiang Inn Hotel, Room 8012, Shunyi, Beijing, 101304, CN
Hours: 09:00-21:00 daily
If you have any electronics in your carry-on, each piece, including cables and cords, will need to be removed and scanned at the security check. To save yourself some hassle, keep all of your electronics and cables in one easy-to-access place in your carry-on.
If you are a smoker, be sure to put your favourite lighter in your checked luggage. Lighters will be confiscated at security.
Take advantage of the airport's proximity to cultural sites by taking a tour from Beijing airport. You can hire a personal guide to take you to Tiananmen Square or the Great Wall of China. There are plenty of layover tours in Beijing that you can book, provided you have a minimum of 8 hours’ layover.
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