Connecting in Beijing: guide to the airport and what to see in the city

Connecting in Beijing: guide to the airport and what to see in the city

transfer in beijing

A step-by-step guide to connecting in Beijing: how to get out of the city and not get lost, how to get to the center, and what to see in Beijing in 1, 2, and 3 days. Everything you need to know when transiting through the capital of the Celestial Empire!

Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK) is the largest airport in China. It has three terminals connected by shuttles and trains. The third terminal is the largest and is divided into C, D, E. The airport is huge, and we will try to explain how not to get lost in it.

  1. The first part of the article will focus on: how to get into the city during the visa-free transit, how to get to the center, and how to check in for the next flight and what to do while waiting in Shoudou.
  2. The second part of this article is an itinerary of sights to see during a long layover in Beijing in 6-12 hours, one, two or three days.

Where to look for cheap tickets? The best way to do this is with the Aviasales and Skyscanner search engines. To find the best price, check with both and see tickets for different dates. Read also the instructions on how to search for cheap airline tickets correctly.

Content:

beijing airport transit

(Photo: Tomasz Wagner / flickr.com / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license)

Transferring in Beijing: how not to get lost?

Although the airport is gigantic, it’s clearly organized. There are maps and charts in the terminals, there are always signs in English, and the staff will always tell you what to do and how to do it – so you don’t have to worry.

International flights arrive at terminal T3E. So, what should you do when in transit so you don’t get lost?

Waiting for your connection at the airport

After getting off the plane you go together with everyone else to the escalator and up to the 3rd floor (3F). If your bags are checked in all the way to the final destination and your flight is about to depart, look for the signs “Transit”: go to the International Transfer counters and you will receive your boarding pass (if you do not have it yet) – then go through passport control, go downstairs (floor 2F), go through customs and you will enter the waiting area for the boarding on the next flight. If you enter the waiting area, you will not be allowed back, so be careful.

If your luggage is checked in all the way to Beijing, you must retrieve it and check in for your next flight. To do this, use the instructions for exiting the city (read below) and be guided by the Exit and Baggage Claim signs. Pick up your baggage and go to the customs office (China Customs). Afterwards you will reach the Arrivals Hall (T3C). Look for signs indicating Departure or Chek-in: take the elevator to floor 4F, where the check-in hall is located. Find your check-in counter and drop off your luggage. Then take the same train you came on again and get to T3E. Next are the usual formalities: inspection and passport control, and then proceed to the waiting room. Here you can relax, have a snack, drink coffee or take a nap in the comfortable chairs while waiting for your flight.

from beijing airport to the city

(Photo: dcmaster / flickr.com / CC BY-NC 2.0 license)

Going out on the town

Go up to the 3rd floor (3F). If you need to get into town, go where most of the passengers are going and go to the For tranzit passengers leaving airport – the checkpoint on the far left (sometimes, if it is not working, the staff may direct you to the booth on the far right). Say “transit” and give the officer the Arrival Card together with your passport and the itinerary (electronic ticket) in English. The departure must be from the same airport, and the time spent in the capital must not exceed 72 hours. On the Arrival Card also write the number of your flight.

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If you were not given a migration card on the plane, they are on the special desks. Fill it out in Latin letters. Do not lose the other half of the migration card – Departure Card – you must give it to the officer at departure. Experienced travelers advise to take some cards with you and fill them out to save time on your way back through Beijing.

According to tourist reviews, often employees do not want to let travelers out during their connection to the city and strive to send them to the waiting room, so be vigilant. In this case, it is better to have a printout from the embassy website about the right to transit, and insist that you need to pick up your luggage and check it in for another flight, even if it is not entirely true.

After successfully passing passport control, take the escalator down to the platform of the train that runs between parts of the terminal. Get to the T3C terminus and get off at the Baggage Claim lounge. Get your luggage (if necessary) and go to the customs – China Customs. After the inspection go out to the arrivals hall, where you can walk to the express, cab and bus stops.

Departure from another terminal

If you need to change terminals at Beijing airport, don’t panic – terminals 1 and 2 are connected by a walkway, and a free shuttle bus runs between them and T3 – Free Inter-Terminal Shuttle Bus (look for corresponding signs). Shuttle stops are: Gate 5 F1 of T3 – Departure floor of T2 – Departure floor of T1 – Gate 7 of Arrival floor of T2 – Gate 7 Arrival floor of T1 – Departure floor of T3.

The bus runs every 10 minutes during the day and every 30 minutes at night. It takes about 10-20 minutes to get there. You can also take an express train but the ticket costs 25 yuan.

change at beijing airport

(Photo: Enzojz / flickr.com / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license)

What to do at the airport?

Shawdue is big, beautiful, and interesting, and if you have enough time and you’re not going into town, you can walk around it. There are numerous cafes and restaurants (note that almost everything is closed at night), hourly and capsule hotels, a variety of exhibits, a spa, fitness center, duty-free shops, and an entertainment center for kids.

There are luggage lockers, a lot of outlets, free Wi-Fi (you have to get the password and login by scanning your passport in a special machine), ATMs and currency exchange machines, machines with free drinking water, as well as machines where you can charge your cell phone (there are different PLUs, in case you put yours in the luggage) – so everything for a comfortable pastime.

There are hotels in Beijing airport: 1 hour – 80 yuan without shower and 100 yuan with shower. It’s convenient to search on Roomguru – you can find both hotels and apartments there.

Download maps of Shawdu and its terminals from the official website.

How to get from Beijing Airport to the city

Airport Express Train

One of the fastest and most convenient ways to get from Beijing airport to the city center. Walk straight from the customs office and you will see a ticket office – Airport Express Tickets. Ticket price is 25 yuan (looks like a plastic card), metro fare is 2 yuan. Then you should go down to the station. Express trains run from 6:20 am to 10:50 pm every 10-12 minutes. Stops at Terminal 2 and 3, as well as at Dongzhimen and Sanyuanqiao stations. From Sanyuanqiao station, you can transfer to Metro Line 10, and from Dongzhimen to Metro Lines 2 and 13. The travel time is about 20 minutes.

Buses (Airport Bus and Airport Shuttle)

Buses can take you to any part of the city. The bus stops have a large blue board with information about the buses. Tickets start at 15 yuan and are available at the Local Bus Ticket counter at exit 7 of T3. Buses run from 7am to midnight. There are also night buses that run from 0:00 until the last plane. Travel time is about an hour (not including traffic). Stops at T3 exits 1, 7 and 9. Look for shuttle routes and bus routes.

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Cab from airport to Beijing

Cabs are a popular way to get downtown from the airport and there are usually long lines, but they move quickly. A trip will cost 85-150 yuan, landing outside of Terminal 3. You can also pre-book a car through Kiwi Taxi; it’s fast and reliable and you’ll be met at the exit with a sign.

transfer in beijing

(Photo: A. Galassi / flickr.com / CC BY-ND 2.0 license)

What to see in Beijing in 1, 2 and 3 days

If a traveler has a short layover in Beijing, you can take the opportunity to get to know the Chinese capital better. All transit passengers are allowed to visit the city without a visa to China for 72 hours, and during this time you can see a lot of things in Beijing. To get a visa-free transit stamp, you must have a ticket for departure from the airport to a third country within the specified period, a passport, and a filled out migration card.

If you have only a few hours to spare, this time is only enough for formal procedures. If the connection 6, 10, 12 hours or more, then you can go into town: consider that at least 2 hours to travel (there and back) and leave 1.5-2 hours for the airport. And if you have a stopover for 72 hours, you can take all three routes below.

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Route 1. Tiananmen, Gugong, Jingshan, Beihai, Wangfujing

In 1 day you can see the main sights in Beijing. Tiananmen Square is the largest square in the world, there is the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong, on the northern side it is decorated by a gate more than 30 meters high. There are two museums open every day until 16:00. The easiest way to get here is to take the Aeroexpress to Dongzhimen Station and then take another 15 minutes to Qianmen Station – that will be the south side of the square.

The Forbidden City or Gugong, the No. 1 place to see in China’s capital, can be reached on foot from the square. It is also called the Imperial Palace: a huge complex, a river, marble bridges. You will need at least two hours to see it. Entrance is open from 8:30 to 16:00, ticket office at the entrance, the ticket costs 60 yuan, there is an audio guide in Russian.

Just north of the Imperial Palace is Jingshan Park, located on a hill overlooking the city. To get to the park, walk from the Gugong along Jingshanquan Street to the intersection with East Jingshan, turn left, and walk to the park entrance. Admission is 10 yuan, open until 21.

If you walk all the way through Jingshan Park and cross West Jingshan Street, you can walk along a small street to the entrance to Beihai Park. Here there are Buddhist temples and walking pensioners, the park itself is very well-kept and beautiful.

If you want to feel the special flavor, you can walk from Tiananmen Square to Wangfujing pedestrian street or take the subway (Wangfujing, line 1). The area is full of restaurants and shopping malls and at night there’s the Donghuamen Market, which sells all kinds of exotics like scorpions and spiders on a stick.

what to see in beijing

(Photo: ^ Johnny / flickr.com / CC BY-NC 2.0 license)

Route 2. Summer Palace, Qianmen and the Temple of Heaven

With a short layover in Beijing, the following itinerary can be suggested, which will take about 4-5 hours.

Qianmen Pedestrian Street is unique in terms of architecture and shopping. Here you can have lunch, buy souvenirs, order a tea ceremony (1-1,5 hours). There is also a popular restaurant “Quanjude” where you can taste the specialty – Peking duck. Nearby are the old Chinese quarters – hutongs. Qianmen Street can be reached by subway – Qianmen Line 2.

If you go all the way along Qianmen Street and head south, after 2 km you will see the Temple of Heaven (Tiantan) – a magnificent architectural ensemble with a park complex. The entrance fee is 30 yuan and the visit is from 9 to 16. Or you can take the subway – Tiantandongmen station, line 5.

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In all travel guides you can see a white marble building in the form of a rook on the water – the Summer Palace. It is best visited during the warm season and is located in a suburb of Beijing. Entrance to the palace buildings and the park with the lake is open from 9 to 16, the ticket costs 30 yuan. You can take the subway (Beigongmen Station, Line 4), then walk about a kilometer.

what to see in beijing in 1 day

(Photo: Andy*Enero / flickr.com / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license)

Route 3. Great Wall of China.

You need to have a full day to visit the Great Wall of China, and you’ll need your strength because you’ll have to walk a lot, so if you have a short connection and are only transiting Beijing for 6-12 hours, this option is off the table.

The most visited section of the wall is Badaling; it’s the closest to the city, 60 km from the capital. Admission is 45 yuan. From Tiananmen Square you can take a cab (500 yuan) or a tourist bus. The second option is not suitable if you have limited time: tourists are taken to other sites and fed, which is at least 2-3 extra hours of time. The cheapest way is to take the subway to Beijing Railway Station North, which is located at Xizhimen Station.

If you go from the airport, the best way is to take an express train to Dongzhimen, then take Line 2 to Xizhimen Station, which goes to the north station. Take odd-numbered train (return – even-numbered), and in 1.5 hours you will be there. The fare is 6 yuan. You can climb the wall on foot or by cable car (60 yuan). An hour or two or three hours is quite enough for an active walk.

In order not to be late for the last express train to Shawduh, it’s better to get back no later than 19-20 hours. Of course you can always take a cab from the center of the capital, but instead of 25 yuan you’ll have to pay at least 80 yuan to a cab driver.

If you plan the route correctly and calculate your strength, you can get great pleasure from contemplating the sights of Beijing, even being limited in time during a short layover.

Connecting at Beijing Airport

In 2022, the number of people who travel with a connection in the Chinese capital has increased by 5%. A connection in Beijing can take anywhere from an hour to several days. The airport waiting area is huge, with comfortable seats, boxes with refreshments and TVs.

Beijing International Airport, Terminal 3.

Beijing International Airport – Terminal 3.

What can the capital of the Celestial Empire offer to transit passengers, where to go and what to see?

Visa-free transit

Many people wonder if they need a visa when traveling through Beijing Airport. A visa document is necessary if the stay in the country is going to be long.

There are three options for visa-free transit in China in 2022.

  1. 24 hours. This transit can be obtained if you have 2 or more stopovers in China.
  2. 72 hours. Available in many other cities in China.
  3. 144 hours. If you have only one connection in Beijing airport. And the tickets may be from different airlines. This option is available in many cities in China. Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK) is one of them.

If a passenger waits no more than 144 hours for a connection in 2022, he or she can stay at the airport without a visa and see the sights of the city.

Visa-free transit for 144 hours is only allowed within the city. Thus, the passenger must fly in and out of China, precisely from Beijing.

For the citizens of other countries the rules of transit transiting in China are different (you can learn about visa to China for the citizen of Kazakhstan by following this link).

For the longer stay in China the Russians and Ukrainians need a visa to travel to Beijing

Step-by-step instruction: what to do after arrival at the airport

  1. Pay attention to the signs marked Exit in order to get out of the city.
  2. When you go to collect your luggage, look for the Baggage Claim sign.
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Signs at Beijing airport

Signs at Beijing Beijing Airport Terminal 2

Signs at Beijing International Airport, Terminal 3.

Signs at Beijing Airport Terminal 3

China Migration Card

This is what China’s Migration Card looks like.

More often than not, the bus brings passengers to Beijing Terminal 2. During a long stay, it would be boring to stay at the airport and enjoy its privileges. Therefore, the tourist has the opportunity to go out into the city.

Map of Beijing Airport

Beijing Airport Scheme

If he does not have a transit visa for transfer in China, he can stay outside the airport building for 6 days (144 hours).

You can find out about issuing a visa to Beijing, if you need one, on our website by clicking on this link.

Pay special attention to the signs marked “Transit. After leaving the luggage it is better to come to the registration desk with such a sign and make sure that the connection will be as scheduled. Experienced tourists even set an alarm clock on the phone, which will warn you beforehand that it is time to go to the airport.

A diagram of Beijing airport

Those who fly through Beijing Shawdu Airport will be amazed by its enormous size. The three terminals are connected by special shuttles and electric trains. So moving around will not cause difficulty for foreigners.

Pay attention to the signs that indicate the direction. And also in each pavilion is a terminal that shows the location of the person and can lay out the route to the point of destination.

Checking in for international flights in 2022 can take a long time. After people pass through the gate, a bus brings them to the terminal. Here it requires going through a metal detector and passport control. These procedures take about 1 hour.

While waiting for the next flight, passengers can put luggage not to interfere in the luggage room. It operates around the clock, so if a person arrived at night, there will be no problems.

A diagram of Beijing Airport, Terminal 1 and 2

Beijing Airport Scheme, Terminal 1 and 2

Near the luggage room there is a huge diagram with the location of all the necessary pavilions of the airport. Every 100 meters there are desks with employees who are ready to answer all tourists’ questions and provide first aid.

If you transfer at Beijing airport, while you are waiting for your connection, you can have a snack, charge your mobile devices and even go out into the city. Keep your departure ticket next to your passport, not in your hand, so that, like many passengers, you don’t forget an important document at one of the counters.

A diagram of Beijing Airport, Terminal 3

Diagram of Beijing Airport, Terminal 3

Transit through Beijing can take anywhere from a few hours to two days. Everything you need for your leisure and personal needs can be found in any airport terminal:

  1. Showers are available on every floor.
  2. You can grab a bite to eat in a café or restaurant. At night, almost all eating places are closed, but you can buy food from a vending machine.
  3. There are hourly hotels.
  4. Often the airport has exhibitions on the first floor. They will not be available at night.
  5. You can visit the spa or the gym.
  6. A special room with cages in which you can leave the animals you carry with you for a while.
  7. The entertainment center for children is open from 8 am to 8 pm.
  8. Free library. Tourists can read not only a regular book, but also in electronic form.
  9. In a comfortable chair you can listen to music. An hour of such relaxation costs one yuan.
  10. Free luggage carts are available.
  11. Bank branches are open.
  12. A business center is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. There you can print out important documents, send or receive faxes.
  13. You can rent a car.
  14. The Duty Free & Shopping store allows you to shop without paying duty.
  15. There are convenient changing rooms (the service is free). These pavilions have tables, chairs and large mirrors. Visitors can tidy up after a long flight.

Wi-Fi can be accessed through a special terminal. To do this you will need to make a scan of your passport. For tourists installed ATMs, terminals and centers for currency exchange.

Vending machine with drinking water works 24 hours a day and for free. Passengers waiting for more than six hours can get free meal vouchers.

On a side note. One hour in a local hotel will cost 80 yuan. If one also wishes to take a shower, one will have to pay 100 yuan. Some airlines offer coupons that allow free showers or rest in the hotel.

How to get from the airport to the city

A visa-free transit time in Beijing is 144 hours.

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By Airport Express Train and Metro

To get to the city quickly, you can use the local Airport Express Train service.

Airport Express Train

Airport Express Train

Staff will issue you a plastic card that you can use to pay for your ride on the subway or other public transportation. This card costs ¥25. For comparison: one trip on the subway costs 2 yuan and one trip on the bus costs 1 yuan.

The qianmen subway runs from 6am to 11pm. It takes no more than 10 minutes to wait for the subway.

By bus.

If a tourist wishes to take the bus, the station is near the central exit. This transport can take you to any city in China. The average ticket price is 15 yuan.

You can buy tickets near the Local Bus Ticket sign at Gate 7 of Terminal 3. Public transport is open from 7 a.m. to 12 p.m.

There are also private buses that take tourists at night. To get to the city center, it takes about an hour.

Local Bus Ticket sign

You can buy tickets at the Local Bus Ticket sign

Cab and shuttle booking

If a person wants to take a ride in comfort, he can always take a cab. You can do it around the clock. The cost of a trip will cost from 100 to 150 yuan. In China the fare is fixed, so you should not worry that the driver will take more.

You can also book a shuttle and transfer in advance online using KiwiTaxi service. The cab driver will not just drive up to the necessary exit at any time of the day, but will have a sign with the passenger’s surname.

Screenshot of Kiwitaxi website

Calculating the cost of transfer from the airport to the city

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Here you can calculate the exact cost of a transfer from Shawdu Airport in Beijing to the city and back.

The best route to the sights of Beijing in 1-2 days

It is possible to go to the city with a long transfer. Even 10 hours is enough to feel the atmosphere of this country.

Visa-free transit allows you to see the highlights of Beijing:

    You should start your mini-trip from the main square of the capital. It is located in the historical part of the city. This is where the mighty and independent state of the People’s Republic of China began to emerge.

Tiananmen Square in Beijing

Tiananmen in Beijing – China’s main square

Temple of Heaven in Beijing

Emperor's Summer Palace in China

Summer Palace of Emperors

Changlang Gallery

Long corridor in the Summer Imperial Palace (Changlan Gallery)

Gate of Heaven

“Gate of Heavenly Tranquility”.

Mao Zedong Mausoleum

Mausoleum of Mao Zedong, the creator of the modern Chinese state

Yongheggong Temple.

Lama Temple of Yongheggong

Stadium, Olympic Park, Beijing

Olympic Park Stadium in Beijing

Wangfujing Street

Wangfujing Street

Peace Park in Beijing

Panorama of Peace Park in Beijing

If a passenger waits several days for a connection and is wondering what to see, it is advisable to buy tickets. Beijing has many national museums that tell the history of this city and modern times. The cost of a visit is on average 10 euros, the opening hours are from 10 am to 5 pm.

On a side note. Tickets should be ordered online. So visitors have the opportunity to get a discount. In addition, at the airport you can connect to Wi-Fi for free and make an order before going out into the city.

What else to do while waiting for your flight? You can visit the Forbidden City and walk along the Chinese Wall, but only if passengers have more than 12 hours to spare.

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