Airports will feel familiar even if everything is in another language. Security lines are still long and the flight attendants will still walk through safety procedures before liftoff.
But there are a few things different about flying in China. There are also a few secrets to flying here that will make your experience so much better.
Check out this list of 5 tips for successful China air travel and if you have any others you might add to this list, just leave a comment below!
#5 Check Your Luggage Weight Limit
Most people forget the fact that the luggage weight limit in China is different until they’re faced with paying a steep overage charge. Not fun.
It’s easy to get confused. The weight limit for most international flights is different than domestic routes here in China. For most airlines in China, domestic flights only allow you 20kg per piece of luggage.
Translated for Americans that’s about 45 lbs, a good 5 lbs less than what you’re used to. Take note and don’t be caught unaware!
#4 Expect Flight Delays – and Prepare for Them
Flight delays are still a huge problem here in China. I’ve been caught numerous times overnight during travel here in China and although most airlines have been good to put me up in a hotel, it’s still a big pain in the butt.
Over the years I’ve learned that it’s best to prepare at least one change of clothes on my carry-on just in case this happens. (see tips on how to pack like a China travel expert)
Also, take it as an adventure! Such delays have the tendency to ruin an entire trip unless you expect them and try to make the best of it.
#3 Avoid Airline Food
You’ll notice when you fly in China that almost every single flight over two hours in length serves a meal. This practice may not continue forever, but for now it remains true.
If you’re smart, you’ll avoid it.
This tip is true of pretty much any country you fly. Airline meals just aren’t worth the calories – or the risk of diarrhea. If you must, bring your own food (my favorite is to find a Subway in the airport prior to leaving – but that’s just my preference).
#2 Be Prepared with your Phone
First things first – it’s good to be aware that technically you’re not allowed to use your phone on a Chinese flight – even if it’s on “Airplane Mode”. Annoying, I know. They allow iPods, tablet computers and laptops but not phones.
More than likely you can still use yours without consequence, just be prepared if a flight attendant asks you to turn it off.
Sadly, many Chinese airports are very restrictive with their Wi-fi and many still don’t have it at all. Of those that do offer Wi-fi, it often requires text message verification (which means you need to be able to get text messages in China).
One last thing that you’re probably already aware of: once you do get on the internet – even at an international airport – be aware that China heavily censors its internet traffic. You can’t access Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Gmail and many other sites without a VPN. You can find my suggestions for the best China VPNs here.
#1 Buying China Flight Tickets | Be Smart
Most travelers tend to purchase their domestic China flight tickets through sites like Orbitz, Kayak, Expedia and others. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, you may not be getting the best price for your ticket.
Expats who live here in China have quickly learned that using local sites to buy domestic flights works best. Often the prices will be cheaper. Also, flight tickets in China are usually at their cheapest between 1-2 months prior to departure.
If you’re looking for the best local sites to buy China domestic flight tickets, most expats use Ctrip, although if you want to shop around, here are the 4 most popular China flight booking sites to help you compare.