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Getting Around l Getting There
Getting There


There are 115 ports of entry and exit in China but only a few foreign airlines are allowed the privilege of access to China’s airspace. The official carrier for China is Air China, which is run by the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC). An alternative to Air China is Dragonair, a joint venture between the CAAC and Cathay Pacific. Dragonair is closely linked with Cathay Pacific operations. Cathay Pacific does not fly into China itself, with the exception of Hong Kong, but tickets for Dragonair can be booked from Cathay Pacific offices worldwide with the transit in Hong Kong. The standard of service and safety record of Dragonair is generally better than that of Air China but the recent years have seen notable improvements in Air China’s performance.

Tickets to China are significantly more expensive in relation to other destinations partially because of the policies exercised by the CAAC in protecting their domestic carriers. A cheaper option is to fly to either Hong Kong or Macau, and proceed into China by alternative forms of transport. This is the preferred arrangement of most tourists to China. There are possible discount tickets but these are few and can only be offered by travel agents.

When leaving China, you will be subject to a departure tax of Y105, which is only payable in local currency.


Foreigners are rarely allowed to drive their own cars across the border although there are a host of entry points into China by land. The Vietnam-China border is a popular crossing point. The Trans-Siberian Railway from Europe offers an incomparable experience as you can travel from Moscow to Beijing across the Siberian taiga, the steppes of Mongolia, and across the Gobi Desert. Alternatively there are the wondrous experiences offered by the Nepal-Tibet, Pakistan-Xinjiang, and Kazakhstan-Xinjiang routes. There are several other routes, which include Macau-Zhuhai, Islamabad-Kashgar via the Karakoram Highway, Almaty-Urumqi, Bishkek-Kashgar, Pyongyang-Beijing, and Dong Dang/Lao Cai-Pinxiang/Hekou.

The Pakistan-China route winds through high-altitudes, sometimes above 4000 meters. The bus trip carries with it the usual dangers of negotiating mountainous routes and the added inconvenience of possible altitude sickness. The road from Lhasa to Kathmandu was reopened in 1993 but the inconvenience of using this route is that visas from Nepal to China are available only by official bookings through organized tour groups. Also, a mandatory Lhasa tour is included whether you want to join the US$100 tour or not.


The avid mariner is not left out as there are several routes and services available from Hong Kong, Japan and Korea.

  • Hong KongThere are several boats, jet-powered catamaran, and cruise liner services plying routes between Hong Kong and several Chinese cities, including Guangzhou, Shanghai, Shekou, and Shenzhen. One of the most popular routes is the Hong Kong-Guangzhou route, which takes about nine hours by boats that leave on alternate days or daily jet-powered catamarans, which make the journey in just three hours.

  • Japan
    A luxury boat service is available between Osaka/Yokohama and Shanghai and departs on a weekly basis while another ship sails between Kobe and Tanggu, which is near Tianjin.

  • Korea
    The South Korean port of Inch’on is connected to the Chinese cities of Weihai, Tianjin and Qingdao by ferries that even have karaoke lounges. The Inch’on-Weihai trip takes about 17 hours while the Inch’on-Tianjin trip lasts over 30 hours. The trip to Qingdao can be made in approximately 20 hours.

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