Practical tips

  • If you are flying to China from abroad, you will most likely land at one of its biggest international airportsits main international airportBeijing PEK, Hong Kong HKG, Shanghai PVG, and Guangzhou CAN.

    These are also the best (and cheapest) airports to fly into China. As they are used by many airlines serving the same routes, the competition for passengers is fierce, and airfare decreases as a result.
Best airports to fly into China: Beijing (PEK), Hong Kong (HKG), Shanghai (PVG), Guangzhou (CAN), Xiamen (XMN), Hangzhou (HGH), Chongqing (CKG), and Chengdu (CTU)
China has more than 200 airports, including 8 major international airports – Beijing PEK, Hong Kong HKG, Shanghai PVG, Guangzhou CAN, Xiamen XMN, Hangzhou HGH, Chongqing CKG, and Chengdu CTU.
  • Once in China, take advantage of frequent intercity flights operated by domestic airlines such as China Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines, Air China, Hainan Air, Beijing Capital Airlines, Grand China Air, Lucky Air, Shanghai Airlines, Spring Airlines, Sichuan Airlines, and Tianjin Airlines. Those in-country carriers typically offer lower fares, operate from smaller airports located closer to city centers (you save on ground transportation) and provide flexible schedules – with a wide range of departure times.
  • Planning to explore the region? Popular destinations near China can be easily reached with regional low-cost carriers (LCCs) by the likes of AirAsia, Bangkok Airways, Batik Air, Cebu Pacific, Jeju Air, Scoot, Tigerair Taiwan, and VietJet Air. If you have a layover in China and plan to fly only a short distance to one of its neighboring countries, these budget airlines are an excellent way to save money.

Flights to China
from United States and Canada

  • There are no direct flights from the US or Canada to China. However, most major hubs in Asia have non-stop flights to China, as do some larger airports in the Middle East – your journey will have at least one stop. There are plenty of direct routes to China from major North American cities like Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and Washington D.C. in the US or Toronto and Vancouver in Canada. Most travelers from the US and Canada arrive at one of big international airports in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Xiamen, and Chengdu. Non-stop flights between the US/Canada and China are operated by Air Canada, American Airlines, United Airlines, Air China, China Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines, Hainan Airlines, and Xiamen Airlines. The average direct flight time between North America and China is between 12 and 16 hours.
  • China is well-served via one-stop flights from North America. Flights to China with one layover depart from most major North American airports, including Atlanta ATL, Dallas DFW, Denver DEN, Chicago ORD, Los Angeles LAX, Las Vegas DFW, Miami MIA, Seattle SEA, Houston IAH, New York JFK, and San Francisco SFO in the United States and Toronto YYZ, Vancouver YVR, Calgary LAS, and Montreal YUL in Canada.
  • The best airlines to fly to China from the US and Canada are: Air Canada, Air China, Alaska Airlines, Cathay Pacific, China Airlines, China Eastern Airlines, EVA Air, Singapore Airlines, Qatar Airways, United Airlines, and Xiamen Airlines. They are top full-service carriers, offering exceptional customer service, in-flight comfort, a generous checked baggage allowance, and reliable customer support channels – all included in the ticket price.

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Flights to China from Europe

  • There are no direct flights from Europe to China — you’ll need to get a connecting flight from elsewhere in the Middle East or in Asia. Direct flights from Europe to China are around 8 hours long if you fly from Warsaw, or nearly 12 hours if you depart from London. Other important European hubs with direct connections to China are Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Frankfurt, Helsinki, Madrid, Milan, Paris, Rome, and Vienna. These non-stop long-haul flights are operated by large carriers such as Air China, Austrian Airlines, Beijing Capital Airlines, British Airways, China Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines, Finnair, Hainan Airlines, LOT, Lufthansa, Neos Air, Virgin Atlantic, and Xiamen Airlines.
  • Airlines that frequently fly from the UK, Germany, France, and other European countries to China include Air China, Air France, Austrian Airlines, China Southern Airlines, Emirates, KLM, LOT, Lufthansa, SSAS, SWISS, Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines, Turkish Airlines, and Virgin Atlantic.
  • Consider departure airports in neighboring countries to increase your chance of spotting the best deal. Especially look for large airports that serve as hubs for multiple airlines. For example, if you live in Western Europe, check air tickets to China from Amsterdam, Frankfurt, London, Madrid, Paris, and Rome. Leverage frequent promotions from European budget carriers like RyanAir, EasyJet, and Eurowings to reach a major hub; from there, take a cheaper long-haul flight to your final destination, potentially saving hundreds of euros.

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Things to know before flying to China
Airlines flying to China9 Air Co, Aeroflot, Air Algerie, Air Astana, Air Canada, Air China, Air France, Air Macau, Air New Zealand, Air Serbia, Air Tanzania, AirAsia, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, ANA, Asiana Airlines, Austrian Airlines, Batik Air, Beijing Capital Airlines, Biman Bangladesh Airlines, British Airways, Cambodia Angkor Air, Cathay Pacific, Cebu Pacific, Chengdu Airlines, China Airlines, China Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines, China United Airlines, Colorful Guizhou Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Emirates, Egypt Air, El Al Israel Airlines, Ethiopian Airlines, Etihad Airlines, EVA Air, Fiji Airways, Finnair, FlexFlight, FlyArystan, Fuzhou Airlines, Garuda Indonesia, Grand China Air, Hainan Airlines, Hebei Airlines, Hong Kong Airlines, IndiGo, Iraqi Airways, ITA Airways, Japan Airlines, Jeju Air, Jiangxi Airlines ,Juneyao Air, Kalitta Air, Kenya Airways, KLM, Korean Air, Kuwait Airways, Lanmei Airlines, LATAM, Loong Air, LOT, Lucky Air, Lufthansa, Mahan Air, Mongolian Airlines, Myanmar Airways, National Airlines, Neos Air, Nok Air, Oman Air, Okay Airways, Pakistan International Airlines, Philippine Airlines, Philippines AirAsia, Qantas, Qingdao Airlines, Qatar Airways, Royal Air Philippines, Royal Brunei Airlines, SAS, Saudia, Scoot, Shandong Airlines, Shenzhen Airlines, Sichuan Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Shanghai Airlines, Spring Airlines, Solomon Airlines, South African Airways, SriLankan Airlines, Suparna Airlines, SWISS, Tap Air Portugal, Thai Airways, Thai Lion Air, Tibet Airlines, Tianjin Airlines, Tigerair Taiwan, Turkish Airlines, Turkmenistan Airlines, Uni Air, United Airlines, Uzbekistan Airways, VietJet Air, Vietnam Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, West Air, WestJet, Xiamen Airlines
Airlines of China (full-service)China Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines, Air China, Hong Kong Airlines, Hainan Airlines, Shenzhen Airlines, Sichuan Airlines, Shanghai Airlines, XiamenAir, Shandong Airlines, Juneyao Airlines

Airlines of China (low-cost)China United Airlines, Beijing Capital Airlines, Spring Airlines, 9 Air, Chengdu Airlines, China Express Airlines, Grand China Air, Colorful Guizhou Airlines, Fuzhou Airlines, Jiangxi Air, Loong Air, Lucky Air, Okay Airways, Qingdao Airlines, Suparna Airlines, Tianjin Airlines, Tibet Airlines, West Air
Main airports in ChinaBeijing Capital International Airport (PEK) — Beijing
Hong Kong International Airport (HKG) — Hong Kong
Shanghai Pudong International Airport (PVG) — Shanghai
Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport (CAN) — Guangzhou
Xiamen Gaoqi International Airport (XMN) — Xiamen
Hangzhou Xiaoshan International Airport (HGH) — Hangzhou
Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport (CKG) — Chongqing
Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport (CTU) — Chengdu
Kunming Changshui International Airport (KMG) — Kunming
Regular price (roundtrip)✈ €800 – €1200 (from Europe)
✈ $1100 – $1600 (from USA)

Low-cost flights from China

Stay ahead of the game. Fly to popular destinations at a fraction of the regular fare.

Top gateway cities in China

China has four large international airports. Your first contact with the country will most likely be at one of these gateway cities: Beijing (a top tourist city with the biggest airport in China), Hong Kong (with many English speakers, and familiar standards of life, it’s a good city to “acclimatize” to China), Shanghai (144-hour visa-free stay policy makes it a great option for a stopover), and Guangzhou (one of China’s oldest cities, with a convenient ferry transport to Hong Kong and Macau).

These are also the largest hubs of China’s air travel, offering plenty of choices for domestic flights to all major cities within the country.

Know your time zone

When checking flights and airport transfer times, ensure you know the local time zones. The departure/arrival times on your plane ticket and boarding pass are based on the time zone of the departure/arrival airport – this also applies to the connecting (layover) airports.

Being almost as wide as the continental United States, China geographically covers 5 time zones. However, China has only one official time zone across the country – CST (China Standard Time) – the decision made by the Communist Party to enhance “national unity”.

CST is also known as Beijing Time and is 8 hours ahead of UTC (it means it’s 13 hours ahead of New York, and 2 hours behind Melbourne). Unlike western countries, China does not follow daylight saving time.

Download a VPN app

When it comes to media censorship, China is one of the world leaders – it seems to have a problem with freedom of speech and certain online content. In the last years, thousands of websites have been banned temporarily or permanently, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Vimeo, Telegram, and Wikipedia. Google and most of its free tools (Google Search, Gmail, Google Maps, Google Drive, etc) will not be available when traveling in China – this will also affect any app or website that uses Google login.

Solution? If you want to keep access to your favorite websites while traveling in China, you should download a VPN app for your smartphone and laptop. By hiding your location, it will allow you to bypass government censorship and freely access all blocked content. Make sure to install it before you arrive – VPN websites and Google Play are blocked, so you can’t download any Android apps when in China.

Duty-free rules

China is serious about the duty-free concession. There is a limit for bringing in certain items. As of 2024, alcoholic beverages for personal consumption – such as wine or spirits (more than 12% alcohol) – cannot exceed 1.5 liters per person, and you can carry only 400 cigarettes, or 100 cigars, or 500g of other tobacco products. You are also only allowed to bring gifts up to a value of RMB 2,000 (~ USD 280) per person, and a maximum of RMB 20,000 in cash (~ USD 2,800).

Anything above those limits must be declared at the airport.

Next tips

The cheapest time to fly to China

Spring and autumn (the low season) are the best times to visit China if you are on a budget. The cheapest flights to China can be found from November through February – while avoiding public holidays like Chinese New Year. The weather is comfortable, with moderate temperatures.

If you are looking for warmer weather, you will find the cheapest fares to China in early Spring (March – April) or late fall (September – October).

There is no Uber nor Grab in China

Uber launched in China in early 2014, but due to difficulties in gaining a meaningful market share, it decided to take a passive role by selling its local operations to DiDi. The popular Asian super-app Grab never entered the China market.

However, getting around Chinese cities is quite convenient thanks to the DiDi Rider app, which works similarly to Uber and Grab. DiDi Rider is the main ride-hailing app in China, letting you hail a private car or a taxi and automatically pay the fare when your ride ends. Only registered drivers with a special license can offer rides in accordance with the law introduced by The Ministry of Transport.

You can download the DiDi Rider app for Android or iOS before arriving in China.

Long waiting times when calling the helpline?

Social media is usually a faster way to reach the airline when a problem arises. Use Twitter or Facebook Messenger to contact the airline customer service and get a response and solution within minutes (see detailed guides for American Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Emirates, and others).

When it comes to Twitter there’s one more trick to get in touch with the airline faster: mention the airline in a tweet about your issue (add “@airline_handle”, for example: “@CEAirglobal” for China Eastern Airlines). The social media team will often notice it immediately, ask you for a direct message, and respond privately.

Plan for airline delays

Unfortunately, flight delays in China are not uncommon, so be prepared. If you are booking a domestic flight that connects to an international flight, make sure you’ve got plenty of time before your international flight takes off. This can save you a lot of stress on the day of travel.

Always keep at least one change of clothes and a toothbrush in your carry-on – just in case your flight gets seriously delayed, and you will have to spend the night in the hotel.

Next tips

Airlines of China

The People’s Republic of China has three main state-owned airlines, also known as the “Big Three”: Air China, China Eastern Airlines, and China Southern Airlines. Together, they handle nearly half of the Chinese air traffic. Air China is a member of Star Alliance which enables codesharing, networking and sharing of operational facilities with other member airlines. Similarly, China Eastern and China Southern are members of the SkyTeam Alliance.

The fourth largest airline in China (in terms of fleet size) – Hainan Airlines – is one of the most recommended airlines to fly both internationally and domestically in China. It is certified by SkyTrax as a 5-Star Airline, which proves the highest quality of its onboard product and staff service.

Most short-haul and medium-haul routes from/to China are operated by its smaller airlines, often with service limited to one region – such as Shanghai Airlines, Shandong Airlines, Shenzhen Airlines, Xiamen Airlines, and Sichuan Airlines.

There are also many budget carriers (AKA no-frills airlines) that offer flights at much lower prices in comparison to full-service airlines such as Air China or Hainan – Spring Airlines, Chengdu Airlines, China Express Airlines, Colorful Guizhou Airlines, Fuzhou AirlinesLucky Air, Okay Airways, Suparna Airlines, Tianjin Airlines, West Air, etc. Because budget airlines manage affordable tickets by cutting down on their operation costs, they may not provide free baggage allowance, inflight refreshments and meals, or Wi-Fi and onboard entertainment. In most cases, their tickets are fixed and non-refundable in case of no show-up or cancellation.

Flights to China
from Australia and New Zealand

  • Australia and New Zealand offer robust flight networks to key APAC locations, China included. While domestic carriers like Qantas, Jetstar Airways, Virgin Australia, and Air New Zealand provide solid options, several major international airlines also serve these routes. These include ANA, Cathay Pacific, EmiratesGaruda Indonesia, Japan Airlines, Korean Air, Malaysia Airlines, Philippine Airlines, Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines, and Thai Airways — expanding your choices for travel between Australasia and Asia.

    There are no direct flights from Australia or New Zealand to China. You’ll need a layover in one of the major hubs in Asia.
  • Airlines have different pricing strategies for different routes. Depending on airline partnerships, demand, and even the time of year, a flight to China could be significantly cheaper from Sydney than from Melbourne.

    Compare fares from main international airports in Australia: Sydney SYD, Brisbane BNE, Melbourne MEL, Perth PER, Adelaide ADL, Cairns CNS, Gold Coast OOL, Canberra CBR, Darwin DRW, and in New Zealand: Auckland AKL, Wellington WLG, Christchurch CHC, and Queenstown ZQN.
  • If you’re looking to save, consider flying from Australia or New Zealand to a primary Asian hub, then catch a connecting flight to China with a regional budget airline such as AirAsia, Bangkok Airways, Batik Air, Cebu Pacific, Jeju Air, Scoot, Tigerair Taiwan, and VietJet Air.

    For the initial leg of your trip, full-service airlines such as Qantas or Virgin Atlantic offer premium comfort and exceptional service, albeit at a premium price. However, many Asian airlines, including budget carriers, operate out of Australia and frequently feature sales and promotions. For instance, AirAsia runs deals to Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, and Singapore; Cebu Pacific to Manila; Scoot to Singapore; VietJet Air to Ho Chi Minh City; Jetstar to Seoul, Singapore, and Tokyo; Bamboo Airways to Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Beijing; Batik Air to Jakarta and Singapore.

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Flights to China
from major hubs in Asia

  • Asia is probably the best continent for short-haul and mid-haul flying. The sheer scale of this most populous region on Earth is reflected in the type of aircraft operating many shorter routes: intra-Asia flyers benefit from comfortable, wide-bodied aircraft by the likes of Boeing 777, 787 or Airbus A350, A330, and A380. When booking your flight to China look for these bigger planes as they will almost always give you the best experience in every cabin, including better seat pitches, higher ceilings, and larger overhead bin space.
  • Asia is also home to most of the world’s best airlines. There are only ten airlines that received the prestigious 5-star mark of quality from Skytrax, and all of them are from Asia: ANA, Asiana Airlines, Cathay Pacific, EVA Air, Garuda Indonesia, Japan Airlines, Korean Air, Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines. Choosing one of these airlines for your trip to China will guarantee a pleasant journey – delicious meals served during the flight, great in-flight entertainment, and above-average airline customer service.
  • Asia is extremely well served by low-cost regional airlines. If you are visiting China and want to see several other countries on a tight budget, they often have great sales with rock-bottom prices, while still offering a relatively comfortable flight experience. Among the best Asian budget airlines you can book without hesitation are AirAsiaCebu Pacific, Citilink, FlyDubai, Indigo, Jetstar Airways, Scoot, SpiceJet. The cons? Being no-frills airlines they may not provide free baggage allowance, inflight meals, or onboard entertainment. The departure times may also be quite inconvenient as they try to save money by flying at off-peak hours.

40–80% off flights to China
from Asia

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Flights to China dataset