China flights - cheap international flight tickets and hacker fares to Beijing, Shanghai

China is gradually reopening to international tourism

As China decided to abandon its zero Covid policy, it started reopening its borders to foreign visitors. On January 8, 2023, Chinese authorities announced the lifting of several major entry restrictions, including the quarantine requirement for inbound travelers. The border with Hong Kong — The Special Administrative Region (SAR) —  has also been reopened. Passengers on inbound flights to Mainland China now only need to show a negative PCR test taken within 48 hours before departure.

Issuing visas for foreigners to enter the country for resumption of work, business, study, or visiting relatives was resumed. However, the tourist visa to China is still suspended, so foreign leisure tourists can’t visit yet. However, Chinese citizens can freely journey abroad.

Transiting through Chinese airports is permitted.

Unlike mainland China, Hong Kong has a less restrictive policy, allowing international tourists to enter the city.

( … )

China:

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Arriving in China

  • 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 the cheapest) airports to fly into China. As they are used by many airlines serving the same routes, the competition for passengers is fierce – with decreased airfare as a result.


  • Once in China, take advantage of frequent flights between the major cities via 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. To check flight schedules/prices and to book the tickets, visit their official websites — OTAs and flight search engines often don’t have access to the flight repository of smaller local airlines. They also often fail to update prices in the event of short-lived sales and promotions that airlines run from time to time. To not miss out on these great offers, visit Promo Radar which aggregates current promotions run by popular airlines.
  • Planning to explore the region? Popular destinations near China can be easily reached with low-cost regional airlines (LCCs) by the likes of AirAsia, Batik Air, Cambodia Angkor Air, Oman Air, Royal Jordanian, Saudia, Scoot, Spring Airlines, Solomon Airlines, and Thai Lion Air.

    These budget carriers offer flights from Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou at lower prices than full-service airlines, and they often fly to smaller airports that big players do not cover. However, the “no-frills” airlines may not provide free checked baggage allowance, complimentary food, in-flight entertainment systems, and fast customer support; you may not even get to choose your seats (unless you pay extra). With that in mind, they are a great option to save money if you have a stopover in China and then fly only a short distance to one of its neighboring countries.
Best airports to fly into China: Beijing (PEK), Hong Kong (HKG), Shanghai (PVG), Guangzhou (CAN), Xiamen (XMN), Hangzhou (HGH), Chongqing (CKG), and Chengdu (CTU)
Airports of China on Google Maps 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.
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 Tanzania, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, ANA, Asiana Airlines, Austrian Airlines, Azal Azerbaijan Airlines, Batik Air, Beijing Capital Airlines, Biman Bangladesh Airlines, British Airways, Cambodia Angkor Air, Cathay 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, Fuzhou Airlines, Garuda Indonesia, Grand China Air, Hainan Airlines, Hebei Airlines, Hong Kong Airlines, Iraqi Airways, ITA Airways, Japan Airlines, 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, Oman Air, Okay Airways, Pakistan International Airlines, Philippine Airlines, Philippines AirAsia, Qantas, Qingdao Airlines, Qatar Airways, Royal Air Philippines, Royal Brunei Airlines, Royal Jordanian, 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, Turkish Airlines, Turkmenistan Airlines, Uni Air, United Airlines, Uzbekistan Airways, Aerolíneas Vietnamitas, Virgin Atlantic, West Air, WestJet, Xiamen Airlines
Airlines of China (full-service)China Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines, Air China, 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)
Flight hacks 40% — 80% off regular fare
Airline promotionsSee ticket sales & promos available for flights departing from February to April

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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 2023, 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.

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Flights to China fromUnited 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 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.
  • For long-haul flights, the type of aircraft you choose can make a huge difference to your overall comfort on board – especially if you’re flying economy. The best aircraft have comfier seats with more legroom, WiFi, superior entertainment systems, and a better passenger experience in every cabin in general. When booking a flight to China, look for the airlines that use wide-body planes designed for long-haul flights, such as Airbus A350 (best choice), A380, A320neo, or Boeing 767, 777, and 787 Dreamliner.

China from US & Canada
plane ticket prices in 2023/24

Real-time economy class airfares to China from the US and Canada. Shown are the top three deals for flights departing in the coming months (February to October).

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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.

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Flights to China with stopover

Direct flights to China are, of course, much less hassle than flights that require one or more connections. However, they tend to be more expensive. In a trade-off between convenience and cost, the best option is often to opt for a flight with one layover.

So if you’re looking at a long-haul trip with at least one connection, rather than simply transiting an airport, why not take this opportunity to plan a longer stopover? A stopover is a prolonged layover — more than 24 hours — and it won’t only break up your long journey but will also become a legitimate part of your vacation. If you’re prone to severe jet lag, a one or two-day stopover would help minimize its adverse effects.

When booking flights, many airlines allow you to include a free stopover en route to your final destination in China. Those flights are usually cheaper than non-stop (direct) flights, and you can often choose your stopover at no additional cost — just by looking for multi-city flights with longer layovers.

Big cities in Asia and Pacific are known for their rich culture and history — making them a great idea for a stopover during a longer journey. Here are a few suggestions for a stopover while en route to China.

Some airlines openly advertise stopovers and offer significant discounts and travel perks for passengers to break up their trips: free luxury hotel stays, complimentary domestic flights, or exclusive rates for activities. Start checking for stopover deals to China with government-owned airlines (as they are looking to attract tourists to give the country economic benefits) — such as Emirates, Etihad, Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines, and Malaysia Airlines. Almost every airline’s website has multi-city search functionality, often hidden inside the one-way/return/multi-city switch.

A well-chosen stopover will not only turn one vacation into many but also save you several hundred dollars in airfare. The available stopovers to China will depend on your initial destination (Europe, North America, Asia, etc) and the airline you are flying with. For most airlines, the best free stopover offer will be at their main hub.

Flights to China from UK, Germany, France, Netherlands and other countries in 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, Condor, Finnair, Hainan Airlines, LOT, Lufthansa, Neos Air, SAS, 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, SAS, SWISS, Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines, and Turkish Airlines.
  • 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. Use European low-cost airlines such as RyanAir, EasyJet, and Eurowings to fly to the hub, then save hundreds of euros by taking a cheaper long-haul flight to your final destination.

    We recommend checking prices for flights to China from these European airport hubs: London LHR and Manchester MAN in the United Kingdom, Frankfurt FRA and Munich MUC in Germany, Paris CDG and Nice NCE in France, Amsterdam AMS in the Netherlands, Madrid MAD and Barcelona BCN in Spain, Rome FCO and Milano MXP in Italy, Brussels BRU in Belgium, Copenhagen OSL in Denmark, Oslo OSL in Norway, Stockholm ARN in Sweden, Zurich ZRH in Switzerland, Lisbon LIS in Portugal, Vienna VIE in Austria, Warsaw WAW in Poland, Prague PRG in Czech Republic, and Dublin DUB in Ireland.

European airports with the cheapest flights to China

Find the lowest prices for flights to Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou in China from the major airports in Europe — London, Dublin, Berlin, Dusseldorf, Lyon, Barcelona, Athens, Istanbul, Stockholm, Geneva, Helsinki, Zurich, and others.

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Check different departure airports

Consider neighboring cities when choosing the departure airport – especially look for larger cities with airports that serve as hubs for multiple airlines.

For example, if you live in West Europe, check prices for flights departing from Paris, London, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Rome, or Vienna. In 9 out of 10 cases, the cheapest flight to China will depart from one of these hubs, and it may be €500 less or more than your first choice. Yes, you may have to fly a few hundred kilometers to this hub, but low-cost airlines like EasyJet, RyanAir, or WizzAir will happily take you there for €50 – €100.

Use a similar tactic if you depart from the US or another region. It’s one of the best ways to save hundreds on trips.

Book flights from many departure airports
By entering more than one departure city in the flight search engine (at the top of this page), you can quickly find the airport with the cheapest flights to your destination

Last-minute flights to China. The real cost of convenience.

Last-minute flights are often touted as a great way to save money, but the reality is far from it. Booking last-minute flights to China almost always never works out. The convenience of being able to book a flight on the fly is a dangerous game of chance, and you will most likely end up paying significantly higher than booking in advance.

The common perception may be that airlines decrease ticket prices to fill empty seats as the departure date approaches. However, the truth is that airfares depend on demand. Based on years of research and current customer data, the airlines know what people are willing to pay for specific flights and dates. They are also well aware that people are willing to pay a premium for flights they need to take immediately. To make the most money, the airline will sell its cheapest fares first and then increase the prices right before the flight to take advantage of business travelers and others who are willing to pay the premium price for late booking.

Last-minute flight cost spike
Late booking penalty: The flight prices rise as departure draws near. Last-minute flights are almost always more expensive than booking in advance.

Occasionally, airlines can put some seats on sale to fill the remaining seats, but these are for unusual times and unpopular places. Popular destinations and dates around peak travel times tend to sell out quickly.

Planning ahead is key to securing a good deal on your flight. Last-minute flight deals are hard to come by, so as soon as you have a tentative travel timeline, book your flight. The earlier you book, the more likely you are to save money. If you are looking for a good deal, the best time to book your flight to China is around 60-90 days before the departure date.

“Hot seats” on long-haul flights

Those days seat selection is considered an optional, extra paid service – seats with extra legroom (front and exit rows) are usually priced higher. However, if you’re about to take a long-haul flight to China, those “hot seats” are worth considering – expect to pay $50-$100, which is much less than upgrading to Premium Economy.

If you want to choose your seats, do this early (ideally during the booking) for a more extensive selection of available options.

Booking hot seats (preffered seats with extra legroom) on plane
Choosing a hot seat during the flight booking process is usually worth it. For a reasonable price, you will get more room to stretch your legs, as well as a wider seat pitch.

Lost baggage prevention

Avoid lost luggage nightmares by removing old tags on your suitcases. Tags are printed with a barcode for identification and tracking, so the old tags can confuse baggage handlers and the conveyor belt scanners. They are one of the reasons so many bags miss their flight or get misrouted.

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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 are well-connected with popular Asian destinations, including China. In addition to domestic airlines – Qantas, Jetstar Airways, Virgin Australia, and Air New Zealand – routes from Australia/New Zealand to Asia are operated by large regional carriers such as ANA, Emirates, Etihad, Fiji Airways, Japan Airlines, Qatar Airways, and Singapore Airlines.

    Direct flights and flights with one layover to China are available from all major airports in Australia – Sydney SYD, Brisbane BNE, Melbourne MEL, Perth PER, Adelaide ADL, Cairns CNS, Gold Coast OOL, Canberra CBR, and in New Zealand – Auckland AKL, Wellington WLG, Christchurch CHC, Queenstown ZQN, Dunedin DUD.
  • In terms of cost-savings, we recommend flying from Australia and New Zealand to a major Asian hub and then booking a flight to your final destination in China with a regional budget airline. Among the low-cost airlines that fly into China are AirAsia, Batik Air, Cambodia Angkor Air, Oman Air, Royal Jordanian, Saudia, Scoot, Spring Airlines, Solomon Airlines, and Thai Lion Air.

    Currently, 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.

Prices of flights to China from Australia and New Zealand

Real-time economy class fares to China from major airports in Australasia — from Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide in Australia, and from Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch in New Zealand.

Prices in Australian Dollar.

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“Book Flights Now, Pay Later” — is it worth it?

Booking a flight and paying for it later has recently become a popular trend in the travel industry, with many airlines offering delayed payment plans. They will allow you to make flight reservation to China now and then pay the bill in installments. But should you take advantage?

Book Now Pay Later (BNPL) plans are essentially short-term personal loans. By partnering with financial companies such as Affirm, Afterpay, PayPal Credit, Postpay, and Uplift, airlines can offer their loan services on the checkout page. When you book the flight with the BNPL option, the company pays the airline, and you repay the loan in installments over a set period (usually up to 24 months), with a set interest rate.

BNPL providers have varying terms and fees. Some may offer interest-free loans but have fees for late payments and require forced autoplay on your bank account, while others may have high annual percentage rates (up to 30-40% APR). There may also be transaction fees, down payment requirements, and many companies even run a credit check on the traveler.

Among the airlines that offer a “fly now, pay later” option are American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Emirates, Qatar Airways, Qantas, Turkish Airlines, United Airlines, Alaska Airlines, British Airways, KLM, Lufthansa, Southwest, and Virgin Atlantic.

Is BNPL financing worth it? If paid off on time, interest-free delayed payment on your flight ticket to China can be a great way to free up your cash flow. However, there may be safer alternatives available – such as taking advantage of an introductory 0% interest offer on a credit card or using flight price “freezing” services like Hopper.

Hidden-city ticketing hack

Hidden-city ticketing is a less-known money-saving tactic where you buy a plane ticket with a layover, with the intention to get off at the layover rather than the final destination. For example, a flight from New York to Tokyo might be $600, but a similar flight from New York to Singapore with a layover in Tokyo might be only $350. Choosing the latter and ending the trip in Tokyo would save you $250.

It seems counterintuitive that a fare from A to C via B could possibly be cheaper than a simple fare on a shorter route from A to B. However, airlines use dynamic, computer-driven price models calculated with little human intervention, and such deals happen quite often.

Hidden-city ticketing flight hack
An example of a hidden-city ticketing flight hack. The layover city is actually our final destination (source: Skiplagged).

Booking a hidden city ticket isn’t as easy as booking a standard itinerary. There are some things to be aware of: (1) don’t check baggage — bring only hand luggage that can fit under the seat or an overhead compartment; a large checked bag will end up in the final destination C; (2) don’t use it for return flights — airlines often void any subsequent tickets if any segment of the first ticket is missed; (3) Do not overuse this tactic with the same airline — hidden-city ticketing is legal but airlines don’t like it and may try to punish you; (4) Don’t associate your frequent flyer account — the airline might invalidate any miles you’ve accrued with them.

How to find hidden-city tickets? The easiest way is to use Skiplagged website, which was designed for unearthing hidden-city deals — give them a try for your flight to China.

Get cheaper business class by bidding on airline upgrades

A growing number of airlines are auctioning upgrades to their business class seats. Once you book your economy ticket to China, you can offer to pay a bit more in an attempt to get a premium seat. 2-3 days before your flight, an airline will send you an email with a link to their website where you can place a “blind” bid. There’s usually a minimum bid amount. If you win the auction, you’ll be informed, and your seat will be upgraded.

How to choose the right bid amount? Just check the airline website for the regular cost of a business class seat to China, then subtract what you paid for the economy fare. Place your bid for around 10% to 30% of that price. The alternative strategy is to bid slightly above the competition. If, for example, the minimum bid is $500, try to bid $550-$600, as most people will offer the baseline amount required.

The more available business class seats the airline has on your flight, the lower bid can be successfully used. Check the airline’s daily schedule for flights to China – if there is more than one flight on your chosen route (more available seats), you can safely bid close to the minimum required amount.

Among the airlines that allow bidding for seat upgrades are: Air Canada (AC Bid), Air New Zealand (OneUp™), Cathay Pacific, Etihad Airways, Fiji Airways (Bula Bid), Garuda Indonesia (BidUpgrade), Qantas, Singapore Airlines, SriLankan Airlines, and Virgin Australia (UpgradeMe).

Cheaper business class seat: online bidding
Etihad Airways auctions off upgrades to Business Class as a way to sell otherwise unused seats at the front of the plane

Fly early in the morning

Early morning flights (6 am or earlier) are usually cheaper than other day schedules. It’s because of lower demand – most people are not willing to go to the airport so early. Use it to your advantage.

Moreover, airports are also less crowded, and there tend to be fewer delays if you fly early in the morning. Due to increasing air traffic, delays get worse throughout the day – starting around 8-10 am and reaching a peak at 4-6 pm. If you are flying to China with a connecting flight, arriving on time at your layover airport may be critical to catching your next flight!

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Flights to China from Bali, Bangkok, Delhi, Dubai, Hong Kong, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Singapore, Seoul, Tokyo, and other 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, and VietJet Air. 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.

Asian airports with the cheapest flights to China in 2023/24

Find the lowest prices for flights to China from the largest airports in Asia — Changi (Singapore), Dubai (UAE), Hong Kong (China), Incheon (Seoul, South Korea), Indira Gandhi (New Delhi, India), KLIA (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), Narita (Tokyo, Japan), Denpasar (Bali, Indonesia), Soekarno–Hatta (Jakarta, Indonesia), Ninoy Aquino (Manila, Philippines), Suvarnabhumi (Bangkok, Thailand), Taoyuan (Taipei, Taiwan), and others.

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Take advantage of loyalty programs

Choose an airline that suits you the best, then stick to it. By becoming a ‘regular’, you will be able to use its loyalty program and earn “miles” (or points) – not only for flying but also for everyday expenses (if your card is affiliated with an airline).

Points earned this way often add up over time and are extremely helpful in flying at reduced fares. Airlines offer not only ticket discounts for their frequent flyers, but also special travel perks such as cabin class upgrades, increased checked baggage allowance, or access to their airport lounges so you can relax during long layovers.

If you often fly with Emirates, opt for Skywards, with Qantas – for Qantas Frequent Flyer, with Singapore Airlines – for KrisFlyer, etc.

Proof of onward travel – a simple hack

Travelers who go on long trips often don’t have a set itinerary and fly on one-way tickets. The problem? For many APAC countries, proof of onward travel is a legal requirement. If you arrive at the airport without an onward ticket (from China to another country), you’ll either be forced to buy one online or forbidden from boarding the plane altogether.

The cheapest solution? Renting an onward ticket! Use the websites such as OneWayFly or OnwardTicket to get a flight reservation for a limited amount of time (usually 2 to 14 days). They work by actually booking you on a real flight out of China and giving you a confirmable flight reservation with a PNR (Passenger Name Record) under your name. After the time limit, your spot on the flight is automatically canceled. Such “temporary tickets” tend to cost anywhere from $10 to $20.

Confirmed flight ticket reservation
Proof of onward travel: confirmed flight ticket reservation (source: OnwardTicket)

How to book a superdeal to China?

Every superdeal you receive from Air Traveler Club includes a link you can use to book a flight. It always directs you to the website that offers the lowest price. Sometimes it’s an airline website; in other cases, Google Flights or a similar flight booking platform.

This video explains how to use Google Flights to book a plane ticket.

YouTube video

Dealing with the jet lag

Jet lag affects people differently depending on age, physical fitness, and genetics. The most accepted rule suggests that you should allow one full day to recover from jet lag for every time zone (hour gained) you traveled east and a number of days equal to half the time zones crossed when you traveled west.

The most effective natural jet lag remedy is to force your body into its new routine. You can begin before getting off the plane: set your watch to the time in China, then do your best to sleep and eat based on the new time zone. Close the window shade when it’s time to simulate darkness. During your first day on the ground in China, get outdoors, stay physically active during the day, and absorb sunlight.