Getting to China

Getting to China
Apr 07, 2009 By Andrea Hunt ,

Getting to China economically isn’t as hard as you may think as long as you have a bit of know-how and patience. There are numerous carriers worldwide to help you get to China by air. In addition, you can reach China from certain countries in Asia by boat, bus, or train. You have a couple different options that will be reviewed in this section. Remember, before you buy anything, to check visa requirements so that you can plan accordingly.

Photo: Axwel

By Air:
From the USA/Canada:

From the US you have various options for finding an affordable ticket. The most important thing to keep in mind is that the peak travel season for people going to China is between May and September. If you keep in mind that flying midweek, or Monday through Thursday is cheaper, you will save yourself between $50-100 per ticket. The biggest hubs for China are Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong (take into consideration that Hong Kong is not considered part of China in terms of visas, so while you may not need a visa for Hong Kong, you do need one for China *** see visa section)

The main point is to get your tickets in advance and you will save yourself a lot of money and last minute hassle. Some of the cheapest places to get tickets will naturally be in a Chinatown area where agencies can get prices 20-30% lower than some commercial sites. In general average fares from North America range as follows:

To Beijing: USD $600-1600
To Shanghai: $500-1500
To Hong Kong: $500-1500

If you are looking for tickets from the US or Canada, try checking these sites for discounted fares:

Around the world tickets:
If you plan on going to many countries in the world for a prolonged period of time, it’s cheaper usually to by an around-the-world ticket, which is more flexible than a regular air ticket.

Booking engines from Australia:

Discount Student Travel Agencies and Budget Agencies:
CTS Travel (Worldwide:

STA Travel (Worldwide)

Discount sites from Europe:

Air Couriers:

For those who want to be extra thrifty, can travel super light, and can leave from a major North American city, usually New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Toronto, etc, consider Courier Service Flights. This option is only good for those who travel with carry-on only and don't mind last minute traveling. If you are the kind of person who normally takes 2 extra sized rolly suitcases filled with 130 kilos for a week at the beach vacation that you planned for a year in advance then this is certainly not a tangible option for you.

But how does it work and why? Couriers help transport by using their checked luggage allowance for freight. Usually these flights are almost always round trip and don't have flexible date possibilities. The initial membership fee and maximum stay depends on the company. However, there are a lot of restrictions so consider this option if you are absolutely looking for the cheapest way possible and don't mind last minute travel. Many courier flights to China are usually to Hong Kong and range between 250-500 USD. There are also flights to Beijing and Shanghai.


There are many companies who do this service but here are a few:

By Train:
From Europe/ Russia: Trans-Siberian Railroad:

Photo: John Hill

Truly an experience, for those traveling from Europe with enough time to spare to traverse the continents, consider this option. The Trans-Siberian Railroad has 2 main separate lines coming from Russia and going to China. Many European countries link up with these trains as well. For those who have partaken in this epic journey, the tales are long and the adventure unmistakable filled with interesting people, pictures, and stories which seems to make more sense when you consider that the train ride is about a week long through one of the most remote parts of Russia.

The most popular route is the older Trans-Manchurian line, built in 1900, which links Moscow and Beijing via Inner Mongolia and takes about 6 days but crosses thousands of miles on two continents as it passes through seven time zones. There are two direct trains a week and one usually leaving on Friday. Prices are about USD450 for 2nd class 4 bed sleeper and USD850 for 2-bed sleeper one way.

The trans-Mongolian connects Moscow and Beijing via Mongolia and takes about the same amount of time. The journey is one of the more popular ones because of the scenery. The route crosses Siberia and Mongolia through the Gobi desert and China. The prices are roughly USD 650 for 2nd class 4-bed sleepers or USD910 for 2-bed 1st class sleepers one way.


Photo: Mattes

In order to cross into Russian and Mongolian Territories, you need to make sure that you get the proper visas for this route.

For Mongolia, you need to get a transit visa or a tourist visa, which you can obtain with an invitation letter a travel agency.

For Russia, you also need a transit visa, which you can also get from the travel agency where you buy the Trans-Siberian ticket.

For China: you need a visa beforehand as well, check our Visa section.

For more information:

And to check Chinese train timetables once you arrive.

For Part 2 check back next time to see how to get to China from Southeast Asia, Korea, Hong Kong and Macao.


China Explorer> Practical Information>An Intro to Travel in China
China Explorer> Practical Information> An Intro to Travel in China part 2
China Explorer>Introduction to Planning Your Trip Around China

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