Most travelers to China arrive by air, though overland routes exist with train links to neighboring Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, and Vietnam, and a bus link to Pakistan. It is also possible to arrive by sea; there are regular ferries from Japan and South Korea to China. Traveling within the country – even to remote areas – is possible by air, train, road, and, on a few routes, by boat. China has a huge rail network, although tickets – especially for sleeping berths – can be rare during the holiday periods. Bus travel is improving, with buses covering the entire country, and an increasing number of “luxury” buses that offer reasonable comfort.
All Major international airlines fly to China. Air China, the country’s international carrier, has quite basic service and facilities are competitively priced. North American and European carriers such as United Airlines, British Airways, Virgin, Lufthansa, KLM, and Air France, have regular flights to some, or all, of China’s three main – and most sophisticated – airports at Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Beijing. Flights to the other parts of the Far East, Australia, and New Zealand are offered by Singapore Airlines, Japan Airlines, All Nippon Airways, Korean Air, Qantas, Cathay Pacific, Air New Zealand, and others. Cheap flights to China are also available via Air China, China Eastern, Aeroflot, and Malaysia Airlines.
Although traveling by air is more expensive than traveling by train, it is often the most convenient and comfortable way of covering the long distances involved in Chinese travel. In fact, if you need to get quickly from one end of the country to the other, there is often no alternative. The extensive domestic flight network involves numerous regional airlines flying to over 150 airports. The main cities of Beijing, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Dalian, Guangzhou, and Xi’an are particularly well connected to airports throughout the country. Domestic air tickets are straight-forward to buy, so wait until you arrive and then shop around for discounts. Flight cancellations and delays due to bad weather are common, especially in winter and on less traveled routes in the more remote provinces, so remember to reconfirm your ticket and the time of your flight.