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Last updated : Nov 2009
China Getting Around - Internal Travel
China Internal Travel - Getting Around China - TravelPuppy.com

Most long-distance travel inside China is by air. The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) operates along routes connecting Beijing to more than 80 other cities by 14 regional airlines, servicing all major cities and several sites. CAAC operates several other private carriers including China Eastern, Chian Southern, China Northern, Great Wall and Yunnan Airlines. Tickets will usually be purchased by guides and the fare will be included with any tour costs.

Independent travellers may also book with the local Chinese International Travel Service (CITS), which receives a small commission, or alternatively purchase tickets from booking offices. It is recommended to purchase internal air tickets well in advance if travelling during the months of May, September or October. The tourist fare for a ticket is 70% on a train ticket and 100% on an air ticket. There are several connections to Hong Kong from Beijing/Guangzhou (Peking/Canton) as well as many other cities. Safety records are variable.

Note: Whenever possible, travellers are recommended to fly in UK or North American aircraft which are used by many larger airlines.

Departure tax: RMBY50.


All major rivers have ferries, especially the Yangzi.

Coastal ferries operate between Dalian, Tianjin (Tientsin), Qingdao (Tsingtao) and Shanghai. There are scheduled ferries operating between mainland China and Hong Kong, conditions on which vary.


Railways offer the main means of transport for goods and people throughout China. The routes are usually cheap, safe and well maintained.

The major routes are from Beijing to Guangzhou, Shanghai, Harbin, Chengdu and Urumqi. Three types of trains are in service, of which Express is the best.

There are four different fares: hard seat, soft seat (only short-distance trains such as the Hong Kong to Guangzhou (Canton) line), hard sleeper and soft sleeper. Children less than 1 metre (3 feet) tall travel free and those under 1.3 metres (4 feet) pay a 1/4 of the fare


Traffic drives on the right.

80% of settlements can be reached by road. Roads aren't always in good condition. Don't underestimate distances, and make sure vehicles are in prime mechanical condition as China is still very much an agricultural nation lacking mechanical expertise or services normally available in the West. From Beijing to Shanghai is 1,461 kilometres (908 miles), and from Beijing to Nanjing (Nanking) is 1,139 kilometres (718 miles).

Bus: Adequate services are operated connecting the main cities. Buses are usually crowded, but can travel to parts of of the country that trains can not. There are also some more expensive luxury coach buses.

Car hire:
Available, however, most rental companies’ policy of keeping the driver’s passport renders self-drive car hire impossible in practice for visitors. Vehicles with a driver can be hired by the day or week. Driving standards are erratic at best.


Shanghai has a metro system and limited metro services operate in Beijing and Tianjin, and tramways and trolleybuses in several other cities. New lines are being constructed in Beijing. Guides who travel with every visitor or group will ensure that internal travel within the cities is as troublesome-free as possible.

Most cities have public transit systems, normally bus.

Taxi: Taxis operate in large cities but are sometimes difficult to find. It is best to check if the taxi has a meter. If not, then one should agree on a fare before departing, particularly at railway stations where it is best to haggle before getting into the taxi. Visitors should write down their destination before beginning any journey. Taxis can be hired by the day.

The majority of people travel by bicycle or public transport. In most cities bicycles or rickshaws are available for short rides.

Travel Time

The below chart gives approximate travel times (in hours and minutes) from Beijing to other major cities/towns in China.
  Air Rail
0.50 1.40
1.45 16.00
1.50 22.00
1.40 15.30
1.50 20.00
2.25 60.00
3.20 80.00
3.00 37.00
4.00 95.00
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