During the last few years, China has modernized its domestic air, train, and highway systems to meet the influx and demands of foreign travelers. There has been a vast improvement in ease of travel throughout the country. Virtually all of China is linked by one of several new domestic airlines, and the creation of these new regional carriers has greatly improved domestic airline service. Modernization of the airlines and airport facilities is a boon for travelers, creating a more efficient and competitive airline system. New aircrafts from Boeing, McDonnell Douglas, and Airbus are used on almost all routes within the country.
Passengers flying from the U.S. to China via Air China, China Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines and Hainan Airlines (or other international carriers) may book flights within China as part of their trans-Pacific ticket. If you need to make domestic flight reservations while in China, they can be easily arranged through most hotels’ travel desks or at one of the many new travel agency services that have opened in China. Some routes are heavily trafficked, so it is wise to book as far in advance as possible. All flights are non-smoking.
Travel by rail is an enjoyable, relaxing, and inexpensive way to see China’s countryside. New or modernized equipment has replaced the old train systems in most areas. Travelers who lack the time to cover vast distances by train can still experience a taste of rail travel by journeying on popular short-distance routes from Shanghai to the nearby cities of Suzhou, Wuxi, Nanjing, or Hangzhou; or from Beijing to Tianjin. Amenities have been added to first-class train travel (known as “soft seats”) including comfortable waiting lounges at some train stations. Travelers should note that the trains in China are consistently punctual so timeliness to stations is important.
New freeway systems have been built (and many more are under construction), making it easy to travel around the country and explore the metropolitan areas of Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Hong Kong quickly and inexpensively. Traffic varies from region to region, but can be light on some highways. Metered taxis are readily available at all hotels and shopping districts, and will stop for signaling travelers. Travelers may find it convenient to hire a taxi for a whole or half day, but be sure to agree on a price first. Some taxi drivers speak English, but most don’t. Always take along written directions and a map to point to the location of your destination.
Beijing and Shanghai also have modern subways for fast travel around the cities. If you’re in a hurry, this is the way to go. Signs and schedules are in English as well as Chinese, and transfers between lines are free.
If you prefer a slower pace, bicycles are available to rent everywhere in China. Bicycling is an excellent way to see China, both in cities and the countryside, and to get the maximum smiles per mile.