Archives For Beijing Airport

In other blogs I have written about the Beijing’s Capital Airport — more specifically, terminal 3. Terminal 3 is the new section built for the 2008 Olympic Games, and it is as impressive as the Olympic Games were that were held in Beijing.

Today I want to focus on the massive size of terminal 3. It has 3 main sections, with the terminal itself being the area for ticketing, checking in, exchanging money, restaurants, shops, and an area for claiming your luggage. Then there is one area for domestic flights, and another one for international flights. Would you like to know how they are all connected?

Beijing's Crazy Big Airport - and Terminal 3

Farther than you can see, the train runs between the different areas of the terminal. As you can see in the top section of the photo above, there are also buses that service the areas.

Beijing's Crazy Big Airport - and Terminal 3

There are bridges going over the train, and these are for motorized vehicles as well as pedestrians. By the way, the trains run on electricity, so they don’t produce any exhaust. This is wise, because when they pull into the terminal, nobody wants to inhale exhaust fumes.

Many things are large at terminal 3. Even the murals are huge, as you can see in the photo below!

Beijing's Crazy Big Airport - and Terminal 3

If you ever have the opportunity to use terminal 3 at this airport, I think you will be impressed by it!

Have you ever flown into Beijing?

 

 

Some don’t know this, but Beijing actually has two public airports. Everyone has heard of Beijing Capital Airport on the northeast side of town, which has the huge new terminal built to handle the influx of travelers for the 2008 Olympics. But did you know there was also another airport on the south side of Beijing?

Did You Know Beijing Has Two Airports?

The southern airport is called Nan Yuan Fei Jie Chong, and it was once a military airport. When I first started using that airport several years ago it had some amazing charm to it. One of the most interesting things about it was how a tractor with a flatbed trailer would haul the luggage, unloaded by hand, to a barn. The people would walk into the barn, and then the tractor would bring in the luggage. From there, you would exit into a parking lot, where you would argue and negotiate prices with a group of taxi drivers. Believe it or not, it really was a lot of fun going back and forth with those guys. It would always end with laughter, a couple of pats on the back, and a thumbs up.  Another interesting thing about this airport was how you would see old military plans parked around the airport.

Now this airport has undergone massive renovations, and unfortunately, it has lost some of the charm it once had. Your luggage now comes into the terminal on a conveyor belt, so no more barn and tractor. Also, most of the vintage military plans have been moved. Additionally, there is an orderly system of getting a taxi now, and you don’t have to negotiate with the taxi drivers.

The terminal itself is now much larger and more modern. There are several gates now where there was once only a couple, and there are many shops within the airport where there once were none that I remember. Ahhh, I guess this is progress!

Did You Know Beijing Has Two Airports?

One of the more interesting things that is still consistent with the updated facility is the loading process. You still exit the terminal’s gate, get on a bus, and drive on the tarmac where you board your plane via portable steps! It truly is an interesting process to enjoy!

Have you ever been to either of the airports in Beijing?

What do you do after flying across 12 time zones and you have to wait on a connecting flight as you try to stay awake? I like to walk around the airport and look for interesting sights. Something that I can consistently find at the Beijing Capital Airport is unique paint jobs on the aircraft taxing around the buildings!

Interesting Paint Jobs at the Beijing Airport - Air China

Often I can find new designs or bold colors, like the aircraft above. Then again, I may find some interesting logo or flags.

Interesting Paint Jobs at the Beijing Airport

I have seen planes painted to look like a dragon, and I have seen another painted canary yellow, which really caught my eye.

Interesting Paint Jobs at the Beijing Airport

Yes, I can find some interesting paint jobs! And I apologize for the quality of the photos — they are taken through a window, and the air quality in Beijing can be an issue at times.

As I watch the planes take off and land, I think about how many pounds of thrust the engines must produce to get that much weight going fast enough for the required lift to take place to get the plane off the ground. Fascinating to me, but some travelers never want to think about that aspect of their flight’s safety.

What do you find most interesting about air travel today?

Friends are a good thing to have!  Anytime and anyplace, having friends you can count on is a wonderful feeling. Who knows, they may even help you from time to time — that is what my airport buddy does in China.

Over the years, I have had many interactions with a man in the Beijing airport.  I don’t know his name, and he doesn’t know my name, but we recognize each other when we see one another. He solves a problem for me, and I appreciate that very much!

How My Airport Buddy Helps Me Out

To exchange American currency into Chinese currency when I go to China, I like to go to the Bank of China in the Beijing airport. Other money exchange booths charge unwanted fees, and I am sure the Bank of China has the correct exchange rate. The bad thing about using the Bank of China at the airport is you have to wait a long time in line. They do personal banking and business accounts at the bank, so the line can sometimes be quite long. Also, it can be quite hot waiting at the bank in the summer.

My friend in the picture above not only does the transaction right away, but he also doesn’t charge any fees, doesn’t record your passport information, and gives me a slightly better rate than the bank. Additionally, there are no forms to fill out when dealing with him. For the life of me, I don’t know why the bank lets him hang out around their lobby and take clients away from them, but they do. They even let him use their money counter, which sifts through the bills and counts them quickly. All you have to do is give him your American dollars and he will give you Chinese currency. He is must faster than the bank, and that is wonderful when you have a connecting flight.

I always feel safer on the streets in China than I do on the streets of America. To show you how safe it is there, he walks around with a satchel of money and a suitcase full of money.  I used him on my last trip, and he even let me take a picture of his “vault!”

My Airport Buddy's "Vault"

Have you ever needed to exchange currencies in a foreign country? Did you find someone as helpful as my airport buddy?

 

The huge airport built in Beijing for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games is very impressive in many ways. I would suggest you know which terminal you are heading to if you are getting into a taxi to take you to the airport. There are two main terminals for travel: Terminal 2 and Terminal 3. Terminal 2 is the one I always used when I started going to China. It isn’t as new as Terminal 3, but it functions quite well. Here are a couple of pictures of the terminals.

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You need to know what airline uses which terminal and plan accordingly, especially if you have a connecting flight. I say that because it will take you at least 25 minutes to take the shuttle bus between the terminals. It can take more depending on traffic, the driver’s style of driving, and how long you have to wait for the bus to leave.

image006The shuttle buses are free but crowded because most people have luggage with them. You can meet some nice and interesting people on the shuttle buses. On my last trip, I overheard someone whom I assume was from western Europe telling a Chinese man about some cultural issue he had read about China. The Chinese man kept saying no, it wasn’t true, but the other man kept insisting it was true because he read it on the Internet.

There is a Terminal 1, but I am going to guess it is for cargo since I have never heard of a passenger flight being used from that facility. Also, don’t be surprised if your gate at either of the terminals has some stairs and an elevator near it. You may be instructed to go down a level and get on a bus that will take you to your plane, which is parked away from the building waiting for the passengers. The terminals are easy to use, and there are many signs in English directing you to where you want to go. Also, they have information booths, and usually the people can speak English.

Many stores with merchandise that we may want or need in a hurry are called convenience stores.  Something I have noticed is that they all have snacks for you to enjoy.  Also, convenience stores are usually in a good location, so your access is easy and unobstructed.  The Beijing Capital Airport has similar shops placed throughout the terminals and other features to enable you to enjoy your time in the airport.

In the pictures below, you will see how you can go to a convenience store and purchase a container of noodles.  To prepare the noodles for eating, you need to add hot water and then cover the noodles so they can cook, and then you are ready for your meal.

BeijingAP005a_Convenience

These water dispensers provide water that is too hot to touch with your skin, so be careful if you use one of these devices. They are free, which can save you some money if you are traveling on a tight budget.

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Another feature at the airport for your convenience are vending machines.  These vending machines have a fairly wide selection of beverages, and yes, they are chilled.  Since the currency in China has a different size for each bill (a 1 RMB bill is smaller than a 5 RMB bill,) you will need to pay attention to the slot you use for your payment.  Make sure your bill goes in the correct slot. Otherwise, the machine may not read your bill correctly and not give you credit for the right value.  By the way, making a purchase from the vending machine is less expensive than a purchase from a convenience store at the airport.

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One last thought about the convenience features at the airport, if you are not accustomed to drinking the water in China, please don’t use the water fountains.  Many travelers get sick if they drink the tap water in China. I would hate for anyone to get sick just before a 14 hour flight returning home!

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As I understand it, Beijing Capital Airport is considered the second busiest airport in the world, trailing Atlanta’s airport.  As you can see from the picture below, this airport is HUGE and full of people, so steps have to be taken to keep the crowds moving in an efficient manner.

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One way this airport has tried to become efficient for not only moving people, but also keeping expenses down, is to let people scan their tickets when going to the domestic boarding area.  There are several lanes for this and airport employees are available  to assist, if needed.  It has been my experience that this system works very well, but make sure you have your boarding pass out before it is your turn to scan!

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If your mind starts to drift and you are trying to remember what time it is at home (wherever home may be), this airport has a feature to help you.  This global clock is very large and can be seen from a long distance away.  So, if you want to know if it is an appropriate time to place a phone call to someone back home, you may want to consult the clock on the wall!  I am sure anyone that is saved from a call which wakens them from a sound sleep will appreciate it very much!

BeijingAP007c_Easier

Just so you will know, the round devices above the clock are air conditioner vents.  In the summer you will want to look for these when selecting a seat, because it is quite warm in the airport during the summer months.  If you have been running trying to make a connection in the summer, I promise you that you will want to find an air conditioner vent as soon as you can!

One of the things I enjoy most about this amazing airport are the sights.  When you land and taxi to your gate, you can see airlines from all around the world. Some of the jets have fascinating paint jobs.  Also, you may see a new style of airplane there.  I saw my first Airbus a380 there; it truly dwarfed the planes around it.  Thanks to the Beijing Capital Airport, I had my first ride in a 747 and a380.  747s aren’t being used as much as they were 12 years ago. 777s have a nice feature in the entertainment of passengers.  When I first started going to China, there was a screen at the front of each section, and everyone watched the same movie at the same time.  When it was over, there was a big crowd at the restrooms!  Now that people can select their own TV shows, movies, or music, the flights seem much more relaxing!

The Beijing Capital Airport is the second busiest in the world, so there is always something to see.  If you like to people watch, you have a very diverse group to view.  If you like aviation, there are very many planes to see!  If you like to watch the sunrise or enjoy a beautiful sunset, that is easily accommodated as the exterior walls of the airport are made of glass.  Getting a great view is very easy.  In fact, in the summer, you may want to choose to sit on the shady side of the terminal because it can be a little too warm for comfort in the sunshine.

 

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Everyone knows that sometimes you have some time to kill at an airport. I have some suggestions for you if your find yourself in that state at the Beijing Capital Airport.  You actually have some pretty good options, including, but not limited to, using the free WiFi!  You can find a fairly strong signal at all of the places I have tried at the airport and, as I previously mentioned, it is free.  If you have some work or emails to catch up on, or pictures to send, you can stay current via the airport’s WiFi.

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If you enjoy art, there are some unique items to enjoy at the airport.  It would surprise me if there wasn’t some story about the artwork, but I don’t know what it is. Sorry!

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Also, if you are a shopper, you have many options within the airport.  There are plenty of restaurants and many shops where you can pick up snacks. There are also many high-end shops available to keep you occupied and give you a chance to spend the money you didn’t exchange!

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If you want a little taste of home, you never know what you may see at the Beijing Capital Airport!  Who would have thought Lady Liberty would be at this airport!

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OK, I agree with you, I wouldn’t go to the airport to purchase a chandelier, but it is interesting to find them for sale there.  It is also interesting to see that some of the light bulbs needed to be tightened or replaced.

Another way to relax at the airport is to go to the floor which has showers and beds for rent by the hour.  If I remember correctly, this is on the third floor (or the floor just below the main terminal).  I have seen the signs for this facility. I have never been there, but it is nice to know that the option is available!

So, you are going to China and you are wondering about where you will encounter squatty potties and where western-style toilets will be available.  You may be glad to know that at the Beijing Capital Airport you will have a choice!  Without opening a door and looking inside, the easiest way I know to tell which toilet option is behind the door is to look at the picture on the outside of the stall door.  The first picture below is what is on the door for a squatty potty, and the second picture is for a western style toilet.  It is very easy to see the difference!

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I must say that the restrooms are quite large and very clean.  I think there is always an attendant in the restrooms working to keep the facility clean and supplied.  They even have flowers on the counters and at the entrance sometimes.

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Speaking entrances, they are very well marked for the ladies, men, and families.  Usually there is a large hall and, at the end of the hall, you see a picture indicating where you should go.  Also, the family restroom is usually a well-marked door within the hallway.  Additionally, you may find an another doorway within the hall marked as being wheelchair accessible.

BeijingAP003e_Restrooms

 

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In my opinion, the people planning the airport have done a great job of locating the restrooms. You never seem to have to go too far to find the facilities and the employees keep them very clean!