Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK), about 30 clicks northeast of the city, is the second busiest on Earth in sheer passenger traffic. Most international flights touch down at Terminal 3, a soaring sweep of vermillion steel designed by British architect Norman Foster (of London’s “Gherkin” fame). Air France, Aeroflot and some minor carriers still land at Terminal 2. British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Air China are the only carriers with direct flights from the UK, taking 10-12 hours.
Getting to and from the airport
The express train whisks you to the city in about 25 minutes (6am-10:30pm, every 10 minutes), stopping first at Sanyuanquiao for transfers onto subway line 10 before coming to rest at Dongzhimen on subway line 2. One-way tickets to either destination cost 25 RMB. If you intend to alight at Dongzhimen, be aware there are no escalators up to street level.
Taxis depart from the official rank at floor B1 (follow the signs). A trip into the city centre costs about 100-120 RMB depending on traffic. You will be expected to cover the 10 RMB toll for the airport expressway plus a 1 RMB fuel surcharge, both of which will be added to the final meter amount. It’s also prudent to have your hotel name and address printed in Chinese characters to show your driver.
Shuttle buses have much of the city covered with a flat rate of 16 RMB for each journey. Tell your destination to the desk staff (a street or nearby landmark is usually better than a hotel name) and they will put you on the appropriate bus.
The eco-conscious, romantics and anoraks among you can still trundle into Beijing aboard Soviet rolling stock on one of the world’s great train journeys. Read more about the Trans-Siberian in Ian Shaw’s community guide Beijing to Moscow by train.