The airport in Shanghai, China can be very confusing the first time. And if you’re like me, it can also be confusing the second, third, and fourth time. In this post I will explain my traveling troubles there, and how to avoid them.
The first thing you should note is that there is a separate airport for domestic flights, which is quite a distance away. You may assume, as I did, that when you arrive at your layover from another nearby country like South Korea, you are in the international airport. When I made this mistake, I was returning to Korea (where I taught EFL) from my winter vacation in Thailand. I went to the information desk on the first floor, showed the woman my itinerary, asked for directions. She instructed me to go to the second floor. The person at that information desk told me to go to the third floor, and then that person told me to go to the first floor. The second or third lap of this wild goose chase, I showed my itinerary to a man, and explained what I just went through. It was only then that someone took a closer look at my itinerary and realized that a flight to Korea is international. I had to take the metro to the other airport. When I reached the line to get my boarding pass, I was standing behind an EFL teacher who was also from the US. I told him about my situation, and he simply said, “Welcome to China.”
For my next vacation in February, I went to Cambodia. My returning flight to Korea had a three hour layover in Shanghai, which sounded like enough time. My flight arrived right on time at 4 am. Standing at baggage claim, I observed that there was no where else to go. There were no other doorways or hallways to enter. It was not possible to go back the way you came. You could only exit the airport. This was my fourth and final layover in Shanghai, and it was all new to me. I asked the woman at the information desk where I should go for my international flight. She said a shuttle would arrive at 5 am. I wasn’t too worried because I would still have two hours to board my flight.
When five o’clock rolled around there was no shuttle. I asked another employee who told me the shuttle arrived at 6 am, and takes an hour to reach the other airport. It seemed as if Priceline had designed this layover to make people miss their flights. What other explanation could there be?
I was told that my only option was to take a taxi. And if you think taking an hour long taxi ride is expensive, you are correct. That cost me $100. The irony here is that I only chose this particular flight because it was about $100 cheaper than the others.
Due to my experience, I would recommend booking a non-stop flight in order to avoid a stressful layover in Shanghai. But if you do have a layover in Shanghai, whether it’s only a few hours or overnight, do your research. Look up which airport you’re arriving in and the distance from your departure. You can never prepare too much.