Your internship in China both begins and ends with an experience in a Chinese airport. Given that, whilst your time in transit may seem ultimately irrelevant to the experience, it’s always best to be prepared in every situation. Life in China is great, but there are new things every person must learn and look out for to ensure a smooth experience. Your time in a Chinese airport is part of that. But don’t panic! Whilst this article is not saying there are any “dangers” in Chinese airports, there are things which if not prepared for can become a nuisance. As we here at China Global Connections are devoted to helping you have the best experience possible in China, we’ve prepared this quick guide of what to look out for whilst flying in and out of China.
The Departure/Arrival Card
Immigration is the standard procedure for entering any country, that’s not unusual. Nor is it for the most part in China, but when you’re landing in a major city where the immigration que will be inevitably huge (even for foreigners) you don’t want to be unprepared! On the plane you’ll be given a yellow and cream coloured set of cards known as your Arrival and Depature cards. You need to obviously fill them in with the relevant details, showing your arrival card with your passport to the immigration officer on arrival. Do this whilst you’re still on the plane. If you don’t, you’ll find yourself being left behind by everyone else as you fill it in on an airport table. Before you know it, you’re at the back of the que and waiting for quite a long time. The same goes upon exiting the country. Unlike many places, China has an “exit immigration too”, with crowds being even worse.
Watch out for the dreaded “powerbank trap”
So let’s suppose you’re going through the security of a Chinese airport on your way home. As you go through security, you are suddenly surprised as a member of a staff pulls you aside and tells you that your portable powerbank, used to charge your phone, is unacceptable and breaking Chinese aviation law. You’re took away to a desk where you find lots of angry westerners complaining or even shouting to the guards over the same thing. Your powerbank is confiscated here, you can’t take it out of the country. Welcome to what we call “the powerbank trap“, a little known Chinese law which causes surprise irritation to travellers. It’s an obscure law. If your powerbank is over “100WH”, is not of a “certified brand” or “has no data on it displaying the voltage” then it is to be confiscated, no ifs, no buts. What is more frustrating about such a law is that you can naturally take them “into the country” but not out. There’s no way around this. If you try and put a powerbank in your check in luggage, then they will simply open your case behind the scenes with a skeleton key, confiscate it (yes this happens) and leave a note. As a result, it is inconvenient but you’re better off not bringing one and buying a certified domestic brand within the specified limits.
Preparing for crowds: Come early
Chinese airports are busy. That shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. It is the world’s most populous country with over 1.3 billion inhabitants and some of the world’s largest metropolitan areas. Beijing Capital International Airport is the World’s second busiest, having carried 95 million passengers in 2017. As a result, check-in ques are huge, as stated above immigration and security ques are hectic and planes are almost always completely full. Take this into consideration and manage your time well. The size of crowds in a major Chinese airport can make things take far longer than you can. Some airlines can generate check-in lines that stretch across half the terminal. Always keep that in mind when planning when to head off for your flight. Stay ahead of things.
Avoiding Black taxis on arrival
As mentioned in our previous article on “China scams”, there is an issue of “black taxis” (unlicensed) hovering around airports. As a westerner, once you get your baggage and get through exit customs, walking out into the arrivals hall, more than often a Chinese gentleman will spot you, grab your attention and in English say “Taxi!”. Always Ignore them. These are illegal driers who will charge you extortionate prices and put you at risk. Legitimate taxi drivers may be found in the authorized stand ran by staff just outside the airport doors, never inside the terminal. They will be licensed and already sitting in their cars, you shouldn’t go wrong with these.
Conclusion: Be prepared!
Chinese airports are not dangerous, but they are hectic and always add a stroke of “turbulence” to your adventure in the country. We promise you that an internship experience in China can be amazing, but the more you learn beforehand about what to look out for, the better it will be! Whether you are going in, or out of China it’s the same. Either way, we hope you can get through it okay and we would certainly look forwards to picking you up from Chengdu airport as an intern!