Due to its large size, transportation is of particular importance in China. The country currently has a comprehensive system of modern transportation, which includes civil aviation, railway, road traffic, and water transportation. Modern modes of transportation such as express highways, electrified railroads, metros, light railways, and maglev railways are common, especially in larger cities.
Rail travel remains the most popular form of transportation in China, thanks to the government-led effort to connect the country by expressways via the “National Trunk Highway System.” This program expanded the rail network to about 60,273 miles by the end of 2012, which made China’s rail network the longest expressway network in the world. China’s railways carry more than 900 billion passengers every year, the highest volume in the world.
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 showing up on time at the station is important.
The larger cities have metro systems in operation, under construction, or in the planning stage. This rapid underground transit is well suited to the size and complexity of China’s big cities and is unchallenged in its ability to transport large amounts of people at high frequency. The metro systems are designed to help passengers cover short distances quickly and connect districts to one another.
Shanghai Metro, which opened in 1995, is the longest metro system in the world and tickets are sold by employees or by automatic machines. Cities that have a metro system include: Beijing, Changchun, Chongqing, Dalian, Foshan, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Kunming, Nanjing, Shanghai, Shenyang, Shenzhen, Suzhou, Tianjin, Wuhan and Xi’an.
More than 4,237,750 km of road has been built in China and when road access was made available to Motuo County of Tibet on October 31, 2013, most of the country could access the highways. It is 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. If you do not feel like driving, metered taxis are 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 do not, so be sure to bring written directions and a map to show your driver where you want to go.
China National Aviation Holding Company has regular international flights heading for 121 cities in 52 countries. Overseas tourists can take more than 380 international flights to reach cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Kunming, Xiamen, Dalian, Xi’an, Urumchi, Harbin, Kong Hong, Macau and other destinations.
Passengers flying from the United States to China via Air China, China Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines, Hainan Airlines, or other international carriers, may book flights within China as part of their trans-Pacific ticket. Domestic flight reservations in China can be easily arranged through most hotels’ travel desks or at one of the new travel agency services. Some routes are heavily trafficked, so it is wise to book as far in advance as possible. All flights are non-smoking.
An opinion poll led by the International Airport Board in the year 2011 found that the five best airports in the world are situated in Asia Pacific. More than 300,000 passengers were surveyed in 153 airports worldwide. The international airports of Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong were among the top 5 best airports.
Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK) has the greatest flow of passengers annually, followed by Shanghai Pudong International Airport (PVG). Other major airports are located at Chengdu, Chongqing, Dalian, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Harbin, Hohhot, Kunming, Qingdao, Shenyang, Tianjin, Urumqi, Xiamen, and Xi’an.
As far as inland shipping is concerned, the Pearl River and the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River are the busiest routes. There are also active routes along the Hebei, Jiangsu, and Zhejiang Provinces – which are situated along the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal. Ports in Dalian, Qinhuangdao, Tianjin, Qingdao, Lianyungang, Shanghai, Ningbo, Xiamen, Huangpu, Zhanjiang, Haikou, and Hong Kong are major seaports in China.