I first stopped over at Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport 2 years ago on my way back to London from Australia. With Chinese airlines gaining prominence and offering some of the most attractive deals to Western customers, more and more holidaymakers are choosing to fly to South East Asia and beyond with airlines such as China Southern.
Guangzhou is China Southern’s hub and many international flights to Asia will feature a layover in the capital of the Guangdong province. Those travelling beyond Guangzhou will need to go through to the international boarding area to await their next flight. This February, I was back for a few hours on my way to Thailand and decided to take some notes.
Arriving to Guangzhou Airport
When you get off the plane, there is a 10-15 minute bus ride to the terminal. There is currently a lot of construction going on around the airport which is probably affecting the length of the journey.
Once at the terminal, there is a short escalator ride to the immigration counters. They were a little understaffed this time round and the wait was a bit longer than I would expect from a transit procedure. After you get the all clear, there is another escalator heading up to the international gates proper.
The international boarding area itself is pretty clean and has a number of souvenir and duty free shops lining both sides with travelators in the middle (these are always fun) . This is a good place to pick up some Chinese mementos with beautiful jewellery, carved ornaments, traditional dress and plush pandas just some of the things you can purchase. Some of the souvenirs are not exactly cheap so make sure you check the prices carefully. The current exchange rate is around 9 yuan to a UK pound or 6.3 yuan to a US dollar (the currency is also known as renminbi).
Food and facilities
Food options are limited, however. There are two coffee shops located at each end of the gate hall, however both are overpriced, even by airport standards. Expect to pay between 6-8 pounds ($8-10) for a coffee. Blenz Coffee is the cheaper of the two with a few drink options and hot and cold food. They had a good beef noodle soup (again, overpriced at around £9/$13). Peach Coffee is a bit more expensive but also offers a selection of food. Both offer table service. There is decent wi-fi at Blenz.
Mike’s Pizza and KingLong Restaurant are the other two options and offer a more varied menu – I haven’t eaten at either so if you have, let me know what the food is like!
Toilets are located downstairs. They are Western and clean (there is usually an attendant there) and there are smoking rooms located next to the bathrooms. The open windows were letting in the cold February air – a bit of a theme for the terminal which felt like it needed its heating turned on!
Staying longer in Guangzhou
While I haven’t left the International boarding area on any of my layovers, you CAN do so for up to 72 hours if you already have an onward ticket. This is a great option for those wanting to have a look around Guangzhou without having a Chinese visa. For more information, click here.
Those who want to stick around Guangzhou Airport or have an overnight layover have an option of a 5-star hotel – Pullman Guangzhou Baiyun Airport has a reportedly good Chinese restaurant and special half-day room rates.
Overall, the International departures area won’t be winning any awards but it is functional for a short layover. It’s nothing fancy and more expensive than it should be but with China Southern offering some of the best flight deals, Guangzhou airport is not the worst place to spend a few hours in. 5/10