Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport is a major hub in Southern China, second only to Hong Kong.
The airport is 28 km (17 mi) north from central Guangzhou. The most convenient way into the city is by Metro Line 3. The lower level of the airport terminal leads to the Airport South Metro station. A journey to the East Railway Station, or to Tiyu Xilu Metro station (both ¥12) takes about 50 minutes. Trains run every seven minutes, with the first train leaving the airport at 6AM and the last train from and to the airport departing at 11PM.
Taxis are also available and take about the same time as the Metro. A taxi ride to central Guangzhou will cost about ¥120, inclusive of a ¥15 toll fee. Taxi stations are available outside Arrival Hall Section A Gate 5 and Arrival Hall Section B Gate 6. If you arrive after midnight when the metro has stopped running, be prepared for a real long wait in line for taxis. Waiting times can start from 45 mins, not because of the lack of taxis, but because of the sheer number of arrivees. Also, do not be surprised that the queue is not really an orderly queue, which is quintessentially chinese. Some parts it's 2 people, some parts it's 4, and towards the front it can spread out to 8 in a row. People will attempt to out squeeze you to the back at every opportunity possible. You may find yourself 10 spaces behind the person who started right behind you.
Airport Express buses operate just outside the arrival terminal, but are a distant second to the metro in reliability and comfort. If you have more than one piece of luggage or if a line has a stop at your hotel, this may be your top choice. Line 1 (¥16) departs every 10-15 minutes from 7AM until the last flight and takes 45 minutes to reach the Guangzhou Railway Station and Central Hotel. The ticket prices range from ¥10-55. Lines 1 to 6 are traveling within the metropolitan area, while lines 7-11 go to outer districts. There are also direct Airport Express buses to some cities in the Pearl River Delta region, such as Zhuhai and Foshan. However, there is no direct bus to Macau or Hong Kong.
Do not accept solicitations for rides to the city. Sometimes, people will stand at the arrival area and ask if you need a taxi. These are illegally operated and use unmarked vehicles, or charge you a fee, offer you a phony receipt, and then arrange a taxi that will still charge you. They usually cost a lot more than licensed taxis since many travelers do not know the cost of airport transportation.
Flying to Hong Kong is another option. From the Hong Kong International Airport, you can take cross-boundary coach to Guangzhou and other cities in Guangdong. Service providers include China Travel Service, Trans-Island Chinalink and Eternal East. Fares range from HK$220-250 one way.
The food in the international transfer terminal is very expensive. You can pay US$10 plus for a cup of tea! It is recommended to bring everything you will need for your layover. There is a free hot water machine downstairs, next to one of the smoking lounges. If you bring a mug, and some tea bags, you will be good to go for hours.
Current as of Sep 2011
* denotes a stop-over in Dongguan (Changping station)
Trains cover the 182 kilometers from Hong Kong in about two hours, including a stop at Dongguan. Through Trains to Guangzhou East Railway Station depart from Hong Kong at Hung Hom railway station in Kowloon and arrive in Guangzhou at the East station. Through train services are operated by Hong Kong MTR. The one-way journey price ranges from 190HKD-230HKD.
Note: Tickets purchased on it3.mtr.com.hk must be paid for by credit card and collected in Hong Kong by the card holder. If you intend to begin your journey from the Guangzhou side, most times of the year you can obtain tickets on the spot at Guangzhou East station. However, at peak times, you will want to book ahead to be guaranteed a seat. Booking (and paying for) tickets through the MTR website will only RESERVE your seats if you are outside Hong Kong and intend to begin your journey in Guangzhou. You will need to pay again at Guangzhou East station and then seek a refund from MTR once you arrive in Hung Hom. To avoid this, MTR has an officially appointed ticketing agency on the China side for multilingual enquiry and booking.This company has been confirmed by MTR customer service and is: Norrway Trading Co. Ltd. (+86) 20 8765 9328, from within China 020 8765 9328 (no known website). Alternatively, China International Travel Service has non-real time enquiry and booking service in English. There are a number of other avenues (Chinese travel agents) for enquiring and booking GZ-HK MTR tickets, but they are in Chinese (e.g., www.020ztc.com), who have an office on the first floor of Guangzhou East station. Many of the better quality hotels in Guangzhou will also have an affiliated travel agents where you can book and pay for train tickets, so contact them as well.
It is cheaper to take the Guangshen intercity train service (广深城际列车) from Shenzhen to Guangzhou East Railway Station. Some trips also stop at Guangzhou Railway Station. Shenzhen is right across the border from Hong Kong and thousands of people walk over the bridge between the two every day through Luohu (罗湖). Tickets can be bought at the Shenzhen Rail Station in Luohu. The one-way journey price starts from ¥80.
A project is underway to link the entire Pearl River Delta area with high speed rail network. The Guangzhou–Zhuhai (near Macau), Guangzhou–Shenzhen (a different railway, originated from Shenzhen North Station, than the Guangshen intercity train mentioned above) have opened in 2011, and the journey takes just 57 minutes and 35 minutes respectively. A new long distance line from Guangzhou to Beijing travels through major cities such as Changsha, Wuhan, Zhengzhou and Shijiazhuang. It takes 7h59m to 9h38m for a journey to Beijing, over 2,000 km away. One way ticket is ¥865. There are also overnight soft sleeper bullet trains for ¥990 on most days of the week. Some high-speed trains also go to Luoyang and Xi'an. One way trip from Guangzhou South Station to Xi'an North is between 7h40m and 9h09m, price from ¥813.5. This is part of a nationwide high-speed network.
It is possible to take a direct train from Guangzhou to Lhasa in Tibet. The 4,980 km journey takes 55 hours and runs every other day from Guangzhou Station (广州站). A sleeper costs ¥869 and up. For discussion see Overland to Tibet.
Bear in mind there are now three major train stations in Guangzhou. Countless travellers have gone to the wrong station and missed their scheduled trips, so be sure of your departing station, which is specified on the ticket.
- Guangzhou Railway Station (广州站) is one of the biggest in the country and services routes that go all the way to Harbin. Metro lines 2 and 5 have a connection stop here.
- Guangzhou East Railway Station (广州东站) services routes to Hong Kong and some mainland cities. Metro line 1 ends here, and Metro line 3 from Airport South has a station here.
- Guangzhou South Railway Station (广州南站) serves the high-speed rail network.
Guangzhou also has several other stations such as the North Station and West Station. There are also name variations for each of the stations. Be sure to use official names to avoid confusion.
Although some signs are available in English, staff may not understand English well enough, except at the Guangzhou-Kowloon counter. Bring a phrasebook or a Chinese friend if you're planning on traveling deeper into China.
Coach services are available to bring passengers from Hong Kong International Airport to several locations in Guangzhou. Among the destinations are recognizable landmarks like Jinan University (暨南大学) on Huangpu Avenue (黄埔大道), Garden Hotel (花园酒店) and China Hotel (中国大酒店) (see hotel section). The trip takes about 3+ hours and costs 250 HKD. There are also cross border bus terminals throughout Hong Kong. One of the Stations is at Austin Road and Canton Road near Kowloon Park. A one way ticket costs about 100 HKD.
Domestically, it is possible to hop on a bus from any corner of Guangdong province and get to Guangzhou. There are also many options from nearby provinces like Guangxi, Hubei and Fujian. Here are some of the main stations in the city:
- Provincial Station (省汽车客运站) (145-149 Huanshi West Road 环市西路145-149号) (Metro 2 & 5 Guangzhou Railway Station Exit F1, F2, H1, H2) The station serves mostly long distance lines outside the Guangdong Province.
- Liuhua Station (流花站) (Metro 2 & 5 Guangzhou Railway Station Exit D4) Across from Provincial Station, it mostly serves nearby cities in the province.
- Tianhe Station (天河客运站) (633 Yanling Road 燕岭路633号) (Metro 3) The station services Southern and central China, reaching as far as the Gansu Province. There are also many routes to cities in Guangdong.
- Haizhu Station (海珠客运站) (182 Nanzhou Road 南洲路182号) (Metro 2 Nanzhou Station Exit A) The station is located in the southern part of Haizhu, servicing major cities in the province and other Southern China provinces, including Hainan.
- Fangcun Station (芳村客运站) (51 Huadi Middle Avenue) (Metro 1 Kengkou Exit B) The station serves similar routes as the Haizhu Station.
- Yuexiu Nan Station (越秀南汽车站) (越秀南东园横2号) Other than desintations in the province and other provinces, it also has lines to Macau and Hong Kong.
- Guangzhou South (广州南汽车客运站) The station mainly services nearby cities. There is a bus to Lo Wu, a commonly used border crossing between Hong Kong and mainland China. The fare is ¥65 and it runs every hour.
Please note that English and Chinese names of bus stations vary from one sign to another -- coach terminal, coach station, bus terminal, bus station, passenger terminal or passenger station. Be aware that the different names may be referring to the same station.
There is a frequent ferry and hovercraft service from Hong Kong, Macau, and Haikou (Hainan Island) at the Zhoutouzui Ferry Pier (洲头咀码头). There are boats from other mainland cities, such as Xiamen, Shanghai, and Qingdao at the Dashatou Pier (大沙头码头).
New Nansha Port(南沙港客运) is operating 4 lines traveling from Guangzhou to Hong Kong, Macau, and the Hong Kong International Airport. The trip takes 75 minutes to Hong Kong. Note that Nansha is very far from the city center, although there are various bus pickup points from the city center and Panyu. The port is 1.6km south of Humen Bridge in Nansha.
Schedule: Nansha to Hong Kong: 08:00 - 18:00 (5 separate lines) ¥155-250 Nansha to Macau (weekend only): Nansha – Macau 9:00 (Sat) 14:30 (Sun); Macau - Nansha 10:45 (Sat) 16:15 (Sun) ¥180-280 Nansha to Hong Kong Airport: Nansha – HKIA 9:30; HKIA – Nansha 16:00 ¥265-¥350