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Guangzhou BaiYun Airport Information

Last night I was trawling through my website’s access log, as I’ve been receiving an annoying amount of referrer spam. Of the 300 unique hits my very new site (*gloat*) recorded in November, more than half (*pout*) was from a filthy referrer-spammer.

So I analysed the REAL hits, I saw that a surprising amount of Google traffic was referred because of people searching for Guangzhou Airport information. Surprising, because on my entire site the words are mentioned only once or twice, and there where I wrote a bit about when I transferred there on my way from Kuala Lumpur to Wuhan.

Then I did what any self-respecting Blogger would do, and I Googled the search string to see where my site appears. Even more surprising, I couldn’t find my own listings, and I went as far down as page 15 of the results. But what I did find where tons of results with absolutely no useful information about the airport.

So, here in an effort to reward the people who bother to sift through all the results and through to my site, some Guangzhou Airport Information (useful, or otherwise).

Anyway, skip to the bottom for the facts, or get comfortable and read through the waftings of my own experiences…

From the air Guangzhou BaiYun Airport looked small. I assume it was the new terminal I was at, because there were still some construction going on.

The time I had between connecting flights were 1 hour and 25 minutes (if I remember correctly) which, being an ex-travel agent, I realised was risky, but I thought, how big could it be?

After the plane approached from Hong Kong’s direction, and gave us a fabulous areal tour of the expansive city that Guangzhou is, it touched down smoothly. We taxi’ed to the terminal. This in itself took quite some time and was my first clue as to its real expanse.

As the thought of my limited time was gnawing at my nerves, I rushed out of the plane knocking women, children and the elderly out of my way as I went (not really, but in hind-sight, I should have). I raced down the corridor and I do believe I bounced along 3 or 4 travellators.

Eventually the corridor opened up into the Immigration hall, which disappointingly reminded me of the very few counters located at the puny Cape Town International Airport. Main difference was that luckily, all the counters here were in use (in Cape Town maybe only 60% of the counters seem to be open at any time). However, the queues were no shorter and the Chinese National counters were as packed as was the Foreign National ones.

The queues progressed at an expectedly sluggish pace. My turn came eventually and after enduring awkwardly stark stares from the pretty immigration official, she stamped me in. Immediately behind her counter was the escalator leading into the luggage claim area.

As bare and sterile as an operating theater, there was nothing much here apart from 5 luggage carousels and toilets. As our luggage had not been offloaded I went to the loo to clean my bag which was the victim of pressure meets suntan lotion. I took some time cleaning the mess, but upon my return my luggage had still not arrived.

After another 10 minutes the first bags started to arrive, and I was pushed out of the way by women, children and the elderly, those I had spared on my rush out of the plane earlier. My ragged, blue bag eventually entered stage right and was quickly pulled.

I rushed to the Customs gate and was pointed to a ledge littered with clearance forms. The one I had received on the plane in Chinese only and didn’t fill out for exactly that reason. I scratched amongst the remains of neat piles and eventually found an English one and promptly filled it out with information so obvious, I should have just guessed it on the Chinese form.

I handed the form, filled out with my worst scrawl (and my best is pretty bad to start with) to the Customs official and headed for the green lane thinking I was home free. However, as luck (and my dwindling window of opportunity to connect to my next flight) would have it, for no apparent reason everyone was bottle-necked through the red lane where all bags were scanned with a single, solitary x-ray machine. The now-familiar women, children and elderly were in the same queue doing their damndest to prevent me from putting my bag on the conveyor belt.

Eventually I had squeezed through, with my bag, and rushed to a representative of my next airline, China Southern Airlines. The rep was conveniently placed and easy to spot, perhaps coincidence, and I showed him my ticket with my finger on my flight number and departure time, hoping to cut communication problems.

He seemed to realised what I was after and escorted me through a door in a temporary dry-wall and we were in the arrivals hall. At a desk he approached his colleagues who all clutched for my ticket like monkeys fighting for a peanut. Then, in poor English, someone tried to explain to me where to go. Over there, by the lift, left, escalator, long tunnel, up escalator, up escalator, 3rd floor, 2nd terminal, here, there, everywhere, how are you, what’s your name…

Needless to say, I missed my flight. Make sure you have substantial time to connect, I recommend at least 2 hours or more, regardless of what your travel agent might suggest. Oh, check-in is closed, no negotiation, 45 minutes prior to departure.

Here are some other subjective opinions based on my own experience:

  • The level of English, when you find an English speaker, is poor to very poor. Speak slowly and be patient;
  • Information Assistants, standing behind the clearly marked Information Desks at strategic points, although marked in English, command the minimum of English;
  • After showing one of the kind assistants my ticket with the flight number on it, she still directed me not only to the wrong check-in counter, but to international departures instead of domestic;
  • At Guangzhou airport’s domestic departure terminal, there was in September 2005 only 2 ATM machines, neither of whom would accept VISA cards. Apparently they accept Master cards, but only those with 6 digit PINs. 5 or 4 digits PINs are not accepted;
  • There are 2 money changers at this airport, but they will accept only US Dollars, British Pounds, Euro’s and Japanese Yen. Nothing else. Change lesser known currencies before you depart for China, because even at the Bank of China in Shiyan (bigger cities might be different), they refused to accept any currency except the four mentioned;
  • Public phones work with phone cards only, which costs upwards of 30 Yuan; The menus on the modern phones are mainly in Chinese, except for English menus which give information about nothing useful, such as the technological expertise of the company who made the phones;
  • There is no option to dail an operator. There are 2 red buttons; one for the police (who are quite helpful and will find for you an English speaker if they can’t understand you, which if you speak only English is a given) and the other one was unexplored. 411 dails information, Chinese only;
  • Incoming calls to this phone last for only 15 seconds and are then disconnected. An English speaking police officer phoned me back and in a conversation that yielded no result and was terminated 5 times, she proved her commitment to assist as well as their patients.
  • Find one of the tall, black information boards. They will get you from A to B quicker than will the information people. I can’t remember if there was English on it (probably), but with the icons only I quickly found what I was looking for.

And now for some facts as stated by independant, seemingly reliable sources:

Airport is known as:

  • Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport;

General Information:

  • A new airport 17km removed from the old airport, previously known as Guangzhou Canton Airport;
  • Biggest airport in the Southern part of China;
  • Hub for China Southern Airlines;
  • Second largest in China based on passenger flow;
  • Third largest in China based on cargo handled;
  • Upon completion is rumored to be capable of handling 80 million passengers and 2.5 million tons of cargo per year; I have found conflicting sources relating to this claim;
  • Construction started in 2000, was scheduled to open in 2002 (although apparently only eventually started operating on August 5, 2004) and will not be fully completed until 2010 (but who knows for sure);
  • Currently has no rail link to the city centre, but that apparently is in the pipe-line;
  • Partially funded ($300 million) by the Japan Bank for International Co-operation;

Other useful hard-to-find info:

  • Located to the north of Guangzhou, 45 minutes (drive, I assume) from the Guangzhou city centre;
  • Located 28 kms from down town Guangzhou;
  • The little info I could find said taxi’s flag falls at 7 yuan, and then 2.5 yuan for every kilometer after that. This is un-confirmed and I’m trying to verify.

And that is about all that is useful that I could find in many hours of searching various Google results. I will email some contacts in the travel industry, and if anything more useful pops up, I will post here.

In the meantime, here are a few not-so-useful links for some perspective:

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