Travel

Note: This page is quoted with permission from Thomas Weise, and is modified to fit the website style. The original page is archived in the author's blog .


1. Hefei Airport

Recently, the new Hefei Xinqiao International Airport [ 合肥新桥国际机场] has opened in Hefei. It has replaced the old Hefei Luogang International Airport [ 合肥骆岗国际机场] (IATA-code: HFE), which now is closed. Traveling from the airport to the city center by taxi will take about 40 minutes to 1 hour and cost about between 75 and 100 Chinese Yuan (CNY/RMB), depending on the traffic.


2. International Arrivals

It is relatively easy to get to Hefei [合肥] from basically anywhere in the world. This will usually involve a flight to one of the major cities in China such as Beijing [北京], Shanghai [上海],Guangzhou [广州], Shenzhen [深圳], or Hongkong [香港] and then taking a connection flight to Hefei (HFE) from there.

There are plans that the new airport will have direct flights from and to international airports such asFrankfurt am Main ( 法兰克福机场), but these are not yet in action. So for now, a two-hop stragy (like first to Bejing, then a connection to Hefei) is necessary.


2.1. Recommended Strategies

I can recommend the following basic approaches:


2.1.1. Beijing by Airplane, Hefei by Airplane

Take an airplane to Beijing [北京], the capital of China, and from there an airplane to Hefei. Your stop in Beijing will be at the theBeijing Capital International Airport [北京首都国际机场] ( BCIA, IATA-code: PEK). It is best to plan for a buffer of at least two or three hours between your arrival there and your connection flight to Hefei (HFE). This is maybe the easiest way.

Notice that domestic flights in Beijing are often delayed. Two hours delay are not a rare event. Also, The Beijing airport has three terminals and Terminal 2 is located at a different spot. If your connecting flight departs at Terminals that are not co-located, plan in at least 40 minutes time for the Airport shuttle or inter-terminal railway connection.


2.1.2. Shanghai by Airplane, Hefei by Airplane

Take an airplane to Shanghai [上海] and from there a connection flight to Hefei. Your airplane will likely arrive inShanghai Pudong International Airport [上海浦东国际机场] (IATA-code: PVG).

Be aware that there also is a second airport in Shanghai:Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport [上海虹桥国际机场] (IATA-code: SHA). Make sure that your connecting flights depart at the same airport, or that there is at least 3.5 hours time between them so that you can conveniently take the metro/subway Line 2 connecting the two airports.


2.1.3. Shanghai by Airplane, Hefei by Train

Take an airplane to Shanghai [上海] and from there a train to Hefei (see the section ontrains). Your airplane will likely arrive atShanghai Pudong International Airport [上海浦东国际机场] (IATA-code:PVG) whereas the trains likely go from theShanghai Hongqiao Railway Station [ 上海虹桥站]. Shanghai Pudong International Airport and the Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station are directly connected with the metro/subway Line 2, they are almost at the two opposing ends of that line. Overview maps of the metro can be found here, here, and here.

For taking the metro, you need to calculate more than 2 hours. Of course, if your airplane lands in Shanghai’s second airport,Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport [上海虹桥国际机场] (IATA-code: SHA), you are almost at the train station: 1 stop with metro/subway Line 2 or a few minutes by foot.

The D-Train from Shanghai to Hefei will then take about 3 to 3.5 hours. If you arrive in Shanghai and want to directly continue traveling with a train, you should buy the tickets in advance, because sometimes no tickets may be available anymore. See the section on buying train tickets below for, well, information on how to buy train tickets.


2.1.4 Beijing by Airplane, Hefei by Train

You can take the airplane to Beijing and from there a train to Hefei (see the section on trains). Since Beijing is quite far from Hefei, I would recommend using a fast G-train, which can travel the distance in about 4.5 hours. If you arrive in Shanghai and want to directly continue traveling with a train, you should buy the tickets in advance, because sometimes no tickets may be available anymore. See the section on buying train tickets below for, well, information on how to buy train tickets.

Coming from abroad, you would probably be arriving in Beijing atBeijing Capital International Airport [ 北京首都国际机场]. The train would likely leave from Beijing South Railway Station [ 北京南站].

You could take the Airport Express subway [北京机场轨道交通线] toDongzhimen Station [东直门站], from there change to SubwayLine 2 [北京地铁2号线] toXuanwumen Station [宣武门站], where you switch into SubwayLine 4 [北京地铁四号线], which stops directly at Beijing South Railway Station.

Overview maps of the Beijing Subway [北京地铁] can be found here, here , here, and here. The subway has a fixed fare of 2 RMB, which is quite cheap. However, since you need to switch subways, this approach to travel to Hefei a bit more complicated, especially for people coming from abroad. As time, I think with 2 hours calculated from the airport to the train station you should be on the safe side.


2.1.5. Nanjing by Airplane, Hefei by Train

Another (and more complicated) option is taking the route via Nanjing [ 南京].
You will likely arrive at Nanjing Lukou International Airport [南京禄口国际机场] (IATA: NKG, ICAO: ZSNJ)

Although Nanjing is closer to Hefei, as far as I know, there is no direct flight or convenient bus from its airport to Hefei. You would need to go to the Nanjing train station by bus first, which is about 50km/2.5h away from the airport. From there, you can take a train (1h) or another bus to Hefei.


2.1.56. Alternatives

I have not tested the following alternatives yet:

§ You may first fly to Guangzhou [广州] and then to Hefei: http://www.baiyunairport.com/.

§ You may first fly to Shenzhen [深圳] and then to Hefei: http://www.szairport.com/eng/index.htm.

§ You may first fly to Hongkong [香港] and then to Hefei: http://www.hongkongairport.com/eng/


2.2. Finding Airplane Connections

For finding good airplane connections, I can recommend the following webpages:


2.3. Entering China

If you enter China through one of the major cities and then take a connection flight from there to Hefei, please remember that you will have to check out your luggage from your first flight (the one with which you enter China). You then will take it through customs and check it in again for your connection flight.

If you are a foreigner entering China, you will have to fill out a small yellow form (similar to what was required for entering the US some time ago) in English. You can ask in your flight to China for such a form in order to save time when going through the entry/exit procedure.

Do not throw away the airplane ticket. Usually, a small piece of paper identifying your luggage is attached to it. It may be checked when you leave the arrival section of an airport.


3. Domestic Flights

I have already discussed several domestic flight options to get to Hefei in the section for international arrivals above. In general, domestic flights to Hefei are available from the following cities:

  • Beijing [北京]
  • Hongkong [香港]
  • Shanghai [上海]
  • Xi’an [西安]
  • Guangzhou [广州]
  • Xiamen [厦门]
  • Shenzhen [深圳]

4. (Domestic) Trains

As the capital of Anhui Province, there are also convenient train transportans between Hefei and many other cities in China. The main railway station in Hefei until 2014 was the Hefei Railway Station [合肥站]. In 2014, the new and bigger Hefei South Railway Station [合肥南站] has opened. As far as I know, it already manages most of theD- and G-trains to Shanghai and in 2015 will probably manage all of these fast trains, leaving only “normal” trains for the Hefei Railway Station.


4.1. Train Types

There are different train types in China:

  • 1. D-Train (Dong-Che) [动车组列车]. Train numbers start with a “D”. A fast EMU train. Roughly equivalent to the ICE trains in German. Comfortable, fast. Travel time from Shanghai to Hefei: between 2.5 and 3.5 hours (depending on the number of intermediate stops), speed up to 250km/h. Usually taking this train is the best choice (in my opinion).

  • 2. G-Train (Gao-Tie) [高速动车组列车]. Train numbers start with “G”. China’s modern and comfortable high-speed train, can travel 300km/h. If you travel time with a D-Train would be over 3 hours, you will probably perfer to take this faster train. It is more expensive, though. If you go to Hefei from Shanghai, there is no tangible benefit over the D-Train. If you come from Beijing, however, there may be large difference.

  • 3. The rest: K-Trains (Kuai-Che) [快速列车]. Train numbers start with “K”. Normal train, much slower than D-Trains, but also cheaper. The savings in money, however, usually are not worth it. Train prices in China are reasonable for D-Trains, so unless you have special plans, like taking an over-night train where you can sleep aboard, it may not make much sense to take this option.

4.2. Buying Train Tickets

Train tickets can be purchased at any train station or ticket office, but not earlier than 10 days before the travel. If you enter China via airplane, then you will probably either buy tickets online and pick them up at the train station or buy them upon arrival at the train station. The former (online) method is strongly recommended: If you buy tickets at the train station, it may happen that all tickets for your favorite train are sold out, or even all tickets to your destination on the same or next few days!

When buying a ticket, the following steps are to be taken.

  • 1. Long before the purchase of the ticket, you can already check which trains are interesting for you. Information about train schedules and tickets may be obtained from websites such as travelchinaguide.com, chinabahn.com, or chinatraintickets.net (or at the train stations).

  • 2. Especially for foreigners, it makes sense to print a paper with the following information about the train tickets that you want to buy:

  • A. Start city/train station in English and Chinese,

    B. Destination city/train station in English and Chinese (I usually use the “start → destination” format),

    C. Train Number, and

    D. Start date and time in ISO format (i.e., 2013-10-05 16:30 for the 5th of October, 2013, at 4pm and 30 minutes).

  • 3. It is furthermore a good idea to have a list of alternatives, in case your chosen train is sold out and no tickets are available for it anymore.

  • 4. When buying the ticket, show your passport and and the above paper to the clerk at the counter. Make sure to have sufficient money in Chinese currency (RMB/CNY) at hand.


4.3. Taking a Train

Taking a train works slightly different in China than it does in, say, Germany. Train stations are organized to deal with large numbers of passengers and the process to use a train is more similar to using an airplane at an airport. The following steps will be taken:

  • 1. When entering the train station [火车站], you will pass a security check where your bag is scanned by a machine and you pass a metal detector. Since recently, passports (or Chinese ID cards, whichever you have) are also checked when entering the train station – make sure to have them at hand.

  • 2. You should then look for a big digital information screen which will list the train number and the departing gate or waiting area. There might be one big waiting area with multiple gates (such as in Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station) or several waiting areas with multiple gates (like in the Hefei or Suzhou ones). In any case, the screen will list the waiting area or gate for your train. You go there.

  • 3. After you have arrived at your gate, you will find a closed door and some seats to wait. The doors will open once the train has arrived. Above the doors, there usually are again digital screens announcing the train numbers that are departing from this gate. Yellow colored numbers mean the train will come at some point in the future, green color means the train is here and ready for boarding (the gate opens), and red means the train has already left. You wait for your train to arrive.

  • 4. The gate opens. Now you go in line with the other passengers through the gate. Usually, you will put your ticket into a slot at the gate which then opens for you (don’t forget to pick your ticket up again when it comes out of another slot) or show the ticket to a personnell guarding the gate.

  • 5. You follow the path and the other passengers to the train. Often, it is indicated at which track (站台) your train is leaving and there are indicators where to find which car number.

  • 6. Find your car, enter it, sit on your seat: Congratulations, you now are using the train.


5. Arriving in Hefei

Once you arrive at the Hefei or Hefei SouthRailway Station or Hefei Xinqiao International Airport, the easiest way to get to your hotel is to take a taxi. For this purpose, it is a good idea to print a paper with:

  • 1. the full Chinese address of your destination,

  • 2. the full English address of your destination,

  • 3. the official phone number of the hotel/your contact person, and

  • 4. maybe a photo of the hotel taken from the the internet.

If you show such a paper to the taxi driver, he can easily find the target and, if there is an uncertainty, he can call up the hotel and ask for directions.


Please notice that there are two types of taxis: official taxis and black taxis. Official taxis will be available at official taxi locations and often there is a queue of people waiting for them. Such taxis can be recognized by their special, official coloring. Also, they have a small red lamp on the front panel/dashbord in the front window that is on when the taxi is free and turned down/off to start the meter. Black taxi drivers, however, are usually standing near the gate of a train station or airport and will actively approach you by saying “taxi, taxi” or something. Official taxis will never do that. I strong recommend taking official taxis only. They are reliable and will bill an official, reasonable price, according to their meter. The official taxis in Hefei are very honest and good, and the prices are very reasonable (about 80 to 100 RMB from the airport to the university, about 20 to 30 RMB from either of the train station). I never had any problem with them. I never used a black taxi, because I fear they may rip me off.


6. Local Attractions in Hefei

The list of interesting places to explore includes, but is not limited to:

§ A:Xiaoyao Jin [逍遥津] Park 1 is a nice park in the north-east of Hefei which demarks the field of a historical battle at theend of the Han dynasty about 1800 years ago, theBattle of the Xiaoyao Ford [逍遥津之战]. [ map]

§ B: Thememorial temple of Lord Bao [包公] 1 ,2, 3 . [map]

§ C:Li Honghzhang‘s [李鸿章] former residence [李鸿章故居] 1 [map]

§ D: TheHistory Museum of Three Kingdoms1 [ map]

§ E: Hefei Zoo [合肥动物园]1 [ map]

§ F: The Swan Lake [天鹅湖] is a nice recreational area in Hefei, with impressive buildings around such as the building of Anhui Television. [ map]

§ G: The Hefei Botanical garden [合肥植物园] is a large area with interesting vegetation and nice lakes. [ map]

§ H: Chao Lake [巢湖] 1 ,2 is a beautiful, large lake in the south-east of Hefei. [map]

You can find more information about Hefei and its sights on the following websites:

§ the Wikipedia page of Hefei

§ on TravelChinaGuide.com

§ on TripAdvisor.com

§ on TopChinaTravel.com

§ the official English Website of Hefei


7. Travel Advise

If you can spare a few extra days on your trip to Hefei, I recommend to enter China via Beijing and to leave it via Shanghai (or vice versa). This way, you can spend a few days in these cities and can have quite a large “China-Experience” in only one trip: Go toTiananmen [天安门], theForbidden City [故宫], andThe Bund [外滩] andPeople’s Square [ 人民广场] – touristics must-sees, plus visit the Pearl of Asia itself: Hefei.