The cheapest tickets to Hong Kong and China can often be found either online or in discount agencies in Chinatowns around the world. Other budget and student travel agents offer cheap tickets, but the real bargains are with agents that deal with the Chinese who regularly return home (travelling at festival times such as the Chinese New Year will be more expensive). Firms such as STA Travel (www.statravel.com) with offices worldwide also offer competitive prices to most destinations. The cheapest flights to China are with airlines requiring a stopover at the home airport, such as with Air France to Beijing via Paris or Malaysian Airlines to Beijing via Kuala Lumpur. Air fares to China peak between June and September.
An increasing number of airlines fly to China, with Air China and China Eastern offering some of the cheapest fares. The cheapest available airline ticket is called an APEX (Advance Purchase Excursion) ticket, although this type of ticket includes expensive penalties for cancellation and changing dates of travel. Tickets listed in this section are quoted by airline offices and you will be able to find cheaper rates through travel agencies.
For browsing and buying tickets on the internet, try these online booking services:
Cheapflights.com (www.cheapflights.com) No-frills website offering flights to numerous destinations.
Expedia (www.expedia.com) Offers discounted tickets.
Fly China (www.flychina.com) Offers discounted tickets.
Lonely Planet (www.lonelyplanet.com) Use Travel Services to book multistop trips.
Lowest Fare (www.lowestfare.com) Offers discounted tickets.
One Travel.com (www.onetravel.com) Offers some good deals.
Opodo (www.opodo.com) Offers discounted tickets.
Orbitz (www.orbitz.com) Offers discounted tickets.
Discounted air-courier tickets are a cheap possibility, but they carry restrictions. As a courier, you transport documents or freight internationally and see it through customs. You usually have to sacrifice your baggage and take carry-on luggage. Generally trips are on fixed, round-trip tickets and offer an inflexible period in the destination country. For more information, check out organisations such as the Courier Association (www.aircourier.org) or the International Association of Air Travel Couriers (IAATC; www.courier.org).
Hong Kong, Beijing and Shànghai are China's main international air gateways. Hong Kong International Airport (HKG;0852-2181 0000; www.hkairport.com) is located at Chek Lap Kok on Lantau Island in the west of the territory. Beijing's Capital airport (PEK; arrivals & departures 010-6454 1100) has benefited from considerable investment and new terminals. Shànghai has two airports: Hongqiao airport (SHA;021-6268 8899/3659) in the west of the city and Pudong airport (PVG;021-6834 1000, flight information 021-6834 6912) in the east.
The best direct ticket deals are available from China's international carriers, such as China Eastern. Air China, China's national flag carrier, has a good safety record, and to date it has only had one fatal crash (in 2002). Air China should not be confused with China Airlines, the crash-prone Taiwan carrier.
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