Getting to Guangzhou
Guangzhou is linked to almost every city in China with an airport, along with a growing number of Asian and international destinations. The new international airport, 12 miles north of the city at Baiyun, is designed to rival Hong Kong’s and has a capacity of 25 million passengers per year, a figure which is set to rise to 80 million with the completion of its third runway in 2010.
The principal regional carrier is China Southern and their main 24-hour offices are on the eastern side of Guangzhou Train Station (www.cs-air.com/en). There are shuttle buses from the China Southern offices to Baiyun International Airport and taxis from downtown.
Destinations, frequencies & durations
Beijing (23 daily, 2 hrs 45 mins); Chongqing (11 daily, 2 hrs); Guilin (10 daily, 1 hr); Hangzhou (16 daily, 1 hr 45 mins); Hong Kong (7 daily, 45 mins); Huangshan (2 daily, 2 hrs 30 mins); Shanghai (23 daily, 2 hrs 25 mins); Xi’an (8 daily, 2 hrs 45 mins); Yichang (2 daily, 1 hr 40 mins).
Guangzhou has two train stations, the vast and recently renovated Guangzhou Train Station in the north of town which serves most mainland destinations, and out in the east, modern Guangzhou East Train Station, which operates trains to Shenzhen, Hong Kong and increasingly more central and eastern cities, including Shanghai.
Note that trains leaving Guangzhou can book up quickly, particularly hard sleeper class and it’s worth reserving your ticket as soon as you can. Queues at the main station can be monumental so it’s worth paying the extra fee to get an agent to book for you..
Guangzhou Train Station
To buy your own ticket you’ll need to head to the eastern part of the station (on the right as you look at the station) where you can ask which windows serve your destination and then settle in for some serious queuing. Departures are from both floors of the western part of the station – look at the board on the entrance to determine your waiting room.
Guangzhou East Train Station
Buying a ticket to Hong Kong from Guangzhou East’s second floor is fairly straightforward and doesn’t take long. Or you can book online (www. throughtrain.kcrc.com). Trains to Hong Kong depart from the second floor, while Shenzhen services leave from the ground floor opposite their designated ticket office and departures to other areas are on the third and fourth floors.
Guangzhou Train Station is served by subway line #2 and Guangzhou East is the terminus for lines #1 and #3. Both stations have major city bus depots. A taxi to Shamian should cost around ¥18 from Guangzhou Train Station or ¥35-40 from Guangzhou East (2008).
Services to areas covered in guide: Beijing (5 daily, 22-23 hrs); Chongqing (5 daily, 30-38 hrs); Guilin (2 daily, 13-14 hrs); Hangzhou (3 daily, 23-25 hrs); Hong Kong (14 daily, 1 hr 30 min-2 hrs); Huangshan (1 daily, 20-21 hrs); Shanghai (4 daily, 23-51 hrs); Shenzhen (71 daily, 1-2 hrs); Suzhou (1 daily; 29 hrs); Xi’an (2 daily, 26-28 hrs); Yichang (3 daily, 17-22 hrs).
Guangdong is well-served by bus and for shorter hops that can be the quickest way to go, particularly if you pay a little extra for an express service. Two of the principal bus stations are just west of the main train station on Huanshi Xi Lu.
The modern Provincial Bus Station on the northern side of the road serves day-trip destinations like Huizhou and Zhaoqing, plus cities as far afield as Shanghai. Go to the second floor and ask which window serves your destination at the information desk. Queues are seldom long and services are plentiful. Departures are from the ground floor. Services: Guilin (5 daily, 10 hrs); Huizhou (frequent, 2 hrs 30 mins); Shenzhen (frequent, 3 hrs), Zhaoqing (frequent, 1 hr 30 mins).
Just over the road, Liuhua Bus Station serves local destinations and is comprised of a collection of depots with its ticket office at the eastern end.
For some longer journeys you’ll need to head for Tianhe Bus Station, four miles east of town in the new city. You can buy tickets for buses leaving from Tianhe in advance at the Provincial Station and there is a free shuttle bus (30 minutes) for which you must have your ticket stamped.
In addition to the stations, China Travel Service runs buses from several of the upmarket hotels to Shenzhen (2 hrs), Hong Kong (4 hrs), Hong Kong Airport (4 hrs) and Macau (3 hrs 30 min). There are several different routes that pick up and drop off from the China Hotel, the Landmark, and a few go from the White Swan on Shamian Island. You can buy tickets from any of these hotels.
Guangzhou is also linked to Hong Kong by fast ferry along the Pearl River from Panyu, 15 miles to the south, and Nanhai, 25 miles south of the city.
CKS boats to China-Hong Kong City Terminal run twice daily and take 2½ hours, although the 40-minute drive to either dock from central Guangzhou makes the train a quicker option.
Dragon boat before the Guangzhou festival
Guangzhou travel guide homepage
Getting around Guangzhou
Guangzhou attractions (part 1): Shamian Island, Temples and Churches
Guangzhou attractions (part 2): Parks, Zoo, Museums and music
maps of Shenzhen and Guangzhou
Cities and regions of China homepage
China Travel Guide homepage