China Domestic Airfare

Old Oct 28th, 2009, 02:31 PM
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China Domestic Airfare

Hi, I'm going to China for 2 weeks, first to Hong Kong, then to 2-3 other cities around China.

I'm planning to fly to each city because of limited time. Would it be cheaper and more efficient to buy the domestic airfare while I'm in China or should I book them in the US before I leave? Does anyone have any experience with this? Thanks.
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Old Oct 28th, 2009, 08:04 PM
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Depends on the routes and time of year. If you are travelling on popular routes that sell out fast then you may have to book in advance. If not, I'd wait until you get to HK and book the flights you need. If you let us know your travel dates and the flights you need, then you'll get a better answer to your question. Also, do you need to return to HKG for your flight to the US?
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Old Oct 29th, 2009, 08:52 AM
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Hong Kong offers many ways to be fleeced when booking tickets for flights within mainland China (and not that you'll usually pay much less by crossing to neighbouring Shenzhen Airport and flying from there, rather than directly from Hong Kong). You will do better to buy as you go, the lowest prices being available at the point of departure for each flight.

Booking from the US before you leave should be the very last option chosen. Looking at Chinese sites on-line (forget clueless options such as Expedia, which don't even know of the existence of most Chinese domestic flights) will show you the sorts of prices you'll be able usually to beat when in China. However, real prices are only available in the last couple of weeks before the flight. If you do book with these people (e.g. Ctrip, eLong) be prepared for possible difficulties with using foreign credit cards, bait-and-switch pricing, and problems with refunds if needed.

In short, doing it as you go it the best option.

Peter N-H
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Old Oct 29th, 2009, 12:45 PM
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thanks for your input!

i'll be traveling around china mid december. my first domestic trip would be from hong kong to shanghai, then from shanghai to xian, then xian to beijing. i would be flying back to the US from beijng (i purchased open jaw tickets).

i only have about 2 days in hong kong. do you think that'd be enough to secure the dosmetic airfare?

petern_h, when you say the lowest prices being available at the point of departure for each flight, do you mean to book the tickets at the airport on the day of departure??

are there any airfare websites you'd recommend that i look at when i get to hong kong?

Thanks!!!
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Old Oct 29th, 2009, 01:28 PM
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> i only have about 2 days in hong kong. do you think that'd be enough to secure the dosmetic airfare?

Plenty of time. Try to avoid agents in big hotels or targeting backpackers as the former have high overheads and the latter sometimes trade on the confidence backpackers have in their supposedly budget status to charge higher prices. Curiously enough, of late CTS in Kowloon, although it used to run people round in circles and certainly charges way over the top for visas, has come up with prices I've been unable to beat elsewhere. You can even buy at Shenzhen Airport on the day of flying with reasonable confidence of beating the best price you'll find in Hong Kong, but for the sake of peace of mind you'll probably prefer to shop on arrival in Hong Kong.

> petern_h, when you say the lowest prices being available at the point of departure for each flight, do you mean to book the tickets at the airport on the day of departure??

No, I mean that you'll get a better price for the Shanghai to Xi'an leg by buying in Shanghai, and for the Xi'an to Beijing leg (consider, by the way, overnight express train for this leg) shopping in Xi'an. But take care in the latter--this is a massive tourist town and there are a lot of cheats around.

This time of year prices even on major routes may be as little as 20% of the officially published prices.

> are there any airfare websites you'd recommend that i look at when i get to hong kong?

No. Just shop from agents.

Peter N-H
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Old Oct 29th, 2009, 01:49 PM
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Hi

You can monitor the air fares on different web sites such as ctrip, elong and travelzen.com.

travelzen.com is very convenient to use from my experience, no surcharge for using foreign c/c, no faxing of authorization form and credit card.

Prices will drop a lot (up to 70% off) from about 1-2 weeks to 2-3 days before departure time.
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Old Oct 29th, 2009, 02:27 PM
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thank you all!! you've been so helpful!
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Old Nov 12th, 2009, 07:13 PM
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This past spring, I booked Shanghai-Xi'an-Beijing on Chinahiglights.com. I went for the cheapest tickets. If I remember each leg was approximately US$135. I also used chinahighlights.com for a pickup at each airport. I booked the B&B's in both Shanghai and Beijing. We stayed an amazing Hutong Boutique hotel in Beijing.
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Old Nov 12th, 2009, 09:55 PM
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> If I remember each leg was approximately US$135

This was almost certainly too much, Chinahighlights being a third party. Either way, the information that you paid a certain sum in US dollars (fares are in ¥RMB) for two entirely different flights is itself suspicious, and of no relevance, since time of year, time in advance of flight purchase was made, would have a major effect on the price available.

China Highlights is a tour operator, and the kind of operation you want to stay as far away from as possible. You'll do far better with Chinese on-line ticket agencies, and better again by yourself. Never stick these people between yourself and any ticket or hotel booking unless you are determined to pay more than you need to.
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Old Nov 21st, 2009, 08:53 PM
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so what should we have paid so next time I do not make the same mistake. I did check the price with three other sites and it was the best price.
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