Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport, named after the city's nearby mountain, is China’s third busiest airport. As a new airport, you can expect all the facilities and amenities, as well as the problems, that you’d find at any major international hub. Increasing passenger numbers have meant the airport is constantly being expanded and this can lead to delays and confusion inside the terminal as to who goes where.
Once mainly used as a hub for domestic travel in China, the airport expanded its operations to include a wide selection of international destinations.
Airport Code, Location, and Contact Information
Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport (CAN) is located roughly 18 miles (30 km) from downtown Guangzhou.
Know Before You Go
The airport has two terminals. Terminal 1 is split up into areas A and B and mainly serves international departures. Terminal B serves both international and domestic departures and is the main hub of China Southern Airlines and its partners. To get between the terminals, a shuttle bus is available at Door 10 of Terminal 1 and Door 42 of Terminal 2. You can also transfer between terminals via the subway. All information is posted on signs in Chinese and English.
One frequent complaint is the lack of security channels, which can often lead to long queues and delays. You’re advised to leave extra time for passing through the security check and, if you’re connecting, to pass through immigration.
A new terminal and five new runways were the highlights of the airport’s expansion plan scheduled to finish in 2022.
Parking at Guangzhou Airport is based on the size of your car, but if you are parking for less than 15 minutes, say to pick up a passenger, parking is free. If you need to park for more than 15 minutes, you will be charged a small fee in Chinese yuan (RMB) for the first two hours, an additional fee for three to 10 hours, and a flat rate for up to 24 hours. If you are parked for more than a day, you will be charged cumulatively based on the standard price.
You can reserve your parking space ahead of time using a WeChat account. Using the WeChat app, you can even pay for your parking via WeChat and skip paying at the toll booth.
It will take about an hour to travel from downtown Guangzhou to the airport. From the city center, travel north on Highway S41 and follow signs for the airport. If you are coming from the north of the airport, you can take Highway G45 South and connect to S41.
Public Transportation and Taxis
The cheapest way into the city is by subway. There are two stops for each terminal at the end of Line 3 of the Guangzhou Metro. Ticket fares vary depending on how far you plan to ride the metro, but you can also buy a day pass which allows unlimited use of the subway within the purchased time period.
It's possible to travel between Guangzhou and the airport via the Airport Express Bus, which operates five different non-stop lines to the city center. Intercity bus service is also available from the airport to cities like Dongguan, Foshan, Zhongshan, Huizhou, Jiangmen, and more.
The taxi pick-up points are located in Terminal 1 at Arrival Area A (Gate A8) and Arrival Area B (Gate B4 and B8) and Terminal 2 outside of the international arrival hall, Gate 50, and Gate 53.
Where to Eat and Drink
Guangzhou Airport has a full spread of restaurants, both on the main concourse in arrivals and after security checks in areas A and B of departures. Most food is, naturally, Chinese, most of which is pretty good, although there are also a number of Western options available, as well as a McDonald's. As with many airports, prices for food and drinks are somewhat inflated although by no means eye-popping. Most restaurants are opened from 7 a.m. until 9 p.m.
Where to Shop
Guangzhou Airport has a very decent selection of shops, including a number of exclusive brands, but prices can be pretty high and you’ll find just about everything cheaper, if not much cheaper, in the city.
How to Spend Your Layover
You'll need at least seven hours to justify leaving the airport for your layover because it takes a while to get downtown and you'll need time to make it back for your onward flight. As long as you stay less than 72 hours, you don't need a visa if you are from one of the 53 pre-approved countries, which includes the United States. If you have large carry-on items you'd rather leave at the airport, luggage storage is available in multiple locations. To make the most of your time, the best option is to take a taxi, but it is possible to travel by public transportation as well.
While in Guangzhou, you can take advantage of your time by seeing the city by bike share and trying the local Cantonese cuisine. For a quick view of the city, you can also take the ferry.
If you’re connecting and will be at the airport overnight, you may want to make hotel arrangements as security staff is said to be less than welcoming to those who want to sleep in the gates. There are a few hotels located near Guangzhou Airport, the closest being the Pullman Guangzhou Baiyun Hotel, which is the airport's flagship property.
There are premium lounges available in both terminals. Some are only available with a lounge membership or first or business class ticket. However, day passes are available for purchase at many of these lounges.
- Baiyun Airport Lounge, located near Gate A123 in the International Terminal
- Premium Lounge, multiple locations available in Terminal 1 and 2
- Air China Premium Lounge, located near Gates B24-B223 in the Domestic Terminal
- China Eastern First Class Lounge, located near B224-B235 in the Domestic Terminal
- Easy-boarding Lounge, located in Terminal 2 after security checks
- Golden Century Lounge, located in the central terminal near door 23
- Hainan Airlines First Class Lounge, located near Gates A124-A133 in the Domestic Terminal
- King Lounge, located near Gates A124-122 in the Domestic Terminal
- Library Lounge, located on Level 4 of the International Terminal
- Premium Lounge, multiple locations available in Terminal 1 and 2
Wi-Fi and Charging Stations
Wi-Fi is available for free in the airport but has a maximum of 300 minutes (5 hours) per session. When you connect to the Wi-Fi, an access code will be texted to your mobile phone. If you don't have a way to receive an access code, look for one of the Wi-Fi kiosks, from which you can print out your code. Charging stations with USBs and power outlets are located throughout the airport.
Airport Tips and Tidbits
- The airport is fully equipped, including ATMs, money exchange counters, bilingual information points, water fountains, and a very good selection of kids' playgrounds in the departures hall.
- In arrivals, you’ll find the information point in Area A, where there is also a post office.
- If you need to change your clothes, no need to go to the bathroom. There are dressing rooms, equipped with mirrors, tables, and hooks, in multiple locations.
- Keep your eye out for some of the high-tech art in the airport, from the Time-Space and Sea-to-Sky tunnels by the metro entrance to the hanging Sky Stage made of hundreds of color-changing lightbulbs.