International Airport (广州白云国际机场) is China's second busiest airport and the base for China Southern Airlines. Serving the Pearl River Delta area, it offers an extensive range of domestic flights to most major Chinese cities, as well as direct international routes to Europe, North America, South Korea, Japan, South East Asia, India, Oceania, the Middle East and Africa.
The airport is 28 km (17 miles) north from central Guangzhou.
There is currently a single terminal building (as of 2015), but a second terminal is under construction. The terminal has East (gates A01-A133) and West (gates B01-B235) concourses, with gates on three piers of each concourse. Five of the piers serve domestic flights and one serves international flights. Not all aircraft can park alongside the terminal and shuttle buses are used to take passengers to and from some aircraft (from gates A01-A18 and B01-B18).
There are domestic flights to every major Chinese city, and a wide selection of flights to international destinations. Guangzhou is the main hub of China Southern airlines.
Due to lower landing fees, connections are often cheaper than transferring at nearby Hong Kong International Airport.
The most convenient way into the city is by metro. The airport station is at the northern end of Line 3. The lower level of the airport terminal leads to the Airport South Metro station. A journey to the East Railway Station, or to Tiyu Xilu Metro station (both ¥12) takes about 50 minutes. Trains run about every five minutes, with the first train leaving the airport at 6:10AM and the last train from and to the airport departing at 11PM.
Airport Express buses operate from just outside the arrival terminal. They are less comfortable and reliable than the metro. There are also direct Airport Express buses to some cities in the Pearl River Delta region, such as Zhuhai and Foshan. However, there is no direct bus to Macau or Hong Kong.
Taxis take about the same time as the metro. A ride to central Guangzhou will cost about ¥120, inclusive of a ¥15 toll fee. Taxi stations are available outside Arrival Hall Section A Gate 5 and Arrival Hall Section B Gate 6. Ignore the taxi touts - they will invariably cost more and be less safe than official taxis. The taxi queue after 11PM can look impossibly long, but in fact you will get to your taxi in around 20 minutes after queuing.
Passengers transferring between international flights can do so without passing through immigration if their bags are checked through. There is a transfer desk between the international arrivals hall and the departures hall.
If there is a long wait for a flight, the facilities in the upper departure level are better than in the lower level by the gates for the shuttle buses to the aircraft.
For longer layovers, the city of Guangzhou is reachable by metro from the airport.
Eat and Drink
The international departures area has a small selection of cafes serving local and European dishes.
There are drinking water machines (downstairs near gate A111 in international departures) which dispense cold, warm or boiling water. Bring your own cup and tea or coffee if you want to brew your own.
There is a Starbucks and a few Chinese restaurants.
International departures has the usual selection of luxury international brands in the area between the concourse and the departure gates. In the area surrounding the gates is a small selection of shops selling duty free spirits, a tiny bookshop, with a single rack of English books, a toy shop, a chemist, and several shops selling Chinese foods and souvenirs (but surprisingly no electronics).
WiFi is available in the international departures area, but you usually need to get an access code through a Chinese cell phone number. International cell phone numbers might or might not work. Alternatively you might need to scan your passport in a machine (if it is working) to get an access code.
As with all Chinese airports, long delays are a fact of life. Evening flights and heavy rain can cause a flight to be delayed many hours or even cancelled. Airlines will provide you with water and a (very low quality) takeaway meal for free. If you have a cancelled flight or missed a connection due to a delay, many airlines will also put you up in a hotel for free.