Navigating Chinese airports can be very daunting for newcomers to Beijing. PEK is pretty big, usually involves a train and can involve some really long waiting times. I usually get through this quite easily, without too much drama, but for some reason, my last trip was a nightmare, and I implore you to heed my advice so you never need to be in the same situation.
Arrival in Beijing is not easy. Planes stop on the tarmac, and you need to disembark down the stairs (outside) to a waiting bus that then drives a long way to the terminal. When arriving in -10C winter, make sure you have your warm jackets. You also do not receive your stroller on arrival so if you have little ones, a baby carrier is especially helpful, one carry on bag is advisable since you will be helping kids down the stairs and onto crowded buses. You need to walk a long way; there are elevators involved and the train. Doing this by yourself with little kids and no stroller is tough. You will collect your stroller at the baggage carousel, in the yellow square next to the conveyor belt.
At immigration, you need to fill in an arrival form for each person. I wish they gave you these on the plane to fill out at your leisure, but they don’t. I learned the hard way that filling out four forms, while three overtired preschoolers are crawling around wrestling on the floor and dozens of other people are also trying to fill in their forms, does not make for a calm, peaceful mother.
TIP: When filling out these forms, grab 20 more and keep them in your passport wallet so that you never have to experience this again. Fill them out on the plane before you land.
If you have babies or young children, take the immigration special queue next to the diplomat lane. I have always taken this route previously, and gone straight through. The last time I went, the lady told me I couldn’t go that way, and I tried to go through twice. My three-year-old was starting to lose the plot, and I knew that standing in the immigration queue with hundreds of other foreigners was not going to go well. Sure enough, my son threw no less than three tantrums, smacked his head on my lip and made it bleed. My others were swinging from the ropes, crawling on the floor and annoying each other. I actually cried.
TIP: Ignore the person directing you to a queue and just be forceful and go to the special lane. If you find yourself in the long immigration queue, don’t be shy, ask people if you can cut the queue to the front. Most people are sympathetic to mothers with kids throwing tantrums.
Arriving in Beijing can be seriously frustrating and challenging, so I hope these tips will help you to prepare yourself so you can have a smooth inward journey.
Photos: Rebecca Archer