Sunday, November 11, 2012

Getting from Shanghai Pudong to Nanjing

Nanjing is a big city in China - just not big enough to get direct flights to the US. (Though there are flights to Frankfort Germany.) A typical option is to connect through another Asian hub. You may be at the whim of the schedules. (Right now, you can theoretically connect on Asiana in Seoul to go from Nanjing to San Francisco - as long as you want to spend a day in the airport.)

Beijing offers frequent connections to Nanjing. However, the Air China and United planes from the US to Beijing do not provide the greatest flight experience. (They are old!) Cancellations seems to be frequent on Beijing-Nanjing route. (However, you can take a 4 hour high speed rail ride from Beijing to Nanjing.) Also, the two terminals in the airport are a long bus ride away. I thought I might have boarded the wrong bus, as we seemed to go through a neighborhood before we got to the other terminal. Air China and United are in one terminal, while China Eastern is in another. China Eastern has lots of flights to Nanjing, while the other two have many flights to the US. (Air china also has some flights to Nanjing, but they tend to be the most cancel-happy.)

I prefer to fly in to Shanghai. United flies more modern planes on the route with better timings. There are also multiple options for getting to Nanjing.

The options:

1) Plane. You can book one-way from China Eastern for as low as 100 RMB. If you book from major travel sites (like Expedia) it will probably be greater than $150 one way. Unless you are traveling on a SkyTeam Airline (like Delta), you will probably be transferring from Terminal 2 to Terminal 1 for this flight.
There is only one flight per day, currently leaving at 9:30pm and arriving Nanjing at 10:30pm. It is a small plane, so larger carry-ons will probably need to be checked. (Though, they do occasionally "buckle" the carry-ons in to empty seats.)
The Nanjing airport is a ways outside of the city. If you take a car into the city, you can probably expect to arrive a little before midnight. There is also a bus, but it may be a close call to catch it from this flight.

The return flight from Nanjing to PVG currently leaves at 8:00AM.

2) Train
There are frequent high speed trains from Shanghai to Nanjing. At times there can be a high speed "G" train leaving every few minutes. However, you have to be careful when looking at schedules. There are two main high speed stations in Shanghai and two main high speed stations in Nanjing. Some of the high speed trains run nonstop, while others make a number of stops (nearly doubling the travel time.)
In Nanjing, Nanjing station is on the old station on north side of town. It is closer to the city center. Nanjing South is big gleaming new station on the south side of town. In Shanghai, the Shanghai station is the crowded old station in the center of town, while Hongqiou is the big new station next to the domestic airport. All stations in Shanghai and Nanjing are on metro lines. While there are trains between all the stations, most trains from Hongqiou go to Nanjing South, while most from Shanghai go to Nanjing. The fastest G trains take just over an hour, while the ones with the most stops are almost 2 hours. There are also slower trains and "overnight" trains that are even cheaper. High speed trains tend to run around 6am~9pm. You do have to watch the internet because there seem to be a lot of "bogus" or outdated schedules out there.

Once you decide on the station, you need to get there. There are numerous discussions explaining how to get there.
Here are a few that I have used or seen:
From PVG, you can go down to the Airport bus level and get a bus to Shanghai Station of Hongqiou airport/train station. 30 RMB ~ 1 hour. The airport has well-labeled signs directing you to the airport buses. Then you can stand in an island next to the bus number. (There is also a chart in the airport explaining where the buses go.)

The cheapest way is to take the metro from the airport. <10 RMB 2 hours to Hongqiou. You just take line two all the way. (Though you have to transfer from a smaller train to a larger one at one stop.) To Shanghai station, it is a little shorter, but requires an extra connection. (It can be confusing to figure out which way to go on the loop line.)
For the true "Shanghai" experience, you can take the Maglev, and transfer to the metro. This shaves some time off the trip, but it does make the 180MPH of the high speed trains seem slow.

You can buy train tickets at the ticket counter. If you don't speak Chinese, you can probably still get them to show you a list of trains just by saying "Nanjing".

In Nanjing, if you arrive before 11:00pm, you can take the metro. It is about 2 RMB to most destinations (it is a little more if you go further)

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