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Toby Keps

Travelled to 12 countries / regions

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Transferred in Pudong airport in Jan. 2020

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Asia > China > Shanghai > Pudong International Airport > Useful Info
Updated on Jan 26, 2020 Useful Info

How to transfer international flights at Shanghai Pudong Airport (PVG)

  • Transferring at Shanghai Pudong International Airport (airport code is PVG) is very painful compared to most airports I've been to around the world. International includes Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan
  • The reason: there is no special procedure for international-to-international transfers, meaning you must leave the airside as if you're leaving the airport, and then go upstairs to the airline check-in desks as if you've just arrived at the airport. I connected at PVG from Bangkok to Sendai (Japan) — both legs with Air China and booked on the same itinerary — and I had to first enter China and then exit China through the customs and immigration even though I was just there to transfer with no intention to go to China
  • The specific things you have to keep in mind are:
  1. You luggage will not be automatically transferred to your final destination. In fact, yon won't even get the boarding pass for your connecting flight until you arrive and check in to your connecting flight at PVG. So you must pick up your baggage from the first flight and recheck it to the connecting flight
  2. How customs and immigration work for international-to-international transfers: when you arrive at PVG you need to first clear immigration and customs to enter China. Then, go up stairs to check in to your connecting flight at the regular airline check in desks to get your boarding pass for the second flight. Then go to the departure immigration to exit China to board your connecting flight. Through this entire process you will get two stamps in your passport, one for entering China and one for exiting (I specifically asked the officer if there's a way to not stamp my passport as I was getting low on pages but he said that transfer passengers will also get the stamps).
  3. You do not have to fill out the arrival card, and you do not need a visa to China if your connecting flight is within 24 hours of your arrival (this applies to all nationalities)
  4. You need to make sure you have a minimum of 2-2.5 hours for transfer. If your arrival and departure flights are in the same terminal, then 2 hours is sufficient, otherwise you need 2.5 hours. Going from T1 to T2 and vice versa is also a big hassle, so I recommend booking your arrival and departure flight with the same airline (ideally on the same itinerary) so you don't end up having to transfer terminal
  • I would generally advise against booking a connecting flight through Shanghai. Pretty much all airports I've flown through have a special process for international-to-international transfer that allows you to go directly to the departure concourse, avoiding having to enter the country and with luggage checked all the way to the final destination. The only good reason for transferring through Shanghai is that the 24-hour visa-free transfer period lets you check out Shanghai, which is pretty good since most nationalities need tourist visa to visit China. Your country may even qualify for the 72-hour visa-free transfer that lets you check out Shanghai and some neighbouring cities for 3 days
  • Here's a useful chart that the airport has published. It also shows you that for international-to-domestic and domestic-to-international flights, you also need to pick up your baggage and get your connecting flight boarding pass:User submitted photo of Pudong International Airport