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Laos-Thailand Trip Report: Beijing Airport

Beijing’s Capital City Airport (BCIA) is a bit of a contrast to Incheon Airport, although it is a huge, bright gleaming facility. On my departure to and return from Thailand, I had the opportunity to browse around Terminal 3, which could be described as cavernous. T3 is kind of in the shape of a 3-bladed propeller, and each “blade” of the propeller, where the boarding gates are located, is very long, perhaps as much as half a kilometer long.

It was my misfortune to spend 6 hours and 8 hours there going and coming back. There are very few restaurant options and only one western outlet, Pizza Hut. The prices are insane, $10 for a medium-sized hamburger and a medium to smallish order of fries, somewhat underachieving in taste, at the western styled Lucky Shamrock restaurant, named Rucky Shamrock on the BCIA website. The website also states that there are a McDonald’s, a Burger King, a KFC and a Roger’s in T3–not so. False info. The Lucky Shamrock, luckily, took US dollars. There’s also a Starbucks in the terminal, and after spending from midnight until 6 a.m. (Starbuck’s opening time) in the terminal, I was really ready for an invigorating, hot cup of coffee or two. Alas, Starbucks does not take dollars, only Chinese currency, of which I had none. There was a currency exchange machine and a booth, (not open at 6 a.m., though I checked it out during the day on my way to Thailand), but the commission that was wanted on any exchange in either place was ridiculous. I don’t remember what it was exactly; I just remember shaking my head in shock and walking away.

On the way down to Thailand, the temperature in the terminal was moderately warm, but the long overnight stay (midnight to 8:30 a.m.) on the way back became an impossible attempt to take a snooze. I found some very nice lounge-type chairs that I could lie down on and probably easily sleep on. However, the temperature was incredibly chilly! I had a long-sleeved sweater, but it was no match for the draft coming from the vent system. Just really unbelievable–I was shivering, so no sleep. There was an hourly hotel right in the terminal, but, again, the prices were incredibly steep.

Skytrax gives BCIA a Four-Star rating, but I’d say, in my opinion, that for stays of over a couple of hours, it’s only about two stars, especially if you have to stay overnight and you’re not rich. If you end up with a long layover at the airport, bring your own snacks, if possible, and definitely bring a heavy jacket if you’re trapped there overnight.

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