Dr. Thomas Weise

Travel to Hefei

On this page, I discuss how you can travel to Hefei [合肥], where I live and work. The page is structured as follows:
  1. Overview Maps: I provide some maps giving you a rough impression about where Hefei and its transportation hubs are located.
  2. Hefei Airport: I introduce the international airport of Hefei, so that you can easily google it and verify whether a flight actually goes to the right airport.
  3. International Arrivals: When coming to Hefei from outside of China, you generally need a two-hop strategy and first go to one of the major airports before going to Hefei. This section also gives advise how to find airplanes and what to do when entering China.
  4. Domestic Flights: Some locations within China from which we can use an airplane to get to Hefei.
  5. Domestic Trains: Some locations within China from which we can use a train to get to Hefei.
  6. Arriving in Hefei: What to consider when arriving in Hefei.
  7. Taking Taxis
  8. Reimbursement: Fapiao, Tickets, Boarding Passes
  9. My Recommended Hotels
  10. Local Attractions in Hefei is a list of places in Hefei you may want to visit.
  11. Travel Advise: Some ideas how to optimize the experience you can get from your travel to Hefei and China.

1. Overview Maps

1.1. Map of China

Below you can find an overview map showing the locations of Hefei and several other major cities in China.

  • A: Hefei, Anhui, China [map]
  • B: Shanghai, China. [map]
  • C: Beijing, China. [map]
  • D: Nanjing, Jiangsu, China [map]
  • D: Hong Kong, China [map], located right next to Shenzhen, Guangdong, China [map]
  • F: Guangzhou, Guangdong, China [map]
  • G: Xi'an, Shaanxi, China [map]
  • H: Xiamen, Fujian, China [map]
A map of China showing major cities from which you can travel to Hefei.

1.2. Map of Hefei

A map of the travel hubs of Hefei.

2. Hefei Airport

In 2013, the new Hefei Xinqiao International Airport [合肥新桥国际机场] has opened in Hefei. It has replaced the old Hefei Luogang International Airport [合肥骆岗国际机场] (IATA-code: HFE), which now is closed. Traveling from the airport to the city center by taxi will take about 40 minutes to 1 hour and cost about between 75 and 100 Chinese Yuan (CNY/RMB), depending on the traffic.

3. International Arrivals

It is relatively easy to get to Hefei [合肥] from basically anywhere in the world. This will usually involve a flight to one of the major cities in China such as Beijing [北京], Shanghai [上海], Guangzhou [广州], Shenzhen [深圳], or Hongkong [香港] and then taking a connection flight to Hefei (HFE) from there.

There are plans that the new airport will have direct flights from and to international airports such as Frankfurt am Main (法兰克福机场), but these are not yet in action. So for now, a two-hop stragy (like first to Bejing, then a connection to Hefei) is necessary.

3.1. Recommended Strategies

I can recommend the following basic approaches:

3.1.1. Beijing by Airplane, Hefei by Airplane

Take an airplane to Beijing [北京], the capital of China, and from there an airplane to Hefei. Your stop in Beijing will be at the the Beijing Capital International Airport [北京首都国际机场] (BCIA, IATA-code: PEK). It is best to plan for a buffer of at least two or three hours between your arrival there and your connection flight to Hefei (HFE). This is maybe the easiest way.

Notice that domestic flights in Beijing are often delayed. Two hours delay are not a rare event. Also, The Beijing airport has three terminals and Terminal 2 is located at a different spot. If your connecting flight departs at Terminals that are not co-located, plan in at least 40 minutes time for the Airport shuttle or inter-terminal railway connection.

3.1.2. Shanghai by Airplane, Hefei by Airplane

Take an airplane to Shanghai [上海] and from there a connection flight to Hefei. Your airplane will likely arrive in Shanghai Pudong International Airport [上海浦东国际机场] (IATA-code: PVG).

Be aware that there also is a second airport in Shanghai: Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport [上海虹桥国际机场] (IATA-code: SHA). Make sure that your connecting flights depart at the same airport, or that there is at least 3.5 hours time between them so that you can conveniently take the metro/subway Line 2 connecting the two airports.

3.1.3. Shanghai by Airplane, Hefei by Train

Take an airplane to Shanghai [上海] and from there a train to Hefei (see the section on trains). Your airplane will likely arrive at Shanghai Pudong International Airport [上海浦东国际机场] (IATA-code: PVG) whereas the trains likely go from the Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station [上海虹桥站]. Shanghai Pudong International Airport and the Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station are directly connected with the metro/subway Line 2, they are almost at the two opposing ends of that line. Overview maps of the metro can be found here, here, and here.

For taking the metro, you need to calculate more than 2 hours. Of course, if your airplane lands in Shanghai's second airport, Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport [上海虹桥国际机场] (IATA-code: SHA), you are almost at the train station: 1 stop with metro/subway Line 2 or a few minutes by foot.

The D-Train from Shanghai to Hefei will then take about 3 to 3.5 hours. If you arrive in Shanghai and want to directly continue traveling with a train, you should buy the tickets in advance, because sometimes no tickets may be available anymore. See the section on buying train tickets below for, well, information on how to buy train tickets.

Be aware that there are several train stations in Shanghai, such as the Shanghai Railway Station [上海火车站].

A map of the travel hubs of Shanghai.

3.1.4 Beijing by Airplane, Hefei by Train

You can take the airplane to Beijing and from there a train to Hefei (see the section on trains). Since Beijing is quite far from Hefei, I would recommend using a fast G-train, which can travel the distance in about 4.5 hours. If you arrive in Shanghai and want to directly continue traveling with a train, you should buy the tickets in advance, because sometimes no tickets may be available anymore. See the section on buying train tickets below for, well, information on how to buy train tickets.

Coming from abroad, you would probably be arriving in Beijing at Beijing Capital International Airport [北京首都国际机场]. The train would likely leave from Beijing South Railway Station [北京南站].

You could take the Airport Express subway [北京机场轨道交通线] to Dongzhimen Station [东直门站], from there change to Subway Line 2 [北京地铁2号线] to Xuanwumen Station [宣武门站], where you switch into Subway Line 4 [北京地铁四号线], which stops directly at Beijing South Railway Station.

Overview maps of the Beijing Subway [北京地铁] can be found here, here, here, and here. The subway has a fixed fare of 2 RMB, which is quite cheap. However, since you need to switch subways, this approach to travel to Hefei a bit more complicated, especially for people coming from abroad. As time requirement, I think with 2 hours, calculated from the airport to the train station, you should be on the safe side.

3.1.5. Nanjing by Airplane, Hefei by Train

Another (and more complicated) option is taking the route via Nanjing [南京]. You will likely arrive at Nanjing Lukou International Airport [南京禄口国际机场] (IATA: NKG, ICAO: ZSNJ)

Although Nanjing is closer to Hefei, as far as I know, there is no direct flight or convenient bus from its airport to Hefei. You would need to go to the Nanjing train station by bus first, which is about 50km/2.5h away from the airport. From there, you can take a train (1h) or another bus to Hefei.

3.1.6. Alternatives

I have not tested the following alternatives yet:

3.2. Finding Airplane Connections

For finding good airplane connections, I can recommend the following webpages:
  1. ctrip.com, a website for online flight and hotel searching and booking,
  2. expedia.de, flug.de, and fluege.de – German equivalents.
  3. travelchinaguide, a website where you can check and book flights and train connections in China,
  4. I myself, friends, and/or colleagues made positive experiences with the following airlines that offer flights between Germany and China or inside China:

3.3. Entering China

If you enter China through one of the major cities and then take a connection flight from there to Hefei, please remember that you will have to check out your luggage from your first flight (the one with which you enter China). You then will take it through customs and check it in again for your connection flight. Your luggage will not be automatically be transferred to your next connection flight. If you do not check it out, go through customs, and check it in again, it will not arrive in Hefei.

If you are a foreigner entering China, you will have to fill out a small yellow form (similar to what was required for entering the US some time ago) in English. You can ask in your flight to China for such a form in order to save time when going through the entry/exit procedure.

Do not throw away the airplane ticket. Usually, a small piece of paper identifying your luggage is attached to it. It may be checked when you leave the arrival section of an airport.

4. Domestic Flights

I have already discussed several domestic flight options to get to Hefei in the section for international arrivals above. In general, domestic flights to Hefei are available from the following cities (which you can also find in the China map above):

  1. Beijing [北京]
  2. Hongkong [香港]
  3. Shanghai [上海]
  4. Xi'an [西安]
  5. Guangzhou [广州]
  6. Xiamen [厦门]
  7. Shenzhen [深圳]

5. (Domestic) Trains

As the capital of Anhui Province, there are also convenient train transportans between Hefei and many other cities in China. The main railway station in Hefei until 2014 was the Hefei Railway Station [合肥站]. In 2014, the new and bigger Hefei South Railway Station [合肥南站] has opened. As far as I know, it already manages most of the D- and G-trains to Shanghai and in 2015 will probably manage all of these fast trains, leaving only "normal" trains for the Hefei Railway Station.

5.1. Train Types

There are different train types in China:
  1. D-Train (Dong-Che) [动车组列车]. Train numbers start with a "D". A fast EMU train. Roughly equivalent to the ICE trains in German. Comfortable, fast. Travel time from Shanghai to Hefei: between 2.5 and 3.5 hours (depending on the number of intermediate stops), speed up to 250km/h. Usually taking this train is the best choice (in my opinion).
  2. G-Train (Gao-Tie) [高速动车组列车]. Train numbers start with "G". China's modern and comfortable high-speed train, can travel 300km/h. If you travel time with a D-Train would be over 3 hours, you will probably perfer to take this faster train. It is more expensive, though. If you go to Hefei from Shanghai, there is not too much benefit over the D-Train. If you come from Beijing, however, there may be large difference.
  3. The rest: K-Trains (Kuai-Che) [快速列车]. Train numbers start with "K". Normal train, much slower than D-Trains, but also cheaper. The savings in money, however, usually are not worth it. Train prices in China are reasonable for D-Trains, so unless you have special plans, like taking an over-night train where you can sleep aboard, it may not make much sense to take this option.

5.2. Buying Train Tickets

Train tickets can be purchased at any train station or ticket office. It was not possible to buy tickets earlier than 10 days before the travel some time ago, I am not sure if that still holds. Either way, you should buy them as soon as possible. If you enter China via airplane, then you will probably either buy tickets online and pick them up at the train station or buy them upon arrival at the train station. The former (online) method is strongly recommended: If you buy tickets at the train station, it may happen that all tickets for your favorite train are sold out, or even all tickets to your destination on the same or next few days!

5.2.1. Buying Tickets Online

You can buy train tickets online via services such as ctrip by using your credit card. Such tickets need to be picked up at a train station. You can do this right before your departure, but remember to factor in that there might be long queues for the tickets. On normal days, calculating 1 hour in the queue plus 20 additional minutes buffer before the train departure is reasonable. At special times, such as starting two weeks before Spring Festival [春節], you might encounter much longer queues and waiting time. I always prefer pre-paying my bookings online, because this way I don't need to worry about having sufficient money to pay at the spot.

5.2.2. Buying Tickets at a Ticket Office or Train Station

When buying a ticket at a ticket office or train station, the following steps are to be taken.

  1. Long before the purchase of the ticket, you can already check which trains are interesting for you. Information about train schedules and tickets may be obtained from websites such as travelchinaguide.com, chinabahn.com, or chinatraintickets.net (or at the train stations).
  2. Especially for foreigners, it makes sense to print a paper with the following information about the train tickets that you want to buy:
    • Start city/train station in English and Chinese,
    • Destination city/train station in English and Chinese (I usually use the "start → destination" format),
    • Train Number, and
    • Start date and time in ISO format (i.e., 2013-10-05 16:30 for the 5th of October, 2013, at 4pm and 30 minutes).
  3. It is furthermore a good idea to have a list of alternatives, in case your chosen train is sold out and no tickets are available for it anymore.
  4. When buying the ticket, show your passport and and the above paper to the clerk at the counter. Make sure to have sufficient money in Chinese currency (RMB/CNY) at hand.

5.3. Taking a Train

Taking a train works slightly different in China than it does in, say, Germany. Train stations are organized to deal with large numbers of passengers and the process to use a train is more similar to using an airplane at an airport. The following steps will be taken:

  1. When entering the train station [火车站], you will pass a security check where your bag is scanned by a machine and you pass a metal detector. Since recently, passports (or Chinese ID cards, whichever you have) are also checked when entering the train station – make sure to have them at hand.
  2. You should then look for a big digital information screen which will list the train number and the departing gate or waiting area. There might be one big waiting area with multiple gates (such as in Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station) or several waiting areas with multiple gates (like in the Hefei or Suzhou ones). In any case, the screen will list the waiting area or gate for your train. You go there.
  3. After you have arrived at your gate, you will find a closed door and some seats to wait. The doors will open once the train has arrived. Above the doors, there usually are again digital screens announcing the train numbers that are departing from this gate. Yellow colored numbers mean the train will come at some point in the future, green color means the train is here and ready for boarding (the gate opens), and red means the train has already left. You wait for your train to arrive.
  4. The gate opens. Now you go in line with the other passengers through the gate. Usually, you will put your ticket into a slot at the gate which then opens for you (don't forget to pick your ticket up again when it comes out of another slot) or show the ticket to a personnell guarding the gate.
  5. You follow the path and the other passengers to the train. Often, it is indicated at which track (站台) your train is leaving and there are indicators where to find which car number.
  6. Find your car, enter it, sit on your seat: Congratulations, you now are using the train.

6. Arriving in Hefei

Once you arrive at the Hefei or Hefei South Railway Station or Hefei Xinqiao International Airport, the easiest way to get to your hotel is to take a taxi. For this purpose, it is a good idea to print a paper with:

  1. the full Chinese address of your destination,
  2. the full English address of your destination,
  3. the official phone number of the hotel,
  4. the official (mobile) phone number of your contact person in China, and
  5. maybe a photo of the hotel taken from the the internet.

If you show such a paper to the taxi driver, he can easily find the target and, if there is an uncertainty, he can call up the hotel and ask for directions.

Please notice that there are two types of taxis: official taxis and black taxis. Official taxis will be available at official taxi locations and often there is a queue of people waiting for them. Such taxis can be recognized by their special, official coloring. Also, they have a small red lamp on the front panel/dashbord in the front window that is on when the taxi is free and turned down/off to start the meter. Black taxi drivers, however, are usually standing near the gate of a train station or airport and will actively approach you by saying “taxi, taxi” or something. Official taxis will never do that. I strong recommend taking official taxis only. They are reliable and will bill an official, reasonable price, according to their meter. The official taxis in Hefei are very honest and good, and the prices are very reasonable (about 80 to 100 RMB from the airport to the university, about 20 to 30 RMB from either of the train station). I never had any problem with them. I never used a black taxi, because I fear they may rip me off.

7. Taking Taxis

Only take official taxis. Official taxis always have a specific coloring which distinguishes them from normal cars. Taxis have a small light in the front window — in Beijing, it is at the rear-view mirror. If the light is on, the taxi is ready to pick someone up.

Official taxis with indicator lights in the front window.

If you take a taxi, the driver will turn down the light. This means that the taxi is now taken. At the same time, it initiates the automatic fare calculation. In the moment the driver turns down the light, the calculation begins. If he does not turn down the light or states that it is broken, he wants to cheat on you. Leave. In Hefei, taxi drivers are very honest people, but in some of the main tourist cities, there is a small chance that this could happen. Don't forget to ask for a fapiao.

If the taxi uses the highway, you also need to pay the highway toll. Usually between 10 and 20 RMB in Hefei. You need to ask for the bill/fapiao for that, too.

Only take official taxis! Ignore people that approach you to offer taxi services and/or non-taxi cars which stop for you while waiting for a taxi. It is neither necessary nor a good idea to talk with people who approach you to offer taxi services unless you are a local, in a group, and know very well what you are doing and which price to expect. The reason is that such taxis are “unofficial”. They might charge foreigners a much higher fare. In Beijing, they may ask you to pay 400 RMB for a 80 RMB ride. Thus, waiting for an official taxi, which never takes long, is always a safe choice.

8. Reimbursement: Fapiao, Tickets, Boarding Passes

If you come to Hefei due to an invitation of a Chinese colleague and are reimbursed, it is important to collect the receipts of anything you do. Without fapiao, nothing can reimbursed. Whenever you pay for something, be it taxi, hotel, or whatever, always ask for a “Fapiao” [发票], an official receipt, right from the beginning. If you enter a taxi, right after you tell your destination, state “Fapiao”. Only official taxis can be reimbursed, no black taxis.

The request for “Fapiao” is pronounced in German as “Who schü iao ihh-ge Fah- Piao” [我需要一个发票。].

The same holds for tickets and boarding passes for flights. If you do not have them, the corresponding flights cannot be reimbursed.

You should collect the following items:

  • Flight: Ticket, Boarding Pass, Itinerary, ideally also the bank transfer statement for payment of flight; also Fapiao if the flight was purchased in China
  • Train ride: Ticket, payment strip yet get at ticket office, itinerary/bill if paid online
  • Taxi: Fapiao, high way toll strip (see next section)
  • Hotel: fapiao, reservation
  • Restaurant: If and only if the restaurant visit was a work meeting, it might be possible to reimburse it if you have the fapiao

9. Recommended Hotels

Here you can find some hotels which I recommend personally. These hotels are suitable for people like me, i.e., lower-level academics. They are not five-star like places, but comfortable normal places. I have no commercial or otherwise relationship to these hotels whatsoever.

9.1. Hefei: 7+1 Business Hotel Hefei (Huangshan Road)

This hotel is directly next to the West Campus of the USTC where I work. It is situated at the crossroad of Huanghan Road and Feixi Road. If you step outside of this hotel's door, you can turn right to walk the Huangshan Road towards West, cross over Feixi Road, and you stand at the corner of our Campus. Keep walking straight for 200m and you arrive at the North gate of the Campus. While doing so, you pass by the twin towers of my building along the outside of the Campus fence.

English Address

7+1 Business Hotel Hefei (Huangshan Road)
441 Huangshan Road (Huangshan Lu)
Political and Cultural New Area
Hefei, Anhui, China
Phone (Chinese!): +86 551 6369 7000, +86 551 6369 7111

Chinese Address

7+1商务酒店(合肥黄山路店)
合肥 蜀山区 黄山路441号
(政务文化新区 近肥西路)
电话:0551-63697000, 0551-63697111

Get there: use a taxi

Booking: You can book this hotel online via ctrip. I always prefer pre-paying my bookings online, because this way I don't need to worry about having sufficient money to pay at the spot.

Map and Photo:

  • A: The location of my office – room 607 [607室] in the west wing of the new Science and Technology Building [科技实验楼 (新楼西楼)] in the West Campus [西区] of the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC) [中国科学技术大学]. [map]
  • B: The east gate [东门] of the West Campus [西区]. [map]
  • C: The north gate [北门] of the West Campus [西区]. [map]
  • D: 7+1 Business Hotel Hefei (Huangshan Road) [map]
The 7+1 Business Hotel Hefei (Huangshan Road) in Hefei and its location near the West Campus.
The 7+1 Business Hotel Hefei (Huangshan Road)

9.2. Shanghai: Nanying Hotel

This hotel is in Shanghai, not Hefei. I only list it in case that you travel to/from Hefei via Shanghai, maybe by following my tips below.

This hotel is located reasonably close to the city center and very close to stop Shanghai Library [上海图书馆] of Metro Line 10. It is very easy to find, while not being expensive. Plus, via Metro Line 10, you are only 5 stops away from the intersection with Line 2 at East Nanjing Road, directly in the mean tourist area. If you stay in Shanghai, I recommend staying there.

English Address

Nanying Hotel
1728 Huaihai Zhong Road (Huaihai Zhong Lu)
Shanghai, China
Phone (Chinese!): +86 21 6437 8188

Chinese Address

上海南鷹飯店
淮海中路1728號
长宁区虹桥及上海国际展览中心, 上海, 中国 200031
电话: 021-64378188

Get there: If you arrive in Shanghai via Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport [上海虹桥国际机场] or Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station [上海虹桥站], you can directly hop into Metro Line 10. Otherwise, use another line (such as Line 2) which intersects with Line 10. Anyway, if you leave Line 10 at stop “Shanghai Library [上海图书馆]” (ten stops after the train station), you are already on the right road and just need to walk it for about 400m towards West until you arrive at the hotel. You will need less than one hour from the train station to the hotel. If you are unsure about whether using the Metro is feasible, you can still get there by taxi.

Booking: You can book this hotel online via ctrip. I always prefer pre-paying my bookings online, because this way I don't need to worry about having sufficient money to pay at the spot.

Map and Photo:

The Nanying Hotel in Shanghai and Metro Line 10 stop Shanghai Library.
The Nanying Hotel in Shanghai

10. Local Attractions in Hefei

The list of interesting places to explore includes, but is not limited to:

Some nice attractions in Hefei.

You can find more information about Hefei and its sights on the following websites:

11. Travel Advise

11.1. Round Trip: Beijing — Hefei — Shanghai

If you can spare a few extra days on your trip to Hefei, I recommend to enter China via Beijing and to leave it via Shanghai (or vice versa). This way, you can spend a few days in these cities and can have quite a large "China-Experience" in only one trip: Go to Tiananmen [天安门], the Forbidden City [故宫], and The Bund [外滩] and People's Square [人民广场] – touristics must-sees, plus visit the Pearl of Asia itself: Hefei.

11.2. You can never really get lost

Since there are many, many taxis in China, you can never really get lost. If you don't know where you are, simply take a taxi back to your hotel. Thus, you should always have that small paper with your hotel address and contact person phone number with you that I mentioned above.

11.3. Money Exchange

As you need to pay taxis and food with cash, better exchange a sufficiently high amount at the airport. The You may This is especially true if you did not pre-book and pre-pay your hotel and/or train rides. A taxi drive may be between 100 and 200 RMB from the airport to the hotel in Hefei, add the costs for your hotel stays from your reservation emails (if not pre-paid), plus, say, 200 RMB for buying food and things for 2 days. The exchange rate at the time of this writing is between 6 and 8 RMB for 1 Euro. The Hefei Xinqiao International Airport has some banks and ATM on its second floor (the departure floor) where you should be able to exchange money. To be on the safe side, you might consider to exchange some cash in your home country before coming to China.

Also, consider that your bank may find it dodgy if some money is extracted from your card from within China if you are normally not located in China. They might prevent such a transfer, thus leaving you without money. Therefore, it makes sense to announce to your bank well in advance that you will spend time in China and/or to pre-exchange some emergency money.