Personal Finance / Travel

What you need to know about Shanghai Pudong Airport (PVG)

ShanghaiDuring our one month trip to Asia, we flew in and out of Singapore Changi Airport (SIN), with layovers both ways at the Shanghai Pudong Airport (PVG). Both times, our layovers were substantial amounts of time (5 to 6 hours) and so I had checked to see what there was around the airport that we could do to pass the time.

Answer: nothing. There’s nothing around the airport, and you (apparently) can’t leave the airport anyway.

On our way to Singapore, we had arrived in the middle of the night, so the terminal was pretty eerily quiet. There was free WiFi, but you had to get a code from a customer service desk, which we tried to do. There were two representatives at the desk – one with her head down on the table, sleeping, and the other lying on her arm on the desk, busy looking at her phone. I had to ask several times for a code before she lazily reached over, pulled out a ticket and wordlessly handed it over to me, never for a second averting her eyes from her phone or even looking up. I asked her for four passwords since there were four of us – she waved me away. (Thankfully, the same password works on multiple devices…)

Unlike the Manila Airport (MNL), the chairs were relatively comfortable – enough so that I spent almost the entire layover passed out stretched over an entire row of chairs. They were padded, flat and without those annoying hand rests in between which is pretty much as comfortable as you’re going to get in an airport without stepping into a premium lounge.

However, similar to the Manila Airport, it was incredibly cold. I naturally get cold very easily, so I had snuck a blanket off the plane (bad, I know, but I returned it on later flights!!!). We were flying out from Toronto, so we were dressed in winter attire still (i.e. hoodies, sweatpants, knee socks), but even with the blanket, I awoke a few times because I was just so cold.

Mr. U and my brother decided against sleeping to pass the time, but found that there was literally nothing to do in the airport. My brother spotted a cleaning lady doing what he calls “The China Squat” behind her cleaning cart whilst texting away. This seems to be a common trend among the workers at PVG…

On the way back from Singapore, I was better prepared. Armed with not one but two sweatshirts and yet another blanket, I was ready to pass another long layover in lala land. Except the Transfer Customs had an entirely different idea.

We had arrived early in the morning this time, but apparently so had a few other planes. The line snaked around the entire room, and yet we only had one (two, at best) customs agents processing the sea of hungry and tired travelers. There was a manager who stood around doing absolutely nothing to speed along the process, and another agent who sat at a desk – you guessed it – napping or texting on her phone.

One and three quarters of an hour later, it was finally my turn. After (and only after) the agent had stamped my passport and waved me through, I said, “You really need to tell your boss to hire more people.” She sighed, seemingly in agreement.

We found our gate and I proceeded to get comfy and prepare for my nap. Despite the extra layers and blankets, however, it was still cold, and I awoke earlier than I needed to because it was too cold to sleep any longer.

I decided to get a hot chocolate to warm up, but we didn’t have any Chinese Yuan, and we couldn’t get the WiFi to work on any of our phones, nor could we get any of the Customer “Service” agents to actually help. We gave up trying to figure out the conversion and just paid for the 49 CNY hot chocolate on our Visa.

Big mistake.

Turns out the conversion rate was 1 CNY to approximately 22.65¢ Canadian Dollars, so my small hot chocolate cost me $11.10! Outrageous, and a stark difference from the reasonable prices found at the Singapore and Manila airports.

So if you’re flying to Singapore (or anywhere on that side of the world, really) and haven’t booked your flights yet, I’d suggest avoiding any that have layovers in Shanghai. You’ll thank me later.





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