Airport review: Shenzhen Bao'an International Airport, China

Read our writer's views on this property below

THE FLIGHT

CZ3071 to Sydney, economy class

THE ARRIVAL

Shenzhen's airport is set 32 kilometres north-west of the city centre, and it's a breeze to access via the Metro train system, which takes about 50 minutes to whisk passengers out to the terminal. There's also a shuttle bus network, and taxis available, but the affordability and ease of the Metro make it my choice.

THE LOOK

Shenzhen Bao'an was rebuilt in 2013, when three small terminals were flattened and replaced by one large, shiny facility. It's a thing of beauty too, designed by Rome-based architect Massimiliano Fuksas, a 1.5-kilometre-long building covered in a textured, double-layered "skin" whose honeycomb pattern bathes the terminal floor in dappled natural light. Large, white, tree-shaped forms double as air-conditioning vents. The whole thing is a pleasure to behold.

CHECK-IN

Of course a pleasure to look at isn't always a pleasure to spend time in. And there's quite a bit of waiting to be done in the check-in queue before I eventually make it over towards passport control.

SECURITY

There's more waiting here, with a very – possibly overly – thorough security check, before I'm eventually through to the airside of the terminal.

FOOD AND DRINK

There are several high-quality restaurants doing authentic Cantonese cuisine at Shenzhen Airport – trouble is, they appear to be landside, before you hit passport control, and I've gone and crossed into the airside section, where options are far more limited. (My flight is also delayed by two hours, which adds to the pain.) The only outlets open this late at night are coffee shops and a dessert bar, so I settle for a cold drink and some table space at one of the former.

RETAIL THERAPY

As you would expect, there are plenty of shopping options available at Shenzhen, running the full gamut from luggage to cosmetics, jewellery to books, electronics to alcohol. Most of the luxury international brands are here – Versace, Hugo Boss, Bally – plus a whole host of smaller shops evenly spread between landside and airside. Most outlets, however, have closed long before my late-night flight eventually departs.

PASSING TIME

There are three airport hotels to choose from in Shenzhen, ranging from the fancy Hyatt Regency to the more budget-conscious Vienna Hotel. The terminal has a pay-per-entry lounge for economy passengers, with shower facilities, though nowhere to sleep. Within the airport there's also a leisure centre, a post office, luggage storage for those who'd like to head into town, and free Wi-Fi.

ONE MORE THING

Shenzhen Airport is close enough to work as a legitimate entry port for those planning to visit Hong Kong or Macau. Ferries from Shenzhen to Hong Kong Airport take 45 minutes; trains to central Hong Kong take about 2½ hours. The ferry from Shenzhen to Macau's Outer Harbour terminal, meanwhile, takes an hour. All options are affordable.

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THE VERDICT

Shenzhen Bao'an is a sparkling, modern facility that's beautiful to look at, if not always easy to negotiate. Queues are often long here, and if you find yourself stuck airside late at night, the options for food, beverage and entertainment are limited. Still, you can always appreciate the architectural wonder.

OUR RATING

3.5/5