A Traveler's Guide to Urumqi Airport in Xinjiang, China

A Guide: Traveling to the Urumqi Airport

April 30, 2013 | 24 Comments

A view of Terminal 3 at Urumqi's International Airport in Xinjiang, China For most travelers, flying into Urumqi Diwopu International Airport (乌鲁木齐地窝铺国际机场) marks their first step into the Xinjiang province. The Urumqi airport is the primary transportation hub and one of only two airports in Xinjiang that offer international flights (Kashgar is the other).

In the hopes of making things as easy for you – the traveler – as possible, below I’ve tried to answer the top 4 question I receive about Urumqi flights in Xinjiang. If you have any additional questions, please put them in the comments section and I’ll keep this updated.

1. Which Urumqi Airport Terminal Do I Use?

The Urumqi International Airport is currently divided into three different terminals which are creatively named “T1”, “T2” and “T3”. You can disregard Terminal 1 since it doesn’t accommodate any passenger flights, which leaves us only with Terminal 2 and Terminal 3.

Urumqi Airport TERMINAL 3

Urumqi’s Terminal 3 was opened back in 2010 and is the newest wing of the airport. Known for it’s “eagle’s wings” rooftop, it boasts a modern design and supposedly faster passenger check-in.

The KFC in Urumqi Airport's Terminal 3 in XinjiangIf you happen to be hungry, it also has the airport’s only overpriced KFC – which doesn’t sound great unless you compare it to T2’s “Best Food Burger” option. So I guess what I’m trying to say is…bring your own food.

There aren’t many duty free options if you’re flying international out of Urumqi. They have a perfume shop, a cigarette shop and a liquor shop, but they’re really not worth stopping by.

**You should use Terminal 3 if you are flying on China Southern. All other airlines fly out of Terminal 2.

A view inside Urumqi Airport's Terminal 3 in Xinjiang

Urumqi Airport TERMINAL 2

Urumqi’s Terminal 2 used to be the primary terminal prior to the T3 opening. It’s old, but it still functions well.

There aren’t that many food and drink options in Terminal 2, with the aforementioned Best Food Burger available before you enter the gate area. Past the security checkpoint there are a couple places to sit down and order tea or buy some last-minute, overpriced souvenirs, but that’s all.

**You should use Terminal 2 if you are flying any other airline besides China Southern.
The inside of Urumqi Airport's Terminal 2 in Xinjiang

2. Where can I fly to/from Urumqi airport?

Check out the Urumqi City Guide

Urumqi has become a major hub for travel not just within Xinjiang but also internationally. Considering it’s strategic location there’s no doubt that will continue to grow.

For simplicity sake, I’ll break out your flight options as either within Xinjiang, within China or internationally.

WITHIN XINJIANG

There are a total of 17 airports in Xinjiang, including the Urumqi International Airport (the Fuyun airport sometimes listed as Xinjiang’s 18th airport closed down in 1994). Although flights might not be available every day, Urumqi services all airports in the province.

Xinjiang Airports to/from Urumqi Airport

Aksu 阿克苏 Altay 阿勒泰 Bole 博乐阿拉山口 Hami 哈密
Hotan 和田 Kanas 喀纳斯 Karamay 克拉玛依 Kashgar 喀什
Korla 库尔勒 Kuqa 库车 Nalati 那拉提 Qiemo 且末
Shihezi 石河子* Tacheng 塔城 Turpan 吐鲁番 Yining 伊宁

*Shihezi airport is being moved and is expected to reopen in 2014.

INTERNATIONAL FLIGHTS

International flights to and from Urumqi have increased over the past few years, a reflection of the increased importance of Urumqi’s central location.

For those who are making Xinjiang a stop on their round-the-world adventures, here is a quick list of all the international destinations that Urumqi serves.

International Airports to/from Urumqi Airport

Almaty, Kazakhstan Astana, Kazakhstan Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
Kabul, Afghanistan Baku, Azerbaijan Osh, Russia
Moscow, Russia Istanbul, Turkey Dushanbe, Tajikistan

*Other smaller international are serviced on occasion, but these are the major ones.

DOMESTIC FLIGHTS

Instead of listing them all here, just know that Urumqi International Airport is serviced by every major airport in China and a few smaller ones as well.

3. Where do I Purchase Urumqi Airport Flight Tickets?

There are three primary ways that you can purchase tickets for flights to Urumqi but I’ll go ahead and tell you now that the best way is from the comfort of your computer. Thankfully it’s easy!

Here are all three options:

  • At the Airport: ticket counters at the airport will sell you tickets on the spot, although I highly discourage this since you will have to pay full price for these tickets. They’re never discounted.
  • Local Travel Agent: from within Xinjiang you can easily buy tickets at the many local travel agencies. They can often get you discount that are equal to or greater than what you can find online. There’s only one catch: 95% of these agencies only accept cash! It’s a great option if you want to avoid bank fees, though.
  • Purchase Tickets Online: By far the easiest and most accepted way to purchase flight tickets in Xinjiang is online. The two most popular sites are eLong.net and Ctrip.com. I recommend either since they both offer English versions of their sites and accept all major credit cards.

Inside the Urumqi Airport Terminal 3 in Xinjiang

4. Is there transportation to/from the Urumqi Airport?

The most nerve-wracking part of arriving in a new city is getting from the airport to your hotel. I don’t know about you, but I’m always on high alert for getting ripped off, especially when I arrive at night.

When you exit the baggage claim area in both Terminal 2 and Terminal 3, you’ll find a line of taxis that are a common way to get into the city. As long as you always take a certified taxi (it has a meter) and they drop the flag on the meter, you’ll be fine. Expect to pay between 30-50 RMB depending on where you’re going.

Another option is to take the shuttle. They have a couple, some of which go to the city center while others go to the train station, all with stops in between. There is a desk right before you exit the doors, so be prepared with the name of your hotel and show the clerk. They’ll let you know if they can take you there. By doing this, you’ll save yourself some money, as the average shuttle costs less than 20 RMB.

Artist Rendering of Urumqi Airport

About Josh Summers

Josh is a writer, musician and entrepreneur who currently resides in Urumqi, capital of China's western province of Xinjiang. He has been traveling and writing about this region since 2006 and has no plans to stop in the near future.

Leave a Comment

  1. How about Los Angeles to Urumqi?

    [Reply]

    Khacee on February 15th, 2016 at 8:28 pm

    Hi Josh, I’m planning to visit Xinjiang province , maybe April or may this year, how’s the weather there? I know that winter in the province is scary. So I moved my vacation in April or may. What kind of clothes do I need to bring?

    [Reply]

    Josh Summers on February 17th, 2016 at 3:25 pm

    Depends on where you’re headed, Khacee! It’s still terribly cold in some places of XJ during that time of year and quite nice in other parts.

    I give a pretty good breakdown in the FarWestChina Xinjiang travel guide in terms of weather throughout the year. Perhaps that would be helpful?

  2. Hi josh, thank you for this great post. I have a question if you can answer I would be really glad. I need to change flights at urumqi. From china eastern to china southern. Which means, I need to go to terminal 3 from terminal 2. Do you know how to change terminals, which options available, how much they are apart from each other ? Thank you

    [Reply]

    Josh Summers on July 7th, 2015 at 4:36 am

    Absolutely! They do have a van that goes between terminals but frankly speaking…it’s a 5 minute walk :) Unless you have tons of luggage, I suggest you just do the journey on your own two feet.

    [Reply]

  3. Thanks very much for he helpful info! Is there a particular travel agent in Urumqi you would recommend? Always keen to hear about where the best place to buy flights are. Many thanks :) Tay

    [Reply]

    Josh Summers on August 21st, 2015 at 4:49 am

    There are a number of sites that all the expats use to buy flights. Here’s a good place that aggregates the best:

    http://www.travelchinacheaper.com/4-best-websites-buy-china-airline-tickets-online

    Hope that proves helpful to you Tay!

    [Reply]

  4. I need to rent a car when I arrive at Urumqi airport. Could you recommend a reliable rental Company?

    Mats

    [Reply]

    Josh Summers on August 31st, 2015 at 5:04 am

    There’s only one car rental agency at the airport, but it’s difficult for foreigners to use. Not only do you HAVE to have a Chinese driver’s license (international licenses not accepted), you also have to have over US$1,000 cash to put down as a deposit since they don’t accept foreign credit cards.

    If neither of those are obstacles for you, then you can find the one car rental company outside the baggage claim of both terminal 2 and terminal 3 at the Urumqi airport.

    [Reply]

  5. Hi Josh,
    I will be arriving right after midnight & got a connecting flight to Kuqa the next morning 0820 hours.
    Is there any place for me to rest at the airport while waiting for my connecting flight?
    Or else, is there any more affordable hotel near the airport that I can stay. I am looking at a budget of around USD20-25 only.
    Thanks in advance

    [Reply]

  6. I Shall be travelling from Islamabad to Beijing by China Southern Airlines. We shall have a stop over for two hours at Urumqi Airport and also change of aircraft. Can you guide me that whether we shall go through the immigration at Urumqi Airport or at Beijing. In case we will go through the immigration at Urumqi Airport then whether we will have to collect our luggage at Urumqi for our onward journey to Beijing.

    [Reply]

    Josh Summers on June 28th, 2016 at 10:29 pm

    It depends on a lot of different factors that I can only guess from here. It could go either way.

    You’ll have to contact the airline directly to find out.

    [Reply]

  7. Hi Josh,

    I am a big fan of yours and had watched all yr youtube video. As a result, I am heading to Xinjiang for 3 weeks.

    You mentioned taxi from airport will cost between 30-50 RMB. If we are heading for a hotel opp the Grand Bazaar, how much will it cost us? We are a group of 8 and happy to go in 2 taxi or a van

    [Reply]

  8. Hi Josh.
    I m planning to travel to Auckland on China southern airlines from Pakistan. There r 2 stops at Urumqi and GUANGZHOU airports for a couple of hours or more.
    I need to know whether these airports have international baggage transfer facility?
    Thanks

    [Reply]

  9. Hi Josh, I am planning to travel via Urumqi with my wife. But the layover time is more than 16 hours, seems too long.
    Wondering how we could spend that time there? Currently we are in China.

    [Reply]

  10. Great information, just what I was after.
    I do have one question, im flying from Almaty to Beijing with a stopover here in Urumqi, and the stop over it late late/early morning for 6hr, is there any where to sleep within the airport?

    Thanks again for the great information

    [Reply]

    Josh Summers on February 13th, 2017 at 3:38 pm

    Hey Tim! Unfortunately, the airport itself (either T2 or T3) have great places to nap. If you have the appropriate documentation you can get a cheap room at an airport hotel nearby, but that’s about it. I wish I could say differently!

    [Reply]

  11. Terminal 1 has been reopened to passengers who are going to fly with several low-cost airlines. Please have a check on that and update your texts.

    [Reply]