Oftentimes, flying direct is the most appealing option as you get on the plane in your home country and get off in your destination. However, it turns out that having a layover (or multiple) along the way tends to drastically decrease the price of your flight ticket meaning it tends to be the more common choice.
On my way from Vancouver, Canada to Sydney, Australia, I flew with China Eastern involving a 6-hour layover in Nanjing, China. Not all airports in China operate the same; unfortunately Nanjing is one of the more complicated ones to navigate.
I tried to research what to expect for when I would be embarking on my journey but didn't really know what was to come, so I've compiled this account of my experience so that you can prepare yourself for a similar layover. I went through this layover in January, 2019 - of course policies are always subject to change.
At YVR International Airport, checking in for my flight included having to provide proof of my visa for Australia. I did not have to have a return ticket from Australia as this is not a requirement Australia has for the visa I was traveling on.
You will only receive your boarding pass for your first flight; your second one will be issued in China.
China Eastern permits two pieces of hand luggage with a maximum weight of 15kg for your main piece, so I travelled with everything as hand luggage avoiding both expensive checked luggage fees and the risk of losing it on my layover.
Upon boarding the flight, you will be asked your name, your destination and oftentimes additional security will ask you where you work and what your reason for visiting China is.
Just before landing, you will receive a landing card for China. Even if you are only entering China for a layover and aren't even leaving the airport, all visitors are required to complete this card. Leave the following sections blank: your visa number, the visa issuing address and your contact address in China. Your reason for entering China will be 'others' as you are only there for a layover.
Arriving in Nanjing
In Nanjing Airport, do not follow signs for international transfer. Instead, you will need to head to arrivals where you will be required to give your fingerprints and drop off your passport.
You will then be called one-by-one through to the baggage collection where you will have to collect any luggage you checked in. Then, you will be taken as a group out through customs and to the check-in counter where you will be called one-by-one to collect your second boarding pass and drop off your luggage again. This process took us approximately 2 hours.
Once you have collected your second boarding pass, small groups of you will be escorted through to customs where you will again need to declare your reasons for why you were in China (layover) and where you are headed. Only then will your passport be returned to you. Then, the border guard will stamp your passport with a China visa and you will go through security to scan your belongings again.
In total, I had a 6 hour layover of which 4 1/2 were spent getting from the arrivals gate to the departure gate. It's a tedious process to say the least!
At the departure gate in Nanjing, you will need to again give your name and destination and may be asked further questions about your occupation and reason for travel.