I have been flying regularly between the US and China for the past 12 years. Many times I have seen first time visitors cheated and I know others who were robbed. I would like to give some advice to those who are planning to arrive at the Beijing, Shanghai, or Guangzhou airports.
1. Pick-pockets and thieves are everywhere. Chain you money and other valuables to your underware and never leave you bags unattended, not even for one second. Thieves and robbers are common throughout China, not only at the airports. Everything that is no locked down will be stolen.
2. I never met a taxi or bus driver at these airports that speaks English. If you do not speak Chinese, be prepared and have a map or name of your hotel or destination.
3. Be sure the taxi uses a meter. You should pay according to the meter and must also pay highways tolls. The Beijing and Shanghi airports are far from the city center. Expect to pay about 80-120rmb, depending on your location. ($1 = 8rmb). Guangzhou is nearer the city center and so the taxi fare will be much less.
4. If you are a westerner, you will be approached by English speakers asking if you need a taxi. Do not respond to these requests. They will charge you 2-3x the regular taxi fare. Instead, go to the taxi line.
5. Do not pay face value for telephone cards. You should pay 60rmb for a 100rmb card.
I would like to hear from others about their experiences.