Transportation - Get In

Transportation - Get In

By plain

Beijing Capital International Airport (北京首都国际机场 Běijīng Shǒudū Guójì Jīchǎng, ) is Beijing's main airport and is located to the northeast of the central districts, 26 km from the city centre. It serves a large variety of domestic and international destinations and is where most international airlines choose to fly.

Nanyuan Airport (南苑机场 Nányuàn Jīchǎng, IATA: NAY) is a former military airfield 17 km to the south of Beijing, currently used only by army-linked low-cost operator China United (中国联合 Zhōngguó Liánhé). China United currently flies daily to Harbin, Dalian, Sanya, Chongqing, Chengdu, and Wuxi. Shuttle buses to the Nanyuan Airport leave Xidan Aviation Building (西单民航大厦 Xīdān Mínháng Dàshà) at 06:10, 07:00, 09:00, 11:00, 13:00, 14:00 and 15:00. The first bus (06:10) might not be available every day. Be sure not to take a shuttle bus to Beijing Capital Airport. Check the shuttle bus direction written on it in Chinese. The bus ticket price is ¥16.

Transportation - Get In

By Train

Beijing has many railway stations. Most trains arrive at the Central, West, South or North stations.

  • Beijing Railway Station (北京站Běijīng Zhàn) is in the heart of the city, served by Subway Line 2. Destinations include:Changchun, Chengde, Dalian,Fuzhou, Guangzhou,Hangzhou, Harbin, Hefei, Jilin,Nanjing, Qiqihar, Shanghai,Shenyang, Suzhou, Tianjin, and Yangzhou. High speed trains to the Northeast leave from this station. The trains forMongolia (Ulaanbaatar),Russia, and North Korea also leave from here.
  • Beijing West Railway Station (北京西站 Běijīng Xīzhàn). Presently the largest. Train destinations from Beijing West include: Changsha, Chengdu, Chongqing, Datong,Fuzhou, Guangzhou, Guilin, Guiyang, Hefei, Hohhot, Hong Kong, Kunming,Lanzhou, Lhasa, Ningbo, Qinhuangdao, Sanya, Shenzhen, Taiyuan, Urumqi,Wuhan, Xi'an, and Xiamen. Both "conventional" and high-speed trains (wherever available) to these destinations use Beijing West, although HSR does not (yet) leave the mainland. See below for transport options leaving the station.
  • Public Buses. There is an immense amount of packed public buses that reach most destinations around downtown Beijing - however this can be difficult to navigate. These leave from several locations including directly in front of the train station, east of the train station (there is a largish bus station here) and on the opposite side of Lianhuachi Donglu. If you are desperate to get on the public bus, there is a large sign indicating the routes close to the bus stops on the Beijing West Station side of Lianhuachu Donglu.
  • Taxi. There is an underground taxi rank, which usually has at least a ten minute queue. Taxis may however be the most expensive way to leave the station, especially if you have that tourist stench about you. Inevitably a tout will offer to take you out of the queue for an agreed price, but be aware that this will result in a significantly higher fare.
  • Subway. Subway Line 9 has recently been extended to connect with the rest of Beijing's subway system, and the line serves Beijing West Railway Station. Line 7, opened in December 2014, now serves the station as well.
  • Beijing South Railway Station (北京南站 Běijīng Nánzhàn). This station is used only by high-speed trains. It presently offers 70 high-speed services every day to Tianjin, Tanggu, Jinan, Qingdao, Shanghai (under 5 hours), Hangzhou, and Fuzhou. Served by subway Line 4. There are also a few services from Beijing South to northeastern China as well as Xiamen.
  • Beijing North Railway Station (北京北站 Běijīng Běizhàn). Small compared to the previous three, but you might end up here if you are coming in from Inner Mongolia. Destinations include Chifeng (赤峰 Chìfēng), Fuxin, Hailar (海拉尔Hǎilāěr), Manzhouli, Hohhot, Longhua (隆化 Lōnghuà), Luanping (滦平 Luánpíng),Nankou (南口 Nánkǒu), Shacheng, Huailai (沙城 Shāchéng, via Badaling), Tongliao(通辽 Tōngliáo), and Zhangjiakou (张家口 Zhāngjiākǒu). It also offers tour train services to Yanqing and the Badaling Great Wall. Served by Lines 2, 4 and 13 via the adjacent Xizhimen station.
  • Beijing East Railway Station (北京东站 Běijīng Dōngzhàn). Destinations only include Chengde, Handan and Ji County, Tianjin. Just off the Guomao CBD. It is very rare travellers will have to use this station.
  • Huangcun Railway Station has just reopened. It is in southern Beijing on Beijing Subway Daxing Line. If having trouble getting tickets to one of the major Beijing stations, try getting a ticket to Huang Cun Railway Station instead. If taking a night train, you're a bit far from the centre, but the subway opens at 05:30.
  • Shunyi Railway Station is just a short walk away from Subway Line 15 at Shimen station. This station is served by regular rail services, and most of these can be rather slow.

Transportation - Get In

By Bus

Long-distance buses from areas as far as Shanghai and the Mongolian border connect to Beijing. You can reach areas as far as Harbin or Xi'an on a single bus ride. Beijing has over 20 long distance bus stations, but what you need to do is go to the bus station located on the edge of the city in the direction you want to travel.

  • Xizhimen Long Distance Bus station (西直门长途汽车站 Xīzhímén Chángtú Qìchēzhàn),  +86 10 62183454. Handles buses heading north and west. Destinations include Anshan, Baochang (宝昌 Bǎochāng), Baotou, Binzhou (滨州Bīnzhōu), Boshan (博山 Bóshān), Changchun, Chengde (4.5h), Chifeng (赤峰Chìfēng, 12h), Daban (大阪 Dàbǎn), Dazhangzi (大仗子 Dàzhàngzǐ), Fengshan (凤山 Fèngshān), Harbin, Hohhot, Huimin (惠民 Huìmín), Jinan, Jining (Shandong) (集宁 Jíníng, Shandong Province, 7 hrs), Jinzhou, Kuancheng (宽城 Kuānchéng),Lindong (林东 Líndōng), Linhe (临河 Línhé), Luanping (滦平 Luánpíng), Ningcheng(宁城 Níngchéng), Pingzhuang (平庄 Píngzhuāng), Qinhuangdao (7.5h), Tieling (铁岭 Tiělǐng), Leling (乐陵 Lèlíng), Pingquan (平泉 Píngquán), Xilin (锡林 Xīlín),Shenyang, Shacheng (沙城 Shāchéng, 5h), Shanhaiguan, Shenmu, Shizuishan,Tangshan (唐山 Tángshān, 5h), Weixian (蔚县 Wèixiàn, 8h), Wudan (乌丹 Wūdān),Xuanying 选营 (Xuǎnyíng, 7 hrs), Xinglong (兴垄 Xīnglǒng), Yinchuan, Yingxian (应县 Yīngxiàn), Yulin, and Zhangjiakou (张家口 Zhāngjiākǒu).
  • Deshengmen Long Distance Bus Station (德胜门外长途汽车站 Déshèngménwài Chángtú Qìchēzhàn),  +86 10 82847096. Also handles buses for the north andnorthwest. Destinations include: Baochang (宝昌 Bǎochāng), Chicheng (赤城Chìchéng), Dongmao (东卯 Dōngmǎo), Guyuan, Sandaochuan (三道川Sāndàochuān), Yuxian (芋县 Yùxiàn), and Zhangjiakou (张家口 Zhāngjiākǒu).
  • Dongzhimen Long Distance Bus Station (东直门长途汽车站 Dōngzhímén Chángtú Qìchēzhàn),  +86 10 64674995, +86 64671346. Handles buses heading northeast. Destinations include Changyuan (长垣 Chángyuán), Chengde(4.5h), Chifeng (赤峰 Chìfēng, 12h), Fengning (丰宁 Fēngníng, 5h), Fengshan (凤山 Fèngshān), Guanshang (关上 Guānshàng), Huairou district, Jiaozhuanghu (焦庄户 Jiāozhuānghù), Mafang (马坊 Mǎfāng), Miyun County, Nanzhuangtou (南庄头Nánzhuāngtóu), Pinggu district (2.5h), Sishang (寺上 Sìshàng), Shunyi district,Wuxiongsi (吴雄寺 Wúxióngsì), and Xinglong (兴隆 Xīnglōng).
  • Sihui Long Distance Bus Station (四惠长途汽车站 Sìhuì Chángtú Qìchēzhàn), +86 10 65574804. Handles buses mainly heading east. Destinations include:Changchun, Chengde, Dalian, Dandong, Liaoyang (辽阳 Liáoyáng), Tangshan (唐山 Tángshān), and Tianjin.
  • Zhaogongkou Long Distance Bus Station (赵公口长途汽车站 Zhàogōngkǒu Chángtú Qìchēzhàn),  +86 10 67237328. Handles buses heading south and southeast. Destinations include Cangzhou (沧州 Cāngzhōu, 3.5h, ¥70), Jinan(5.5h, ¥114), Tanggu (塘沽 Tánggū, 2.5h, ¥45), Tianjin (1.5h, ¥35).
  • Lianhuachi Long Distance Bus Station (莲花池长途汽车站 Liánhuāchí Chángtú Qìchēzhàn),  +86 10 63322354. Handles buses heading south. Destinations include: Kaifeng, Luoyang, Shijiazhuang, Taiyuan, Wuhan, and Zhengzhou.

Most of the buses from the Long Distance Bus Stations will be regular or express buses, which take the expressways; cost from ¥200-600 per trip, have comfy seats, and most rides do not take more than 6–12 hours, but sleeper buses are also available. Sleeper buses, with bunk beds in rows, average about ¥100 per trip, but many go really slowly up hills, avoid expressways, stop at every city or town, provide "meals" which you have to pay extra for, take the potholed National roads to save money, and a bus ride can take up to 24 hours. The average speed is only 40 km/hr on the moderately fast sleeper buses, and the range could be from 25 to 60 km/hr. It may be a good authentic taste of how less wealthy Chinese people travel.

Transportation - Get In

By Car

Foreigners are allowed to rent vehicles while in China, although they will require a driving license issued by the People's Republic of China.

Beijing is the hub of several expressways heading in all directions, and the following is a list of the expressways and their destinations:

National Expressways

  • G1 Jingha / Beijing-Harbin (Beijing (Sifang Bridge - Shiyuan Bridge - Huoxian County, Tongzhou - Xiji) - Xianghe (Hebei) - Jixian County (Tianjin) - Jinwei - Tangshan (Hebei) - Beidaihe - Qinhuangdao - Shanhaiguan - Jinzhou (Liaoning) -Shenyang - (Jilin) Changchun - (Heilongjiang) Harbin).
  • G2 Jinghu / Beijing-Shanghai (Beijing (Fenzhongsi - Shibalidian - Dayangfang - Majuqiao - Caiyu) - Langfang (Hebei) - Tianjin (Yangcun)) - Shanghai) — part of the expressway spins off as the S40 to central Tianjin and Tanggu.
  • G4 Jinggang'ao / Beijing-Hong Kong/Macao (Beijing (Liuliqiao - Wanping - Liulihe) - Shijiazhuang (Hebei)) - Hong Kong or Macao
  • G6 Jingzang / Beijing-Tibet (Beijing - Badaling Expressway - Donghuayuan - Huailai - Xiahuayuan - Zhangjiakou) - Inner Mongolia - Tibet.
  • G7 Jingxin / Beijing-Ürümqi (Beijing (Jianting Bridge - Machikou - Deshengkou)) - Zhangjiakou (Hebei) - Ürümqi (Xinjiang)
  • G102 Tongyan / Tongzhou-Yanjiao (Beijing (Tongzhou District) - Hebei (Yanjiao)
  • G103 Jingtong / Beijing-Tongzhou (Beijing (Dawang Bridge - Sihui - Gaobeidian - Shuangqiao - Huicun - Tongzhou District)) — linked with the G102.
  • G106 Jingkai / Beijing-Kaifeng (Beijing (Yuquanying - Daxing - Huangcun - Panggezhuang - Yufa) - China National Highway 106)) — continues into Hebei as the G45.

City Expressways

  • S11 Jingcheng / Beijing-Chengde (Beijing (Taiyanggong - Wanghe Bridge - Gaoliying - Huairou - Miyun - Gubeikou) - Luanping (滦平 Luánpíng, in Hebei) -Chengde) — this becomes the G45 in Hebei.
  • S12 Airport Expressway (Beijing (Sanyuanqiao - Siyuan - Beigao - Xiaotianzu - Beijing Capital International Airport)).
  • S15 Jingjin / Beijing-Tianjin (Beijing - Tianjin)
  • S32 Jingping / Beijing-Pinggu (Beijing (Huanggang Bridge - Pinggu)) — this becomes the S1 in Tianjin.
  • S50 Beijing 5th Ring Road

11 China National Highways (国道 Guódào) also link into Beijing:

  • G101 - Jingshen Road (Beijing - Shenyang, Liaoning).
  • G102 - Jingha Road (Beiling - Harbin, Heilongjiang).
  • G103 - JingJinTang (Beijing - Tanggu, Tianjin).
  • G104 - Nanyuan Road (Beijing - Fuzhou, Fujian).
  • G105 - (Beijing - Zhuhai, Guangdong).
  • G106 - (Beijing - Guangzhou, Guangdong).
  • G107 - (Beijing - Shenzhen, Guangdong).
  • G108 - Jingyuan Road (Beijing - Chengdu - Kunming, Yunnan).
  • G109 - Fushi Road (Beijing - Datong - Yinchuan - Xining - Golmud - Lhasa, Tibet).
  • G110 - (Beijing - Zhangjiakou - Hohhot - Baotou - Yinchuan, Ningxia).
  • G111 - (Beijing - Fengning - Jiagedaqi, Inner Mongolia).

Transportation - Get Around

Though some residents of Beijing know conversational English (especially in the areas frequented by tourists or Haidian District's university cluster), one should not count on finding a taxi driver or passer-by who knows English well. Neither should foreigners with minimal experience with the Chinese language put faith in their ability to pronounce Chinese place names so that a local can understand. Before embarking on a trip around the city, it is best to print out the names of places you want to visit in Chinese characters, or get your hotel front desk staff to write them out for you. When going to specific addresses, writing nearby intersections or basic directions can be helpful as well. Show the text to the taxi driver, or just ask for help on the street. In general, you will have a better chance of getting help in English if you address younger people, as many schools in China have expanded their English education in the last few years.

Crossing the road in China is an art and may be difficult for pedestrians unused to Beijing's particular driving styles. Before crossing, assume that none of the road users will give way to you, even if a policeman is present. Zebra crossings are ignored. Chinese drivers lean on the horn heavily and frequently play games of chicken with pedestrians and other vehicles. Should you hear a loud horn when crossing the road, always look around as there is probably a car right behind you or heading straight for you. Should you find several cars and bicycles veering towards you from different directions, do not try to run to safety; instead, stand still. For drivers and cyclists a stationary obstacle is easier to avoid. Also note that traffic light crossings have zebra stripes painted on the road, but you should only cross when the walk light is green. As with pedestrian crossings in many countries, there is strength in numbers. When a mass of people crosses together cars are more likely to stop or slow down.

Transportation - Get Around

By subway

The Beijing Subway is a good way to quickly get around the city and is clearly marked in English for travelers. The network has expanded at a furious pace in recent years, with 17 lines now operational and more being built. Unlike most giant cities' subways, it has a grid-like network which is refreshingly easy to navigate. The subway system shuts down around 22:30, and opens again around 05:00, with signage at the entrance to each station.

The lines are as following:-

  • Line 1 runs east-west from Sihui East to Pingguoyuan crossing the political heart of the city along Chang'an street, passing the Forbidden City, Tian'anmen Square and Wangfujing.
  • Line 2 is the inner loop line following the old city walls. The first and last trains start/end at Xizhimen and the line serves Lama Temple and Beijing Railway Station.
  • Line 4 runs north-south on the west side of the city and serves the Old and New Summer Palaces, Beijing University and Beijing South Station.
  • Line 5 runs north-south on the east side of the city.
  • Line 6 runs west-east through the city center, serving Nanlouguxiang
  • Line 7 runs west-east on the south side of the city.
  • Line 8 runs north of Nanlouguxiang (line 6) to Changping District, serving the Olympic Stadium.
  • Line 9 serves Fengtai district, including Beijing West Railway Station.
  • Line 10 is the outer loop line that circles around the entire city.
  • Line 13 is an elevated light-rail line serving the northern suburbs. The line starts at Xizhimen and ends at Dongzhimen and passes through Wudaokou.
  • Line 14 passes through Chaoyang District and then turns west through to the southern suburbs.
  • Line 15 runs across the north and north-east suburbs of the city.
  • Batong, Yizuang, Changping, Daxing and Fangshan lines connect the outer suburbs to the city and are of little use for tourists.

Transfers between lines are permitted with the exception of the Airport Express, for which a separate ticket is required.

Subway station entrances are identified by a large blue stylized letter G wrapped around a smaller letter B. Single tickets cost from ¥3 to ¥9 depending on distance and are only valid on the same day from the station they were purchased. Single-journey ticket machines have English instructions available. The machine does not accept ¥1 bills but if you pay with a ¥10 or ¥20 bill you will be given a handful of coins which you can use for future journeys. You must pass your ticket through the turnstiles upon entering AND exiting the station, so make sure you don't lose it.

If you plan on traveling more than a few times, pick up a Yīkātōng (一卡通 ) pre-paid card, which has a ¥20 refundable deposit. Tap the card at the entrance turnstile and again upon exiting. Using the pre-paid card does not reduce the subway fare, unlike bus fares. The card's deposit can only be returned at a few stations, so passing it on to a friend may be easier than getting your deposit back. Stations that offer a refund clearly state "Yikatong refund" in the ticket booth; examples include Xizhimen, Haidianhuangzhuang (only near exits C/D) and the Airport.

If you are carrying handbags or luggage, these bags must pass through the X-ray checks at the stations. Dangerous liquids (including oil!) may be confiscated. If necessary, drink a little of your bottle of water in front of the security guards to show that it is not harmful.

Beware that stations and trains become very crowded during rush hour, particularly lines 1, 10, and 13.

Transportation - Get Around

By bicycle

Once known as a nation of bicycles, China today has an ever growing number of private car owners. It is estimated 1,200 more cars hit the streets in Beijing every day. As a result, nowadays you are guaranteed to see more bikes in the Netherlands than in Beijing. However, the infrastructure from its days as capital of the "Bicycle Kingdom" means exploring Beijing on a bike is excellent. The city is flat as a pancake and all major streets have bike lanes. Bicycling is often faster than traveling by car, taxi or bus because of the traffic congestion in the motorized traffic lanes.

Four-wheeled motorized traffic in Beijing usually observes traffic signals with the exception of making turns at red lights which is often done without slowing or deferring to pedestrians or bicyclists. Pedestrians, bicycles and all other vehicles (for example, motorized bicycles, mopeds and tricycles) generally do not observe traffic signals. Also, cars, trucks and buses do not defer to cyclists on the road so it is common for a vehicle to make a right turn from an inside lane across a bike lane with no concern for cyclists traveling in the bike lane. Sometimes a right-turning vehicle crossing a bike lane will sound its horn as a warning, but not always. Cyclists also need to be on the lookout for wrong-way traffic in the bike lanes, usually bicycles and tricycles but sometimes motor vehicles, too. Wrong-way traffic usually stays close to the curb so you move to the left to get by them, but not always. Bicycling Beijingers tend not to wear helmets, nor do they use lights at night. Few bikes even have rear reflectors. The moderate pace and sheer numbers of bicyclists in Beijing appears to make bike travel safer than it would be otherwise.

While you will see cyclists use many creative paths across wide, busy intersections in Beijing, the safest way for cyclists is to observe the traffic signals (there are often special signals for cyclists) and to make left turns in two steps as a pedestrian would. But if you spend any significant amount of time cycling in Beijing, you will probably start adopting more creative approaches. These can be learned by finding a local cyclist going your way and following him or her across the intersection.

Several professional bike rental companies, as well as major hotels and some hostels, rent bikes on an hourly basis. For those who need the security of a guide, a bike touring company like Baja Bikes Beijing or Bicycle Kingdom Rentals & Tours would be a great way to go.

If you are staying more than a few days a reasonable bike can be bought for ¥200. Ensure that you have a good lock included in the price. The cheapest bikes are not worth the additional savings; you will get what you pay for and they will start to deteriorate as soon as you begin to ride. Spend a little more and get a bike in the ¥300-400 range. Bike rentals may have good bikes, but you pay a high price and run the risk of the bike being stolen.

If neither buying or renting a bike fits into your plans, the city has operated a bike-sharing program since 2011. Around 50,000 are available at a thousand sites around Beijing. While the fee is only ¥1 per hour, a deposit of ¥300 is required for first time users. Only electronic payment is accepted.

Transportation - Get Around

By bus

Beijing's bus system is cheap, convenient, and covers the entire city. But it is slow compared to the subway (often caught in heavy traffic), and difficult to use if you do not understand Chinese. But should you speak Mandarin, have a healthy sense of adventure, and a fair bit of patience, a bus can get you almost anywhere. Good reasons to take the bus include:

  • Your origin or destination are not in walking distance of a subway stop
  • Your trip is less than about 3km in distance
  • You want to see the city, not just a subway tunnel, while traveling
  • You are on an extremely tight budget (typical subway fares are around 3-7RMB, bus fares are ¥2 for most trips, with a 50% discount to ¥1 if you use the Yīkātōng pre-paid card)

Buses now feature air-conditioning (heating in winter), TVs, a scrolling screen that displays stops in Chinese (and often English), and a broadcast system that announces stops. Bus staff speak little English, and bus stop signs are entirely in Chinese. If you are having problems navigating the bus system, call the English-speaking operators at the Beijing Public Transportation Customer Helpline (96166).

Warning: Beijing buses can get very crowded so be prepared and keep an eye on your valuables. Indeed, the overhead speakers on more modern buses will announce a warning to this effect on the more crowded lines. Many pickpockets frequent buses and subways, so carry backpacks in the front, and try to put your valuables somewhere hard to access.

Bus routes

Bus lines are numbered from 1-999. Buses under 300 serve the city center. Buses 300 and up run between the city center and more distant areas (such as beyond the Third Ring Road). Buses in the 800s connect Beijing with its "rural" districts (i.e., Changping, Yanqing, Shunyi, etc.).

Full maps of the system are available only in Chinese. Directions from place to place can be obtained on Google Maps, Baidu Maps, Edushi (click the bus flash icon) or Mapbar. The Beijing Public Transport Co. website has useful information in Chinese, but appears to no longer have an English page.

Fares and operating hours

Most buses with a line number under 200 run daily 05:00-23:00. Buses with a line number greater than 300 typically run 06:00-22:00 (with some exceptions like 302 runs till 23:00). All buses with a line number in the 200s are night buses. Many routes get very crowded during rush hours (06:30-09:00 and 17:00-21:00). On major holidays, there will be more frequent service on most city routes.

There was a citywide bus fare increase in December 2014 and the following fares are out of date:

For passengers paying by cash: Lines 1-199 and 300-599 operate on a flat rate of ¥1 per journey. Lines 600-799 charge ¥1 for the first 12 km of each journey and ¥0.5 for each additional 5 km. Suburban Buses (800-999) start at ¥2 and charge according to the distance. The night buses (200-299) charge ¥2 per journey.

For passengers paying by the new pre-paid Smart Card: Lines 1-599 operate on a flat rate of ¥0.40 per journey. Lines 600-899 get 60% off the cash price. There are also 3-day, 7-day and 15-day passes available for travellers. There is no return ticket or day ticket.

Transportation - Get Around

By taxi

Taxis are reliable and are relatively inexpensive. The downsides are Beijing's well known traffic jams, as well as the fact that most drivers cannot speak or read English and some taxi drivers can be recent arrivals who do not know the city too well. If you don't speak Mandarin then it's worth having the Chinese characters for the location ready in advance. Vehicles used as taxis include the Hyundai Sonata and Elantra, Volkswagen Santana and Jetta (the old model, designed in the 1980s), and Citroëns manufactured in China. These taxis are dark red, or yellow top with dark blue bottom, or painted with new colours (see picture).

Luxurious black executive cars (usually Audis) can also be found, usually waiting outside hotels and can be booked from private companies. They will cost multiple times the equivalent taxi fare to hire.

You might not be able to find any official taxis in the more remote areas of Beijing. However, in these places there will most likely be plenty of unofficial taxis. These might be difficult to recognise for travellers, but the drivers will address you if you look like you are searching for a taxi. Remember to negotiate the fare before you go. Local people usually pay a bit less for the unofficial taxis than for the official ones, but the asking price for foreign travellers will often be much higher.

Fares and meters

A note on maps

Beijing maps from hotels are not reliable. They are basically a form of advertising with almost no quality control. They are often copies of old maps with very poor updating processes - even the subway map can be absurdly wrong. Beijing is also very large, so these cheap maps are useless for walking and getting around. Maps and guides produced by foreign companies are rare finds, while online maps in foreign languages are blocked.

The best option within Beijing is to choose official Sinomaps guides and maps, available from bookshops. You will need to pay ¥30-¥40. Even these maps can be out of date in small ways, as Beijing develops very rapidly and even roads can be realigned within a short space of time. For the most up-to-date maps, use Baidu or Google maps on your smartphone.

Taxis charge a starting fee of ¥13, and an additional ¥2.3/km after the first 3 km. Taxi meters keep running when the speed is slower than 12km/h or when waiting for green lights; 5min of waiting time equals 1km running. Outside of rush hour, an average trip through the city costs around ¥20-25, and a cross-town journey about ¥50 (for example, from the city centre to the northern side of the Fourth Ring Road). Since Spring 2011, there is a ¥2 gas surcharge on all trips. Note that this surcharge is not displayed on the meter, so if the meter says ¥18 the price is ¥20.

If the taxi driver "forgets" to switch the taxi meter on, remind him by politely asking them to run the meter and gesturing at the meter box (请打表qǐng dǎbiǎo), though most can understand "meter please", and all can understand a simple point at the meter. At the end, it is a good idea to ask for a receipt (发票 fā piào) also while gesturing to the meter and making a writing motion. Having a receipt is handy in case you want to make a complaint later or for business reimbursement purposes, and since the receipt has the cab number, you stand a greater chance of getting your possessions back if you forget anything in the taxi.

If you want a tour around Beijing and its vicinities, you can ask your hotel to hire a cab for one day or several days. It usually costs ¥400-600 per day, depending on where you go. You can also ask just about any driver to perform this service as most are more than willing to do so. If you have Chinese-speaking assistance, then bargain down the cost. No matter the cost, the taxi is yours for the day and will wait for you at various destinations.

Communicating with the drivers can be a problem, as most do not speak English. Many will not even pick up foreign passengers on the street due to the perceived language barrier. The solution should that happen is to go into a nearby hotel and ask the desk staff to call a cab.

You can ask that your hotel write your destination on a card to give to the driver. Make sure to take the hotel's card (and a map) that lists the hotel's address in Chinese. This can be a 'get out of jail free' card if you get lost and need to get back via taxi. A regular city map with streets and sights in Chinese will also help.

As elsewhere in the world it is really hard to find a taxi when it rains. Most of them refuse to take passengers and, besides, many will try to raise their fares. Although it seems unreasonable (triple to five times the normal fare), sometimes it is better to take their offers than to wait for another cab.

Avoiding scams and fakes

All official taxis have license plates beginning with the letter "B", as in "京B". "Pirate cabs" may look like taxis but their license plates will start with letters other than B. It's nearly impossible to hail a pirate cab on the streets; they generally hang out around tourist sights like the Great Wall and the Summer Palace or around subway stops. Pirate cabs will charge you a higher fee for the journey, unless you are a good bargainer, know where you are going, and know what the right fare should be. Sometimes they drop foreign tourists in wrong places. In some extreme cases, the driver may even take them to the countryside and rob them. If you find you hired a fake taxi and are overcharged, don't argue if you are alone, pay the driver and remember the car's license plate number, then call police later.

To avoid being taken advantage of, it is a good idea to know the rough direction, cost, and distance of your destination. You can easily find this out from asking locals before calling a cab. Verify these values with the taxicab driver to show them that you are in the know, and are probably too much trouble to cheat. Keep track of the direction of travel with a compass and/or the sun. If the cab goes in the wrong direction for a long distance, verify the location with the taxi driver. For scamming drivers, that is usually enough for them to go back on the right track (without ever acknowledging that they were trying to cheat you). Honest drivers will explain why they are going that way. In addition, sometimes a cab driver might tell you an extravagant price to get somewhere and tell you the meter is broken. 

There are several "makeshift taxis" running around Beijing including a seat fixed up to the back of an electric scooter. These guys will scam you big time if you don't negotiate a clear fare beforehand. Upon arriving your destination, for a 2 minute ride, the driver will demand ¥300 and will be very belligerent if you don't pay it.

Keep in mind that central Beijing can be off limits at certain times, forcing cabs to reroute. And some roads forbid left turns (with big road signs) either at certain hours or all the time, so the driver might make a detour.

Transportation - Get Around

By car

Driving in Beijing can be quite complicated with seemingly perpetual traffic jams. Many hotels rent cars that come with drivers for up to ¥1,000 per day. Public transport or taxis will get you to most of the main tourist sites and therefore renting a car is not often required at all.

Short visa holders (less than 3 months) can get a provisional driver's license at Beijing Capital International Airport or the transportation police stations in the city within minutes. You need to provide your passport as well as your foreign driver's license and do a small examination to confirm you don't have a physical or visual disability that affects driving. With a provisional license you can legally drive cars in China. Ask any information desk at the airport for directions.

You can find the counters of many car rental companies in the arrival hall of Terminal 2 in Beijing Capital Airport, although their English is usually not very good.

Here is an incomplete list of car rental companies serving the Beijing Capital Airport:

The daily rate of smaller, economical cars is about ¥200-300. You need to deposit around ¥3000 (possible by using CUP/VISA/MasterCard credit card).

20% of cars have to be off city centre roads on weekdays — you are affected on different days depending on the last digit of your number plate. These alternate every 13 weeks. The police have a right to fine you repeatedly if you are caught on the road when you should have left your car at home. If travelling to Tianjin by car, remember they operate the same system in tandem with Beijing's road rationing schedules. On weekends no such limits apply in either cities, which may give rise to worse jams during peak travel hours.

Vehicles without a licence registered in Beijing are subject to severe restrictions in the capital — most need a special permit to enter the part of town inside the 6th Ring Road, and for those which are granted this licence, it must be renewed nearly every week. You must have your passport / Chinese ID, driving licence and vehicle licence ("blue book", not larger registration certificate) with you at all times, especially when leaving or entering Beijing, as you will be checked by the police.


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