The public transport system, particularly the bus system, is rarely
tried by foreign visitors unless they can understand Mandarin Chinese.
Travel by subway or taxi (see Taxis below) is definitely the best
City buses operate between
05:30-23:00 and are extremely crowded, especially during
rush hours (06:30-08:30 and 17:00-19:00).
There is also a limited night service between 23:00
and 05:30 hours. Fares of RMB1-2 within the city
(up to RMB2-10 for suburban bus routes) are paid to the driver.
Air-con buses in the city cost between RMB2-8
depending on distance travelled. It is very important to have the
destination written in Chinese because the driver almost certainly
will not speak English.
and efficient, the subway (05:30-23:00)
is an attractive alternative, however, be aware that the trains
can be packed during rush hours. The subway has two lines:
the East–West Line operates from Pingguoyuan
to Sihui, and the Ring Line follows the Second
Ring Road. Entrances can be located by looking for the
logo of a square inside a ‘C’ shape and there is a flat
rate of RMB3 for each trip. irrespective of distance travelled.
Tickets can be bought from the ticket offices above the platforms
and, as tickets are not dated and valid for all journeys, it is
well worth buying a few at once to save queuing for every journey.
However, by the end of 2002, individual tickets are due to be replaced
with prepaid cards that will have to be inserted into a machine
to gain access to the subway system. Announcements and signs are
in Chinese and English.
Taxis are plentiful, metered and cheap.
They wait near major department stores, hotels and train stations
and can be hailed on the street. Taxis in Beijing are small, red
hatchbacks or saloons (known as Xiali) and usually,
the older and smaller the car is, the cheaper the fare. All taxis
display a sticker in the back window that specifies the rate per
kilometre, but the normal rate is RMB10 for the
first four to five kilometres and RMB1.2-1.6
per kilometre thereafter. There is a 20% surcharge
after 2300. It is vital to write the destination in Chinese
as most drivers don't speak English. Taxis can be booked in advance
through Beijing Taxi Co (tel: (10) 6852-4088).
Tipping is not expected but always appreciated.
CITS Building, Fuxingmennei Avenue (tel: (10) 6601-1122 or 8292)
can organise limousines for US$90 per day within the city limits.
Driving in the City
Not many short-term visitors to Beijing attempt to drive there,
as hiring a car is a difficult process, parking
is a problem and car hire is restricted
to the city limits. Visitors also need to have
a Chinese driving licence, which can only be acquired by
those holding a Resident’s Permit.
Driving regulations do exist, however they are regularly ignored
and it is common to see aggressive lane-changing by buses and taxis
or even traffic going the wrong direction on roads or roundabouts.
Theoretically, traffic drives on the right but
on smaller streets this is not always the case. Not many road signs
are in English and it is important to be aware that in the case
of an accident it will be assumed that the foreigner is at fault
100% of the time.
Visitors who want to hire a car in Beijing will have to hire a car
Avenue (tel: (10) 6601-1122 or 8292), and CTS,
2 Beisanhaun East Road (tel: (10) 6461-8959), can organise car hire
with a driver and the cost per day in the city limits starts at
Hertz (tel: (10) 6595-8109)
also have an office in Beijing at the Jianguo Hotel, 5 Jianguomenwei
Avenue, however, cars still have to be rented with a driver for
about US$90 per day.
China has the most bicycles of any place in the world, it also has
a huge supply of bicycle rental outlets. Although Chinese roads
are unpredictable and at sometimes fairly dangerous, renting a bike
can be preferable to relying on public transport. Bike lanes are
on all main roads in Beijing, although these are occupied by thousands
cyclists during rush hours.
available for hire from hotels, including the Crowne
Plaza Hotel, Wangfujing Dajie (tel: (10)
6513-3388), for RMB20 per hour; the Peace
Hotel, 3 Jingyu Hutong (tel: (10) 6512-8833), for RMB40
per half-day; and the Palace Hotel, Jingyu
Hutong (tel: (10) 6512 8899), for RMB10 per hour
but free for their guests.
Shops are usually cheaper but rates can vary greatly. A deposit
is always required.
Bicycles must be parked in the special bike parking areas,
which are guarded and are very inexpensive (RMB0.20).
Bringing one’s own cycle lock is recommended.