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China > General information > Region and city guide > Getting around Beijing

Getting Around 

Once known as the city of bicycles, these days
Beijing is more and more the city of scooters, cars and flyovers. Traffic can be frustratingly slow at times and, if it’s an option, the subway is a good way to go. Beijing’s polluted skies owe at least something to its vehicles and, although buses and taxis are going greener, skyrocketing private ownership sees 1,500 new car registrations issued every day and these are the biggest worry for planners (and cyclists) today. 


By Subway 


Beijing’s subway is a cheap and quick way of getting around the city if the area you want has a line running through it. Although it is being expanded, the subway is still fairly limited in extent, and as the oldest subway system (constructed as party cadre transport under Mao Zedong) in China, it is also the most antiquated.  


Currently the subway system consists of lines #1, #2 and, bizarrely, #13, along with the Batong Light Rail Service. Apparently lines #3 to #12 are in the pipeline, of which #4 and #5 will run through Xicheng and Dongcheng respectively, and, along with the Airport and Olympic Lines, should be open by 2008. 


Of the present, lines #1 and #2 are the most useful. Line #1 runs from east to west and takes in the city center, including stops at Tian’anmen West and East, Wangfujing, and then the hotel districts around Jianguomen and Guomao. Line #2 takes a circular route around the city and includes stops at Beijing Train Station, Yonghe Temple and the Drum Tower. The two lines intersect at Jianguomen in the east and Fuxingmen in the west. 


Services operate from 5:30 am-11 pm and tickets cost ¥2 for the Batong Line and ¥3 for other lines. Weekly passes were recently modernized to plastic passes, but single-journey tickets are still paper. If you’re going to take a few subways in a day, buy several tickets (which can only be used on that day) to save yourself from lining up again.

Trains aren’t air-conditioned, which can make them sticky in summer, although this is set to change. Announcements are made in English and Chinese and there are English subway route maps in the carriages. Stations are marked above ground by a white square inside a C on a blue background.


By Bus 

In the City 

Beijing has an abundant bus network and private minibus routes, offering cheap travel to all parts of the city for between ¥1 and ¥2. It can be confusing since most services are only marked in Chinese but, as long as you can find the right bus number and show your destination to the driver, you should get where you want to go. 

Bus travel affords a look at everyday Beijingers going about their everyday business, although services can be crowded and you should be wary of pickpockets. 


Services numbered in the 800s are slightly more expensive luxury and tourist buses (¥3-10), which are air-conditioned in summer and heated in winter. If you have a student or working visa and will be using the buses a lot, you can buy passes at McDonalds and major bus terminals that allow unlimited travel on buses numbered below 400. Services run from 5:30 am-8:30 pm and numbers 200-212 run through the night.


Some useful routes are as follows: 

- Bus #52Beijing West Station (Xi Zhan) to Tian’anmen Square and along Chang’an Jie 

- Luxury bus #802 – Beijing West Station (Xi Zhan) to Panjiayuan market 

- Luxury bus #808 – Qianmen to the Summer Palace 


 Buses to Surrounding Sights 

For buses out to sights such as the Great Wall it’s easiest to go on a tour or take a tourist bus, but there are also regular buses that depart from Dongzhimen Station on the eastern section of the second ringroad, Deshengmen in the north of the city and Pingguoyuan, way out west, all of which are connected by or close to the subway (see individual sights for listings). Tourist buses run from the Qianmen bus depot opposite Qianmen subway on Qianmen Dong Dajie. 



By Taxi 

Taxis come in a range of different colors and are abundant in Beijing, charging ¥10 for the first two kilometers (1.2 miles) and ¥2 per kilometer (0.6 miles) after this, but the city’s size makes it very easy to run up a meter fee of ¥40 and more.


Although Beijing has many times more cabs than equivalent-sized cities around the world, it can still be difficult to find one when any of the capital’s manifold adverse weather conditions (rain, snow, sandstorm) hit. As private vehicle ownership increases, it is planned to nearly halve the number of taxis on the street, which will make competition at peak hours that much greater. In the run-up to the Olympics there is a program to help drivers speak English, but this seems to have had little impact as yet. You can also hire taxis for daytrips out to Beijing’s surrounding sights.



By Cycle Rickshaw 

You’ll see cycle-rickshaws all over the city, but they have no meters so it can be very difficult for foreigners to get a fair price. Plus a ride through any of the city’s busier streets on these rickety little contraptions can be a hair-raising experience, so you’re better off in a cab. This said, three-wheelers make for a less perilous and fun jaunt around the old hutong areas, but beware that some wheelerdealer operators might try and take you for a ride, so establish a clear price at the beginning.  



By Bicycle 

Although much of the modern city is over-run by traffic and flyovers, bicycles are still used by millions of Beijingers and there are quieter areas definitely worth exploring by bike. Standard bikes can be rented from backpacker hostels and outside some subway stations for as little as ¥10 a day, but major hotels and places at tourist sights will charge more. If you’re planning on heading to some rougher terrain, it’s worth renting a mountain bike, which can be arranged through Cycle China, who also runs bike trips in and around Beijing.


By Car & Motorbike 

Unless you live here, driving in Beijing isn’t an option and, even if you do, negotiating its traffic-choked streets is easier in a cab. For tourists, options are limited to hiring a car with driver, which can be arranged through the major hotels or Hertz, who have outlets at the Jianguo Hotel (see p. 208; _ 010-6595-8109) and the Lufthansa Center at 50 Liangmaqiao Lu (_ 010-6462-5730). Far more fun and an option open to tourists is to rent a motorbike sidecar for a spin into the surrounding countryside. Bikes, guides, insurance and license can be arranged through CJ Motorcycle Club. 

Getting to Beijing

The Forbidden City

The Temple of Heaven

The Summer Palace 

Tian’anmen Square and Hutong 

Jingshan Park, Shichahai, & Tibetan Lama Temple

Other places of interest in Beijing 

Around Beijing : The Ming Tombs 

                        The Great Wall, Great Wall pictures

                        The Western Hills

                        Zhoukoudian & Peking Man Site 

                        The Qing Tombs

                        Chengde , Bishu Shanzhuang

Shopping in Beijing 

Beijing Opera, Shows, and Nightlife 


Back to: 

Beijing Travel Guide homepage

China Travel guide homepage 


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Travel guide to China : Getting around Beijing - Getting around Peking, by bus, by subway, by rickshaw , by bicycle