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China > Getting there and getting around > City Travel

City Travel 

 See Also : How to get around 

 Street names. Getting around China’s cities can seem like an overwhelming task, especially given their monumental size, legions of flyovers and the array of long and unfamiliar street names.  This confusion is somewhat simplified when you realize that each street name is made up of its title and a compound of smaller words indicating its position within the city and the road’s size.

Bei, dong, nan, xi mean north, east, south and west, respectively and zhong means middle. Xiang means alley, lu means road, jie means street, dajie means avenue, men means gate and qiao means bridge. Guangchang is square, yuan is garden and zhan means station. Thus Nanjing Dong Lu means Nanjing East Road, Jianguomen Qiao means Jianguo Gate Bridge and so on. 


Subway. These days many of China’s major cities, including Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Shanghai and Beijing, have subway systems which are sometimes known as MTRs (Mass Transit Railways) and these offer a convenient, easy and inexpensive way to get around these cities. You usually buy tickets (¥2-10) from machines, which have English instructions, and stations are marked (and sometimes announced) in English 


Bus. Every Chinese city has a cheap and extensive bus network and this often forms the backbone of the urban transport system. However, the fact that destinations are generally only marked in Chinese, and that buses can be very crowded and often aren’t air-conditioned makes the subway preferable where it’s an option. You normally pay (¥1-2) onboard and often need to have exact change.

Show the driver your destination written in Chinese and, if you’re lucky, he or she will give you the nod when it’s time to get off. Bus numbers are given where appropriate throughout the guide.


Taxis are the easiest way to get around China’s cities. Although drivers seldom speak English, as long as you have your destination written in Chinese (see the language boxes) you won’t go too far wrong. Flagfall rates vary from ¥4 to ¥12.5 for the first two km (1.2 miles) and then rise in increments beyond this.


Make sure that the driver uses the meter (“da biao”). In some cities you’ll also find motorcycle taxis, which are a speedy way to get through the clogged city streets but it can be difficult to get a fair price – see individual chapter listings for details. 


Cycle rickshaw. China still has cycle rickshaws and pedicabs, although in some of its cities these are exclusively the preserve of tourists and you need to bargain hard before you set out on your journey. If you’re in a hurry they are hardly ideal, but to soak up the pace of the city they can make a fun change. See individual cities for approximate rates. 


Bicycle. Although being rapidly superseded by scooters and cars, the bicycle is the traditional mode of transport in  China. In spite of modernization, China has over half a billion cycles – by far the highest ownership in the world. Although cycling around the big cities can initially seem a little daunting, there are often designated cycle lanes and, as long as you move with the masses, you’ll be fine.


Bikes can be rented in most cities and offer an excellent way to get around, particularly in Hangzhou, Suzhou and the countryside. Rates vary from as little as ¥5 for a day, to ¥50 an hour from some upmarket hotels. 


Ferry. The cities are also often best seen from the water – Hong Kong, Shanghai, Hangzhou and Suzhou are testaments to this. Although seldom very practical (with the exception of Hong Kong’s Star Ferry), ferries present a different side of the city and, if you’re short of funds, they can offer a cheap alternative to a river or harbor cruise. 


See also How to get around 

  Why visit China

  Top Destinations in China 

  When to go to China

  How to get to China, How to get around

  History of China

  Food in China

  City & region guide

       Beijing travel guide

       Xi’an travel guide

       Shanghai travel guide

       Suzhou travel guide

      Other places in China

  The Chinese Language

  Culture, Music and Opera

  Events and festivals



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China Travel Guide : Getting around - City Travel in China