Local Transportation

Large cities in China offer a variety of public transportation, taxis and what we call black taxis. Here is a quick guide about transport and some helpful tips.

Subways

Major cities provide subway systems. In the big cities these are very extensive and will get you to most areas of the city. The cost is usually 2RMB for the whole trip, so it’s very cheap and fast to take the subway. If you have a smart phone get the app China Metro, or the local city subway app, very helpful.

I suggest to get the local public transportation card. Its usually 20RMB deposit or the card, and this makes things much faster, you won’t have to wait in line and will get discounts on the bus. They say you can even use it in a taxi, but they never let me use it.

Buses

Buses crisscross every city in China. They can be a bit more difficult than the subway because they are not in English. If you have a smart phone there are apps to help, and usually the maps guide can tell you the best bus to take. Ask a local about the best buses to take to get to where you are going.

Taxis

Taxis are a quick option if there is not traffic. Traffic in some cases makes the trip longer than the subway, so check the time and route. Taxis in general are reasonably honest, but may take you on a bit longer trip than you should take. Taxis in Beijing start at 10RMB for 3km. After that it’s 2RMB for 1km. Also you will be charged an additional 3RMB for the trip for the petrol fee. They are not ripping you off, it says it on the dashboard.

Black Taxis

Black taxis, HeiChe in Chinese, are illegal taxis. Basically they are guys driving around in their own cards trying to make a buck. They will pull up to you and scream “Ni QU NAR!” in Chinese meaning “where are you going?” This will cost more than a taxi. The reason is they pick you up at places where it is usually difficult to get a taxi, so you can wait 30 minutes or longer or take the black taxi. In general they are safe, but be careful. They are illegal taxis and you never know what they will do. Going with friends is safer.

SanLunChe and Rickshaws

These are the Rickshaws or three wheeled motorcycles that can take you on a short trip. Rickshaws can be nice in the summer, especially in places like Houhai and the hutongs. They should be cheap but when they see a foreigner they will want to charge a lot. 10RMB should be acceptable for a short trip. If it’s far and raining they will ask for more. Again, in general safe.

Bike

Bikes are a great way to get around in Chinese cities. You can pick up a good bike for around 500RMB. A nice mountain bike will run you around 1000RMB. Get a lock. Get a good lock. If you don’t lock up the bike it’s nearly guaranteed to be stolen.

Scooters

Electric bikes and scooters are another great option. They are battery powered and only go about 40km. Keep them charged up. A scooter will run 1500RMB to 4000RMB depending on quality.

Motorcycles and Cars

Both motorcycles and cars require license plates. If you have the cash to get a car its’ a great option, the problem will be the license plate. It’s hard to get this in Beijing and many cities. You will need to go through the license lottery system, where in Beijing they only issue 20,000 per month, and can take six months to one year to get the license.