Transport In Beijing| 8 min read

In the past couple of years Beijing’s transportation infrastructure has expanded significantly. Among the many remodelling and architecture projects in Beijing in preparation for the Olympics, the Chinese government invested heavily in the transportation systems.

If you are travelling to many destinations it is highly recommended you use the smartkart (Yikatong), which is a refillable card that is accepted on all forms of public transport. This is highly convenient to use for daily commuting on the subway, catching buses, telephone booths, taxis and even at some convenience stores. The card can be purchased at most subway stops and requires a ¥20 deposit.

  • Subway

    Subway travel is generally fast, clean and economical. A fare starting from RMB 3 with unlimited transfers applies to all lines, except the express link to the airport, which costs ¥25. The subways operate from around 5am till about 11pm daily. During peak hours, subways come by every few minutes, making it an extremely convenient yet popular choice for transportation. Map of Beijing’s subways here.

  • Taxi

    Foreign visitors to Beijing can usually afford to take a taxi everywhere they want to go. A standard taxi fee begins at RMB 13 for the first 3km, and 2RMB for each additional km and you can reach most destinations for less than ¥70. (Please note the flag fall is ¥14 from 11pm till 5am and the meter will automatically charge you an additional 20%). Try to make sure you have notes lower than RMB 100 for fares lower than RMB 20. Always ask for a receipt in the event you may leave your personal belongings in a taxi as this includes the details of the specific taxi.Most taxi drivers do not speak English. Be prepared to have your destination written in Chinese characters to hand to the driver. Please beware that many English names of locations have their own separate Chinese name.

    Licensed taxis are usually yellow with green, blue or brown panels. Try to avoid the illegal black taxis. They are usually just normal cars, often with shaded windows (that’s why Beijingers call them “Black”).You may find them (or usually they find you) in non-central parts of Beijing and on tourist hot spots. If you know the approximate price of the ride and then bargain for a price – then you can take it (it is usually even cheaper than the licensed taxi). Agree on a price in advance otherwise they will most certainly try to rip you off.

  • Bus

    There are over 600 bus routes in Beijing. If you are in Beijing for an extended period you will become familiar with routes that could serve you well.The cost is usually RMB 1 or 2 per journey but only costs 4 mao if you have the smart card. Buses No.1 to No.122 are routes which go through the city centre, whilst buses No.201 to No.212 are night buses. Buses No.300 to No.949 go beyond the 3rd Ring Road. Travelling by bus can be difficult for non-Mandarin speakers but a good idea for those who like a little adventure!

  • Bicycle

    Biking through the streets of Beijing is not just a way to get from one place to another but also an eye into the minds of local people. People chat as they cycle and will carry anything: their family, oversize loads, aquariums etc. Most people in China cannot afford a car (imagine the traffic jams if they could). So a bike is their personal mode of transport – and part of Chinese culture. Explore old alleys (hutongs), stop for a local lunch, and become one with the Chinese in the bike lane. Traffic jams will have little effect on you. Biking in Beijing is entertaining, humorous and a great way to explore the nooks and crannies of Beijing. Inexpensive bikes can be bought for approximately ¥150. You can also rent bikes in tourist spots for RMB 15 – RMB 25 a day. Tips for smooth Beijing biking:- Don’t try and cycle fast. The pace of traffic is leisurely slow and keeps you from sweating or getting in accidents with pedestrians, cars, holes in the road and other bikes.
    – Do not assume someone is going to get out of your way – they may be assuming the same about you.
    – Never buy expensive, nice looking bicycles as they may be stolen in a short period of time.

  • Rickshaw

    Anyone with a sense of adventure, who wants to see Beijing in a more Chinese style, can try the man driven vehicle known as the Rickshaw. The ancient part of Beijing infamous for its narrow streets and alleys –known to the locals as hutongs – which are too narrow for cars, so the best and most adventurous way to visit them is via a rickshaw. But remember, ALWAYS bargain real hard! When you reach your limit turn around and walk away to make your point – most of the times they will come back after you, otherwise you can always get another around the next corner.You can also find modern rickshaws, electric pedicabs all around Beijing, if you want to save some walking, they are really appropriate for short distances.

  • Traffic

    Roads in Beijing often are in one of the four compass directions. Additionally, six ring roads, nine expressways and numerous freeways all form an expansive traffic infrastructure around the capital. So far, no elevated highways have been built in Beijing. Beijing’s ring roads and urban sprawl are major factors in clogged up city traffic. There are approximately 3.5 million cars in Beijing; roads in the city centre are often gridlocked during rush hour, whilst smooth traffic is only available late at night.The big problem is that public transportation is still underdeveloped for the nearly 17 million population. Subways and buses are jam-packed with people around rush hour.

    Another problem is the driving situation itself. Respect for the traffic law is only settling in slowly. Many Beijing drivers still pull out to overtake in all directions, and some do not bother with the indicator lights. Traffic violations are rife, checked only by the police on duty. Unblocking traffic, making Beijing’s traffic flow smoothers and getting drivers to abide by traffic laws is a big future challenge for Chinese authorities.

  • Airports

    Beijing’s main airport is the Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK) near Shunyi, which is about 20 km northeast of the Beijing city centre. The Beijing Capital International Airport has 3 terminals. The new Terminal 3 which resembles a Chinese dragon is the world’s largest airport terminal and was constructed to prepare for Olympic visitors. http://www.flickr.com/photos/dutchtom/sets/72157603897477002/
    The airport is linked to central Beijing by the Airport Expressway (a subway ticket costs RMB 25), airport shuttle buses (cost is RMB 16) and is roughly a 40 minute drive from the city centre (a taxi can costs around RMB 130).
    Other airports in the city include Liangxiang Airport, Nanyuan Airport, Xijiao Airport and Badaling Airport but are less well-known.
    If you want to book cheap domestic flight tickets or accommodation, check out these pages:

  • Rail

    Beijing’s three major railway stations are: Beijing Railway Station (or the central station), Beijing West Railway Station and the newly opened Beijing South Railway Station, which is the biggest in China.Beijing is a railway hub with lines from Beijing to all the big cities of China and also some international cities in Russia, Hong Kong and Korea.

    The 120 km long Beijing–Tianjin Intercity Rail was opened on the 1st August 2008, connecting the new railway station with the Olympic co-host city Tianjin which has the world’s fastest scheduled train service at 350 km/h.

    The Beijing-Shanghai Express Railway project is a 1,318 km (819 miles) high speed railway system, designed for speeds of up to 350 km/h (220 mph), cutting Beijing to Shanghai travel time from 10 hours to 5 hours. Construction of the project started on April 18, 2008.

    Currently running is the Beijing to Lhasa line (the capital city of Tibet) which cost USD 4.2 billion and was opened at the start of July 2006. This line is extremely modern in both track, and train as it is the world’s highest line – the train is pressurized when crossing a 16,640 foot pass in Tibet’s Tanggula Mountains, part of the Himalayas.

Rachel Yoon

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