Beijing has a reputation for being a city that is difficult to get around, though that has changed somewhat with additions to the subway and highway systems following the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The city's notorious traffic—the source of much of its equally infamous air pollution—tends to clog the inner ring roads and highways during the day, with traffic only clearing after the evening rush hour winds down around 8pm. This often makes a subway-taxi combo the best bet, limiting road time to a ride to the nearest subway station. The trains are usually packed, but the system is efficient and quick. The cars make cycling less appealing than it once was, but most main roads have separate bike lanes and exploring the heart of the Beijing on two wheels is a great way to go. Walking the center is also advised, though the size of the capital makes frequent cab—whether taxi or pedicab—trips a necessity for many visitors.
By far the best option for the carless in Beijing (and it’s only getting better as the city adds to the existing network at a brisk pace) the subway links most major areas of the city together. Stops are conveniently spaced to allow for easy walking or a cheap cab fare to your ultimate destination. You can get an all-around public transportation card from vendors in most subway stations; these cards work for the buses and the subway system as well. With the exception of the Airport Express, the flat fare for the subway is only RMB 2 per ride. Trains arrive every few minutes and even though some of the major stops (Tian'anmen East and Tian'anmen West for example) can be very crowded, the price beats a cab and the convenience beats a bus any day.
Beijing taxi drivers have a reputation for tricking tourists, especially from the airport, so always make sure you're in a metered cab and don't accept negotiated fares. That said, the city government began enforcing regulations in advance of the Olympics, and cabbie behavior has reportedly improved. Taxis come in cheap and expensive versions. The cheaper ones are the older cars that charge RMB 10 to start and RMB 2 per km after the first 3 km; newer, more expensive cabs start at RMB 12. The starting rate goes up to RMB 3-5 at night.
You can call 961001 or 68373399 to request a cab, but don't expect English to be understood. If you can't tell your driver where to go in Chinese, prepare by printing out your destination address in Chinese characters or having someone write them down for you, and always carry a business card for you hotel.
Pedicab (Sānlúnchē, 三轮车)
Pedicab drivers congregate along busy intersections and tourist areas, offering weary pedestrians a respite from walking. Scenery passes by pleasantly in a pedicab—just remember to bargain before boarding.
Probably the most cost-efficient, most fun and the healthiest (save for car exhaust) method for getting around the city. Large, clearly marked bike lanes run alongside most major artery roads and side streets and lanes generally make for good (if somewhat slow, on occasion) riding. Locals can seem to be aggressive riders at first, but soon you settle into the flow and realize that as long as you keep moving and fill the space in front of you, you’ll be fine, and when it comes to cars and buses, there are hundreds of thousands of bikes on Beijing’s streets and you can expect to enjoy the safety of the pack.
Rent a bike at one of the city's hotels or hostels. Rates range from RMB 20-30/day plus a refundable RMB 100-200 deposit.
Beijing is connected to the world at large and to major Chinese cities by a long list of daily Beijing flights that depart from and arrive at Beijing Capital International Airport. If departing, be sure you know your terminal, and when arriving, know how you plan to get to your accommodation—taxi, shuttle bus and subway are the basic options.
Beijing Capital International Airport Terminal 1 is the Beijing hub for domestic China airlines including Hainan Airlines, Grand China Air, Deer Air and Tianjin Airlines.
Beijing Capital International Airport Terminal 2 houses both Chinese domestic and international airlines, including China Southern Airlines, China Eastern Airlines, Air China, Shanghai Airlines and international Skyteam and Star Alliance airlines.
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