Massive and getting bigger every year, with another 12 lines set to be in operation by 2021, the Běijīng subway system is modern, safe, cheap and easy to use. It does get crowded, though. Fares are ¥3 to ¥8, depending on how far you are travelling. Get hold of a travel card (refundable deposit ¥20) if you don’t want to queue for tickets each time you travel. The travel card also gets you a 50% discount on all bus journeys within the municipality of Běijīng.
To recognise a subway station (地铁站; dì tiě zhàn), look for the subway symbol, which is a blue English capital ‘D’ with a circle around it.
The Metroman smartphone app reveals the Běijīng subway map in all its ever-expanding glory, with stations listed in both English and Chinese.
The most fun and often the quickest way to get around. Almost every road has a bike lane. Bike rental per day is around ¥50, or take advantage of Běijīng's bike-sharing scheme.
The best way to see Běijīng’s hútòng.
Quick, modern and easy to use (all signage is in Chinese and English), but often crowded, so don't expect a seat. Fares range from ¥3 to ¥8.
Dirt cheap and they go everywhere, but difficult for non-Chinese speakers to negotiate, and often overcrowded. Per trip ¥2; with travel card ¥0.8.
Fares have to be negotiated (rickshaws don't have meters) and tourists are often heavily overcharged. We don't recommend using them.
Cheap by Western standards but at certain times hard to find, and traffic jams can really slow things down. Flag fall is ¥13.
dǎ dī (打的) To take a taxi (colloquial)
dǎ biǎo (打表) To use the meter
qù _____ duōshǎo qián? How much to _____ ?
zuò chē (坐车) To take a bus
qù _____ ma? Does this go to _____ ?
mǎi piào (买票) To buy a ticket
yīkǎtōng (一卡通) Travel card
shuā kǎ (刷卡) To swipe a travel card
xià chē (下车) To get off any vehicle
dào le! (到了) We've arrived!
kuài dào le (到了) We're nearly there
dǔ chē (堵车) Traffic jam
zū zìxíngchē (租自行车) To rent a bicycle
yǒu suǒ ma? (有锁吗?) Do you have a bike lock?
dǎ qì (打气) To pump up a tyre
Rush hour Roughly 7.30am to 8.30am and 6pm to 7pm. This is when the subway is heaving, but it's also very tough to find an available taxi. Avoid these times if you can, or cycle.
Rainstorms Taxis are always elusive when it's raining.
Evening In areas where there are lots of bars and restaurants, it can be hard to find a taxi from around 8pm to 10pm.
Buses 专1 & 专2 These two handy buses do clockwise circuits of the Forbidden City, looping south to Qiánmén, via Tiān'ānmén Sq.
Subway Lines 1 & 2 For 30 years, until 2002, these were Běijīng's only two subway lines. They're still the most useful for tourists, as between them they get you to the Forbidden City, Tiān'ānmén Sq, the Drum Tower, the Lama Temple, the main train station and the shopping hubs of Xīdān and Wángfǔjǐng.
Rickshaws (三轮车; sānlúnchē) are less common these days, but you will still see them (both the cycle-powered ones and the motorised ones), especially around major tourist sights. Generally speaking they’re more expensive than taxis, and foreign tourists are often heavily overcharged, so we don't advise using them.
Rickshaw tours (one hour, per person ¥100) can be taken around the Hòuhǎi Lakes and around the alleys by the Drum Tower, although they are aimed mostly at tour groups, and riders don’t speak English.