Getting Around China
With a rail network that consists of almost fifty three thousand kilometers of tracks, trains reach every province in China with the exception of Tibet. While they are usually quite crowded, they are comparative in price to bus travel and are a much safer mode of transport. It is worth noting, however, that since they can be busy it is a good idea to book your ticket at least two to three days in advance to ensure that you get a seat. Many stations, particularly in the bigger cities have special booths for foreigners where you probably won't have to queue as long but prices are more expensive.
While long-distance buses are the most popular means of getting around the country and are both frequent and cheap, some of the private services can prove quite dangerous. While this is probably the exception as rather than the norm, it is recommended that you avail of government-operated services that are safer and more reliable. They do travel to several areas not served by train, however, as well as taking you through some wonderful scenery that you probably wouldn't see otherwise and should not be disregarded as a means of getting around the country.
Know how to get around in various towns of China like Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Qinhuangdao, Qingdao and Sheyang.
Getting around Shanghai
Shanghai is massive, so it is very useful to have an up-to-date transportation or "jiao tong" map. This can be found in most hotels and convenient stores, some include outlines of subway and bus routes. The city has a great public transportation system offering busses, ferries, a subway, and a light rail. Taxis will also get you anywhere you want to go. Spend some time familiarizing yourself with where you want to go and far it will be. While some areas are close enough to walk, it is good to get a sense of this early.
There are five subway lines which have connections all over the city of Shanghai, and have stops at or nearby all of the main attractions and commercial areas. Except during rush hour, the subway is the fastest and most comfortable way for visitors to get around Shanghai. The subway trains are very clean, and their stations and exits are clearly labeled in English and Chinese. The base fare is 3RMB (US$ 0.37). For visitors who plan to stay in Shanghai for a long period of time, it would be wise to buy a rechargeable Shanghai Public Transportation Card which could be used to pay for subway, bus, ferry, and taxi rides. The fare is automatically deducted from the amount remaining on the card, and more money can be added to the card. The card can be purchased in the Shanghai's subway stations. All visitors riding the subway are reminded to take care of their belongings.
Shanghai Maglev Train (SMT) has been operated since the end of 2002 and is the world's first and only commercialized maglev train line in operation. It runs from Pudong International Airport to Longyang Road, and the whole journey takes only 8 minutes. At Shanghai Maglev Longyang Road Station, tourists can transfer to Subway Line 2 and many buses which can take you to the urban area of Shanghai. The train operates once every 15 minutes. The line operates daily between 06:45-21:30; a one-way ticket costs 50 RMB (about 7.27 US dollars) for those passengers holding a receipt of an airline ticket purchase. A round-trip return ticket costs 80 RMB, and VIP tickets costs double the standard fare.
Shanghai subway Maglev Train
As in other large cities, Shanghai has taxis roaming the city and they are available 24 hours a day. Visitors can take a taxi from virtually anywhere, and it is the most common means of transportation to get around Shanghai. Taxi is the speediest form of transportation in the city, except during rush hour. Rush hour in Shanghai is from about 7:30 to 9:00AM, and then again in the evening from about 4:45-6:30PM. During regular hours, the first 5 kilometers (or 3 miles) are 10.8rmb and 1.6rmb per km (0.6 mile) after that. After 11:00pm, prices are 12.6rmb for the first 5kilometers. It is possible to get lower rates during rush hours. All visitors to Shanghai are recommended to take one of their hotel's business cards. They will have directions back to their hotels, and if they get lost, they just need to hand it to the taxi driver and they can get back without a problem.
By Public Bus:
The bus system in Shanghai is probably the cheapest and most convenient way to get around the city. The bus lines in the downtown area, crisscrosses Shanghai like a spider web, but don't expect to get anywhere in a hurry by buses in Shanghai. Some buses have conductors but others only have money boxes in the front of the bus with no change given. For visitors on a brief tour of the city, there is a sightseeing Bus Center located under the no. 5 staircase at Gate 12 of the Shanghai Stadium. The sightseeing bus lines run to many sites located on the outskirts of the city. Shanghai also has new air-conditioned buses, special line buses, medium buses and double deck buses which have different rates depending on the type of bus. An average bus costs 1rmb, while an air conditioned bus costs 2rmb. All visitors are reminded to take care of their belongings.
By Bike or On Foot:
A bicycle is still the main form of transportation for millions of Shanghai's residents and bikes are available for rent or sale to visitors. Though it is not the best idea to ride along the main avenues in Shanghai during rush hours, it is still enjoyable to have a cycling tour around the city. If a bike is your chosen option, remember to buy a bike lock. It is recommended that visitors park their bikes in watched over by an attendant. For the ones who want to stroll in the fascinating Shanghai streets, it would be better to take the tour on foot as it is best way to see Shanghai's sights and experience life at street-level. Shanghai's roads change all the time, so walking through the city requires visitors to get up to date route information before they plan to go. Hotels can offer visitors with directions through the city.
By Boat or Tunnel:
To shift the thousands of daily visitors between east and west Shanghai, there are now nine basic routes. The ferry terminal is at the southern end of the Bund on the west shore, and the southern end of Riverside Avenue at Dongchang Lu on the east shore. Five more routes across the river make use of tunnels,and the Waitan Bund Sightseeing Tunnel which is equipped with glass covered tram cars that glide through a subterranean 3-minute light show with music and a narrative.
The Bund sightseeing tunnel Boat on Huangpu river
Getting Around China from Shanghai
Shanghai has two international airports and is a nexus for international flights. Pudong Airport, about an hour's drive from the city center, handles most international and some domestic flights. The Hongqiao Airport located 18km (11miles) from the Bund is reachable via bus, shuttle or taxi. Shanghai's airports have flights to most international and domestic destinations.
By Train or Long-distance Bus:
Shanghai is at the junction of the Beijing-Shanghai and Beijing-Hangzhou train lines, so many of China's major destinations can be reached by direct train from Shanghai. There are a number of long-distance bus stations in Shanghai, the busiest one is the Hengfeng Lu that has a 13-hour trip to Beijing.
Getting around Beijing
Beijing is big. In fact, Beijing is a province all of its own, but fortunately most of the things tourists are interested in are located within the reasonably small downtown area.
When we say 'downtown' or 'central Beijing' we generally mean the area within the second ring road, or within the circle line of the subway. Calling it the 'second ring road' is a bit confusing, it's actually the innermost. The theoretical 'first ring road' is Chang'an Jie, which runs East-West across central Beijing and is not in any way ring-like.
The Beijing subway is possibly the best way to get around Beijing and it'll be even better by 2008. There are currently two main lines and one other that goes wandering off through the Northern suburbs – by 2008 there should be five more if all goes to plan. The first may be completed next year. The Beijing subway is extremely cheap, very rarely out of service, and the speed puts Beijing's buses to shame. All this leads to its one disadvantage – horrendous crowds.
The two Beijing subway lines you're most likely to use are Line 1 (The East-West Line) and Line 2 (The Circle Line). The East-West Line runs through the heart of Beijing, past Tiananmen Square, and intersects the Circle Line at Jianguomen and Fuxingmen. The Circle Line follows the route of the Second Ring Road, roughly encircling central Beijing. Line 13 has two interchanges with the Circle Line and meanders away to the North from there.
Line 5, due to be completed in 2007, will run North-South through Dong Cheng, the Eastern part of central Beijing, meeting the circle line at Yonghegong and Chongwenmen, and Line 1 at Dongdan.
Currently the flat fare for a single journey on the Beijing subway is 3Y irrespective of how far you travel, which line or any interchanges, but this will probably rocket in the near future.
Beijing taxis are a really good way to get around and mercifully cheap. The flagfall fare is 10Y and a further 2.0Y or 1.6Y per km thereafter depending on the type of taxi. The rate per km is indicated by sticker in the back window, rates go up 20% at night.
Beijing taxis are being standardised in the drive to modernise the city before the Beijing Olympics in 2008. Older 1.2Y/km taxis are being phased out and the colour scheme is being standardised (yellow bottom, roof coloured according to the taxi firm). A red light on the dashboard comes on when the taxi is looking for a fare. There are often taxi ranks near bus stops but it's ok to wave down a taxi anywhere except at junctions. Beijing taxi drivers are legally obliged to use the meter, if they don't then tell them to.
Although in theory all Beijing taxi drivers are required to pass an English exam before 2008, most don't seem to have started cramming yet. Get a Chinese friend or the hotel receptionist to write your destination down in Chinese and show it to the driver. Carry a hotel namecard with you for the journey back.
Most Beijing taxi drivers are honest and will chat happily away in a thick Beijing accent decipherable only by their immediate families. An unscrupulous minority may try to boost the fare by taking you the long way round so try to keep track of where you're going on the map. Taxi drivers love to get onto one of Beijing's ring roads, often quicker but invariably more expensive.
Steer well clear of the 'taxi drivers' who approach you at the airport saying 'hello taxi'. Note that they picked out the foreigner. The same applies to drivers who lurk outside railway stations, bus stations and hotels. All of these places have taxi ranks, if they're not in it then they're up to no good.
In all legitimate Beijing taxis you'll notice the driver's photograph, name and identification number on a laminated plastic card on the dashboard. If you think you're being scammed then look and sound annoyed (without losing your temper) and make a show of writing down the their details. They'll straighten up soon enough.
Beijing buses are slow, old and crowded and the roads are choked with traffic. One of the few advantages of taking a bus in Beijing is that you can have fun counting the number of old ladies who pass you as you wait for hour after hour in traffic jams. Not only are Beijing's buses overcrowded and slow, but you face the added problem of all the destinations being written in Chinese.
It seems likely that since the Beijing Municipal Government is over hauling everything else in the city, it might also do something about the buses before Beijing hosts the Olympics in 2008. If it does we'll let you know, but for now we can't recommend you rely on them. By all means try one out just for the experience, but if you actually want to get from A to B, finding alternative transport might be better.
For decades the bicycle was king in Beijing, and it's still a very good way to get round. The city's dead flat and there are very good bicycle lanes. Beijing's car drivers are perhaps not the most considerate, but this drawback is made up for by safety in numbers – there are still loads of cyclists in Beijing.
If you decide to cycle around Beijing, try and fit a hutong into your route map. Cycling through a Beijing hutong is an enchanting, unforgettable experience.
Bicycles can be hired from most budget hotels and there are bike lots (sometimes with an attendant) everywhere you look. You can expect to pay anything from 10-50Y for one day's hire and you'll have to leave a deposit. Bicycle theft is a huge problem in Beijing, put your bike nicely in the middle, away from the roadside but in plain sight.
Safety: Bike lights and crash helmets are an unknown phenomenon in Beijing. We strongly recommend you bring your own. If not, be extremely careful at night and wear bright clothing. Be particularly careful at junctions, where cars turn right irrespective of the colour of the lights.
Getting Around in Hong Kong
Mass Transit Railway (MTR) is the most efficient transport system in Hong Kong. Using the MTR, one could travel in faster and most convenient way. Bus service is the backbone of public transport system in Hong Kong. Many of these buses are double-deckers. In front part of these buses, final destinations are displayed in English and Chinese languages. One could also avail taxi services or rent a car. Rickshaws in Hong Kong are now a tourist attraction. Ferry services connect Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, the Outlying Islands, Macau and Mainland China.
Getting around Yunnan
Yunnan, home to some of China's most spectacular ancient villages and natural sites, is an extremely popular tourist destination. It has convenient modern transportation facilities. You can get there by train, airplanes or bus. Kunming, the capital city of Yunnan, is also the transportation hub of Yunnan.
Getting Around in Yunnan:
The easiest means of getting around in Yunnan's cities is by taking one of the many taxis. The drivers are always happy to give advice to visitors. The first 3 kilometers cost 8 Yuan and 1.8 Yuan after that. Visitors do not need to worry about not being able to get back to their hotel, because every hotel will offer its guests a business card written in Chinese and English that will inform the taxi drivers where you are staying and how to take you back there.
There are more than 50 bus lines which can take you to the every corner of Kunming. Taking the bus is one of the best and most convenient ways to get around the city. It costs one Yuan per person to take the bus. Change is not given, so it is important to make sure visitors carry exact change with them. The public busses make stops at all of the city's major sites and the downtown commercial centers.
The primary mode of transportation around Kunming and much of Yunnan is still the bicycle. It is also a perfect way for visitors to explore the city. It offers visitors the chance to stop where they would like, for as long as they want. Bicycles can be rented in many places such as Kun lake hotel and camellia hotel. Rental costs 2 Yuan per hour or 15 Yuan per day plus deposit. The deposit for a new bicycle is 400 Yuan, and a used one is 200 Yuan.
Getting around Qingdao
Local buses are the cheapest way to move around Qingdao. Air-conditioned tourist bus would take around the city for sightseeing. One could also hire taxis for the purpose. The ferryboat links Qingdao Old City to Huangdao.
This is the way most locals get around. The fare is RMB 1 to get pretty much anywhere in Qingdao. There are lots of buses buzzing around and wherever you are, there probably will be a bus stop nearby. At rush hour, they can get pretty crowded, however, they are great to have during that time as they zip by most traffic as there are bus lanes on the main roads in the downtown district. However, if you wish to take a bus to another city, you'll have to go to the long distance bus station.
Taxis are cheap and plentiful, except of course during the shift change, which is at about 6pm.. The fare starts at RMB 8 and goes up by RMB1.1 per KM. Trying to find a taxi during heavy rain can also be a nightmare. Most cab drivers are quite friendly and are always willing to converse with a foreigner, even if you don't speak Chinese.
There are plenty of flights going around China from Qingdao's LiuTing Airport. However, traveling internationally can only take you as far as Japan, Hong Kong or Korea. If you are going anywhere else, you have to go through Shanghai and Beijing (1 hour flight) The fares are gener ally quite reasonable (not during high season though). A tip for you : In China the fares go down as you get closer to the flight date.
For short distance, inter-city travel, we recommend the train. Its cheap, quite comfortable, although the food is something left to be desired. As far as comfort, there are hard seats, soft seats, hard and soft sleepers (prices go up in this order). For example at hard sleeper to Beijing which is a 12 hour ride costs about RMB100. If you have the time, its an experience worth having at least once.
You can rent a private car with a driver for a day at between 200-400 RMB (depending on the car). There are some expats who drive here, although we do not recommend it unless you're going to live here for a long time. Be Careful though!!!
Getting around Tianjin
Tianjin metro is the best way to move around the city. City buses are the cheapest way to travel in Tianjin. However, the language could pose a problem while traveling in a bus. Tianjin light railway is considered the longest throughout China with two departure stations. The city also has an efficient taxi service.Tianjin has three ring roads. Unlike Beijing, the Inner and Middle Ring Roads are not closed, traffic-controlled roadways and some often have traffic light intersections. The Outer Ring Road is the closest thing to a highway-level ring road, although traffic is often chaotic and sometimes more than chaotic.
Tianjin public bus system consists of school bus routes, special sight-seeing routes, and regular routes, which include inner city and suburban lines. If you take an inner city bus route, you will pay RMB 1 for 12 kilometers or less and RMB 1.5 for more. If you take a suburb line, the fare is charged on the basis of RMB 1 for the first 10 kilometers and RMB 0.5 for each additional 5 kilometers (about 3.1 miles).
The starting flat rate fare in Tianjin is RMB 8 for all taxis; while the distance surcharge varies from RMB 1.5 C RMB 2 per additional kilometer according to taxies you choose. If the taxi stops altogether for 5 minutes, for any reason, you will have to pay a surcharge equivalent to the distance surcharge for each additional kilometer.
Tianjin Sky Train / Light Rail
Tianjin light rail is considered as one of the longest throughout China with two departure stations, the light rail centers in Zhongshan Men and the Development Zone. The departure interval is 15 minutes and the entire distance will take 40 minutes and costs RMB 6.
Tianjin Metro Line 1 is an extension of the original line. It starts from the junction of Nanjing Lu and Xinhua Lu and passes through 6 districts, Beichen, Hongqiao, Nankai, Heping, Hexi and Jinnan. Metro Line 1 runs every 15 minutes from 5:30 am to 10:30 pm. The whole journey will take you about 12 minutes.
Getting around Yunnan
The cheapest way to move around the city is the city buses. More than 3,000 buses move in the roads of Shenyang. The city also has a good taxi system which helps the visitors to move around the city conveniently.
Shenyang Taoxian International Airport is the largest airport of northeast China. Speedway connects Shenyang and the airport, which makes the transportation rather convenient. Airlines here can reach 58 domestic cities and foreign cities in Korea, Japan, Thailand, Russia, France, America and Australia. Therefore Shenyang is the third city in China (following Beijing and Shanghai) that offers air passage across Europe, America and Oceania. Addressor of China Southern Airline said that before the International Horticultural Exposition they will try to open some other international routes from Shenyang to Amsterdam, San Francisco, New York, Munich, Ho Chi Minh City and so on.
From Shenyang city to the airport, there are aviation regular buses which you can get on at the air tickets sales center at Maluwan, No.117, Zhonghua Lu. The bus runs every hour. The last bus to the airport is at 19:00 o'clock. The schedules of the buses from the airport to Shenyang City depend on arrival time of planes. No matter when the plane arrives, there is bus waiting for you. You can get on it in front of the waiting hall. The whole journey will cost you 10 Yuan and take you about 40 minutes. If you want to take a taxi to get to Shenyang downtown area, it will cost you about 50 Yuan.
By City Bus
There are more than 140 city buses lines in Shenyang. Buses can reach almost every place in Shenhe District, Huanggu District, Tiexi District, Heping District and Dadong District. The ticket fare for mini-buses with conductors depends on the number of stops you have to take, the ticket fare is 1 Yuan for big city buses without conductors.
There are about 193 taxi companies in Shenyang at present, with a total of 170,000 in operation. As for the brand of taxies here in Shenyang, there are Santana, Jetta, Zhonghua (belongs to the high-rank), and the like. Except those air-conditioned taxies (eight Yuan for the first three kilometers (about 1.9 miles)), the usual price for a taxi is seven Yuan for the first three kilometers. An additional charge of one Yuan for every 600 meters (about 656.2 yards) is charged for both non-air conditioned and air conditioned taxies.
There will be BMW taxies available during the period of the 2006 International Horticultural Exposition. They will mainly provide service for distinguished guests coming to attend this exposition. The price is 10 Yuan (12 Yuan from 22:00 pm to 6:00 am in the next morning) for the first three kilometers and 2 Yuan (2.5 Yuan from 22:00 pm to 6:00 am in the next morning) for each extra kilometer (about 0.6 mile). If the taxi stops at your request, you have to pay 2 Yuan for every five minutes.