Transportation and Traffic - Beijing Destination Guide
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Transportation and Traffic

Getting Around

Beijing has a reputation for being a difficult city to get around in, though that promises to change somewhat with additions to the subway and highway systems coming on line by mid 2008, just in time for the 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 8:00 p.m. 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 city 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.


As of 2007, the system was comprised of Lines 1, 2, 5, 13 (light rail) and the Badong Line. Lines 8, 9 and 10 are slated for completion in 2008. Line 1 (the east-west line) runs past Tiananmen Square from the West Pingguoyuan Station to Sihui Station in the east; Line 2 (the circle line) runs around the center of the city with a Beijing Railway Station stop at its southeast corner. Subways run from 5:00 am to 11:00 pm. As of 2008, all fares are RMB 2 throughout the system. The system has undergone upgrades to accommodate a new yikatong (a "one card pass" smart card) system—buy a card for a RMB 20 deposit and add value in RMB 10 increments. Some taxis now also accept yikatong payment.

Click here to have a look at the Route of Beijing Subway


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 has begun enforcing regulations in advance of the Olympics, and cabbie behavior has reportedly improved. Fares start at RMB 10 during the day and RMB11 after 10 p.m. After the first three kilometers (about 1.7 miles), each additional kilometer is between RMB 1.20 and 1.60, depending on the make of the taxi.

Pedicab (San Lun Che)

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.


Bike-riding in Beijing offers a wonderful perspective of the capital (especially if you stay off the large boulevards). 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.

To and from Beijing


Beijing's Capital International Airport lies 30 km (18.6 miles) northeast of the city center (a 45 minute car ride without much traffic). Reach the airport by taxi or airport bus (RMB 16) from the Xidan Civil Aviation Mansion, the Art Gallery, the entrance of Beijing Railway Station and the Princess Tomb. The trip from airport to the center runs about RMB 100.


Beijing is home to two main train stations: Beijing Railway Station (Beijing Zhan) and Beijing West Station (Beijing Xi Zhan). Double check your ticket to make sure you know the correct departure station. Beijing Railway Station serves major destinations including Shanghai, Guangzhou and Harbin as well as Russia. Beijing West Station connects to long-distance destinations to the south and west including Vietnam and Hong Kong. Six smaller stations provide additional regional service. Purchase tickets at the foreign passenger ticket office in the main station's soft-seat waiting room or ask your hotel or travel agent to arrange train travel for you.


Beijing's 12 long-distance bus stations provide numerous options for travel to cities around China, however bus travel can be quite tricky if you don't speak some Mandarin. The main bus stations include Xizhimen, Dongzhimen and Zhaogongkou. Local buses are cheap but often slow because of traffic and almost always crowded. Fares are usually RMB 1 or 2; some routes charge extra for distance. A yikatong card saves money, bringing base fares down to .40 RMB for most routes. Tour buses can be arranged through travel agents and hotels.

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