Until the new Daxing International Airport opens in late 2019, Beijing Capital Airport remains the best way to enter and leave the city. There are direct links to countless national and international locations with China’s flagship carrier, Air China, as well as international lines China Airlines, China Eastern, and China Southern, plus numerous local carriers. It’s also worth checking on flights to neighboring Tianjin and traveling to Beijing by the 30 to 40-minute bullet train, which runs every 10 to 15 minutes and costs ¥54.5. Check for flights on Ctrip or Elong.
A taxi from Capital Airport to central Beijing should be ¥100–150, including the ¥5 toll, depending on your location and traffic. Make sure your driver uses the meter, and have your hotel’s name and phone number written in Chinese. It is best to avoid the illegal drivers who approach you at the airport.
A cheaper option, at ¥25, is the Beijing Airport Express, a subway line that terminates in Dong Zhi Men. Buy your IC card here, then transfer to city metro, bus, taxi or san lun che (pedicab). Six shuttle bus lines also run to various parts of the city, with one night bus service to downtown, and tickets for these cost ¥20 to 30.
Beijing is a landlocked city, but but ferries from Taiwan, South Korea and Japan disembark at Tianjin Port (Tianjin Xingang), and you can take a metro, bus or a taxi (around ¥25) to Tanggu Railway Station for the bullet train.
China’s extensive train network is an excellent way to travel. Newer trains usually ferry businesspeople back and forth, but the older trains are ideal for families. Bring snacks to share, and you’ll enjoy warm, cozy journeys. The hub of the country’s travel industry, Beijing offers direct international routes to Ulaanbataar, Moscow, Hanoi and Pyongyang from Beijing Railway Station (metro line 2), South Railway Station (lines 4 and 14), and West Railway Station (lines 7 and 9). North Railway Station (also called Xizhimen Station, lines 2, 4 and 13) is for domestic travel. The new Fengtai Railway Station (lines 10 and 16) in the south of the city will open in 2020.
Trains come in an alphabet of classes, from G, the highest-level speed train, with business class and soft sleepers, to K, with hard and soft seats, hard and soft sleepers, and deluxe soft sleepers. The hard sleeper is adequate, but avoid the hard seats. Numbered trains are the slowest and have seats only. Stations are signposted in Chinese and English, but arrive at any station one to two hours early to navigate the crowds. Avoid travel during holiday “golden” weeks, May 1 and October 1.
Dong Zhi Men Station (lines 2 and 13, Beijing Airport Express) is Beijing’s main bus station, but other stations are scattered around the city and services reach all over China.
Beijing now has 22 subway lines, with more on the way. The fare varies with distance, but you can get almost anywhere for ¥6 to ¥10. Buy a Beijing IC card from any station for bus (discount) and metro (no discount), and top it up at any counter or machine. The subway is well lit and frequent trains operate from 5am to 11:30pm. A teller at each stop who will sell you a ticket if you point to your intended stop on a subway map. A bus and subway schedule is available online. Signs and announcements are in Chinese and English, but street maps are only in Chinese, so ask for an exit letter. Most venues are metro accessible.
For non-Chinese speakers, buses are harder to navigate, but show the Chinese address to a friendly passenger, and they’ll tell you when to alight. Use cash (fares range between ¥1 to 12 depending on distance), or your IC card to avail a discount of up to 60 per cent. The Tour Beijing and Beijing Trip websites have prices and other useful information.
Purchase a Beijing IC Card or “Yikatong” inside metro stations, bus stations, and some Chinese supermarkets for a ¥100 and ¥20 deposit respectively, then top it up as needed. It can be used for the metro, buses, taxis and “S” trains to the Great Wall, and unused money can be refunded.
Although cabs are comparatively affordable, many Beijing taxi drivers lack city knowledge, or see foreigners as easy marks. Never take an unmetered taxi, and avoid parked cars outside tourist attractions; flag one down instead. Black (illegal) cabs are regular cars marked with a horizontal red windshield light; these are not reliable for price or safety. Uber and Lyft are difficult unless you read Chinese. Make sure you have the destination written in Chinese, and a phone number to call. Note that taxis don’t accept credit cards.
Cycling is the ideal way to see Beijing, particularly the hutongs and historical areas. You can borrow a bike from most hostels or rent one from organizations such as Bike Beijing. Using public bikes, such as Mobike, involves downloading an app and a registration process, but it’s a good way to save money as bikes cost just ¥1 per hour. Payment for these is only via WeChat or Alipay.
Inexperienced cyclists should take care: e-bike riders and cyclists don’t tend to stop at red lights, and they frequently drive and ride on the wrong side of the road. There are bike lanes everywhere, but cars use them as parking lots, which forces the riders into the streets. Neither cyclists nor pedestrians look both ways before pulling out or stepping into the road, and zebra crossings are nothing more than asphalt decoration. It’s best to try a day or so in the quieter hutongs to gauge your comfort level. Once you’re out in the city traffic, being a proactive, defensive rider is the best course of action.
4008 100 999
400 888 6998
4006 695 539
(22) 2570 7550