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.
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 RMB 11 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.