Travel Around the City

Part of the Travel section of A Better Guide to Běijīng’s Practical A–Z

200,000 vehicles enter Běijīng from surrounding areas every day to join over 5.5 million vehicles registered in the capital, or so local research says. In 2011, although it took China Daily until 2014 to report it, the average journey time to work in Běijīng was 97 minutes, although in 2015 Internet search giant Bǎidù announced it was 52 minutes. The average speed of traffic during rush hours (which the Chinese call gāo fēng, 高峰 — high peak) on the Second and Third Ring Roads is less than 40kph, although still three times as fast as London. The driving motto is ‘no scrape too narrow, no shave too close’.

Meanwhile the metro (subway) system, which took from 1969 to 2000 to complete two lines, had by the end of 2014 reached 18 lines and over 500km, with further lines added in successive years. Yet crowding can be intense, and by early 2015 over 60 stations had queuing restriction at certain times, although these are typically at terminus stations where large numbers begin long commutes into work. Some send family members ahead to keep places in line while schoolchildren and office workers finish their breakfasts.

A sharp increase in fares at the very end of 2014 produced only a modest decrease in traffic volumes, but nevertheless for much of the day in the city centre surface transport crawls, and going underground is the only way to get around the city at any speed.

To avoid spending most of the day in travel, sights are best seen in groups of neighbours, or those directly connected by metro. This book sets them out geographically, with information after each entry as to what’s nearby, and the Alphabetical List of Metro Stations With Links to Nearby Sights tells you all the sights neighbouring any chosen metro station.

Travel Smart Card or Yìkǎtōng 一卡通

While individual journey tickets may be purchased for metro or bus travel the convenience provided by this stored-value card make it an essential purchase even if the reclaimable deposit of ¥20 is abandoned.

Cards may be purchased from the ticket windows at most metro stations. Simply show these characters and hand over a note, or indicate with fingers how much of its value you want stored on your card. The first ¥20 is used for the deposit, and values above that may be added in units of ¥10, and topped up at ticketing machines (with English menus), or at separate machines labelled ‘add value’, with a minimum addition of ¥50. In the event that ¥100 of value is used on the metro within a month the next ¥50 of travel comes at a 20% discount, and the next ¥250 after that within the same month at a 50% discount.

Most bus journeys within the city cost ¥1 but are permanently reduced to ¥0.40 if the Yìkǎtōng is used, and higher fares on longer routes are discounted by 50%. But the main incentive is speed and convenience. At the metro there’s no need to line up for ticket machines and to find the right change, nor to calculate fares. Simply tap to open the ticket gate and tap again when exiting at your final station. On ¥1 flat fare buses tap once on the detector as you board. On routes with distance-based fares and which have a detector at the exit, tap again as you alight. The card may also be used, once registered for that purpose, at the city’s automated bike rental sites (see By Bicycle below), and in taxis, but with occasional difficulties (see By Taxi, below).

The card stops working after a journey that bites into the deposit amount, which acts as a safety net. The balance is shown on turnstiles as you exit or is obtainable (together with a spy-friendly list of all your journeys) at machines labelled ‘automatic analyser’. Refunds may be obtained at Běi Tǔchéng, Dōng Dān, Dōng Zhí Mén, Gǔ Chéng, Fùxīng Mén, Jiànguó Mén, Lì Shuǐ Qiáo, Sháoyào Jū, Sì Huì, Sòng Jiā Zhuāng, Yōnghé Gōng Lama Temple, Xī Zhí Mén, and Zhīchūn Lù stations, and some branches of CITI Bank. Service is 8am–5pm and the balance claimed must be less than ¥100.

Check the balance carefully in the closing days of your visit, and remember that the Airport Express Line has a separate ¥25 fare and that the card does not work on Airport Bus services. Keep the card as a souvenir, or pass it to someone else visiting Běijīng.

In 2015 it was announced that the card will at some point become available in a wrist strap form, addressable and rechargable via mobile phone, with health monitoring functions, and usable to pay in shops. But in 2017 an Yìkǎtōng app was produced allowing for payment by phone. Unfortunately for visitors this is Android-only (since Apple requires all payments to funnel through its own app), only in Mandarin (北京一卡通), and requires a Chinese bank account.

By Metro 地铁


Běijīng’s metro is a mixture of underground (地铁, dìtiě) and overground light rail (城铁, chéngtiě or 轻轨, qīngguǐ), much of it elevated. For more than a century, London’s Tube, the oldest metro system in the world, also remained the world’s longest. But in the last decade that system has been overtaken by Shànghǎi and then by Běijīng, which at 19 lines, 345 stations and 574km of track (end-2016) is already China’s longest, and is planned to reach 1000km with several more lines and extensions opening annually by 2020. (For now Seoul in South Korea has the longest system.) There are on average over 10 million passenger-journeys daily (2017).

The trains are not particularly fast, especially on the older lines, but considerably faster than typical speeds at ground level. Driverless 80km/h trains were introduced on some routes in 2015, and new signalling will increase frequencies on older lines.

The system has long been unable to decide whether it should call itself a metro or a subway system, although in recent years the latter term has become perhaps the more common. The underground sections are mostly cut-and-fill, some parts of it said to be the conversion of a network of underground escape tunnels originally devised for the use of Máo Zédōng and cronies. Despite the crowding the metro should almost always be your first choice, and indeed your choice of accommodation should be influenced by its proximity to a metro station.

The system is easy to use, with all signage and announcements in both Mandarin and English. While the current enthusiasts keep addressing it, the map on Wikipedia ( is uncharacteristically accurate, is in English and pīnyīn, and is updated more swiftly than that on the official Běijīng Subway site. But the latter does have a useful journey time and fare calculator at It’s in Chinese only but as you have the characters in this book and know where you are and where you’re going, not difficult to use.

Click first on the departure station and then the arrival one. At the bottom of the panel on the left you’ll then see in red something like 16站 (zhàn, stations — the number of stations on your journey including arrival and departure stations, 次 (, times — the number of changes of train on your route), 39分钟 (fēn zhōng, minutes — the duration of your journey), and 5元 (yuán — the price). There’s also a phone app called Beijing Subway (or sometimes Beijing Metro) which offers the same assistance in English.

The rest of the site ( offers limited information about the system, except for Line 4, the linked Dàxīng Line, and Line 14, all of which are run more efficiently and profitably by Hong Kong’s MTR, with details at

Stations are marked with blue-and-white name signs in Chinese characters and English, and a symbol with a D (for dìtiě) in a circle. Those with movement disabilities should know that the use of at least some stairs is usually unavoidable at some point en route to the platforms, lifts are few, escalators are frequently up only, and wheelchair lifts for staircases are also few and rarely if ever seen in operation. Those permanently in wheelchairs should bring plentiful support as significant carrying is likely, and crowds sometimes both intense and unsympathetic.

By early 2015 entry restrictions had been brought into operation at peak times at 61 stations and this number was increased to 76 stations in 2017. At peak times you must queue to enter the station.

Queues can be long in the mornings at stations towards the end of suburban lines. m Tiāntōng Yuàn on Line 5 is known as ‘Sleeping City’ because by the time commuting residents reach home it’s time to go to bed. It’s another side-effect of inept urban planning, with residential towers built to profit developers and without the necessary infrastructure. Line 5 was first mooted in 1981, but construction didn’t take place until 2004–7.

Tokyo may be famous for employing pushers to help fill metro cars, but they were retired many years ago. Stations such as m Tiāntōng Yuàn have recently introduced them. It sometimes seems as if a significant proportion of the system’s 10 million daily journeys start there. But with one or two exceptions restrictions are at times and places unlikely to affect visitors (see Alphabetical List of Metro Stations With Links to Nearby Sights, for individual station details). Lines 4, 5, 10, and 13 are particularly crowded.

At the end of 2014 fares switched from a flat fee to charges based on distance, with promises of off-peak discounts to come in the future. The minimum charge is ¥3 for up to 6km; ¥4 for 6–12km, ¥5 for 12–22km, ¥6 for 22–32km, and a further ¥1 for each additional 20km. Tickets include transfers to any other metro line except the Airport Express Line which has a separate flat fare of ¥25 for any journey including the short hop between m Dōng Zhí Mén and m Sān Yuán Qiáo, and which is payable when switching to that line, in cash or by tapping your card.

Children up to 1.2m in height are free. Those taller pay full price.

The best way to deal with ticketing is to purchase an Yìkǎtōng stored value travel card (see above), but maps at each station tell you the fares to other stations, and machines selling individual journey tickets have English menus. These take ¥1 coins, or ¥5 or ¥10 notes. Larger notes must be taken to the ticket window. Machines give change, but be wary of people offering help with the machines, as part of the change will end up in their pockets as ‘commission’ often without you knowing. The average subway fare is now said to be ¥4.30, offering the government some relief from subsidies that reached ¥20 billion in 2013, about 58% of real costs.

If every fēn of expenditure counts, then at 34 stations there are also machines that give travel credit (or mobile phone credit) for the recyclable plastic bottles you load into them.

At the entrance to the ticket hall or at the ticket barriers there will be an airport-style X-ray machine for all your bags, and it’s this that slows things down the most.

Automated ticket barriers require you to tap your card or feed in and collect your ticket, which the barrier at the other end of your journey will swallow.

Lines are numbered, coloured coded, and named with the terminus station in that direction of travel. The exceptions are circular Lines 2 and 10 where the direction is given using the name of the next station that way. There are line maps on every platform showing the remaining stations in each direction, and all signs and announcements are in English. It takes no more concentration than the metro system anywhere else.

Older stations are rather beaten up. New lines are often very swish, and have glass sliding doors at the platform edges to prevent accidents. There are almost never escalators on the final descent to the platforms, and commonly none for the first upward stretch on arrival. Interchanges are often poorly designed and involve long walks. Mobile phones work on some lines but not others, and it’s just possible that the person opposite is staring at their phone is reading a Chinese classic, downloaded courtesy of the National Library by scanning a QR code advertised in the carriage. But probably not.

By Bus 公共汽车

gōnggòng qìchē

Other than walking, buses are the cheapest way of getting around town. Other than walking they’re also the slowest, and on some routes and at some times of day, even that would be touch-and-go. The exception would be a handful of routes called 快速公交 (kuàisù gōngjiāo) that run in dedicated lanes physically separated from the rest of the street, and as fast as the metro.

Few bus stops have any English, although some shelters now have bi-lingual route maps. On the signs themselves, begin by making sure you distinguish between the route number and the stop number. On most modern bus stop signs the number’s in white reversed out of red, the route’s terminal stations are given in green pīnyīn, and the pīnyīn in red is name of stop you’re at. Otherwise the stop names are written in columns of characters with an arrow running across the top to show you the direction in which the bus is travelling. Compare the horizontal characters in red which are the stop name with the vertical columns and you’ll find your present stop, also marked with an arrow. Once on board things are easier since electronic signs with pīnyīn and recorded announcements in English are common on even rural buses.

Route numbers occasionally have character prefixes or suffixes. Do not ignore these as you may end up on a very slow bus, on one that omits your stop, or on one that branches off, or takes an entirely different route altogether. See

Fares: Within the city many buses are pay-as-you-board ¥1. Have a ¥1 coin or note ready to drop in the slot (no change is given), board at the front, and alight at the rear.

shàng entrance, board
xià exit, alight

On buses with three doors board at front and rear and alight at the middle, and where the fare is distance-based payment is to the conductor, who may expect you to approach her little counter, frequently shouting mǎi piào (买票, buy a ticket) until everyone has. Have the characters for your for stop ready to show her. You may be asked jǐ ge (几个, how many [tickets]?). Show some fingers. Charges for suburban buses are typically ¥2 for the first 10km, and ¥1 for each subsequent 5km.

But as with the metro, the best way to travel is with an Yìkǎtōng smart card see above. With fixed-fare buses tap once as you board, and on others tap once as you board and again as you alight. Forget and you’ll be charged as if you rode terminus to terminus, but you’ll find the conductor reminding you with shouts of shuā kǎ (刷卡, swipe your card). And note that paying with the card gives you a 60% discount on the fixed ¥1 fare, and 50% on the others. On some longer journeys in more comfortable coach-like buses the conductor comes through with an electronic reader that both debits your card and speaks, in Mandarin, your remaining balance. Tickets for long-distance buses are paid for at the ticket window in the bus station (cash only). There are no discounts except for children under 1.2m, and students with a recognised local student discount card.

Bus apps for mobile phones are less common than metro ones. 8684公交 is useful, but in Mandarin only. Keep an eye out for the addition of Běijīng to the app 车来了 (Chēláile), which includes real-time bus tracking so you know exactly how long you have to wait. The fleet itself is varied, includes concertina-centred twin units, and LPG buses. Around 12,000 even have mobile wi-fi networks, although you’ll need Mandarin to understand the instructions for downloading a required app. Electronic signs with the next stop in characters and pīnyīn are standard, and announcements in intelligible English also common. In short, with a little attention, navigating by bus is not difficult.

For day trips out of town you’ll mostly use the following bus stations (for full details on facilities, ticketing and Chinese characters for a larger selection of bus stations see By Bus in Getting Away):

Dōng Zhí Mén (m Dōng Zhí Mén, Lines 2, 13, and Airport Express) on the northeast corner of the Second Ring Road. Inside the terminal 900-series out-of-town buses leave from clearly numbered stops on the North Platform, and more leave from stops in the street on the east side of the station. Buses serve assorted Great Wall destinations, the Guānfù Classic Art Museum, and Jiāozhuānghù Tunnel Warfare Site.

Liù Lǐ Qiáo (m Liù Lǐ Qiáo, Lines 9 and 10), outside the southwest Third Ring Road. Buses to Great Wall sites out to the northeast en route to Chéngdé, the Western Qīng Tombs, and Jī Míng Shān Yì.

Lìzé Qiáo (m Xī Jú, Line 10) is a ten-minute walk away. Circumnavigate the vast junction outside from the northeast to the southwest side and walk west on the south side of Fēngtái Xī Lù. Buses to the Western Qīng Tombs.

Sì Huì (m Sì Huì, Line 1 and Bātōng Line), outside the east Third Ring Road. Buses to the Eastern Qīng Tombs.

Other departure points include Désheng Mén (one block east of m Jīshuǐ Tán, Line 2) for Bā Dá Lǐng Great Wall, the Míng Tombs, Sōng Shān Ancient Cave Dwellings; m Píngguǒ Yuán for assorted temples to the west of the city (see Villages, Rural Temples, and Scenery in Běijīng Suburbs and Beyond) and to Cuàn Dǐxià. m Xī Zhī Mén and the Zoo for palaces, gardens, and temples to the northwest; m Qián Mén for the Mílù Yuàn (deer park).

Chinese one-day bus tours are highly recommended for convenience and economy. Unlike English-language coach tours that pick you up from your hotel, and which should be avoided, they are locally priced, involve no shopping stops, and sometimes include the entrance fee for a site in the total price. There are several departure points, but the one with the most choice is at the northeast side of m Xuānwǔ Mén (Lines 2 & 4) exit B1 close to the South Church. These buses run 15 April to 15 October on Saturdays and Sundays and public holidays, excluding Saturdays and Sundays that are worked to make up for weekday public holidays (see Festivals and Public Holidays). Buses require at least 15 passengers before departing. They often leave early and as soon as full. Departures are from 8.30am and it’s best to arrive well before that. Tickets are sold from a booth, and occasionally English-speaking volunteers will approach to ask your intended destination, help with ticket purchase, and put you on the right bus. Otherwise just show your ticket at any bus to be pointed in the right direction.

The list of destinations and prices changes every year (have your hotel call 
t 8353 1111 to check) but may include:

Huáng Huā Chéng Shuǐ Great Wall, ¥84 including entrance fee
Mùtiányù Great Wall, ¥95 including entrance fee
Eastern Qīng Tombs, ¥130 including entrance fee.

This rather helps to demonstrate the overcharging by the English-language tours from the big hotels and minibus tours from the backpacker hostels alike. Fares are payable in cash only. It’s best to take a packed lunch as restaurants at popular sights are always poor. On arrival there’ll be an announcement as to what time you should return to the bus, and which will be conveyed to you with fingers, by pointing at a watch, use of a mobile phone screen, or writing it down. Don’t be late, as it won’t wait. Buses generally arrive back in Běijīng between 5pm and 6pm.

You’ll likely find no other foreigners on board, but someone may take the opportunity to get their child some free English practice by sending her over, and instead of being among foreigners and listening to a completely inaccurate account of China’s history and culture, you’ll be among the Chinese themselves.

If you must have an English guide, and if you want to go to remoter sites for some serious walking, then consider Běijīng Hikers (, with trips at both weekends and on weekdays. These are reliable and well-run, and the guests are typically all expats, but the costs are four to five times as high.

By Taxi 出租车


Taxis are now fairly well-regulated in Běijīng, with a meter that is usually started as the vehicle pulls away from the kerb. While some drivers are sharks, most in Běijīng are perfectly reasonable people, grimly coming to terms with a society which no longer guarantees them job security. They may have worked from age 15 in a now closed factory, suddenly and unexpectedly found themselves willy-nilly and in middle age xià hǎi (下海), ‘jumped into the sea’ of the marketplace — although in their case they were pushed. They may be paying a ¥5000 monthly rental fee to a taxi firm and the same again in insurance, petrol, and other overheads, and driving 12 hours a day, seven days a week, to recoup this before making any profit. Not all drivers by any means use this as an excuse for thievery. Vehicles are for the part modest sedans locally made by a Chinese joint-venture with Hyundai, in two-tone livery and with a light on top, although other Chinese-made electric vehicles are now joining the fleet, and in 2017 plans were announced to make all taxis LPG or electric. But drivers have already discovered they need two recharges a day and can average only 115 km so demand has plummeted despite government subsidy. There are several different taxi companies, but these are all state-owned, and it’s irrelevant which you choose so long as it’s a licensed cab. Many are driven 24 hours a day, by a team of two drivers, and deteriorate rapidly.

打标 dǎ biǎo start the meter
开发票 kāi fāpiào produce a receipt
手机号码 shǒujī hàomǎ mobile (cellphone) number

Meter rates starts at ¥13 for the first 3km, and are ¥.2.3/km for the next 12km, and ¥3.45 for each kilometre after that. All rates, including initial flagfall, increase by 20% between 11pm and 5am. There are no extra charges for luggage, and some drivers seem ill-prepared to receive it, their boots (trunks) filled with their own possessions, although sometimes with an LPG tank. 500 electric taxis were introduced in 2015.

Have your destination written down in characters by your hotel reception or point to the large characters provided for that purpose in this book, and make sure you take a card from reception with you to show a driver when you want to return. Although the government promised that all drivers would be adequately English-speaking in time for the 2008 Olympics, language books were abandoned as soon as Běijīng was announced as the winner. Almost none of them understand the English names of even the most popular sight or hotel. But follow the guidelines in Tips for Trouble-free Taxis, and you’ll rarely have problems.

The coagulated state of Běijīng’s traffic for most of the day makes getting around the centre of the city by taxi, certainly between about 8am and 7pm, very slow indeed. The fleet, stuck at 67,500 vehicles for nearly two decades, has gradually risen to 71,000 although the number of people able to afford taxis has risen far more steeply, and drivers’ incomes shown little improvement. The arrival of ride-hailing apps such as 滴滴出行 (Dīdī Chūxíng, see Mobile Phone and Tablet Apps in Internet and Other Digital Resources) in which bookers offer to pay a little extra, is having some effect on supply to those standing at the kerb-side. Uber was bought out by Dīdī Chūxíng in 2016, its revised app rendered Chinese only, and versions downloaded overseas no longer work in China. An English version of Dīdī’s own app appeared in 2017 but it requires the use of Chinese payment systems such as Alipay, unlikely to be available to the short-term visitor. In 2016 the city transport authorities claimed that 100,000 private vehicles were giving up to 700,000 rides a day, and blamed them for increasing congestion. But remember, these officials own the taxi companies. According to a probably unreliable report of 2016, the best time to use an app is between 10.10am and 10.20am, while the worst is between 5.10am and 5.20am.

Meanwhile there are increasing numbers of ‘black’ cabs (黑车, hēi chē), which means an unlicensed private car (of any colour) illegally acting as a taxi. They are particularly plentiful at points where buses give up leaving a long walk up to a remote temple, where a surburban metro station is still some distance from dormitory apartments, or where public transport is unable to cope with demand, such as at some Great Wall sites. Needless to say, if you take such a vehicle you need to be on your guard, to be very clear what service you are purchasing, fix the price before boarding, and pay only on arrival.

When it comes to reaching out-of-town sights by car, one-day taxi hires are the easily the most economical method. Begin negotiations at least one day before you wish to travel. Ask your hotel desk to help you prepare a piece of paper with proposed day of travel, starting point and time of departure, destination, and proposed time of return. When, while getting around town, you encounter drivers you think agreeable, show them the paper. You’ll generally want to talk to drivers with a lower number on their supervision card in order to increase the chance that they’ve been before and know where they are going (see Tips for Trouble-free Taxis). If they’re interested you then bargain with pen and paper, calculator, or mobile phone screen.

Guide prices are given for most of the out-of-town trips where taking a taxi is common. The rule of thumb is to pay something under the number of kilometres round-trip times the basic km rate. Usually drivers include road tolls and parking charges in their quotes.

As with other types of bargaining it’s best not to take the first offer but to talk to two or three drivers. You should ask each driver to write down his mobile phone number in case his offer turns out to be the best one obtained, but it’s best to complete any negotiation a day in advance. Drivers will often call to consult other drivers before making you an offer, partly to check they understand the route and distance, and partly because they may need to delay handing over the cab to a partner on the night shift. Some drivers just don’t want to go out of the city. Some have had too many foreigners pay them absurd sums to accept anything realistic. Others relish a guaranteed day’s employment and a chance to get out of the city into freer traffic and slightly better air. Ignore anyone who tells you this can’t be done, or that your target prices are unrealistic. All the prices mentioned in this book have been repeatedly obtained. Try to negotiate with individual drivers and not those waiting around in groups who will inevitably join in and skew the result. Don’t bargain with drivers waiting outside expat compounds or five-star hotels, as the expectation that you’ll pay too much will be there.

By Bicycle 自行车


Getting around Běijīng by bicycle is not for the faint of heart. Despite what you may have heard about this being a city of nine million bicycles the peak of bike ridership was back in 1986, and the city has felt the need to promote the idea of a return to two wheels with the equivalent of London’s ‘Boris Bike’ scheme of rental stations, although this has been ineptly implemented, and is largely window dressing. Drivers pay almost no attention to cyclists and collisions are common.

There are plentiful bike lanes on major arteries, but these are frequently invaded by cars either to drive along or to park (see Road Kill). Foreign cyclists who have stood up to drivers and forced them back onto the roads by blocking the bike lane have found themselves temporary Internet celebrities, videos by Chinese passers-by having been posted on social media in wonder that the Chinese themselves never do this.

The state of the atmosphere makes sucking more of it into your lungs ill-advised on most days (a 2017 paper in Preventative Medicine suggested that on average more than 105 minutes of cycling in Běijīng is more harmful than helpful to health, and that merely considered pm2.5 particles, and not pm10, NO2, or other pollutants), but basic rental bikes are widely available at hostels and nearby shops for minimal prices, although you should undertake careful inspection of brakes and tyres before setting out. The Běijīng bike sharing system that operates in Dōng Chéng and Cháoyáng districts (everything east of the Forbidden City and north of Cháng’ān Dàjiē) has sturdy bikes in red-and-white livery locked into electronically controlled stands, that require an Yīkǎtōng card for rental (see p.<OV>). Begin by ensuring your card has at least ¥30 of credit, and proceed to one of four registration offices with card and passport to register and place a ¥400 deposit. The easiest to reach are at m Tiāntán Dōng Mén (Line 5, exit A2), m Dōng Zhí Mén (Lines 2, 13, & Airport Express, exit A), and m Cháoyáng Mén (Lines 2 & 6, exit A). 24-hour information line t 400 157 7157 (Dōng Chéng), t 400 887 806 (Cháoyáng).

The first hour is free then the rate is ¥1 per hour to a maximum of ¥10 for the day. Bikes not returned after three days begin to attract a charge of ¥20 per day. Availability for pick-up and return (from and to any stand) is 6am to midnight. The instructions are only in Mandarin, but place your card on the reader for 2–3 seconds, and bike is released and must be removed within 30 seconds. Use your card again when you return the bike.

There’s an unofficial map of locations and full instructions at, as well as an unofficial Beijing Bike Share app for Android 2.2 and up (untested). There are currently 120 locations which are supposed to increase in number across the city until there are 1000 rental sites with a total of 50,000 bicycles. However, by mid-2013 Chinese media were reporting that the 14,000 bikes available had only been rented a total of 700,000 times. While these figures cannot be relied upon they don’t suggest the scheme is a success. Wildly more successful have been more recent private app-based schemes which are locked in competition for business. Market leaders Ofo and Mobike (see also Bluegogo, Mobike, Ubike, and others) each offer the benefit that bikes have GPS technology and may be picked up and left anywhere, costing as little as ¥1 per hour. But the apps are in Chinese, and payment involves setting up a WeChat wallet or similar, beyond what’s feasible for most short-term visitors. A Chinese ID card may also be required, or use of a passport for ID made unfeasibly compex. The authorities, perhaps resenting competition with their own system, began to intervene in 2017, banning the bikes from some streets, and commanding that they had to be left in official racks or inconveniently placed bike parks. The enthusiasm for leaving bikes just anywhere, regardless of how that hinders pedestrians or traffic, is the problem. Several systems offering electric bikes have also begun to run into difficulties regarding registration. All electric bikes were banned from some streets in 2016.

Whenever cycling always leave your bike in one of the bicycle parks seen everywhere taking up pavement space and forecourts. Rates are usually well displayed: 6am–10pm ¥0.20; 10pm–6am ¥0.40.

By Boat

There’s been much talk of cleaning up and opening up the network of canals around Běijīng, but while some have been dredged and tidied nothing has come of this in the way of leisure transport. In 2015 a plan was announced to tidy up the main waterway to Tiānjīn, an extension of the Grand Canal. But for now the sole route by water is to the Summer Palace from either the dock at Bā-Yī Hú, the lake inside Yùyuān Tán Park behind the Military Museum of the Chinese People’s Revolution; or behind the Exhibition Centre, just east of Běijīng Zoo. The Shangri-La Hotel also runs a private boat from just behind the hotel. For all boat details see the Summer Palace.

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Revised Feb 2017.