Getting Around in Beijing

Jun 11, 2014 | Blog

Taxi | Getting Around in Beijing

If you don’t live in Beijing already (you should, it’s the coolest city ever) then you may have no idea just how large this place is. If you do reside here (congratulations, you are obviously a super cool individual) you will now be aware of the sprawling metropolis that you have come to inhabit.

With an area ten times larger than that of Greater London and a population of twenty million, getting around Beijing can at times be somewhat problematic. So, regardless of whether you live here or are simply visiting, we at That’s Mandarin have listed the best ways to get from A to B and the necessary lingo for your use.


Subway | Getting Around in Beijing

1. By Subway

With an ever-expanding subway that stretches its tentacles every few months, the underground transport system remains one of the biggest in the world. ‘So, surely that comes with its complications?’ you ask. Not really. At times it can feel like you’re a sardine being squeezed into a can, but overall it’s a clean, reliable system with only a small number of diversions during expansion periods. Tickets are fairly priced at an incredibly cheap 2 RMB regardless of how far you intend to travel, although there are plans to change this later in the year.

Useful Vocabulary

One ticket please
Yī zhāng piào

I want to buy a subway card
Wǒ yào mǎi yī zhāng dìtiě kǎ

What time does the subway close?
Dìtiě jǐ diǎn guānmén?

Where is the nearest subway?
Zuìjìn de dìtiě zhàn zài nǎr?

Too many people, what to do!
Rén tài duō le, zěnme bàn!

Bicycle | Getting Around in Beijing

2. By Bike

Remember when Katie Melua sang ‘There are 9 million bicycles in Beijing’? While we do not doubt Miss Melua’s soothing words, it’s tough to get an exact figure. We’re pretty sure, however, that this number has grown somewhat due to the rise in city dwellers and all. Despite the high number though, bikes aren’t quite as noticeable as they once were due to the rise in disposable income and the ego-pleasing automobile. Status symbols aside, the classic push bike remains one of the most convenient inventions to own. Finding a car parking space in Beijing is about as easy as Chinese algebra and we don’t even want to mention the inconvenience of rush hour traffic jams (at least not until our next point about taxis, anyway). As you may have guessed, bikes here are affordable. But if you’re here for the short term, the red rent-a-bikes are also a good option and can be found in key areas around the city.

Useful Vocabulary

I like riding bicycles
Wǒ xǐhuān qí zìxíngchē

I want to rent a bike
Wǒ xiǎng zū yí liàng zìxíngchē

My bike is broken
Wǒ de zìxíngchē huàile

Can you fix it?
Nǐ huì xiū ma?

Taxi | Getting Around in Beijing

3. By Taxi

Obtaining a driver’s license in Beijing is certainly doable as a foreigner, and relatively straightforward. By visiting the Foreign Affairs Department of Beijing Motor Vehicle Administration, Chaoyang District, a license can be acquired – providing, of course, you have done your homework and studied hard in preparation.

But the question remains: ‘Why to bother?’ Unless you absolutely need a car to travel far out for work, then cars can be more troublesome than they are of use, not to mention bad for the environment.

For that reason, delegating the laborious driving to someone else seems the way to go. With convoluted roads and endless streams of traffic during rush hour, it’s understandable that taxi drivers don’t always seem the friendliest of guys. Still, on the whole, they’re decent chaps, and while their English may not be up to scratch, the cabs can be found almost anywhere at any time. Not to mention the starting price of 14RMB per ride, Beijing’s taxis are a relatively cheap form of transport.

Just be sure you’re flanking a genuine (yellow striped) cab no matter how desperate you are to get home!

Useful Vocabulary

I want to go to…
Wǒ xiǎng qù…

How much to go to…?
Qù…… Duōshǎo qián?

We can use the meter, right?
Wǒmen kěyǐ dǎ biǎo, duì bù duì?

Go left
Xiàng zuǒ zǒu

Go right
Xiàng yòu zǒu

Go straight ahead
Yìzhí zǒu

OK, stop here. We’ve arrived
Hǎole, jiù tíng zhèr ba, wǒmen dàole

Scooter | Getting Around in Beijing

4. By Scooter

We’ve spoken about the cheap subway, the even cheaper bicycles, and the ubiquitous taxi, but one of the more fun and fashionable ways to get around these days is the electric scooter. Accessible from a number of shops, the prices range from a staggeringly cheap 1,000 RMB to a higher quality model in the area of 5,000 RMB. Simply remove the battery after parking up for the evening, take it inside and charge it overnight. The next day you’re ready to roll.

Whizzing around the city on your very own electric bike can certainly give you a taste of Beijing life, and after riding a scooter for a day or so, it will be difficult to return to that ‘walking’ thing you used to do with your legs. Enjoy the speed and freedom; just be sure to wear a helmet!

Useful Vocabulary


No battery left
Méi diàn le




Further Reads

How to Use Alipay with International Bank Cards

How to Use Alipay with International Bank Cards

If it’s going to be your first time in China, you’re probably wondering what to prepare. There's one thing to plan ahead: online payments! There's good news! We've prepared an easy guide to help you to use Alipay with international cards. How to Use Alipay with...

New Activity | Tea Ceremony

New Activity | Tea Ceremony

This year we have a new activity for our campers. What is one of the first things that come to mind when you think of China? What is a must-have souvenir for your relatives if you visit China? No doubt, it's Chinese tea!Tea has a long and interesting history in China....

Sightseeing in the City

Sightseeing in the City

Here are some snapshots from our Summer and Winter Camp field trips. Twice a week and on weekends, students go around Beijing/Shanghai, sightseeing and shopping. They get to practice speaking Mandarin with the local vendors, people on the street, etc.