Getting around Beijing
Beijing is a massive, sprawling place and transportation is always crowded it seems, even during off peak hours.
Walking from place to place is usually a pleasant experience. In Beijing it can become a game of cat and mouse. You versus the many cars, bikes and buses that want to drive where you're walking. There's so much construction on the sidewalks that pedestrians are often forced into the bike lane at best, and onto highway-like streets at worst. Crossing streets is another life-threatening experience altogether and walking enmasse with the locals is the best way to go. Busy streets usually have over or underpasses somewhere along them so if you don't want to feel like you're in a game of Frogger, go for the easy option and search them out. But, despite the dangers, exploring on foot is really rewarding and if you can get away fromthe main roads and skyscrapers you'll probably discover little interesting alleyways in most areas of town, even on the outskirts.
If you think you've gotten the hang of walking in Beijing then maybe it's time to kick the danger level up a notch and get on yer bike. Biking in Beijing has always been popular and it's areally flat city so if you're out of shape, fear not. Plus the bike lanes in Beijing are as big as regular car lanes and you'll have plenty of other bikers beside you if you're not sure when to cross and when to flee. Nobody wears helmets here and the bike traffic seems to flow nicely and cars, while they probably won't stop for you, they'll usually approach fairly slowly so give you time to get out of the way.
Beijing's subway system has seven lines that cover a good portion of the city marked with blue and white signs. It's easy to figure out and only costs 2Y for a one way trip to anywhere on the network including any transfers you need to take. It's possible to buy tickets one at a time (take small bills) but this will mean queuing up each time in sometimes massive lines. To avoid the lines, either buy a bunch of tickets at once or pick up a swipe card for a 20Y refundable deposit plus whatever amount you want to put onto the card.
The network is pretty good and for the price it makes getting around the city very cheap but avoid rush hour as things get very squishy. The lines open before 5:30am and close before midnight. Announcements in English and Chinese and subway maps with lights to show where you are make it pretty hard to get lost under ground.
Taxis in Beijing are amazingly cheap when compared with other major cities but taking them all the time will add up, no matter how cheap they are. They run on a metre and if any driver claims that his meter is broken, get out and find a new cab because it'll be an attempt at a scam. Fares start at 10Y but it takes awhile to get off this mark. Short journeys will rarely cost much more than 10Y which is less than $2. A 25 minute journey from one corner of the city to another cost me under $10 with no traffic. Once the journey is complete, the fare will be on the metre and the driver will print out a receiptif you want one. Taxi driver's don't expect to be tippied, just pay the exact fare.
The trick with taking a taxi is being able to communicate with the driver where you want to go. Very few spek any English and names of hotels, parks and pretty much everything are different in English and Chinese. Even if someone tells you how to say a place in Chinese, it will probably take some practice before you get the pronunciation right enough for them to understand you.
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