As the weather finally gets down to the temperatures we are used to seeing in Beijing this time of year, have you started to think about how this will change the way that you get around? There are a lot of options for transportation in Beijing, and each has its own set of benefits and disadvantages. In that case, let’s make some comparisons of the 10 best modes of transportation in Beijing during cold weather.
Fares were raised recently in Beijing; the starting price for a cab is now 13 RMB instead of 10 RMB. All the same, cab rides are still fairly affordable compared to cities abroad (as long as you make sure the driver’s turned on the meter). However, cab rides can be really hit or miss for a foreigner in Beijing.
It’s also wise to remember that cabs are not necessarily faster; in fact, if you board a taxi at the wrong time and place, they can be downright snail-like when you are stuck in traffic. All the same, you might be a little bit warmer in a cab than you would be walking to the subway; you may also come away with an interesting story or two.
2) Hiring a Car
If you live far out in the countryside and need to go into the city or just want to get out of Beijing and into the mountains or Great Wall, then hiring a car may be a good option for you. All the same, you’ll still have to endure the stop-and-go traffic (front seat highly recommended) of a busier commute during the colder months in the city. If you prefer to travel quickly rather than in a comfortable manner, it’s best to get a driver and a rate recommended to you by a friend or expat magazine/website. Paying daily fees for a driver can add up very quickly, so you would need to consider whether your paycheck could take such a hit before deciding on this option.
The Beijing winter can be fairly harsh at times (temperature and pollution-wise), so what better way to move about the city than in an insulated underground tube? Well, you and every other person in Beijing are thinking the same thing. The subway is a very economical way to move around Beijing, and the necessary IC card to gain access to the subway is simple to buy (with deposit) and recharge at stations and roadside stands. You will certainly not be cold when using the subway; in fact, you may find yourself wondering why you thought you needed a winter coat at all with all the other people to keep you warm. Bottom line, the subway is convenient and fairly quick, but crowded. It is also necessary to keep a curfew if you want to take the subway home as most subways end operations around 23:00.
The many, many buses throughout the city may be even more convenient than that subway for certain routes. You can pay with exact change (1 RMB) or IC card (0.4 RMB). Taking the subway or a cab makes it easier to navigate on the fly for a non-Chinese speaker whereas the bus system may require a bit more planning as the route/schedules are written only in Chinese characters at each stop. You may also need to transfer from one bus to another, which again would be difficult to discover on your own without having done some previous research.
However, it’s fairly simple to determine a projected route on Baidu, or www.travelchinaguide.com can help you map a route completely in English. Buses also have pamphlets aboard with information. Many people avoid the bus because it is, like the subway, also quite crowded (if you don’t make it on to the first that stops, you could be waiting quite a while). As well, buses do not run on exact schedules and a transfering to a different bus could involve a long outdoor walk to the appropriate stop.
5) Airport Express Train
If you don’t have an inordinate amount of luggage and you live somewhere on the east side of the city, this can be a great alternative to a taxi to and from the Beijing Capital Airport. The train leaves from Dongzhimen and Sanyuanqiao subway stations and stops at airport terminals 2 and 3. The fare is 25 RMB no matter where you leave from, and you can use your subway card to pay or buy a one-time ticket. If you’re near Dongzhimen or Sanyuanqiao and you want to go to the airport within the normal subway opening times, this could be a much nicer option than trying to catch a cab in the cold.
The airport express serves four stations: Dongzhimen, Sanyuanqiao, Terminal 3 and Terminal 2. Operating hours from T2 are 06:35-23:10 and 06:20-22:50 from T3. Trains from Dongzhimen run every ten minutes from 06:00-22:30. Tickets are 25 RMB one-way from both Dongzhimen and Sanyuanqiao.
6) Rickshaw/Three Wheel Cars/Pedicab
These come in all sorts of varieties: egg shaped, metal box and curtained…Similar to regular black cabs, these drivers are generally ready to take ALL of your money. If you agree on a price, it’s best to have the exact fare on you so no argument breaks out if they “coincidentally” don’t happen to have any change to return to you. These drivers generally have very specific knowledge of a single area; if hired to go somewhere else, they will likely travel at a slower pace. If you are uncomfortable with bold, unfamiliar routes, this type of transportation is not recommended. Ditto on warmth or speed. However, if you’re in a bar heavy area, these may be your best bet for a short trip on an icy night when every other regular cab is being snatched up left and right.
7) Gas Scooter
These gas powered scooters can set you back a few thousand yuan though fuel proves to be quite inexpensive to purchase from the many gas stations located across the city (although for most of them you will need to show proof of a driver’s license before filling up). Scooters can move fairly quickly and can range from slim and sleek models to bulkier versions that provide lots of storage. However; they are distinctly not good for the environment and end up being quite a cold way to move about Beijing with the increased wind factor.
8) Seated Electric Scooter
Being an electric scooter user means that you will have to remember to always remove its battery to ensure it isn’t stolen. You’ll also have to find a means of recharging it frequently so that you won’t break down on the way home from work. These electric models are slightly slower than those that run on gas, though they still generate enough wind to necessitate wearing thick clothing in winter. These may be more environmentally friendly but are very similar to gas scooters in every other way. (Near SLT, Yamaha, etc)
9) Push scooter
These old school toys are making a very recent comeback here in Beijing as actual transportation. They are fairly inexpensive but not really practical if you’re going very far, especially in the winter when road conditions will be tougher with the added concern of ice.
This mode of transportation is my personal pick. When using a bicycle in the wintertime, you stay relatively warm so long as you are wearing a hat, gloves, and scarf on top of a good coat. Since you are constantly moving your legs and exercising, you can keep warm on a bicycle even in the coldest winter. Furthermore, it is also good for the environment, can be quite fast, and can also be used to transport things. Just watch out though, there’s an unofficial saying that goes ‘you’re not a real Beijinger until you’ve had a bike stolen’. So if you do go with a bike, whether it’s a fancy fixed gear, classic single speed, or road bike, make sure to buy a good lock!
You can purchase bikes at brand specific stores, large supermarkets or nicer/more expensive specialty stores. Natooke, Serk, Giant, Battle, Yamaha, and Carrefour are some of the stores where various types of bicycles can be found though there are, of course, many, many more. You can also simply venture into the hutongs and bargain for a second-hand bike for sale in the neighborhood. Locks and other bike goods are sold in bike shops, supermarkets, and also along the road at bike repair stalls.
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Keywords: transportation in Beijing during winter transportation in Beijing Beijing during winter; Beijing winter
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