The Sardine Box: Guide to Chengdu’s Bus System

The Sardine Box: Guide to Chengdu’s Bus System
By Nick Callos ,

Have you ever seen how crowded buses in Chengdu can get? In these buses, I've seen people with half an arm hanging out the window, heads smashed against glass, and drivers throwing fits over barely being able to hold the wheel. So why would you want to take one? Well, fees for Chengdu taxis, while relatively affordable, can add up and simply don't fit into the category of necessary personal expenses for most expats. So we resort to things like buying a bicycle or electric motorcycle. Yet these can break down or more likely fall prey to thievery. Which brings you right back to the bus. Once you get the hang of it, however, you'll find it's not all that bad. Here's a quick guide to Chengdu's bus system.

Paying for the bus

A ride on one of Chengdu's public buses costs 2 RMB, regardless of whether you are going two stops or twenty. Be prepared to have correct change before getting on the bus. While this is still much cheaper than continually taking taxis in Chengdu, it can be even cheaper. Purchase a Chengdu bus card at your local pharmacy, Hongqi Chain Store (红旗连锁店), or at a bus station terminal office for an upfront cost of 20 RMB. You have to show identification too. Explain to the worker that you want a public bus card (gongjiao ka 公交卡). With this card, bus rides costs about 1 RMB. You can put money into the card at Hongqi stores. Keep in mind that the money doesn't overlap from month to month, so estimate what you need for a month and pay that. For example, if you plan to ride the bus 40 times, put 40 RMB on the card. After successfully doing this, all you have to do is swipe your card each time you get on the bus. With the card, transferring buses is free for up to two hours of travel.

Mapping your route

With over 160 bus routes in Chengdu, mapping out your directions can get pretty confusing. Luckily, things like Google and Baidu maps can help you plan out your trip. Buses 1 to 99 run within the city while higher number buses come from and go to the outlying suburbs and train stations. To get the fastest results, input the stop from where you will be leaving in pinyin, find the Chinese characters, and put them into the search bar; then do the same with your destination. If you do not know the specific names of stops near your destination, don't worry; Baidu or Google will give you a list of stops to pick from. Then record your route down on a piece of paper, paying close attention to any transfers.

Things to note

Take care of your personal belongings while riding the bus. While Chengdu is a generally safe city for expats, the one place where theft is most likely to happen is on buses, at train stations, or in areas where crowds are large.

You will also need to know how to say the name of your bus stop in Chinese. While announcements are in both Chinese and English, the name of the stop is always said in Chinese. For example, if your stop is Tianfu Square, you will hear “The next stop is Tianfu Guangchang.”

Most buses stop before 22:00 on weekdays and before 23:00 on weekends.

Popular Routes

Tianfu Square 天府广场: 4, 45, 64, 53, 61, 26, 118, 38, 104, 13, 43, 62, and 47
All of these stops lead somewhere next to Tianfu Guangchang and the large Mao statue. The first stop of the Chengdu subway is also here.

Laonanmen Daqiao 老南门大桥: 35, 343, and 82
Laonanmen Daqiao features Hongmen Jie (黉门街), one of Chengdu's best bar areas, and Shua Du 耍都, a plaza featuring bars and great local Sichuan cuisine, barbeque and hotpot.

Chunxi Lu Nan Kou春熙路南口: 43, 47, 55, 56, 104, and 198
A variety of restaurants, cafes, and an immense amount of shopping can be enjoyed here.

Kehua Bei Lu科华北路 and Mozi Cun 磨子村: 6, 49, 55, 62, 76, 77, 92, 102, 112, and 298
A popular expat area, Kehua Bei Lu is near the west gate of Sichuan University, a variety of popular Western restaurants in Chengdu, and the bar scene at Blue Caribbean Plaza (Lanse Jialebi Guangchang蓝色加勒比广场). KTV's, Shaokao (BBQ) joints, Chuan Chuan Xiang restaurants, Chengdu Hooters, and fast-food are also in this area.

Jiu Yan Qiao Nan Zhan (九眼桥南站): 12, 19, 34, 72, 77, 92, and 112
As one of Chengdu's best club spots and best bar streets, it's no wonder so many buses lead here.

Bus Line 300 公交300
This bus runs from Shuangliu International Airport (Shuangliu Guoji Jichang双流国际机场) to the North Railway Station (Huoche Bei Zhan Gong Jiao Zhan 火车北站公交站), making it very convenient for travellers to connect to the various getaways around Chengdu. Other routes to the airport are 303, 304, 317, and 318. Other routes for the North Railway Station are 11, 24, and 28.

Chadianzi Bus Station 茶店子公交站: 4, 17, 25, 41, 43, 62, 63, 86, 100, 123, 221, 339, 342, and 805
This is a popular jumping point for Sichuan travel.

Shenxian Nan Lu Bei Zhan 神仙南路北站: 12, 26, 801
This is near where a lot of expats live, next to the popular Tongzilin area.

Yulin Bei Jie Zhan 玉林北街站: 12, 59, 61, 109, 115
There are lots of good Sichuan food places around here and it is also a popular living area for foreigners.

Public Security Bureau 公安局: 1, 48, 55, 56, 56a, 61, 64, 98a, 99, 298
Take care of your visa needs and issues at the Gonganju.

Dufu's Cottage 杜甫草堂: 19, 35, 58, 59, 82, 165, 170, 208, 309, and 319
Dufu Caotang is one of Chengdu's best nature spots and is the place to learn about the city's most historic poet, Dufu.

Wuhou Memorial Temple武侯祠: 1, 10, 82, 503, 521, 57, 904, 901, 334, and 335
This stop drops you off near tourist attractions like Jinli Street, Tibetan Quarter and Wuhou Temple.

Panda Research Base 成都大熊猫繁育研究基地
Take bus 902 from Xinnanmen bus station to get to the Panda Research Base (Chengdu Da Xiongmao Fanyu Yanjiu Jidi).

Tianfu Software Park天府软件园: 84, 102, 115, 118, 185, 188, 298, 806, and 823.
Major software companies and other big businesses make their Chengdu headquarters in this south Chengdu business park.


- This site has a full map of the Chengdu bus system and has a vast array of info regarding stops, routes, and bus times.

- Use this to map out your specific route. 

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Keywords: Chengdu bus system travelling in Chengdu public transportation Chengdu common bus routes in Chengdu best maps for Chengdu


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Slim Jim

I always take the bus around Chengdu; my day is not complete without getting squeezed from all sides by anxious bus riders. I recommend everyone gets a bus card, you never have to worry about making sure you have change and if you transfer buses, you don't pay extra with a bus card. I always forget to recharge at the end of the month though.

Mar 09, 2012 02:32 Report Abuse