Transport Tips: How to Get Around Chongqing

Transport Tips: How to Get Around Chongqing

Chongqing is huge. In its expansion it has swallowed up many a town and village, these becoming the various city centres you may want to visit from time to time for shopping and night life. Unfortunately, the transport infrastructure hasn't kept pace with the city's expansion and travel to and between these city centres is a chore. However, that's all set to change with a dramatic expansion of the 'subway' monorail system, due for completion at the end of 2012. In the meantime, here are some tips for getting around this colossal city.

Roads:
On a map, Chongqing's road system looks well-suited for easy transportation around the city. On the ground, though, you're greeted with a network that creaks at the seams with the weight of traffic and, at times, poor construction. A few of Chongqing's larger roads are under constant repair for having been shoddily constructed in the first place. Others, at present, are impeded greatly by the better-late-than-never realisation that the network can't cope with the traffic put upon it and that many of the major arteries are in need of widening. Still others are suffering from obstructions with the construction of the subway system.

Though some of these problems will resolve themselves in coming years and lead to a better system, it's doubtful Chongqing drivers will also improve. Chongqing drivers must be amongst the worst in China. They think nothing of cutting past a police vehicle on the hard shoulder of an express way and the police appear to think nothing of it either. Though the traffic police has upped its profile considerably in the past year with more cars on the roads and a presence on many busy street corners, they seem to be waiting for the next accident to happen rather than intervening on bad driving so as to prevent it.

Taxis:
Taxis play host to some of the worst drivers Chongqing has on offer, so be prepared for a white-knuckle ride. Moreover, the average taxi driver is an ornery soul with a tendency to barter instead of using the meter; or with a refusal to take you to your destination altogether. Clusters of taxis in city centres sometimes hold the promise of a swift service until you approach them and discover they're all heading for the same destination and looking for multiple passengers. It's worth remembering that it was Chongqing's taxi drivers that set off a wave of industrial action across China by striking for better conditions. Their success seems to have done little for their disposition.

To be fair, they're up against it. Chongqing's taxis run on compressed gas; good for the environment, but fuel outlets are severely restricted and it's not unusual to see a stationary queue of dozens of taxis running right round the block waiting for a refill.

Chances are you'll want to travel some considerable distance across the city, but fortunately the price is relatively inexpensive. 40 RMB or so is a reasonable enough price between two adjacent city centres. A gas surcharge will raise the price on the meter by 3 RMB and there's a standard notice (in Chinese) on all passenger-side dashboards to warn you of this.

Taxis are abundant enough that you shouldn't have too much difficulty getting one between city centres. From the centres themselves, however, it can be a little more tricky, particularly from 15.00-16.00 when the taxis rotate their drivers.

Buses:
The bus service has improved considerably in the past year or so. Bus drivers were as bad as taxi drivers when it came to dangerous driving but they've slowed down in the wake of a few high-profile accidents.

The buses themselves vary considerably in quality. At the top end they're air-conditioned and comfortable with on board TV. At the bottom end they creak badly with age. The worst of the lot are the smaller vehicles which tout for trade at bus stops. However, in the past year or so, some of the more alarming of these have disappeared off the road and Chongqing is a better place for the loss of their swinging side-panels endangering pedestrians and the thick pall of smoke issuing from the exhausts of many.

The bus service is regular and easy, if somewhat overcrowded at times. Services also tend to stop quite early in the evening, around 21.00. If not yet a success story, recent improvements have taken it in the right direction. Some 5 RMB will get you between adjacent city centres.

Subway / Monorail / Metro:
Strangely incongruous in its modernity, the subway system – more an elevated monorail – is by far the best way to travel in Chongqing. At the time of writing the service is exceedingly restricted with a single line serving 18 stations over 19km between Jiaochangkou and Xinshancun. However, new lines are due to come on stream from mid-2011 culminating in a city-wide network by the end of 2012.

The subway service is clean, comfortable, regular and rapid and comes at little more cost than a bus. Navigation is easy using the in-station maps so there's no steep learning-curve for expats looking to use the system. Go to the teller, state your destination, get a ticket, swipe it at the entry point and you're away.

Summary:
If today – early 2011 – Chongqing is hell to get around using public transport, the entire system is undergoing rapid improvement. Choose buses over taxis, the subway over buses as more routes come on line. By the end of 2012, with the subway system city-wide and road widening complete, travelling in Chongqing will be a pleasure. 

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Keywords: Transport tips Chongqing Chongqing transport system how to get around Chongqing getting around Chongqing

2 Comments

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1

AmericanInCQ
comment|40325|267900

I eventually bought my own car along with a motorcycle to get around. Taxi's are very inconsistent and drivers are as rude as they come. I will never get into a Chongqing taxi again. I don't read or understand Chinese so trying to figure out where the buses go are impossible. I do enjoy riding the subway just to see where the go and explore. But, to get back and forth to work or go on a "road trip," I take the motorcycle (on rainy days, the car comes out of the garage.) So, if you see a foreigner scooting around Chongqing on a Harley Davidson, give me wave...maybe we can have some coffee!

Sep 28, 2013 23:06 Report Abuse

2

USMCRetired
comment|40320|263603

If you are wanting to become a Formula-1 race car driver and need training, come to CQ. CQ drivers are the worst I have ever experienced. Taxi drivers are rude and very independent in who they pick up and where they will go. If you are coming to CQ for a visit and just wanting to explore the city for a few days try to hire a driver. You can arrange for one through your hotel. Very reasonable and that driver will cater to you and you only. DO NOT RELY ON TAXI's. CQ taxi service is horrendous. I say this from my experiences from living in CQ for 7-years.

Sep 28, 2013 22:27 Report Abuse