Guangzhou’s Metro: A Slice of Life, Underground

Guangzhou’s Metro: A Slice of Life, Underground
By Beth Green ,

Since the line opened in the late 90s, Guangzhou’s metro system has expanded far beyond its first line through the city's centre. Recently extended for last November's Asian Games, Guangzhou’s subway system has now accrued more than 200 kilometers of underground track, stretching throughout the city's districts and even into neighbouring Foshan City. This expansion, together with the ubiquity of the stored-value transit pass has really opened up the underground, making it more convenient than ever.

While taking a taxi guarantees a seat and allows you to avoid group-hugging strangers, riding the metro in Guangzhou is a great way to catch a slice of city life. From businessmen wearing backpacks emblazoned with their laptop's brand names to giggling teenagers playing games on their flashy cell phones and from panicked tourists clutching maps to someone's grandmother smuggling home a live chicken in a paper bag, it's a great way to people-watch and learn more about the people of this city. This article guides you through all the major metro lines in Guangzhou and all the basics you need to know for taking a hassle-free trip on the metro.     


The lines:

Need to catch a flight? Simple, take Line 3 – it goes all the way to Baiyun International Airport.  Feeling touristy? The city's newly opened Automatic People Mover, or APM, runs along a route designed for tourists, from Linhexi and the Tianhe Sports Center down to Haixinsha Tourist Park and the tallest tower in the world, the Canton Tower, at the Chigang Pagoda stop.

One of the most important additions to the metro, in terms of moving people in and out of the city, is its new link to the Baiyun International Airport on metro Line 3. Although perhaps not the best option if you have to get a lot of heavy luggage to the airplane, the metro link is good for business travelers and tourists with light luggage who don't want to deal with a taxi or an airport shuttle bus. Navigating the airport to find the metro entrance on the lowest floor is easy. And, if the traveler is only on the first leg of his/her journey, getting to the intercity bus or rail stations is fairly straightforward —the major hubs are all linked up by the metro. 

Once you're in the city some of the new links to the metro make it easier to change between lines. For example, Lines 3 and 2 now intersect at Jiahewangang, Lines 8 and 4 at Wanshengwei and Lines 2 and 8 at Changgang.

The new additions to the metro system also include two firsts for China: The Guang-Fo line, which opened last November, is the first underground intercity rail line in China. It connects Guangzhou with Foshan, a neighbouring city of about five million people, famous domestically for kung fu and ceramics. Also a first for public transit in the country, the Automated People Mover, or APM, which is a driverless underground bus like ones used at some international airports to connect terminals, now zips along between Chigang Pagoda (the stop for the Canton Tower) and Linhexi, uniting the tourist route between Tianhe and Haizhu districts.

Another expanded section is Line 4. To accommodate traffic to the Guangdong Olympic Sport Arena, the major sport arena during the Asian Games, two northern stops were added: Chebei and Huangcun.

The metro isn't finished expanding either. The Guang-Fo line is projected to continue eastward, eventually intersecting with transfer stations at Lines 2, 3 and 8. The airport link will also add another stop called ‘Airport North’.

Ram City Pass

How Ram City Passes work:

A major improvement to the Guangzhou public transit system is the ever-increasing ways one can use the city's stored-value transit pass card. Called the Yang Cheng Tong (羊城通 or Ram City Pass, for Guangzhou's iconic five male goats), this credit-card-sized piece of plastic can be used on all forms of public city transit in Guangzhou and Foshan. Moreover, using the card shaves a few jiao off of the transit fare. For example, the APM usually costs 2 RMB per trip; with the card, it costs 1.9 RMB. For the user's first 15 rides within one calendar month, the card will deduct 5 percent of the fare. For the 16th trip and onward to the end of the month it will deduct 40 percent. While most expats in China may not begrudge a few jiao here or there, when taking a longer trip, like to the airport, or repeated trips, the savings will add up.

The cards can be purchased and recharged with extra credit at 7-Eleven outlets throughout Guangzhou and Foshan. Feeling thirsty or hungry after that long train ride? The Yang Cheng Tong may also be used to buy items at 7-Eleven stores. The card’s webpage (Chinese only) states that the cards may also be used at Tian Tian Laundry (天天洗衣店) outlets and in Guangzhou taxis. However, it’s not uncommon to come across some cleaners and taxis who do not accept the cards for whatever reason. Look for the Yang Cheng Tong sign composed of an orange background with a green 'V' like a ram's horns.

Now that you know the basics, don’t hesitate to make a trip on Guangzhou’s expanding underground today!

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