Beijing Transportation Guide
Taxi flagdown rate is RMB10. Depending on the type of vehicle, though, charges are levied at RMB2 per kilometer after the first 5km. The rate is prominently listed on the windows of the rear doors. Taxis that charge RMB2 are larger sedans and more comfortable -- and safer -- for the larger foreign frames. From 11 p.m. to 5 a.m., the rate is raised to RMB13.60.
Taxi drivers cruising the streets of Beijing are generally honest, but those who frequent hotels tend to wait for long-distance passengers, and may try to take advantage of travelers not familiar with the city, by taking a more circuitous route. Likewise, some taxi drivers who frequent famous tourist sites wait for foreigners unfamiliar with the normal fares and quote excessive prices.
Do not take a taxi unless the driver agrees to use the meter, or unless you are sure of the price and are confident you are not being cheated. When you enter the taxi make sure that the driver puts down the flag and that the meter indicates RMB10. If a driver refuses to use the meter, or says it is broken, get down from the taxi and look for another one. If you have a problem with a taxi driver, the ID number is prominently displayed on the dashboard. Try also to get the license plate number. Complaints can be made to the Beijing Taxi Administration (Tel: +86-10 6601-2620) or the Taxi Management Bureau (Tel: +86-10 6835-1150).
Five taxi firms operating in Beijing have recently introduced 3,000 cabs with special lamps marking quality services. The companies, led by Capital Taxi Co. and Beijing Taxi Co., are assuring people that their drivers won't refuse to take passengers or overcharge.
Drivers of these special taxis are required to wear uniforms and speak politely to passengers. Those who fail to provide acceptable services will be dismissed and their taxi signs removed.
Traffic administration officials said another 12,000 taxis with standardized services will soon operate in the city. At present, Beijing has more than 1,000 cab companies with 67,000 cars and more than 90,000 drivers, handling 12% of Beijing's transport.
There are hundreds of bus routes in the city. There are new, air-conditioned buses, and there are older buses. Bus fares start at CNY 1 per 10km on old buses, and CNY 2 per 10km on new buses.
Buses, meanwhile, can be quite slow and packed with passengers. As taxis are usually fast and inexpensive, with the average ride costing between RMB10 and RMB25, they are highly recommended.
Many expatriates drive in Beijing but a special license is required, which takes a bit of time and effort to obtain. However, driving is quite chaotic here, with accidents quite frequent, and so not recommended for short-term visitors.
Parking is becoming increasingly difficult as more and more Chinese are able to afford cars. In many areas one can pull up on a sidewalk and park a car. There are designated places for parking in many neighborhoods; pay RMB1 or RMB2 for unlimited parking to the attendant who will approach your car as you park your vehicle. Major hotels and some shopping centers offer underground parking for RMB5-RMB10 per hour.
In 1999, the government began to install high-tech parking meters around the city. Insert a coin in the machine and then put the slip of paper that comes out on the dashboard of your car in front of the driver's seat so the parking attendant can verify that you have paid. You can also buy a card for use with these machines at small shops in the vicinity of parking meters. Inquire from nearby shops.
There are a few car rental agencies in China such as Hertz (a branch in Jianguo Hotel on the Jianguomenwai Avenue) or Avis. At any rate, driving yourself around Beijing would be nearly impossible unless you had a Chinese license, which can only be obtained if you possessed a Chinese foreign residence certificate.
Alternatively, it is possible to hire a car and driver for a few hours or on a monthly basis. The average rate for a day within the city is around RMB400, while a trip to the suburbs -- the Great Wall, for example -- can cost RMB600. A car and driver can be hired on a monthly basis for RMB7,000 to RMB9,000 depending on the type of vehicle. Arrangements for hiring cars can be made with most taxi drivers in Beijing, who welcome the opportunity of long-term hires.
A final note: Beijing is one of the best cities for riding a bicycle, with special bicycle lanes in most parts of town. This is often the fastest way to get around the city. Usually there are bikes for rent at major hotels.
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