Guide to Local Transportation in China

photo by picdrops/flickr

I know China is a really large country and covering all that space can be truly a challenge. That is why it is good to know one or two things about getting around locally before you go visiting the country. You don’t have to feel discouraged, because just as in any other country there are a lot of things to choose from and hopefully this short guide to local transportation in China will help you to find the best and most suitable way of transport, whether you’re traveling on a long distance or just in town. The most important thing is to carry with you your home and destination address/name in Chinese, written down on a piece of paper.

By Plane

photo by Dice/Wikimedia

All throughout China there are several in-land flights, connecting the major cities and tourist destinations. If you ask, many hotels are able to arrange for cheaper in-land flight tickets, though these are still quite expensive. you should also bear in mind that for example flights between Hong Kong and Macau are taken as international and tickets for them would make your purse cry. However, if you would like to cover bigger distances in a shorter time in order to visit as many attractions as possible than planes are still the best transportation to choose. Just carry enough money with you! 🙂

By Train

photo by frank/Wikimedia

The train is for the Chinese the main long-line transportation. Though many of these are not the fastest, it is still the best way to get from point A to point B. You can choose from 5 types of seating, ‘soft bed’ (ruǎnwò), ‘hard bed’ (yìngwò), ‘soft seat’ (ruǎnzuǒ), ‘hard seat’ (yìngzuǒ) and all these have their own level of comfort. It is advisable to choose the ‘soft seat’ fares, however, because these are the cheapest when it comes to traveling comfortably and also you can avoid being stuck in the same train with smelly Chinese farmers who are getting home with their huge baggages after a long day of work.

By Bus

Buses are among the most popular travel transportation, being quite accessible and cheap. If you can, buy a smartcard which gives you discounts on your tickets and try to avoid crowded buses where pick-pocketing is a common occurrence. You can choose from 3 types of buses, sleeping-coaches (wòpùchē), minibuses (xiăobā) and express buses (kuàichē), but for the best choice, ask a Chinese friend for advice.

By Taxi

photo by Merlimlinsn/Wikimedia

The best for first-timers in Chine is to use taxis. They are fairly cheap and clean. When you sit inside don’t forget to ask them to turn on their taxi-meters and don’t let yourself be dupe when they they want to arrange a pre-price, because drivers would usually ask much more than you would originally have to pay. Also take the receipt at the end because they can come quite handy if you lose something in the cab. Many of the drivers don’t speak good English so always carry your destination written down in Chinese on a small paper and remember, even they can get lost in big cities like Shanghai or Beijing, no matter how well they know the streets.

By Bicycle

Unfortunately due to its immense territory China is not the most adequate for bicycle riding, though in big cities it can be an alternative way of transportation. You can either rent or buy a bicycle; either way is convenient, however do pay attention and lock your vehicles, because they can be stolen easily. Also pay attention on the road, drivers are not always considerate and they may want to push you down from the road.

There are several guide books to local transportation in China you can buy at stores; the one I would advise you to get is the taxi schedules, because taxis are the fastest and cheapest transportation in the city.


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