One of the biggest fears I had moving abroad to Beijing was questioning how I was going to get around the city. Beijing is HUGE. I also didn't understand any Chinese. I still don't. I was able to get over my fears after a week of living in the city. You'll go from taking a taxi called by your hotel to riding DiDis, shared bikes, and subways in no time! I present to you the top ways of getting around Beijing:
The subways in Beijing will be your next best friend. They are easy and efficient. They are fast, inexpensive, CLEAN, and extremely western friendly. The Beijing subway runs throughout the six rings in the city. One of my favorite things about the subway is the airport express. It's the fastest way to get to and from the airport and the city. I take the Beijing subway almost everywhere. You never have to wait more than 5 minutes for the next subway. If you have an iPhone, you can load up your Beijing subway card into the apple wallet and scan your phone through the turnstile. All the maps and machines are unobstructed, and in English, so you're bound never to get lost. The train rarely stops more than 10-15 minutes from wherever you need to go. The Beijing subways hold a special place in my heart.
Taking a DiDi is a lot less expensive than taking a regular taxi. I'll begin with that. DiDi is an app you download onto your phone. It's just like Uber or Lyft. Whenever you need to go anywhere, you can call a DiDi on your phone. You usually don't wait for more than seven minutes for your DiDi to arrive. You can choose the express car, which is private and very clean, or more excellent options. When I'm feeling exhausted or need to go far, I always go with DiDi. They're not expensive, and they feel like a little luxury in the city.
Buses hold a high rank in getting around the city in Beijing. They are the most affordable way to get around the city. A single bus ticket costs only 1-2 RMB, that's less than 25 cents! You can pay with your subway card or in cash. The buses in Beijing are dependable and reliable. I enjoy taking the bus to work instead of the subway when I want to be outdoors more. They make you feel closer to the city. The bus maps are in both Chinese characters and Pinyin (Chinese in English letters), and very easy to navigate.
You will see shared bikes lined up everywhere in the city! Beijing is bike-friendly, and the locals love riding bikes. Shared bikes are the most convenient and cheap way to get around the city. It's also the most beautiful. The subway and DiDi are fantastic, but you never fully see the city until you get on a bike. To unlock the shared bikes, you will need to download the app of the company that provides the e-bike. There are a few. WeChat also has a platform that connects with e-bike providers, which is very easy to use. Or, ask a new Chinese friend to teach you. You do need a Chinese number and a Chinese bank account to use these apps. If you're planning on living abroad in Beijing, getting a Chinese phone number and bank will be a must, of course. You'll be riding along with the locals in no time!
For the more "thrill-seeking" crowd, I would go with E-Bikes. E-Bikes are electric scooters. These have grown in popularity in recent years in Beijing. E-Bikes come in a variety of prices and sizes. They are also quite fashionable and affordable, running between CNY 2000 to CNY 7000. There are charging stations all over Beijing, so you don't need to worry about running out of power! Most E-Bikes also do not require a driver's license, yay! However, be sure to register your E-Bike upon purchase, this is a must! They are best for those thinking about living in Beijing. E-Bikes take the cake for the most adventurous and exhilarating way to get around the city. Don't forget to wear a helmet, drive safely, and enjoy your new ride!
Walking is sometimes a forgotten gem when there are so many other great ways to get around the city. Beijing is a huge city, but it's still very walkable in different pockets of the city. There's always a cool place to walk to wherever you are. One of my favorite parts of the city to walk around is in Dongcheng. There are so many beautiful tree-lined streets with endless shops and cafés. Beijing has got so many different unique parts to explore. Walking around the old and new neighborhoods remains a source of beauty and wonder. There are also countless parks to take a pleasant stroll in the city. Whenever I'm not in a rush, walking is my go-to form of transportation.
Whichever transportation method you choose, getting around Beijing is going to be a breeze. At times, of course, there's crowds and traffic. On the bright side, there's always going to be an amazing alternative waiting for you around the corner.