Getting Around in China

 Transportation in China

[guest written by a teacher in China]

Although foreign teachers are should probably live near their school or teaching institution for convenience, your still might need to use public or private means of transportation to get around.

Capitals of provinces and other huge metropolitan areas usually offer various safe types of transport: bikes, motorbikes, buses, subway, taxis, trains, cars and even planes.

One of the most popular ways of transportation in China is a bicycle. It’s a good option for people with no time for sports and little money. Besides, it is just a perfect way to avoid traffic jams and you won’t have to waste your time during rush hours. A lot of people in China prefer to ride a bike to work for this reason. There are lots of places selling bikes everywhere, and even if you get a flat tire, you can easily get it fixed in the street for a few yuan.

Buses are another cheap form of transportation in China. Depending on the distance the fee can vary from only two Mao (Chinese coins) to two yuan. You can find them really stuffed with people in the morning and in the late afternoon when everybody tries to get home after work. Buses are very convenient and there are usually many routes covering the whole city or town. Most all of them are air-conditioned in summer and heated in winter. On a bus stop signboard, you can find information such as the number of the bus, departures, terminus, first runs, last runs, and the name of the current stop.

The names of bus stops are written in Chinese characters. The stops listed vertically on the board are under a set of consecutive numbers. There is always a long arrow (→) under the names of the stops, and the directions of the arrows indicate the directions that the bus travels. Also, some show the ticket fare of the bus on the board. When a bus reaches a stop, the bus-stop name will be announced by the electronic bus-stop announcement machine, and then repeated by the conductor or the driver. All announcements are in Chinese and in English (due to Olympics there were many changes in public buses).

You can enjoy comfortable double-decker buses and beautiful scenery from your window when traveling between cities.

Subways are probably one the most over-crowded means of transport in China, though not all Chinese cities have subways. Foreigners and visitors usually prefer this form of transportation as it’s one of the fastest and doesn’t require any knowledge of Chinese. Inside the subway stations, noticeboards provide detailed information and direct you to your destination. Station names are broadcast on the train in both Chinese and English.

Taxis are probably one of the most expensive forms of transportation.  Registered taxis are reliable and prices vary by city.

There are several types of trains in China. If you want to travel to another city and you don’t have much money, it’s a good choice to travel by train, though the lower priced services can be slow and tiresome. During Chinese holidays and festivals, it can be very difficult to get train tickets, because a lot of people will be traveling to their home towns to visit their parents and families.  Book your tickets few weeks in advance for holidays.  High speed trains are available, but also a bit expensive.

If you buy your own car or rent one , you’ll need to be careful on the roads. Traffic in China can get really heavy, especially during rush hours when people are in a hurry to get to work or on their way home.  Road signs and traffic rules also are a bit different more flexible from those back home.

Planes are the most expensive, but most comfortable means of traveling in China. The country is a huge territory, so sometimes it might take you 18-24 hours or even more to get from the north to the south, from the east to the west and vice verse. Definitely, it’s much faster to travel by the plane. There are many travel agencies that offer seasonal discounts for round-trip tickets – keep an eye out for those specials.  It will only take around 2-3 hours to get from one city to another by plane.