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The basics
China: Destination Guides

Top tips for getting in and around Beijing

Studying abroad in China? We tell you the ins and outs of the Beijing transport networks.

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Beijing is China’s most bustling and successful city where businessmen, tourists and students alike flock to every year. China’s largest airport is located in Beijing, the city is also home to the biggest rail network and have expressways that lead out to the rest of the country. Given the dense population in Beijing, it is expected that transportation will be a bit crowded during peak hours (at about 8 am and 6pm).



While there are two airports in Beijing- Capital International Airport located in the northeast and Nanyuan Airport located in the south, the former is busiest and largest airport in the country- most of international and domestic flights depart from here and is even reputed to be the “First Door of China”. The airport is easily accessible via bus, train or taxi.



Beijing is the centre of China’s railway network, connecting it to other major cities in China. Main railway lines include Jingjiu Railway from Beijing to Kowloon in Hong Kong, Jingha Railway to Harbin, Jinghu Railway to Shanghai and Jingguang Railway to Guangzhou etc. Recently, high-speed rails have been built to large cities like Shanghai, Guangzhou and Tianjin.


There are four railway stations in the city (one of them is currently under renovations). Beijing railway station operates routes to areas in the northeast and southeast provinces. There are overnight sleeper trains to Shanghai and you can even travel to international destinations such as Pyongyang, Ulan Bator and Moscow! The West railway station transports passsengers to and from areas in the south, southwest and northwest and it is connected to the subway line 9. Finally, the South railway station operates high-speed rail lines to Hefei, Fuzhou, Harbin, Tianjin and Shanghai. You can reach the station via subway lines 4 and 14.


Long-distance Bus

Beijing has 10 long-distance bus stations in the urban areas, these operate thousands of buses to nearby and major cities in the country such as Tianjin, Shijiazhuang, Datong and Qingdao etc. 




The city now has 18 subway lines, one of which gets you to the airport. Due to the frequent traffic jams during peak hours, taking the subway is your fastest option to get around.


These railways connect the city centre stops like Tiananmen Square and Qianmen to stations in the outlying areas. Depending on where you’re staying and which university you’re attending, you’ll need to take a different line. For instance, Line 4 gets you to Beijing University and Renmin University, while the Batong Line will take you to the Communication University of China. 


Subway tips!
There are typically four entrances in four different directions for each subway station. Always remember which one you will need to take to get out of the station, since it is pretty easy to get sense of direction all muddled. You can find signs with the main destinations at the crossings of the passageway. Don’t fret. There are English signs directing you where the exits are located. Subway stations are marked with a blue sign with the letter “D” inside a circle on it. Stops are also announced in both English and Mandarin. If you don’t have a Transportation Smart Card with on hand, you can purchase a ticket (tickets are only valid for one day) at the Customer Service Centre or a self-service ticket vending machine (some machines only accept 1RMB coons, 5MB and 10 RMB banknotes).  


City bus

The city bus in Beijing is the busiest and carries the most passengers in the globe. There are more than 20,000 city buses plying more than 1000 routes. Buses cover more areas compared to subways, some even travel all the way into suburban areas like Mutianyu and Badaling. Buses are identified by numbers and divided broadly into nine categories- 

•    Downtown regular lines: 1-300
•    Suburban lines: 301-810
•    Outskirts lines: 811-998
•    Night lines
•    Fast bus lines
•    Circle bus lines
•    Special lines
•    Yuntong lines
•    Sightseeing lines


Typically, buses in the downtown area start from 5.30am to 11pm, some suburban lines may stop services as early as 6pm, while some night lines can start from 11pm all the way till 4.30-5am.  Bus tickets are charged based on distance. The first 10km cost CNY 2 and every additional 5km cost CNY 1. If you pay for your bus fare using the Transportation Smart Card, you get to enjoy a 50% discount. You are even entitled to a 30% discount for taking some suburban buses. 


As a student, taxis are probably not the most viable option for you, however, taxi drivers in Beijing are usually able to speak basic English, so if you really need to take one to get to your dorm on your first day in the city, it is possible. 


If you’re only travelling a short distance, it’s a good idea to rent a public bicycle. Anyone between the ages of 18 to 65 years old and over 130cm (about 4.3ft) can easily rent one at any rental site with a Transportation Smart Card (you will need to activate the bike rental function in advance).



If you have a day or two free of tutorials and lectures, and would like to experience the city’s old culture, getting on a rickshaw is a great way to do so. After paying the rickshaw puller the negotiated fare, they will take you through the Hutongs (alleyways) in the city. They will also regale you with detailed explanations on the history and culture of Hutongs. Most of the rickshaw pullers can speak fluent English.


Transportation Smart Card

Like most cities, Beijing has a transport card that enables commuters to save money in the long run. The Transportation Smart Card can be used on all subway lines, most city buses, some taxis and even some restaurants, parks, supermarkets and departmental stores within the city. As mentioned earlier, passengers get a 50% discount when they use this card to pay for their bus fare.


We’ve outlined the different modes of transportation available in Beijing, why not check out the courses available now? Or download a university’s prospectus here


Useful links

Applying to a Chinese university
Three scholarships in China to start you off
Chinese higher education system-simplified
Graduate careers in China