Beijing: Car Rental
The Forbidden City
Local Travel Info in Beijing
Internal flights and major international airports in Beijing
Beijing Capital International is the main airport servicing all International and domestic flights. Located to the northeast of the central districts, 26 km from the city centre. The airport, expanded for the 2008 Olympics, now has three terminals, divided as follows:
Terminal 1: Hainan Airlines.
Terminal 2: China Southern Airlines, China Eastern Airlines, Skyteam.
Terminal 3: Air China, Shanghai Airlines, Oneworld, Star Alliance.
On your departure, beware of anyone offering to sell you an exit fee ticket/receipt. There used to be an airport construction (or exit) fee of ¥90, but now it is included in the plane ticket.
Getting to and from the airport in Beijing
Taxicabs are the most popular way to get from the airport in Beijing to your hotel. Take your taxis from the stand outside the airport, not the touts or desks inside. Try to get the name of your hotel written in characters so the driver can read where you are going. Many of the driver’s are recent arrivals from the countryside and will not have a full grasp of English. A taxi from the airport should cost ¥70-120. You will have to pay the fee shown on the meter (make sure the driver uses it) plus ¥10 toll for the airport expressway. Traffic jams are common so don’t expect to get anywhere in a hurry.
The Beijing Airport Express train opened in July 2008. The train runs in a one-way loop from T3 to T2/T1 then Sanyuanqiao (transfer to subway line 10) and Dongzhimen (lines 2, 13). A one-way fare is ¥25, and the trip takes about 20 minutes from Dongzhimen to T3, 30 min to T2. Don't take the train just to get from T3 and T2, as this will cost you the full ¥25; use the free shuttle bus instead.
A slightly cheaper way to get to Beijing city centre is to take the airport shuttle. Buses for each route leave every 10-30 minutes. There are several lines running to different locations throughout Beijing. This will cost you around ¥16 for a one-way trip.
Renting cars in Beijing
Since the Olympics in 2008, visitors are allowed to rent vehicles whilst in China. Renting a car normally is not recommended for the ordinary visitor. Besides being quite expensive, driving in Beijing can be quite complicated, especially with the potential language difficulties. Many hotels, however, rent cars that come with drivers, for those who can afford it, for up to ¥1000 per day.
• BCNC Car Rental. Toll-free in China 010800/810-9001. Based at the Beijing Capital Airport, this agency comes highly recommended. An air ticket is required, as well as an international driving license. There is large deposit depending on the class of car, and there are extra charges for permission to travel beyond the city limits.
• Avis also operates a car-rental service in Beijing and have a solid international reputation
Driver’s license requirements in Beijing
Your valid state driver’s license should be accepted with another form of photo ID in Beijing. But you may also require an International Driver’s Permit. What you need may depend on the length of your stay; a two-week trip is different from a year.
Your personal automobile insurance policy may have restrictions or limitations on driving in Beijing. Check your coverage, including the terms of your credit card policy, before you rent in Beijing.
Most car rental companies require the driver to be older than 21, and for some companies the minimum age is 25.
Driving Rules in Beijing
In Mainland China, traffic drives on the right-hand side of the road. This is different to Hong Kong for example, and many of China’s neighbouring countries, where they drive on the left.
The official driving code in the People's Republic of China is the ‘Road Traffic Safety Law of the People's Republic of China’. It applies to all vehicles in China except military vehicles.
Increasingly, Chinese Police tend to accept the IDP (also called IDL or IDD) or translations to the format of an IDP. They focus very much on their on-the-spot judgment of the driver being sufficiently skilled and experienced to drive safely with respect to his own and others safety.
In case of an accident, the outcome depends on the severity of the collision. If it’s a minor bump, the driver may continue on. If damage is involved to another driver’s car, the drivers may sort it out between themselves and come to a financial agreement, or if this is not possible, the police will have to get involved.
Police in China are usually very helpful and understanding towards visitors.
Speed limits are as follows:
30 km/h (19 mph) on city roads where there is only one lane per direction, 40 km/h (25 mph) on China National Highways;
Up to 70 km/h (43 mph) on city roads where there is a major road with central reservation or two yellow lines, 80 km/h (50 mph) on China National Highways;
100 km/h (62 mph) on city express roads;
120 km/h (75 mph) on expressways.
Penalties for exceeding the speed limits are as follows:
Up to CNY 200 for excess speeds over 10 km/h but under 50% of the speed limit. Example: if driving at 100 km/h (62 mph) in an 80 km/h (50 mph) zone.
Up to CNY 2,000 and possible loss of license for excess speeds over 50% of the speed limit. Example: if driving at 190 km/h (118 mph) on a 120 km/h (75 mph) expressway.
Speeders are commonly known as biao che.
Beijing is the worst city in China for congestion, despite five ring roads and nine expressways.
Beijing municipality is the only administrative unit where tolls are not charged for China National Highways. Elsewhere, though, there are toll roads on the national, and sometimes on the provincial level as well.
Chinese traffic is dangerous for vehicles, bicycles, and pedestrians. Road accidents in China are common and often fatal.
Buses in Beijing
The bus system in Beijing is cheap and convenient, and covers the entire city. It’s perfect for the locals but tourists may find it difficult to navigate. Bus drivers generally don’t speak English, but if you speak Chinese, or are feeling adventurous, taking the bus around Beijing is a novel and interesting way to get around the city
Most bus fares are relatively cheap, but if you get a public transportation card from a metro station (a card that acts as a debit card for the metro and buses) you can get a 60% discount on all fares.
Many shiny new buses arrived on the streets in preparation for the Olympics. Many of the buses now feature air-conditioning (heating in winter), TVs, a scrolling screen that displays stops in Chinese, and a broadcast system that announces stops. If you are having problems navigating the bus system, call the English
Bus lines are numbered from 1-999. Buses under 300 serve the city centre. Buses 300 and up run between the city centre and more distant areas (such as beyond the Third Ring Road). Buses in the 900s connect Beijing with its "rural" districts (i.e., Changping, Yanqing, Shunyi, etc) that are not considered part of Beijing proper.
Full maps of the system are available only in Chinese. The Beijing Public Transport Co. website has limited information in English, but the Chinese version has a very helpful routing service with an interactive map. You can input your starting point and your ending point and see all the bus routes that will get you from A to B, look up a bus route by number, or input a place name and see all the routes that go stop there.
Most buses with a line number under 200 run daily from 5:00 to 23:00. Buses with a line number greater than 300 run from 6AM till 10PM. All buses with a line number in the 200s are night buses. Many routes get very crowded during rush hours (6:30AM-9AM and 5PM-9PM). On all major holidays, there will be more frequent service on most city routes.
For passengers paying by cash: Lines 1-199 operate on a flat rate of ¥1 per journey. Lines 300-899 charge ¥1 for the first 12 km of each journey and ¥0.5 for each additional 5 km. Buses with air-condition (800-899) start at ¥2. The night buses (200-299) charge ¥2 per journey.
For passengers paying by the new pre-paid Smart Card: Lines 1-499 operate on a flat rate of ¥0.40 per journey. Lines 500-899 get 60% off the cash price. There are also 3-day, 7-day and 15-day passes available for travellers. There is no return ticket or day ticket.
Taxis in Beijing
Taxis are the preferred choice for getting around in Beijing, as they are convenient and are fairly inexpensive for travelers from Western countries. The only downsides are that Beijing's congested traffic often results in long jams, and taxi drivers are often recent arrivals from rural areas that do not know the city well. Taxis are dark red, or have a yellow top with dark blue bottom.
Taxi’s run on a meter, so make sure the driver uses it. Beware of touts and scams, such as fake meters that run faster than normal. If possible, take a taxi from an official outlet or ask your hotel to book you one.
Cycling in Beijing
China was once known as a nation of bicycles. An increase in wealth has led to a rise in private car ownership, but the infrastructure is still excellent for cyclists. The city is very flat and all major streets have cycle lanes. Bicycling in Beijing is often a quicker way to get around the city, because of the dense congestion.
However, Bicycling in Beijing can be incredibly dangerous. Cars and trucks often do not observe traffic signals and will turn across bike lanes without prior warning. Sometimes a right-turning vehicle crossing a bike lane will sound its horn as a warning, but not always. Cyclists also need to be on the lookout for wrong-way traffic in the bike lanes, usually bicycles and tricycles but sometimes motor vehicles, too. Wrong-way traffic usually stays close to the curb so you move to the left to get by them. Bicycling Beijingers do not usually wear helmets. Nor are lights used at night with few bikes even having rear reflectors. The moderate pace and sheer numbers of bicyclists in Beijing appears to make bike travel safer than it would be otherwise.
Several professional bike rental companies, as well as major hotels and some hostels, rent bikes on an hourly basis. For those who need the security of a guide, a bike touring company like Bicycle Kingdom Rentals & Tours is recommended.
If you are staying longer a decent bike can be purchased for 300-400CNY. Ensure you have a good lock included in the price, as theft is common.