plant sculpture in china

Bicycles, trains and buses: Traveling around Beijing

Anthony Hill studied at Beijing Jiaotong University in Beijing, China for the Fall 2017 term. He is a Computer Science student on the Waterloo campus.
One thing I really loved about being in Beijing was how easy it was to travel around the city. I can make my way to anywhere in the city for less than 10 yuan (about $2 Canadian). There are many transportation options, all of which are much cheaper than what they would cost in Canada.

To start, there are many rent-a-bicycle companies in China with tons of these bicycles scattered throughout. The two main companies are Ofo and Mobike with many other smaller, less predominant ones. I personally used Ofo many times during my stay there as it was super convenient. All you need to do is sign up and pay about $40 for a bike deposit. Now you can scan any Ofo bike code and ride it anywhere you want with the trip costing anywhere from free to 20 cents. Another bonus about using these bicycles is that they all have baskets in the front which makes carrying things around much easier for you.

Before I introduce the busses and subway in Beijing, I should mention the Beijing transportation card. This is basically the exact same as the Presto card in Canada. You preload your card with however much money you want, and then you tap your card when you’re getting on the bus and also when you get off to have your fare automatically deducted.

Now we can talk about the bussing system. One interesting thing is that there is always a security person on every bus (and sometimes even two or three when political events are happening). Usually taking the bus costs 40 cents, but if you use a transport card, the cost gets cut in half so now you’re only paying 20 cents. That’s basically one-tenth the price of what busses cost in Ontario.

My favourite way to travel in Beijing was by far the subway. Beijing has a very large and well connected subway system which makes it very easy and convenient to go anywhere within the city. Even if you do get lost, there are always tons of detailed subway maps within all of the stations. Also, the stops are listed both in English and Chinese which makes it much easier for foreigners such as myself to travel. The only issue is that during the busy times, the subway tends to get very full, but if you don’t plan to be using the subway during rush hour, this shouldn’t be an issue for you. Taking a subway costs anywhere in the range of 60 cents to $1.20 depending on how far you’re going.

Lastly we have the trains connecting the various cities within China. There are regular trains, and also fast trains which travel around 300 km/hr. I travelled from Beijing to Xi’an with a friend during the one-week holiday. This trip took around four and a half hours and cost roughly $100. This does seem like a lot compared to the previously transportation methods, but that’s because we travelled 1,200 km. There are many other train options which will make this price either much higher or lower depending on how quickly you want to go there, and what kind of seat you’re wanting.