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Beijing Thoughts: Taxis, DiDi, and the Subway

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  • Beijing Thoughts: Taxis, DiDi, and the Subway

    Except for the airport it can be damn hard to get a taxi. Even harder if you don't speak any Chinese. But it is, of course, possible. Don't be totally surprised if you get a cab, sit down, and then they kick you out after they realize you can't communicate. Even asking the hotel to order you a cab can be challenging depending on the time of day and where you're going. They'll try but they may/may not be able to get one to come. If it happens to rain it's an order of magnitude worse.

    If a taxi doesn't turn on the meter you're going to get ripped off. But it's China and taxis are cheap compared to the West so relatively speaking it may not be that bad. Most of them won't do this though if they'll pick you up to begin with.

    For all of the above reasons I highly recommend you sign up for DiDi. If you aren't going to have a cellular connection then this is a bit more complicated but at least you can order a car to go if you're on Wi-Fi. DiDi is in English, it takes international credit cards (so you don't need WePay or AliPay), it's really cheap compared to cabs in the States and W. Europe, and they are almost always going to have working seat belts in the front and back. You can usually go several kilometers for a few bucks USD. I'm not saying you can't go anywhere without DiDi it's just significantly easier unless you speak the language. BTW if you're using a VPN DiDi won't work with it so make sure to disable your VPN when you're trying to get a ride.

    The one frustrating thing with DiDi is you can drop a pin for your pickup location but not the drop off. A lot of stuff will come up in English so you don't need to worry about this but if not you'll have to figure out an alternative way to find your destination.

    As a backup ask your hotel for their taxi card. It's a business sized card with the hotel information in Chinese. This is good to have you need to find your way home and DiDi isn't an option.

    The subway is really good assuming it goes close to your destination. Keep in mind it doesn't run 24 hours. If you've ridden a subway in any city in the world you can figure the Beijing system out. The Chinese characters are written in pinyin which is the Latin alphabet version of the character sounds. The hardest part will likely be buying the subway card. But for that just go to one of the subway attendant windows, hand them some money, and hopefully you all can sort it out. It is very inexpensive and you can ride most anywhere for under $1 USD. Most trains run every few minutes. If you've ever tried to ride a subway system in the States this is about 1000x better. I'd say comparable to most subway systems I've experienced in Europe (which I consider to be good).
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