The only real hassles when traveling on the overnight trains are:
1. The tight security checkpoints!
The crowds spill out of the station and onto the sidewalk. There are no organized queues and it seems to be either a first in first served basis or, if you are Chinese, just push your way to the front as quick as you can because you are the most important person here!
You must open every bottle of water that you have and take a drink to show the police that it is water and not a corrosive liquid.
All bags are x-rayed. (The same as an airport.)
Once past security you are herded to a waiting room that is allocated for your train and you simply wait!
The crowds are MASSIVE!
When you choose to take the overnight train I would suggest packing food and drinks for both dinner and breakfast. (And perhaps a few snacks.)
Anne and I took 5 overnight trains in China and we chose to either eat with the “locals” in the dining car or to purchase fresh fruit, drinks or pre cooked meals from the “snack” trolley that comes along at regular intervals.
We found that eating in the dining car was fun as we laughed and joked with the locals, drank beers and played cards.
A very inexpensive way of traveling throughout China is to Catch the overnight train services.
The ticket fro Beijing to Shanghai was approx 45 Yuan (US$7.50 in July 2008) and represented the transport and accommodation costs.
The compartments sleep 6, the beds are very comfortable and the trip proved to be hassle free.
For the cheap cost of the ticket you can always book out the entire compartment!!
Anne and I were surprised to find China Southern Airlines to be a hassle free experience.
You often hear horror stories about air travel within China and I must admit that I was dreading the entire experience.
Apart from the standard check in at the airport, which was painfully slow, the rest of the experience was excellent.
The flight departed on time, the aircraft was modern, the crew were friendly, a meal was served, the plane landed on time and our luggage arrived with the same plane....SHEER LUXURY!
I would recommend them to anyone.
Anne wanted a go "on this little number" but the driver was nowhere to be seen.
Located near the taxi rank at Wangfujing Street, outside the Oriental Plaza Mall, you must "haggle" for the price before you ride. A ride from this part of Town to our Motel in Tian Qiao, near the Temple Of Heaven, was 30 Yuan....cheaper in a taxi!
How good was this?
One block from our motel, and across the road from the Temple Of Heaven, we found a BRT stop. I don't know what BRT stands for but I simply called it Be Right There.
When you get onto the bus you simply put 1 Yuan in the slot for your ride. This equates to the princely sum of US$0.10 cents!!!!!
We took this bus from the Temple Of Heaven to Tian'an Men Square and the Forbidden city.
I found it amazing how inexpensive it was to get around Beijing.
Taxis are literally everywhere and I would imagine that they make up over 25% of the cars on the road in Beijing.
“Flag fall” in a taxi is 10 Yuan. (approx 7.6 Yuan = US$1.00)
This 10 Yuan is for the first 4 or 5 miles or 10 minutes before the meter even dares to move! (There are signs everywhere that warn that the minimum fare is 10 Yuan.
A taxi ride from our motel near the Temple of Heaven to the Silk Market, in peak hour traffic, was 22 Yuan. (US$3.00 for approx 25 minute ride.)
A bargain in any language!
Beijing has opened a new Rail Line called the Beijing Dongzhimen-Airport Express Rail. It of course connects the International Airport with downtown Beijing.
The 28.5-km light rail system ride is expected to take 16 minutes and can save passengers more than 50 minutes during rush hour and will travel up to 110 kilomtres per hour leaving every 10 minutes.
It will stop at two downtown subway stations, Dongzhimen and Sanyuanqiao, and airport terminals 3 and 2.
Updates to come ....
In one of my previous Tips I explained how I took a taxi from the Airport. On my following trip to Beijing I took the Shuttle Bus to the city center. This is my preferred method: It's a fraction of the cost, less stress, comfortable and faster than a taxi.
To get to the city centre by shuttle bus leave airport via exit 11 if it is an international flight arrival, or exit 7 if it is a domestic flight arrival. You will see the a 'China Mobile' Tower not far from where you need to buy the tickets (see attached Photograph). You buy the ticket near the bus stops and it is easy to find. There are different shuttle buses but it is best to take the bus to the main Beijing train station which will cost you 16 rmb. You will want to take the Shuttle from Line #3 which starts at 7:00 am and run quite often throughout the day. You will see a Blue Kiosk with a Yellow sign with Red Chinese and English writing. You can point to the fifth Shuttle on the list. (see attached Photograph) to let the attendant know which Shuttle you want. The trip can take up to an hour to the city centre.
The bus stops about 100 meters west of the Beijing Train Station. When you get off the bus, continue walking in the direction of the bus and you will see the station on the same side of the street as where you are walking. Be ware of touts as they know this is an airport shuttle and will pester you to take a tour or whatever. You can walk the few meters to the train station or to the Subway.
If you want to take the Subway to your destination, the Subway station is very close to the train station. If you are headed to the Forbidden City take the subway to the Qianmen subway station which lets you out right inside Tiananmen Square almost in front of the Mao Mausoleum. Subway costs 3rmb and you buy a ticket just inside the station before going down to the platform. Signage for the station and routes are in English as well as Chinese. There is also a Subway stop marked Lama Temple which is a very worth while tourist stop and so easy to get there via the subway such as it is a stop on the route.
For many of us the Beijing Capital International Airport is our gateway to China. It is where it all begins and the excitement, the journey, the challenges unfold from here when you first step off the plane. A long flight is not likely the best begining and somehow after our 18 hour flight from Canada I am not sure my 19 year old daughter and I were up to it. To this day, when we travel, we always refer to a bad experience as a cultural experience and somehow it gives it the significance to make it better.
The airport is very modern and looks like any typical international airport found in Europe or North America. You will discover some Chinese writing but always accompanied by English which is something prevalent even pre-Olympic. The washrooms will have western toilets, foreign exchange booths are available and kiosks selling you cell phones and phone cards and signing you up for a credit card will call out to you. Don’t call back.
You may find a few touts offering to carry your bags for you but this is just a ploy to rid you of some hard currency. A tout in the washroom will likely offer to hold your bag for you, offer you a paper towel and in return expects a small reward. This is likely a renegade employee and touts are not sanctioned by the airport authority. After we picked up our baggage, we headed over to the foreign exchange booth. There are no fees for exchanging money and the rate is the same throughout the country set by the Bank of China. There is also a Bank of China at the airport but it has regular business hours so don’t count on it. The foreign exchange booth will be attended by English speaking staff and will quickly exchange your money. Keep the receipt as you may need it to exchange money back or to take it out of the country if you find yourself with a surplus of Chinese RMB (Renminbi) or as it is locally called Yuan (pronounced u n as in the acronym for united nations). The foreign exchange booth will exchange cash only (to my knowledge travelers cheques must be cashed at a qualifying bank. Bank of China for sure at some of the other banks.) American and Canadian dollars as well as British Pounds and Euro is no problem at the exchange booths. Bank machines are more and more prevalent and more so with the advent of the Olympics. However, not all debit cards are equal. I would not depend on bank machines and the risk of a machine chewing up your card is too much of a risk to my thinking. Credit cards are not widely accepted and only at elite shops and large hotels chains catering to westerners. However, the Bank of China will for a small fee give you a cash advance on your Visa or MasterCard.
Depending on your first plans, $500 to $1000 in currency is enough to get you started and will be a fist full of bank notes to stuff in your wallet if at all possible. Depending on the rate of the day, $1000 will yield 6000 to 7000 rmb almost all in 100 rmb denominations. Larger notes are possible but you would have difficulties getting anyone to accept them. Going through customs for us was a breeze even with two large bottle of duty free rum loosely wrapped in a plastic bag. . If customs is busy, make sure you get in the foreigners line up, it may or may not be faster but you will at least be in the right line up so said my daughter at the time. Don’t confuse the customs line up with the immigration line up for your health declaration card that you will fill out on the plane. I thought it was customs and I was trying to show them my two bottles of rum making sure it was okay to bring them into the country but hey just smiled at me oddly as my daughter rolled her eyes implying I was the odd one..
Once we left the secure area the pandemonium began. We were transformed into another world. How are you going to get to where you need to be? For many of us it is a taxi or airport shuttle bus. Both are great options but beware, not always so simple. This time it was taxi but a few years ago my wife and I took the shuttle.
First, refuse and ignore the touts pushing their business card in front of you offering you their taxi service. Never never ever use them. Don’t say you weren’t warned. What you need is a legal metered taxi. I emphasize legal. English speaking touts will approach you asking if you want a metered taxi, and say no. Their meter likely has a mind of its own and doesn’t mind ripping you off. As a rule, now, I never accept a service from someone who approaches me. I always approach them. The first time I arrived in China I was armed with this great advice and bravely my daughter and I walked out of the airport refusing all the touts as we had been told to and saw the lineup of legal taxi’s all queued up as my daughter pointed out pointing in the direction, and yes there were the uniformed drivers I further pointed out as we walked towards them as one of the drivers from the taxi area approached me and in perfect English asked if I was looking for a metered taxi. I said yes, and my daughter asked if I was sure as he took our bags putting them on a cart and headed to the queue of taxis. I said to my daughter yes I was sure, it was a metered taxi from over there pointing to where she had pointed to earlier and the direction we were walking but strangely continued our walk right past the queue of taxis and uniformed drivers and I knew my daughter knew then I was taken, but I wasn’t sure, this guy seemed so sincere and he did speak perfect English? So we stayed with him a bit nervous but after all we were exhausted and he was carrying our bags for us and it felt such a relief after the 18 hour flight. It was only a short distance from the taxi queue, when a beat up old car with a taxi meter on the front seat pulled up and the sincere guy put me us and our bags in the car with a driver who spoke no English.
We were on our way. My daughter could see the taxi meter on the front seat from where she was sitting. I was behind the seat and could not. She was keeping her eye out on it and from time to time reading out 10 20 30 and so on. It didn’t sound too bad I hoped. Not too far from the airport traffic came to a stall as it turns out there is a highway like toll. I did not know that and when the driver started to make a fuss wanting something, my daughter pointed out it had to be money. She seemed to understand him. It made sense I had to pay the toll. It turned out to be 80 rmb at least that is what he charged me. As it turned out it should have been only 20 rmb, it was supposed to be included in the price of the fare and I was supposed to get a receipt.
This driver in his rudimentary game of hand gestures seemed to be telling me, as my daughter seemed to know what this guys was trying to tell us, did not know the destination for Leo Hostel. As it turned out, as he did, he hands me a cell phone with an English speaking voice on the line from a hotel offering me a deal to stay there. Of course I said no as I looked at my daughter. Of course I knew the driver gets a cut and its not a good deal or you could never trust the deal lasting longer than less the time it takes you to get there. The driver in the end literally dumps us off on a busy busy street corner not far (but we did not know) from Leo Hostel at 11:30 pm. He knew where Leo Hostel was, I also knew if he took us there Leo Hostel would know him as a con artist and catch him at the game so he pretends not to know and dumps you somewhere close by so as not to get caught. He charged us 400 rmb plus we paid 80 rmb for the road toll. From where my daughter was sitting, she could not see the second zero on the meter which indeed had a mind of its own. The toll should have been included in the price and the fare which should have been less than 100 rmb. I was taken and still not where I needed to be at 11:30 pm on a cold Beijing winter night with my less than enthusiastic 19 year old daughter.
Not far away I saw a rickshaw driver, a small carriage rickshaw like thing attached to a bicycle like thing. I was only innocently, as my daughter said “don’t”, asking the driver if he knew of the address on my little piece of paper where I had Leo Hostel’s address and as my daughter pointed out, we were about to take our first rickshaw ride. Without asking or negotiation, the driver put my bags on one rickshaw and whistled for another driver who promptly came over with his rickshaw and loaded my daughter and her bags up onto his rickshaw. The two of us were whisked away down the middle of a main street against the traffic and at one point passing a bus that I literally rubbed shoulders with. Talking about a culture experience. Before we knew it, we were engulfed in darkness going down a dim lit alley with just enough room for the rickshaw to make it through. The only way I knew my daughter was still behind me was the clinking sound of the two bottles of duty free rum we brought with us from the Air Canada flight. If the clinking sound ever stopped I was sure my heart would. I heard my daughter scream out asking me if we were going the right way and what possessed me to say I didn’t think so (as if I could know) screaming back is something to this day behooves me. I heard my daughter scream stop and in some odd way of understanding her, both drivers came to a screeching stop and out luggage went flying off the rickshaw. My daughter jumped off the rickshaw and meeting me in the middle of this dark alley within feet of and between two rickshaws and their confused drivers we felt we were in the middle of a bad Nancy Drew novel. I muttered something to the effect that we had no choice but to continue as we gathered up our bags. And we did. The five minute ride lasted what felt like half an hour but from a dim lit alley to an instant turn around a corner into a bright hustling and bustling much larger alley we saw the bright yellow sign that said “Leo Hostel”. After paying 65 rmb for two rickshaw rides, we had arrived.
Bicycling can be fun, but...
Be very cautious when bicycling in busy streets. Always keep in mind that cars wouldn't let bicycle or people go first in China. However, bicycling in Hutong (alleys) area is fun and pleasant.
Most of the youth hostels have bikes to rent. The rental rate is 20CNY/bike/day and a deposit up to 400CNY is required. "Bicycle Rental" has a large network. The rental rate is also 20CNY/bike/day. www.bjbr.cn
El precio del tour a Muntiayu : 250 Yuan ( Hay que añadir 55 Yuan del teleferico)
Para visitar la Gran Muralla en Mutianyu , cogimos un tour , en el que eramos tres personas , incluía el transporte y visitamos :
Las tumbas Ming , (El Camino sagrado ) , La Gran Muralla en Mutianyu , una fábrica de cloissoné y tomamos la comida que estaba incluida en el precio
Tour price to Mutianyu :250 Yuan (you must add 55 Yuan for the cable car)
To visit the Great Wall in Mutianyu , we took a "tour" , where we were three of us with the transport included and we visited:
The Ming Tombs ( The Sacred Path) , the Great Wall in Mutianyu , a cloisonné factory and we had the lunch that was included in the price
Either the bus driver or the conductor (if there is one) will announce the next stop. In some cases, they have pre-recorded announcements as the bus gets ready to stop next. Metro/subway is easier but doesn't go everywhere. For example, there is a bus station near the entrance to the Summer Palace, a bus stop just at the entrance to Beihai Park and a bus stop about 5 mins walk to Panjiayuan flea market (I don't think the subway goes to these locations).
The question is really do you know what your intended destination sounds like in Chinese. Get it written down in Pin Yin and try to remember what it sounds like so you'll recognize it when the next stop is called. The other thing to consider is if you stay in a 'hutong' or somewhere not central, you may need to transfer to another bus starting from some central location like Beijing Zhan train station which has at least four different bus terminals.
I used the bus and Metro exclusively when I was in Beijing. Fellow passengers on the bus are usually helpful; get your destination written down (also in Chinese) for ease of communication. If you like using the bus, just do it.....it's not really that big a hassle. Buy the 'yi ka tong' transportation card; it's good for bus and metro, even for the bus ride to Badaling Great Wall.
Fortunately with my sister and her family living in Beijing, it made it easy for us to get an excellent guide for getting around and seeing Beijing. Our guide, a friend of my brother-in-law, goes by the
name of Henry Du Bao-hui (just call him Henry). He speaks excellent English and I would recommend him for any English speaking foreigners that want to get around Beijing. He's open minded, educated, and he was part of the Tiananmen Square protests. We paid him a good amount for the day.
Henri took us to the Great Wall, a great little restaurant in the countryside outside Beijing, and the Ming Dynasty Tombs.
One of out travel companions had hurt their ankle so we were forced to take taxis even over short distances. This proved to be more of a problem than we thought. The drivers refused to take us to our destination because it wasnt worth the fare. We eventually worked out the best thing you could do was to first get in and then give your destiantion.
As you already know always keep your eye on the meter to make sure its running and running properly.
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