From the airport to downtown (Tianamen Area) most hotels will arrange a taxi for you for the bargain price of £25. You may also be approached in the terminal by the cheapest taxi in Beijing £28.
We simple went to an official taxi outside the terminal, he will use a meter and we paid £8.20.
Don't get ripped off.
I'd like to inform you about taxi... you can pay 5 time more for travel from beijing to airport (or to another point) even by meter counter as I did - I paid 320 instead of 70 yuan. It's just cheating... I have described my trip here: http://yakce.com/content/kak-puteshestvovat-po-pekinu It's in Russian but you can use translator.
Ok, taxi's are cheap but beware, don't negotiate any prices with anyone....first shown them the address you want to go to, if they say Ok...which all taxi drivers seem to know, point at the meter and have them turn it on....on a couple of occasion a couple of driver's wanted me to pay them in US dollars and I told them to get lost. From one side of the city to the other it was 40 RMB during rush hour $5 US and from the city to the airport 90 RMB with a 10 RMB toll charge. Try that in NYC !!!!! Ask your hotel for a card written in Chinese and if you can approach a major hotel and have a doorman flag down a taxi for you. Most doorman at the major hotels speak some English and are really eager to help.
I was very tired getting off of a 14 hour flight from the US to Beijing, and I've never been to China before. Someone approached me as I was leaving the airport and asked me in English if I wanted a taxi. I live in New York, and take black car services all the time. I don't, know I appreciate the hustle I guess. But I didn't sleep well and wasn't really thinking correctly, and without thinking let the guy grab my bag and lead me away from the taxi stand to the parking lot.
He was amazing, spoke a little English and was very friendly. He got me to my hotel quick, safe and sound. I never felt unsafe, and I even appreciated the tips he gave me as we were driving in.
HOWEVER, the car ride cost 450Y. In my head I translated that to 50 bucks, which seemed excessive, but that's about what a cab from JFK to south Brooklyn costs. I have since learned that you can hire a car and driver for a whole day for that. So maybe it's just me, and I'm the only person who would be so stupid. But tip: if you're going to take a taxi because you're too tired to figure out the train/bus system on your first day to Beijing, and someone asks you in English if you want a taxi -- they're not taking you to the taxi stand, and as polite as he might be. He's going to rip you off.
Getting around in Beijing on public transport is the cheapest way to travel and the metro is the fastest too.
Taxis are also very cheap mode of transport and when you have luggage are a must but ensure the meter is on else they'll charge you want they want to charge you.
I strongly recommend that you have your location written in Chinese to show the drivers as none speak English and I mean none.
Ask your hotel/hostel/guesthouse to write down in Chinese where you wish to go - make an English note next to it if you have more than one location - so you know which to use. And ask them to have the return to hotel location also noted in Chinese - most hotel/hostel/
guesthouses have a business card or flyer with a diagram and Chinese address - ensure you have this with you at all times.
The Y files, where Y stands for "yowza!".
Taxis in Beijing are plenty, cheap, comfortable and easy to use. Hail a taxi, get in and unless you speak Chinese, make it easier for everybody involved and have the name and/or address of your destination written in Chinese because none of the taxi drivers we dealt with speaks any English, fasten your seat belt and enjoy the ride through the chaotic streets of China. The Lonely Planet guide for Beijing has the names of the sights written in Chinese and that helped us a lot.
One funny anecdote I have is when going to Beijing North Railway station, we decided to get a cab from one of the subway stations but he didn't speak English and I don't speak Chinese but by hearing the locals I could put 2 and 2 together and managed to actually speak the name of the destination as well as I showed him where we wanted to go. However, I didn't get the pronunciation right because he didn't understand me and after a minute it sort of clicked for both of us and when he pronounced the name right, I nodded my head and said "yes!!!" and off we went.
The taxis have a machine that greets and says good bye to the passengers in English, sort of like "Welcome to Taxi Beijing...." and "thank you for using Taxi Beijing..."
Note that when crossing a toll booth, the passenger is expected to pay for the costs as s/he pays for the ride.
Beijing is a huge city and the sights are very spread out and not all of them are within walking distance of the metro. I took a few taxi trips around Beijing without any problems and, for a capital city, they're not that expensive at all. In the daytime, the taxi flag fall is RMB10 for the first three kilometers, and it is RMB2 per kilometre for the remainder of the journey. If the journey is longer than 15 kilometers (8 miles), the charge rises to RMB3 per kilometre.
Taxis in Beijing, think about complaining? Don't waste your time. Despite all the adverts about the complaint line being in English that is the last you will find. Press 3 for English version? Again forget it. I thought I was used to Asia but after a week in Beijing I have had enough. Here are the tips, always pay the correct amount don't expect change, breathe a sigh of relief when you get to your destination unharmed, if at a hotel where anyone can speak English then have them write your address in Chinese.
All the nonsense about photographing your driver if he is smoking? Yeah right, you want to be let off in the middle of the road in goodness knows where, then that'll do it. Find some backseat belts with a connector not hidden by a blanket and you'll be lucky.
Forget any manners you may have, unless you push and shove the Chinese will walk all over you. They are uncouth animals. Forget any nonsense that is put about that the Chinese are a polite or cultured race they are simply cowardly drones who are frightened of authority. When their boss is around or they know you know their boss then they simper pathetically and fawningly - not a man amongst them - when their boss is not around watch them practically run over women and children to get what they want. Boorish, pathetic, yes men. They don't have the confidence or charm of the hong kongers and they certainly don't have the grace and style of the Thais. Beijing, what a toilet!
I know this sounds a bit vague, but when my dad and I were in Beijing, we had the absolute best driver in the world. He was 100% fluent in English, and had personal contacts with locals all over the city and surrounding area. He got us discounts at the local pearl market, drove us to the foot of the steps at the Great Wall (which is not common,) and showed us a very cool jade store on the way back from the great wall.
If you are planning a trip to Beijing please email me for his contact info (he goes by "Barry" in English) I don't have it on me right now but we still keep a correspondence. Happy travels!
When you get on a taxi, look at the sticker affixed on the window at the right passenger side. The fare scheme is written on it so you'd know how the meter runs. As of April 2009, meters start at 10 yuan. Drivers would issue a receipt when you get off. And as others have suggested, be sure to have your destination(s) written in Chinese as drivers presumably do not understand English or any other language except their own.
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