On some of the side streets at the corners of Wangfujing are Taxi stands. Be sure to ask the cost of the fare to your hotel before you get in the cab. I was quoted 100rmb for a ride that should cost 30rmb. As I walked away, the fare dropped steadily but only bottoming out at 70rmb. You would have to walk a few blocks away to catch a Taxi that will not inflate the price because of the area.
Was at a bank machine near the King Parkview Hotel in Beijing when we were approached by a pedicab. We were going to grab a cab anyway to the Wanfuging Snack Market, so we though it may be fun to take a pedicab. Before we got on, we agreed on 30. I wanted to take a picture of him on the pedicab, but he said no. (hindsight alert!)
The guy took us through some back alleys and stopped (in an alley) and told us we were there. I gave him $100 Yuan and he looked at me like I had 3 eyes. He said, 30 dollars, you owe me $300 Yuan and put his hand out for more. I told him, it was 30 yuan and to give me my change back. He continued to ask for more money and I began to yell at him. (My 6'2" husband looked on in disbelieve). I kept yelling till finally he gave me my change. Had he not done so, I would have grabbed back the bill and yelled for a cop. He took off right after giving me my change.
It turned out, he dropped us off two blocks from the market and we had to ask for direction to get there. Needless to say, do not take a pedicab, especially one sitting outside of a bank machine. Give him exact change, and yell really loud if they start hasseling you.
Using a taxi in China is quite cheap. However, it can be difficult to catch taxis at certain locations during festive seasons. This ia because the traffic jams is quite heavy and the taxis do not find it worthwhile to be stuck in the jam and be paid so little, so they can refuse taking you.
Another advvice is, make sure you have destinations written in chinese as most of them do not know the places if written in English.
Most common and the cheapest taxis in Beijing are Red Taxis. They are also officially licensed and you can check that by the large license-card with photograph of the driver on the dash-board. They also have the taxi-meter below the license-card and are of a truly trustable Beijing Taxi. Their price differ from 1.20 to 1.40 yuan/km, starting price is 10 yuan (a bit different are prices at night). The rate is displayed on the red license sticker each registered taxi has on a window.
Then you have un-licensed Black Taxis or illegal taxis. They are usually just normal cars, most of the times their windows are shaded (that's why Beijingers call them "Black"). You may find them (or usually they find you) in non-central parts of Beijing and on nightlife hot spots. If you know the approximate price of the ride and then bargain for a price - then you can take it (it is usually even cheaper then the licensed taxi). Otherwise - don't! They will most certainly rip you off.
And then there are pedicabs. They are the cheapest (if you know how to bargain – remember, ALWAYS bargain real hard, when you reach your limit turn around and walk away to make your point – most of the times they will come back after you, otherwise you can always get another around the next corner) but really appropriate just for the short distances.
The only real problem with drivers in Beijing is that chauffeurs usually don't speak English. The easiest way to solve the problem is to get someone to write you down the address in Chinese or to carry a map of Beijing with you.
I was in Beijing early November 2009, my third trip, but yet I was still "robbed" by a taxi driver from Capital Airport. After arriving and clearing customs with my wife and 2 young children in tow, we went to the front of the taxi line and boarded the first taxi. I took note that it was the regular taxi color, with a sign on the door and a TAXI roof light. When we loaded the 2 large suitcases and 1 small bag in the boot, the driver gestured that I should also load my camera bag and shoulder bag in the boot (with our passports and key items inside). No way, I said I will keep the camera and shoulder bag with me.
So we boarded the taxi, showed the name of the hotel in Chinese characters and off we went. For the first time, I noticed that the photo ID on the dashboard was blank although the taxi had a meter and indicated CNY10, flag fall. Then as we went past the toll booth, the meter still indicated CNY10 so I assumed that maybe the fare was now a flat rate of around CNY100-120. Although my alarm bells were already buzzing - "Scam, scam, scam", I did not want to confront the driver since he could exit the Airport Expressway and leave us in the middle of nowhere. But when the driver noticed that I was looking at the odometer, he reset it to zero and my internal alarm bells started clanging, uh oh, we were in a taxi with a potential rip-off situation.
So I told my wife in loud but slow English (hoping that the driver will eavesdrop) that the hotel in Wangfujing where we will stay this trip was the same hotel we stayed in two years ago and that the hotel I stayed in last year was only a few meters away. I also rattled off some landmarks along the way like the CCTV Tower and Bank of China. Finally, I also told the driver in pidgin English that this was my 4th trip to Beijing (actually only the 3rd), in effect telling him that I knew Beijing.
I knew the driver was going in the right direction since we were still on the Airport Expressway and he exited only when we got near (around the 2nd or 3rd ring road). Besides, I kept checking the small compass on my watch strap, making sure the driver saw what I was doing. Finally we reached Wangfujing and I told the driver to go straight, pointed out the hotel and told him to turn into the main entrance. Instead the driver went straight and stopped on the side entrance. "Clang, clang clang!" went my alarm bells.
I told myself, "The is it, the moment of truth" since he did not want the hotel staff around. So we went down and my primary concern was to get my family and luggage safely off the taxi. I told my wife and kids to move away from the curb, unloaded the 3 bags from the boot and secured them on the hotel sidewalk. When I asked the driver "How much?", he said "400 yuan". I snapped back, "no way, the fare is only 120 yuan". Then he gestured that there were 4 of us and we had 3 bags. At this point he was getting aggressive and he was a stocky fellow. Then he said "300", I countered "150 and finally he said "200". Reluctantly, I agreed, at least my family and luggage were safe and I remembered paying the metered fare of CNY120 last year, CNY80 more this time. He could have been a member of the Triad criminal gangs, who knows? I did not bother getting his license plates since I had no intention to spend my previous time in the police station. The moral of the story - peep inside the taxi first to make sure the taxi has a meter and a photo ID, although the driver probably removed the photo ID right before we loaded the luggage. Also, always be wary and suspicious. Better to be tagged an arrogant foreigner than be left stranded in the middle of nowhere, the driver driving off with your luggage or worse, get hurt by the driver.
The next day we took a taxi to the tourbus hub in Qianmen and the hotel dispatch wrote down the address and also told the driver our destination. I know my Beijing geography (thanks to Dr. Ben and googlemaps) so I knew that the shortest route is southwest, CNY10 flagfall or maybe CNY 12 at most. Instead of taking the S/W direct route, the driver went north on a circular route so I pulled out the printed photo of the bus hub that I took last year, showed it to the driver with a firm "we go here, Qianmen" pointing to the opposite direction. Grudgingly he backtracked but it still cost me CNY15 instead of CNY10. I remember taking a taxi to the hotel from the YongAnli Silk market two years ago and it cost CNY12. When we took a taxi from the hotel back to YongAnli Silk Market later that evening, it already cost CNY22 with the driver taking us on an unsolicted tour of the neighborhood. The moral of the story - always try to know your directions since many taxi drivers will try to cheat you.
To those 2 cheating taxi drivers and their kind - "May the fleas of a thousand camels infest your ___". Ha ha ha!
I took a taxi from the hotel and the dispatch specified that we wanted to go to the north entrance of the Forbidden Palace. I knew exactly where that was and maybe the driver sensed that too because he took the most direct route. The fare was CNY10 flagfall so I gave the driver CNY12. He took the CNY 10 and declined the CNY 2 tip with a smile.
At the end of our visit, we took a taxi from the hotel to the airport and the driver was all smiles and I knew he was taking the most direct route since my compass showed North/East. When we reached Capital Airport, the meter showed CNY71 and when I gave the driver CNY100, he gave back exact change of CNY 29. When I gave him a CNY 10 tip, he was all "she she" and smiling in thanks.
To both honest taxi drivers and their kind, may your tribe increase and may you be blessed with safe driving and generous passengers.
FINAL TIP - When possible, take the bus or subway, it's cheaper and no one can cheat you. It's safer too with many uniformed security and policemen around. Walk the short distances, it's healthy.
I have been warned many times, watch out for scams and dishonest merchants / taxis in Beijing. But when I was told of missing my flights by the staff at the bus station in Beijing, I gave in. I should have known the terminal of my airline, but I didn't. And the people at the bus station smelled blood when they asked me about my terminal, and I gave them a blank look. They started telling me sh*t, telling me the bus didn't go to my terminal, and asked me RMB250 to get me to the airport. Eventually, we settled at RMB160, it's not too much money, but the bus only cost RMB16. I arrived at the bus station (Ming Hang Da Sha) at 10:40am, and my flight was 1:30pm.
Lesson learned, the Chinese are nasty.
If you want to rent a taxi for the day, negotiate with the driver first and pay at the end of the day. Be prepared to have your destination written in Chinese characters to hand to the driver.
At the front of tourist places, there are many pedicab's man.. ignore them!
While this could happen anywhere in the world, in March 2007 a friend of mine had his mobile phone stolen by his taxi driver. Having had too much to drink and lost, my friend gave the phone to the driver so the person on the other end could give driving instructions. The driver delivered my friend to his destination, but neglected to return his phone to him. The moral might be not to get yourself so drunk that you lose track of what you're doing, but a corollary is don't depend on taxi drivers not to take advantage of you in such situations.
We got overcharged double of what we should of paid by a scheme that we heard is prevalent in almost all hotels in China. Whenever the hotel baggage handlers see your luggage, and know you are going to the airport, they grab your bags and signal to a dishonest taxi, normally waiting right besides the hotel. The first time this happened, they told us that it will be hard to find a taxi because taxi's don't like to go the direction of the airport and so they sold us on a friend who could take us for, of course, double the price. Since they already put our bags in the trunk of the car, we agreed. The next time we had to go to the airport, we thought we were being smarter, and said we wanted a taxi with a meter. This meter turned out to be rigged, the rate jumped from 10 RMB to 190 RMB by the time we got to the airport. We knew we were being overcharged because we only paid 75 RMB going the opposite direction, from the airport to the hotel. So by the third time we had to go to the airport (from Xian) we held on to our bags and walked to the street and almost immediately got a taxi who charged us right. Also, they know you can't complain about this to the authoritiies because we were told in order to file a complaint you have to have an address in the area where you can be reached, but the thing is, you are going to the airport to fly out of the area so the taxi's know this and try to take advantage of it. In addition, in order to file a complaint, you also need a full receipt with the taxi driver's name and number, the date and amount of what you paid (which they will never give you if they are trying to cheat you) as well as you need the license number of the taxi (part of which is a Chinese character) and the hotel' card (the bell boy will give you a card where they will write down the taxi driver's number and the date and time you took it, but they didn't give it to us when we were going to the airport).
I had three bad taxi experiences - not sure if this reflects the standard of taxi drivers in the city or just my bad luck. All three experiences involved drivers who had meters located well away from view (between the steering wheel and door) and overcharged. The first of these was my taxi trip from Beijing Capital Airport to the hotel (and I was in a licensed taxi queue!) - the driver rounded up the fare by RMB15! The second had a blatantly tampered meter, with the fare jumping RMB10-20 randomly (it even went down at one point!). When I pointed this out, the driver got angry and demanded I pay first and then dared me to report the matter to the police. By the third time it happened, I stopped the cab, paid and got out, with the driver shouting abuse. By comparison, I have taken far more taxis in Shanghai and have never had a bad experience. Be warned!
When you will arrive to Beijing by plane and continue to city center, be warning with private taxis. Right fare is appr. 80RMB (Dec 2005) but you could be demanded over 300RMB.
Allways clarify the price in advance.
After clearing Beijing customs you will be surrounded by tout taxi drivers hassling you to hire them to drive you to your hotel. Some can be very forceful and go to attemps to grab your bags and make them follow them. The best way I found to deal with these situations is not to say anything to them but walk on through. Any communication with them is often mistaken as a sign that you are interested. Walk to outside the airport and take a metered taxi. Be really careful here also as when I ditched the tout taxis and found a metered cab a man who we thought was the driver helped us put our luggage into the car and said that the policy was to pay 500 yuen upfront. When we did this in front of the watchful eye of security the man gave a portion of this to another gentleman who was the taxi driver and off we went. The meter when we reached the hotel was sat at approx 50 yuen and fellow travellers who were duped into paying over 100 yuen were shocked when they heard how much we had to pay. I would normally be very wary to being ripped off but it easily happens when you first arrive in a country unfamiliar to you.
Usually, the cabs are ok, provided that you have the destination name and address written in chinese.
However, it happened to me to take a cab from the Jingshan park (closed to the Forbiden City) to go to the Silk Market. But the driver took a weird, longer route. Of course, I couldn't argue, so I had to accept the reality and consolate with the fact that afterall I could see some different places in Beijing...
Well, it's not a matter of price, it was only 5 yuans more, which is nothing, but of principle.
Tiananmen Square is the heart of China. If you are going to do something silly in China, do NOT do it in Tiananmen Square. Rules are rigorously enforced there. These rules include taxis not being allowed to stop there (they have to drive you round the corner and stop - the driver isn't being awkward!), and bicycles are not allowed to be ridden across it.
Taxis are usually a good way to get around in Beijing, although some of them take advantage of the language problems and try to take as much money as possible from the tourists by driving in circles or by taking longer paths to some known destinations.