Monday, March 19, 2007

Beijing Taxis

At present taxi is an economical and quick way for visitors to get around Beijing especially if you are in a group of three or four people. Prices were hiked in May 2006 and may rise again in the not too distant future.

Beijing Taxi

As Beijing's subway system still does not cover large parts of this sprawling city, taxi, bus or cycling are the only practical alternatives. Walking is possible around the Tiananmen Square and Forbidden City areas but elsewhere distances between locations and tourist sights are huge.

Beijing Taxis and Double-decker Bus

Taxis drivers as a rule do not speak foreign languages, so try to carry the name of the place you are planning to travel to written in Chinese characters (such as the business card of your hotel) and some idea how to pronounce your destination. Pointing at a travel map can also help.

Taxis can be recognized by their yellow stripes on the sides and should have a meter, which should be turned on and produce a receipt (which records the taxi's number) at the end of your journey, often with some words of thanks and advice to pay the driver spoken in English by the meter machine. The cab should also contain a registration document with the driver's name, his/her picture, registration number and a phone number for complaints.

Except for the morning and evening rush hours, you should have no problems finding a cab and progress around town is reasonably swift. Driving standards are by western standards reckless to say the least. Wear your seatbelt. Say "Ni hao" when you get in and "xiexie" when you get out. Tipping is not necessary, unless you want to. This is not London or New York.

Taxis can be hired for trips out of town, by the hour or for the day. If you find a driver you like and trust, ask for his mobile phone and contact him or her again.

Beijing Taxi in a hutong

Taxis from the airport in to the center of Beijing usually cost around 70+ Renminbi (if the driver is taking his time and the fee has been agreed beforehand). Fares to the airport can be 100+ Renminbi is the fee has not been agreed and the driver tries to hurry along the meter by driving like Michael Schumacher.

There are over 60,000 taxis in Beijing driven in shifts by 130,000 drivers, who rarely have time to take a day off. There are plans to reduce this number to 40,000 taxis when the new subway lines are in operation in 2008. We'll see.

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