Learning to navigate from Beijing - and why it´s worth it

In buzzing Beijing, there's always something new and exciting to discover - but the Chinese capital can be notoriously difficult to get around. Today on the Radisson Blu blog, we're passing along a few easy tips to help you navigate.

In a city as densely populated as Beijing, sometimes there's only one way around the gridlocked roads and endless lines of cars: public transportation. For visitors, though, navigating an unfamiliar transit network can be tricky - and this city's notoriously high demand (and short booking periods) elude even the local crowd from time to time. Whether you're planning for a full itinerary of sightseeing, plotting your route to Beijing's best shopping or just trying to ensure you don't miss that important business meeting, heed our top transport tips to get around the city like a pro.

The basics: subways and buses

While preparing to host the world in 2008, Beijing extended its subway system from two lines to 10. This wide-reaching system is now more efficient than ever, but you may still find yourself better served by the (slightly less comfortable) public buses, especially when visiting more niche and off-the-beaten track attractions. Keep a map of the system with you at all times - some buses play pre-recorded stop announcements in English, but it helps to know the Chinese name for your destination as well. Bus and tram service is highly cost-effective and, as in any city, probably the quickest way to familiarize yourself with local areas.

Be "Smart" about it

Beijing's answer to the New York Metro Card and London's Oyster is called a Smart Card, and it can be used on the subway, trams and buses, as well as select train and taxi services. There's a small, refundable deposit for the card, which can be picked up from over 170 designated points across Beijing. These include ticket offices at Beijing subway stations, select supermarket chains and post offices. 

Beijing bicycle club

You might be surprised by how closely many of Beijing's best attractions are grouped. This makes it easy to explore sights like Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and Beihai Park in one day - especially if you're on two wheels. Recent years have seen a huge initiative to encourage cycling in the city, and ambitious tourists can rent a public bike using the Smart Card. The service is free for the first hour, but be aware that the network of hire points is still expanding, so you might be better off renting a bike from an independent shop to get off the beaten track. (Remember to bring your passport if you do choose a private rental.)

Beyond the city limits

When it comes to exploring China, trains are highly dependable - once you're on them. Arranging tickets in the first place is often the tricky part, especially when you're out of the country. Ticket reservations open 20 days before a train's scheduled departure, and the earlier you book, the better your chances of securing the seat you want. Since the only way to book directly is in person at Beijing Main Station or at Beijing West Station, it's often advisable for visitors to go through an agency. Organizations like China Trip Advisor know all the tricks of the trade, so when the reservations officially open, they'll ensure you get a seat that matches your requirements - and even deliver the tickets to our Radisson Blu Hotel, Beijing ahead of your departure.


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