It’s an unfortunate Beijing reality but I’ve probably spent more time waiting for cabs that’ll never come, and haggling with black cab drivers over unreasonable prices, than I’ve spent in a cab. Maybe it’s because I live in Shunyi but most legitimate cab drivers won’t take me and black cabs use it as an opportunity to quote outrageous prices. So I’ve found two alternative ways to get around Beijing. Part one of this two-part blog post is about Yidaoyongche.
Yidaoyongche, or Yidao, is an app like Uber that connects you with a pool of professional black cab drivers. It is available for iOS, Android and Windows Phone. Unfortunately, the app is in Chinese, but it’s fairly intuitive and uses lots of symbols. Plus, you really only need to know how to get to the “Call a Driver” page, so click the 开始订车 button and get started.
WHO: At the top of the page, you type in the phone number of the person needing the cab. After you select a driver, you’ll be texted each other’s numbers so you can communicate.
WHEN: The second panel is to determine the time you’re booking the car for. You can call one for use right away or for weeks in advance.
WHERE: The most important step is telling the driver where to go. The application uses GPS to figure out where you are so you don’t have to type that in if you have Internet access. You do have to type in where you’re going, but the application saves your recent searches for your convenience.
HOW: Finally, you select which kind of car you’re looking for. The options range from cheapest to most expensive from left to right. The left most car is a promotion deal that charges RMB 10/ half hour + RMB 1/ kilometer. However, I’ve used Yidao for two months and never had that car offer to take me, so I just check it off in the hopes that one responds. The second from the left is the economy car, which charges RMB 15/ half hour + RMB 3/ kilometer.
The fare estimator at the bottom is fairly accurate because it relies on GPS.
Once you’ve filled in all the fields, the app sends out your details and drivers can express interest by responding, but you’ll get the final say on who comes for you. The buttons on the top, from left to right, allow you to order the results randomly, by ratings, by price or by distance from your location. Click on a driver to pick him.
After you reach your destination, make sure that the driver turns off the GPS in front of you. Most do and one told me it was policy, but it’s a good practice. Then you’ll be notified by text message the cost of your trip and the money will be deducted from your Yidao account. You’ll have two hours to rate your driver and you also have the option of adding him to your favorites if you thought he was particularly good. I personally only favorite the drivers that live in my area because I know they’ll be more likely to pick me up.
Payment: You have to use a Chinese credit card to top up your account via internet banking. No money changes hands with Yidao, so while you can call someone you met via the service to pick you up, you still have to go through the motions and order the car through the app.
Overall: Yidao drivers are friendly and are willing to go the extra mile because they rely on customer feedback. Also, your driver will always know where he’s going because the application uses a GPS to calculate the distance traveled. Short rides are more expensive than a legitimate cab, but for longer trips, I find Yidao more economical. You get a voucher for 10% of your top up value whenever you add money to your account too, which doesn’t hurt.
Heather Budimulia is a rising college sophomore, beijingkids’ intern and 北京人in progress. Though originally from Singapore, she spent a decade in Beijing and since she learned to bake and fell in love with publication there, considers it her home. When not in the office or storing sleep for college, she’ll probably be in a coffee shop with a good book, her journal or a stranger (or all three)