When you’re new to Beijing, there’s often a feeling of panic when getting into a taxi on your own. Many newcomers will take a long ride in the subway over the prospect of having to speak Mandarin or being rejected by a cabbie. Fortunately, mobile apps make it easier than ever to hail taxis and private drivers alike. We outline the basics of ridesharing apps and taking a taxi in Beijing.
Since launching in San Francisco in 2009, Uber has been connecting
riders to drivers in hundreds of cities across the globe. Create an account online or download the Uber app on iOS, Android, or Windows Phones. Uber is especially popular among foreigners in Beijing thanks to its English interface, user-friendliness, and ability to link up with foreign credit cards. Different service levels are available. Unique to Beijing, People’s Uber is the default option and features regular drivers with cars seating up to four people. UberX is the second cheapest option and features slightly better cars. UberBlack is the premium option, with luxury cars like Audi and BMW. Finally, UberXL consists of SUVs and mini-vans for larger parties.
How to use it:
1. Drop the map pin on your requested pickup location. You’ll be able to see the number of Uber cars in the area and how long it will take for the nearest one to arrive.
2. Tap the arrow next to “Set Pickup Location” to order a car. Specifying a destination is optional, though often useful since many Uber drivers aren’t native to Beijing; a suggested route will pop up on the GPS system.
3. The driver will almost always call to confirm your location, so you’ll need to speak at least a little Chinese. A photo of the driver, the model and make of the car, and the last few digits of the license plate number will pop up onscreen once your ride is confirmed.
Payment methods: Uber accepts Alipay, Visa, and MasterCard; the fee is deducted automatically after each ride.
Verdict: Uber is a favorite with many families, as regular cabs have a reputation for avoiding parties with strollers. In our experience, Uber drivers are friendly and cars are clean, due in part to Uber’s rating system. Some cars even offer free bottled water, Wi-Fi, or phone charging stations. Unless surge pricing is in effect, Uber costs less than a regular cab, but note that you might pay over twice the regular rate during rush hour and other busy periods.
Dididache bridges the gap between passengers looking for legitimate cabs and cabs looking for passengers. The app is available for iOS, Android, and Windows Phones and requires only a local mobile number to register. Dididache allows you to request a ride in real time or book in advance. Though the app is in Chinese, it’s quite easy to figure out.
How to use it:
1. Type your destination into the search box at the bottom of the screen, or allow the app to access your microphone and say the address in Chinese into the mic. Dididache also allows you to offer a tip of RMB 5 or more to incentivize taxis to pick you up.
2. To book a ride in advance, tap the button on the bottom right of the screen. The process is the same as above; you type in your location and your destination, then set the pickup time and date. The shortest lead time is 15 minutes and the options come in 15-minute increments. You can book a taxi at any hour of the day; if you’re planning to travel during rush hour or on a holiday, it’s best to reserve far in advance.
Payment methods: Dididache is just a cab calling service, so expect to pay cash according to the meter. However, if you have access to WeChat payment, you can link it to your Dididache account for a discount on your ride (see p44 for more on WeChat Wallet).
Verdict: In our experience, Dididache is largely hit-or-miss depending on your location and the time of day. It’s tougher to get cabs in areas like Sanlitun or Gulou on a Friday or Saturday night, for example, when demand is high. If you’re not willing to offer a substantial tip during high-demand times, you may be better off trying Uber or hailing a cab from the street. There are other ridesharing apps such as Yidaoyongche, but the latter only accepts Chinese credit cards, which are difficult for foreigners to get (more on this on p42).
Getting a Driver’s License
Not interested in waiting on a ride? Here’s what you’ll need to apply for a driver’s license:
• Passport, visa, and residence permit. Visas issued for fewer than 60 days are not eligible for the driver’s license. At least 90 days must remain on the visa in order to apply.
• Four square, one-inch passport photos with a white background in which both ears and glasses – if applicable – are visible (RMB 20).
• Vision test from an approved Chinese provincial-level or higher public hospital (RMB 10).
Beijing Friendship Hospital and China-Japan Friendship Hospital are two of the many choices.
• Application form and payment (RMB 50).
• The official study book (RMB 90, available in nine languages: Chinese, English, French, German, Spanish, Japanese, Korean, Russian, and Arabic). There are over 1,000 sample questions that you will need to read, study, and memorize. Do not assume you will pass if you do not study.
• A trip to the Foreign Affairs Department of Beijing Motor Vehicle Administration to take the test.
Prefer to just hail a cab? If possible, have the Chinese address handy. At first, it’s helpful to have a contact number for someone who can guide the driver if necessary. Here are some useful phrases:
• I’m going _____. Wo qu _____. 我去 _____。
• How much? Duo shao qian?多少钱？
• We’ve arrived. Dao le. 到了。
• Turn right. Zuo zhuan/guai. 左转／拐。
• Turn left. You zhuan/guai. 右转／拐。
• Please give me the receipt. Qing gei wo fapiao. 请给我发票。
• Where are you going? Ni qu na’er? 你去哪儿？
Foreign Affairs Department of Beijing Motor Vehicle Administration
Mon-Fri 8.30am-8pm, Sat-Sun 9am-4pm. 18 Nansihuan Donglu (southwest of Shibalidian Nanqiao, Nansihuan Waihuan), Chaoyang District (8762 5150) 朝阳区南四环东路18号 (南四环外环十八里店南桥西南侧)
Beijing Traffic Management Bureau
1 Fuchengmen Beijie, Xicheng District (Hotline: 122) bjjtgl.gov.cn/
This article originally appeared in the 2015 beijingkids Home and Relocation Guide. Click here to read the issue for free on Issuu.com. To find out how you can get your own copy, email firstname.lastname@example.org.