Transportation in Beijing is convenient and relatively cheap if you can get around the traffic. However, newcomers might shy from hailing taxis on their own due to the language barrier (the prospect of having to speak Mandarin), or a fear of being rejected by a cabbie (due to his fear of having to speak English). Fortunately, ride hailing and rental transport mobile apps have become more commonplace. In this guide, we outline the basics of the most foreigner-friendly private ride hailing and bike rental apps in Beijing.
Despite what seems to be a complicated system, Beijing’s public transportation is fairly accessible and cheap. Besides taxi (出租车 chūzūchē), the Beijing Subway (北京地铁 Běijīng dìtiě) and public buses (公共汽车 gōnggòng qìchē) are your best bets when traveling, especially they have English transliteration of subway and bus station names and signs (though they’re mostly poorly translated). When riding buses or taking the subway, you need 一卡通 (Yīkǎtōng or a public transportation smart card).
Didi Chuxing (Didi) 滴滴打车
Didi and its American rival Uber completed their multi-billion dollar merger in August 2016. Since then, Uber has been in limbo as it discontinued support for its English app in China. It’s been reported that Didi will roll out a basic English interface on its app in summer of this year.
– Integration into WeChat wallet.
– Most convenient way to order a licensed taxi.
– Easy input of GPS location and addresses.
– Professional chauffeurs or carpool.
– Communication with drivers might be a hassle especially for foreigners who don’t speak Mandarin
– Some cars might smell of smoke
Bike sharing apps have taken Beijing roads by storm, having become one of the most convenient ways to commute in the city. For only a minimal rent, you can just scan a QR code on a bike then go. The three-way battle in the bike sharing realm is just getting more and more competitive, but so disruptive that it’s only a matter of time before authorities regulate it or worse, impose a crackdown.
– Easy “scan and go” model for a minimum rental price of RMB 1 (but you need to register on your app of choice and deposit money for as low as RMB 99)
– As bikes come with built-in locks, you don’t need to bring your own.
– Bikes can be located via GPS tracking
– Beginner or dilettante bikers just ignore traffic lights and laws.
– Many users park bikes in wrong places, or even lock them up!
– Issues with refunding deposits
– Several authorities said misplaced bikes are an “eyesore” and “nuisance” and banned parking on roads
This article originally appeared on p 56-57 of beijingkids May 2017 Home & Relocation Guide.
Download the digital copy here.
Featured photo provided by International School of Beijing (ISB), Lauren B., Grade 9, first published in JingKids March 2017. Other photos provided by Andy Penafuerte III