Travel in Beijing is usually extremely convenient – the subway system is great, buses are convenient, and taxis and Didis are plentiful and cheap, and these modes of transportation save you the hassle of driving yourself and finding car parks. However, as China has no child safety restraint regulations, many parents, especially those of us who have been here awhile, have found that our own standards have relaxed as we embrace the norm of riding around in taxis with our kids completely unrestrained.
I recently heard of a school van that was in an unavoidable accident, but thankfully the children were all securely strapped into their car seats and no one was hurt. But let this be a wake-up call to those who are new to Beijing and to those who have become complacent over the years to ensure that our most precious cargo (our kids) are safely restrained.
Here is a roundup of some of the more popular car seat options used by Beijing moms. In general, Beijing taxis do not have seatbelts, so in order to use any of the below options, you will need to learn to use Didi.
Capsule Baby Seat (0-7 month babies)
Use a backward-facing baby capsule seat which has safety approval from a country with high standards of restraint regulations. Use it in combination with a Didi Select Upgrade or Premier Didi to ensure that the car has seatbelts. Hands down the safest option for baby and use of these is the law in most countries with car restraint regulations.
Didi Car Seats (2-4 years)
There is an option to reserve a Premier Didi with a car seat. Same price as a regular Premier Didi but you need to reserve it two hours in advance. User reports say the car seats are secure as these have a 5-point harness which, when fit properly, is the safest option for kids. However, unless you re-thread the shoulder straps to your child’s height (which involves completely unhooking the car seat, re-threading and strapping it back into the taxi) there is a chance that the car seat won’t fit your child perfectly. Also, these seats are forward-facing, which is not as safe as rear-facing for under 3-year-olds.
Trunki BoostApak (approx. 3-12 years)
The Trunki BoostApak is a portable option which doubles as a kids backpack and a booster seat. With plenty of room for toys, games, and snacks, it’s a great option for international travel and also for Didi trips. As an ergonomic back, it encourages better posture and there is a seat belt adjuster so you can customize the strap height to fit your growing child for maximum safety. Certified to European Union (EU) safety standards. GBP 49.95 from trunki.co.uk, Taobao (make sure it’s an official supplier) and has been seen in Mothercare.
Mifold (4+ years)
The Mifold is small and compact, easy to fit in a handbag, glove box or kids backpack and is a popular choice for Beijing expat moms. A regular booster seat lifts the child up to be in the same position as an adult, where a Mifold does the opposite, holding the seatbelt down lower into a safe position for the child. A good portable option, but not as secure as a 5-point harness for children under the age of 5. Certified to EU, US, and Canada safety standards. Available from an official TMall distributor for RMB 688 or USD 39.95 from Amazon US.
Ride Safer Travel Vest (3+ years)
Similar to the Mifold, the Ride Safer Travel Vest brings the seatbelt down to fit the child, optimizing the existing vehicle seatbelt system to protect your little ones by keeping a low center of gravity and allowing the vehicle seatbelt and seat cushion to manage the force of a crash. The vest’s belt guides place the seatbelt into the correct pre-crash position and move with the child. Like the Mifold, the Ride Safer Travel Vest is a great portable option but not as secure as a 5-point harness for young children. The list price is USD 159 from Amazon.com and has been spotted in Mothercare and other various stores for upwards of RMB 1,000.