Public Transport in China

Travel Forums Asia Public Transport in China

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Last Post This thread is marked as being about China
1. Posted by katyvose1 (Budding Member 18 posts) 11y Star this if you like it!

Hi Guys,
Hoping someone can give me some advice as I am getting really nervous about my arrival and trip around China beginning in September 07. We fly into Beijing and are making our way overland to Hong Kong. We have a month to do this. My biggest worry at this time is using public transport to get to and from places because of the language barrier. We speak no Mandarin at all. I am looking to book our first couple of nights in a hostel online and the directions from the airport to the hostel seem really confusing to me. How for instance do you tell the bus driver which stop you want and how do you understand how much this costs? Are the buses numbered in English and what about the stops, are these in English as well otehrwise how do you know when to get off? I know it seems like a silly question but I would really like to make my way around as much on my own as possible and this seems a buit of a hurdle to me.
Thanks for all your help. Katy

2. Posted by opospa (Travel Guru 1837 posts) 11y Star this if you like it!

If i am not mistaken, most of the signs in China are in Chinese characters.
You need to find an English speaking Chinese to write you the place you want to go in Chinese.
Show it to the ticket sellers,cab drivers etc.
Maybe this helps. ;)

3. Posted by snufkei (Budding Member 11 posts) 11y Star this if you like it!

I have never been to Beijing, but as a Hong Kong Chinese and my experience to Shanghai, most of the signs are written in Chinese. Since the Olympic Game is approaching, the Chinese government is starting to provide more facilities for tourists. But if for buses I guess it would be much difficult because it's usually for the locals..
Just make sure you ask clearly for direction at the airport, get the map and try to use body language.....

I hope everything will be fine. Afterall I think it's still worth to visit!

4. Posted by Mel. (Travel Guru 4567 posts) 11y Star this if you like it!

Hello Katy:)

Yes, this is a problem in China. Especially since people are likely to wave u away, if they do not understand what u want.
I suggest, u ask somebody to write down what u want, in Chinese, before u go to the bus and train stations.
Get a general idea about the prices, and when paying hand over around that price. That gives the impression that u know what it costs, so u should get the right change back.
Show the driver or one of the passengers the written name of the place u want to get out at, and then they will let u know when.


5. Posted by angela g. (Inactive 19 posts) 11y Star this if you like it!


espacially in beijing it is going to be fun! :-) we booked a hostel online and arrived in beijing. the pick up service of course was not there. we ended up taking a taxi because only the bus numbers are in arabic characters, everything else is in chinese. i learned some chinese before which was very, very helpful. buy at least a phrase book. the signs for the numbers are also different you cant even talk with "hand and feet". normally a bus fare is 1-3 quais, to give you an idea. phonetic: 1 = yi, 2 = are, 3 = san. but the bus fare from the airport to the city will be more, i guess... the city bus system and the underground are possible to handle. but dont worry too much. the chinese people are the most helpful people i have seen so far and if they dont speak english the normally dont cheat you (which changes immediately as soon as they do speak english) and they really will try to help you. just plan enough time for everything. have fun! angie

6. Posted by katyvose1 (Budding Member 18 posts) 11y Star this if you like it!

Thanks for all your replies! I guess it will be a battle sometimes but I am determined to experience the real China as opposed to an overpriced touristy package trip!! Eek I bet I'll soon regret that decision haha!!
Can anyone give me some of their experiences when travelling through China unaided. I have a month to get from Beijing to Hong Kong and was hoping to fly to Lhasa from Chengdu, I'm not sure if I will have enough time though but I guess that will be decided on route. Thanks again for all your advice everyone, its helping to calm my nerves somewhat!!

7. Posted by Swept Away (Travel Guru 1116 posts) 11y Star this if you like it!

well in HK not only do I get a direction from the young passengers. They also pay for my tickets.
They were laughing at how I pronounced the names of streets. I got angry. they apologize by paying my ticket. Im just kidding.

I am planning to navigate China, from Hong Kong or Macau soon. I think the bus drivers are used to tourist asking questions. and the passegers will help, especially if you have the right accent.

8. Posted by tummi (First Time Poster 1 posts) 11y Star this if you like it!

I went to Beijing on my own, but I could speak some Mandarin (enough to get food ). Anyway, Beijing has less English speaking people than Shanghai. But overall...things are cheaper and there're more to see.
For transportation, I think you could survive with the subway. It's 3-4 CNY, and pretty much connect all key attractions. Bus is pretty cheap way to travel, just 1 CNY per ride. Perhaps you can try bus-hopping and see where it takes you once you get your bearings. But on first can take the airport bus to Beijing station and get a cab from there to your hostel...should be the safest way.
Also, do write down a few words in Chinese to flash to the locals.

Have a great trip.

9. Posted by Mel. (Travel Guru 4567 posts) 11y Star this if you like it!

Hello again Katy:)

These days, there are often times tables and maps in English, for public transport in various countries, on the internet. It may be worth searching to see if there is train, bus and mayby even city transport information for China.

I have one piece of advise, to give u about China. People may seem rude and rather harsh in China. They are in fact nervous around foreigners. So be kind. When something they do or say seems rude, it is likely not meant that way. Be patient and friendly and sometimes, even when u dont speak Chinese, they will be friendly back. But, beware of going out with groups of young people. U as a foreigner will be expected to pay for everything, and these kids can have expensive tastes.


[ Edit: Edited on Jul 13, 2007, at 12:26 AM by Mel. ]

10. Posted by rowdy1 (Budding Member 16 posts) 11y Star this if you like it!

hi katy
i was in beijing a couple of months ago and getting the airport bus to the beijing train station is a great idea as the subway is across the road from it and you can easily buy a city mapther or at the airport, with the roads and main attractions in chinese and english. this also has the subway on it. the people ars great and the only con was people claiming to be students and will talk to you for a while and then suggest a drink which will be an expensive tea ceremony or a student art exhibit which is commerciallybulk copies. they are not pushy or rude while doing and will take a no very politly and still give you directions if you ask. enjoy