Life in the ‘Jing: Using The Subway

Beijing has a very comprehensive – and  well used – public transit system, featuring both subways and buses. We have taken both a few times to learn how to get around town.

This is the little “metro card” we have. They cost RMB20 and then you can put how20160905_084643evermuch you want to on them; trips cost from 2 to 5 kuai each way. The 20 deposit serves to effectively cover you in the event you go into the red on a given trip, and is refunded when you turn in the card.

Ours fit into our lanyards from the school, so we can have them somewhere that’s hard to lose. 🙂  They can be topped up either manually with a person in a booth, or with a machine at the station as well. If you sync it up with your phone (… I’m not entirely sure how I did it, except that I did!), it will also send periodic messages advising how much is left on your card!

The trains are very clean and usually pretty quick; we’ve only been on a few times but they haven’t had the same delays we’ve experienced as a general thing on the TTC. The signs are in English and Mandarin, as well as having line maps. As someone with kids I am immensely grateful for the fact that they aren’t open platforms: there are automated doors that open from the platform to the train, and they only open when the train is in the station and stopped.

There are actually queues – somewhat – as well as transit officers who keep an eye on everything (the man in the platform on the right). People so far have usually been good about letting people get off the train before they shove on; that said, if you have a stroller, luggage, or anything unwieldy, you’ll like as not get dirty looks (regardless of whether you’re 中国人 还是 外国人) ; it doesn’t matter if it’s rush hour or not.

We have a subway station very nearby to us – Maquanying, on Line 15 – and with only one or two transfers can get virtually anywhere in Beijing. It may take us 2 hours, or more, but we can do it!

Given that Google is verboten in China, trying to figure out a route can be tricky. Adam and I have used the app “Explore Beijing”in combination with Baidu Maps (or Google Maps, if we are able to access a VPN). Please note that in China, you cannot use Google Maps offline. You cannot even download Beijing as an offline area. Explore Beijing lets you select two subway stations and will tell you the fastest route and where to transfer; you do need to know the nearby stops (hence why you’ll need a map program to help you out to start). Baidu is exclusively in English, so you will need to have either the address in Mandarin or you’ll need to be able to use Baidu in concert with another app or website to translate text.


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