Thursday, March 18, 2010

Using Beijing public transport

Friday is that joyous day of the week when my car is not allowed to drive and so I take the subway to work, as well as back (I come back on the subway every day because its quicker, one of many advantages to having a driver is that I can choose to do that).

Usually I walk to the subway when I come in to work, because crossing Chaoyang Gongyuan Nanlu is quite a task and there's no underpass nearby. However, leaving the subway I come up on the correct side of the road and so usually take the 3 stops on a bus back to beside my apartment complex. However, using the busses are worse than the subway. Trying to get off a Beijing bus is the problem (although sometimes its hard to get on them too): its like being born. By that I mean, you're pushing through a very tight narrow passageway lined with human flesh and there can be much grunting and pain before you can safely emerge!

OK, weird analogy over with, this is what you need to know if you want to do this yourself. Firstly, if its going to be regularly get a Yikatong (One Card Pass, also called IC card or some long name like Bejing Municipal Transportation card) which is equivalent to the London Oyster card: a contactless card system that is a bus and subway pass (with 60% off on busses!) and can also be used in some taxis, some parks, resterants and other places around Beijing.

Once you have one of these (you can supposedly buy at booths for 20RMB deposit in subway stations but I was given mine by a colleague), you put your back through the scanner on entry to the station and you swipe the Yikatong on the turnstiles as you enter and descend to the platform. I use lines 10 and 13 on my commute. Line 10 is like a sardine tin and 13 has usually got seat space free, but I only take 1 stop so I rarely bother sitting. When you get to your destination make sure you move close to the doors ahead of time as it can be hard to push through in the few seconds the doors are open. Swipe again your card to exit (or insert into machine if you have a single ticket) 2RMB (20p) charged for all single journeys unless going to the airport which is more.

Busses vary: some have separate entry and exits, some don't, some are double-deck, some bendy and numbers <500 you have to only swipe on getting on, >500 then swipe getting off, too. Apparently. Google Maps has the bus network in it and can be handy, but its hard knowing where the stops are. You can also use the bjbus website.

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