Public transportation is available and inexpensive in Beijing, but because the city is so large, it may take a long time to get to your destination using the subway and bus unless your starting and ending point happens to be near the stops. The subway system is made up of eight lines traversing all across the city, so there is likely a chance that riders may have to transfer to get to their final destination. Taxis are readily available and also very affordable. Most expats who live in the city (and who do not drive) rely on taxis to get around. Families that live in the expat-heavy suburbs of Beijing must drive or have a driver and car at their disposal. Buses do make their way out to the suburbs, and some even stop right at the western-style villa complexes, but it’s often hard to get the timing just right to make it a dependable mode of transportation into the city.
Driving conditions have improved slightly in Beijing since the traffic bureau stepped up the enforcement of traffic regulations leading up to the 2008 Olympics. However, driving etiquette and other seemingly obvious rules of conduct are often dismissed by many Chinese drivers, many of whom only started driving within the last handful of years. Traffic can be a headache and the need to be especially aware of bad motorists can take a toll on the uninitiated. Hence, many foreigners hire local drivers, whose modest salaries are deemed worth every penny.
When traveling domestically, locals often use the intricate train network to travel from city to city, although flying has gained popularity with the masses in recent years as income levels have risen. Chinese airlines are dependable and often “no frills” in terms of extras like in-flight entertainment. However, all still serve meals in-flight and service is often professional and more than adequate. International airlines serving Chinese cities also fly out of Beijing Capital Airport. If you’re adventurous, train travel within China will reward you with stories to entertain for years to come. There are four train stations in Beijing taking travelers to almost any city in the country and beyond.