Most visitors to China arrive by air, though overland routes exist with train links to neighboring Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, and Vietnam. It is also possible to arrive by sea; there is South Korea to China. Traveling within the country-even to remote area-is possible by air, train, road, and on a few routes, by boat. China has a huge rail network, although tickets-especially for sleeping berths-can be rare during the holiday periods. Bus travel is improving, with buses covering the entire country, and an increasing number of "luxury"buses that offer reasonable comfort. Mired in bureaucracy, renting a car is not recommended; foreigners are restricted from driving in many area and the condition of many roads is very poor.
Arriving By Air
All major international airlines fly to China. Air China, the country's international carrier, has quite basic service and facilities, but has a near-spotless safety record and its flights, to most of the world's major airports, is competitively priced. North American and European carriers such as Unites Airlines, British Airways, Virgin, Lufthansa, KLM, and Air France, have regular flights to some, or all, of China's three main-and most sophisticated-airports at Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Beijing. Flight to the other parts of the Far East, Australia, and New Zealand are offered by Singapore Airlines, Japan Airlines, All Nippon Airways, Korean Air, Qantas, Cathay Pacific, Air New Zealand, and other. Cheap flight to China are also available via Air China, China Eastern, Aeroflot (Via Moscow), and Malaysia Airlines (via Kuala Lumpur). Virgin currently only flies to Shanghai, while British Airways is planning to add Shanghai to Beijing and Hong Kong routes.
International Flights &Airports
China's three main international airports are at Hong Kong, Beijing, and Shanghai. The government is investing a considerable amount of money to provide its international airports with state-of-the-art features. While there are already two impressive terminals at Beijing Capital Airport, a third one is under way, scheduled to be ready before 2008, in time for the Beijing Olympics. In 1999, Pudong Airport was built in Shanghai, making it the first city in China to have two international airports. Macau, too, has a swanky international airport on Taipa Island, although most visitors arrive via boat from Hong Kong. Other international airports offering flights to overseas destinations include Changchun (Tokyo), Dalian (Seoul and Tokyo), Guangzhou (Kuala Lumpur, Los Angles, Sydney, Singapore, Paris, and other destinations), Guilin (Seoul, Fukuoka, Kuala Lumpur, and Singapore), Harbin (Los Angeles, Seoul, Khabarovsk, and Vladivostok), and Kunming (Bangkok), Lhasa (Kathmandu), Qingdao (Osaka, Seoul and Singapore), Shenyang (Khabarovsk, Osaka, and Soul), Tianjin (Nagoya, Osaka, and Seoul), Xi'an (Fukuoka, Hiroshima, Niigata, Nagoya, and Seoul), Xiamen (Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Singapore, and Osaka), and Urumqi (Almay, Bishkek, Islamabad, Moscow, Novosibirsk, and Tashkent ).
Air fares vary according to the airline and the season. The peak season for international flights to China is between June and September, When ticket prices are most expensive. It can also be harder to find reasonably priced tickets during the holidays; Chinese New Year, the first week of October. While flying indirectly to China via another country is cheaper than flying direct, traveling by a Chinese airline such as Air China or China Eastern will be cheaper than flying by any other international airline. Plenty of discount tickets are available for long-term travel, which are valid for 12 months with multiple stopovers and open dates. Search on the internet for the best deals. Numerous travel agencies across the world have websites, making it easy to compare prices. However, if you are planning to bid for last minute tickets online, you need to be sure that you can travel on the dates specified.
On the airplane, visitors are given two forms to complete: an immigration form and a health form and a health form, both of which have to be submitted along with their passport at the airport immigration counter.
International airports in China offer a limited range of facilities, but you will find foreign exchanged counters, ATMs, public telephones, left luggage services, restaurants (though rather over-priced), shops, and toilets. Airport tourist information centers in China are of varying degrees of usefulness, and are often manned by staffs who speak poor English.
Getting From the Airport
Airports are linked to the city by express train or by bus routes which make several stops in town. Avoid the overpriced taxi touts who try and force their services on foreign visitors. Instead, head for the taxi rank where trips into town are charged by the meter. Four- and five ?star hotels usually run shuttle buses to their hotels and the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) run buses to their office in town.
The check-in time for international flights is officially two hours before departure. Most passengers are allowed 40 pounds (20 kg) of baggage, while first-class passengers may be allowed 66 pounds (33 kg). One additional item of hand luggage weighing up to 11 pounds (5 kg) is also usually permitted. Baggage allowance depends on the destination, and travelers to North America are generally allowed more luggage, check with your airline to make sure that your luggage is within the weight limit, as excess baggage charges can be very high.
Until recently, departure taxes from Beijing and Shanghai had to be paid in cash at the airport (90 and 50 yuan respectively). Check with your travel agent whether your ticket includes departure tax, and be prepared to pay at the airport if not.
Domestic Air Travel
Although traveling by air is more expensive than traveling by train, it is often the most convenient and comfortable way of covering the long distances involved in Chinese travel. In fact, if you need to get quickly from one end of the country to the other, there is often no alternative. The extensive domestic flight network involves numerous regional airlines flying to over 150 airports. The main cities of Beijing, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Dalian, Guangzhou, and Xi'an are particularly well connected to airports throughout the country. Domestic air tickets are straight-forward to buy, so wait until you arrive and then shop around for discounts. Flight cancellations and delays due to bad weather are common, especially in winter and on less traveled routes in the more remote provinces, so remember to reconfirm your ticket and the time of your flight.
A few private airlines operate from Hong Kong and Macau, but most other airlines in China are administered by the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC). There are currently about ten domestic carriers operating in China. (The initial in parentheses are the airline code or flights-number prefix.) Some of the domestic airlines, such as China Southern (CZ), and China Eastern (MU), also fly international routes. You can buy domestic flights from these airlines overseas, but rates are far better when booked in China. Other domestic airlines include Sichuan Airlines (3U), Shanghai Airlines (FM), Shenzhen Airlines (4G), Hainan Airlines (HU), and Xiamen Airlines (MF).
Lack of competition in the industry has given the airlines little impetus to improve standards or customer service. Meals on board are sometimes serviced hot, but are often limited to a sandwich. Announcements are both in Chinese and English if there are foreign nationals on board. In-flight service remains brusque, and foreign visitors sometimes feel neglected, but standards are slowly improving.
Air China's international flying safety record is good, but the safety records of domestic airlines remain below that of developed countries.
Old aircraft are sometimes used in China's peripheral regions. Before you choose to book with a particular airline, you may wish to ask what kind of plane you will be boarding.
The baggage allowance is 44 pounds (20 kg) for economy class and 66 pounds (30 kg) for first and business class. You are also allowed up to 11 pounds (5 kg) of hand luggage, although airlines almost never weigh it. The charge for excess baggage is 1 percent of the full fare per 2.2 pounds (1 kg).
Air travel is becoming much more convenient in China as new airports are being built and old ones renovated and expanded. State-of-the-art facilities are now available at Beijing Capital Airport, Shanghai's Pudong International Airport, and the Hong Kong International Airport at Check Lap Kok. These modern airports easily compare with the best airports in the world. Airports at some major tourist cities, such as Xi'an, also sport up-to-date facilities. Despite the burgeoning air industry, some airports are badly in need of modernization, due to regional gaps in investment.
Getting to & Form the Airport
The distance from airports to city centers varies considerably in China, so factor this into your journey time. Also, always allow time for unforeseen delays en route. In many large cities and towns, you can reach the airport or travel from the airport into town on a CAAC bus, which departs from and arrives at the CAAC office in town. In larger cities, such as Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong, dedicated bus and train services run from town to the airport. The Hong Kong International Airport Express rail link to Kowloon and Central, While Beijing Capital Airport has only bus and taxi links, although a rail link is currently under construction. Shanghai's Pudong Airport is connected to the metro system by a high-speed Maglev train.
Taxi waits for passengers outside the arrivals hall. Make sure you head for the taxi rank and avoid the numerous touts who will try to direct you towards their own car. Insist on the driver using the meter. If you have booked accommodation, check whether your hotel offers transport to and from the airport.
For most domestic flights, the check-in time is at least an hour and a half before departure, although very few passengers arrive that early. Make sure all your bags are tagged, and do not packs sharp objects, such as scissors, tweezers, nail files, or knitting needles, in your hand luggage. The airport tax for domestic flights is usually 50 Yuan, and is paid at the time of purchasing the ticker.
Tickets, Reservations & Cancellations
Each domestic airline has a booking office in most cities, as well as a reservation counter at each airport. Tickets can be booked though ticket offices, travel agent, or the travel desks of some of the better hotels ou should not be charged a booking fee.
Travel agents tend to offer the best discounts. Credit cards are accepted by many travel agents and CAAC offices. Visitors are required to show their passports when purchasing tickets. There is generally no shortage of tickets unless you are flying between Hong Kong and a mainland destination, except in the run up to and during the Chinese New Year, and the week-long holiday periods after May 1 and October 1, when it is advisable to book well in advance.
A combined international and domestic timetable is published by CAAC in both English and Chinese.
These publications can be bought at most airline offices and CAAC outlets. Individual airlines also print their own timetables, available at booking offices throughout the country. Flight schedules are revised in April and October each year.
Ticket prices are calculated according to a one-way fare, and a return-ticket is simply double the single fare.
Discounts on official fares are the norm, so it is best to check with travel agents for good deal. You are likely to get a better deal on a flight if you buy your ticket from an agent in the city you are departing from. Business class tickets cost 25 percent more. Children over the age of 12 are charged adult fares, while there are special discounted fares for younger children and infants.
If you wish to return or change your air ticket, you can get a refund as long as you cancel at least 24 hours before departure, and return your ticket to the same agent who sold it to you. Even if you miss your flight, you are entitled to a refund of 50 percent of the full fare. You may be asked to buy travel insurance from your ticketing agent. It is generally not worthwhile, as the claim amount is very low.
Traveling by Train
China is a vast country and, for many travelers, train journeys are an excellent way to see the country-side and get to know the people. The Chinese rail network is extensive, with tracks running over 32300 miles (52,000 km). Trains in China are punctual, fast, and relatively safe, and are a reliable transport option. Buying reserved tickets, however, can often be problematic, and since trains are usually crowded, it is advisable to either buy your ticket well in advance, or ask your hotel or travel agent to arrange your booking.
The Railway Network
Since the cost if air travel is beyond the reach of most Chinese, Traveling by train is the preferred alternative, especially over long distances. China has an efficient and extensive rail network that covers every province, barring two ?Hainan Island, where a very limited rail network without passenger services exists, and Tibet, which will soon be connected to Qinghai by the railway line currently under construction, and due for completion in 2007. Hong Kong is also connected to mainland China by rail. Depending on which type of ticket you purchase, Chinese trains can be quite comfortable, and there are fast services running between most large towns and cities.
Although trains in China are commendably punctual, trying to decipher a Chinese timetable is an impossible task, unless you can read Chinese. Timetables are published in April and October each year, and are available at railway station ticket offices. Stations can be frustrating places, and visitors will need patience to deal with them. Trying to locate English-speaking staff on platform is difficult, even in large cities such as Beijing and Shanghai.
Telephoning stations with enquiries is pointless unless you speak Chinese.
Each train is identified by a train number, written on the outside of each carriage that indicates its route and destination. As a rule, incoming and outgoing trains running between two destinations are numbered sequentially. For example, train K79 travels from Shanghai to Kunming, while train K80 runs from Kunming to Shanghai.
Trains are of three types: those with numbers prefixed by the letter "T" or "K" are expressing (te kuai) or fast (kuai) trains, and those whose numbers have no prefix are ordinary (pu kuai) trains, with frequent stops. Express trains have carriages of all classes, and are the most modern and comfortable, with few stops and superior services. Double-decker trains with soft-seat carriages run on a few short intercity routes such as Beijing-Tianjin or Shanghai angzhou. All long-distance trains are equipped with sleepers.
There is no smoking permitted within compartments, except in hard-seat carriages, although most trains allow passengers to smoke in the corridors. Most trains have dining cars, and staff will continuously push trolleys through the carriages selling noodles, snacks, mineral water, coffee, and newspapers. The noise level in carriages is often very high, as music and announcements are regularly broadcast over the speakers. China's modern fleets of train are much cleaner than the old ones and having air conditioning. The older trains can be very dingy indeed; prepare yourself for sordid and filthy bathrooms.
Chinese trains have four classes. The most luxurious class is Soft Sleeper (ruan wo), with four comfortable berths per compartment. Offering more privacy, security, and cleanliness than less-expensive classes, soft sleeper tickets are very pricey, and are not much cheaper than air tickets on certain routes.
For long journeys lasting over six hours, Hard Sleeper (ying wo) is the best way to travel. Consequently, these tickets are the hardest to procure, and you'd be lucky to get one on short notice. Hard sleeper can be an economical choice when traveling between cities overnight, as it saves the cost of a night in a hotel.
Carriages consist of door less compartments, each with six bunks. Tickets are of three type ?upper berth (shang pu), middle berth (zhong pu), and lower berth (xia pu), with a small price difference between each. The lowest berth is the most expensive, while the top one is the cheapest. The best berth, however, is the middle one. The upper bunk has little head-room and is closest to the speaker. During the day, the lower bunk acts as seating and fills with fellow passengers. Pillow, sheets, and blankets are provided by the railways, as are two thermos flasks of boiling water, which you can replenish yourself from the massive boiler at the end of each carriage. Once aboard the train, the inspector will exchange your ticket for a metal token, and return the ticket at the end of the journey.
The cheapest class is Hard Seat (ying zuo), which seats three people side-by-side on lightly cushioned seats. Although fine for short journey, spending more than four hours in a hard-seat carriage can be quite unpleasant. Carriages are usually crowned and dirty, the speakers blare endlessly, lights remain on at night, and compartments are filled with smoke. It is possible to upgrade (bu piao) once aboard the train, if there are seat available in the class of your choice. Note that hard-seat tickets bought on the same day are usually unreserved.
Available only on certain routes, Soft Seat (ruan zuo) carriages are much more comfortable and spacious than hard seat, and seat two people side-by-side in numbered seats Tickets cost about as much as hard sleeper.
Train Tickets, Fares & Reservations
When buying tickets, it is essential to plan in advance. On most routes, it is vital to buy tickets at least two or three days before you travel, although tickets are available about five days before departure. On short routes, you may be able to secure a ticket just before departure, but it is safest to buy in advance. Tickets on longer routes are certain to sell out, especially those for hard sleepers.
Train fares are calculated according to the class and the distance traveled. All tickets are one-way, so you will need to buy another ticket for the return journey. Joining the crowds at station ticket counter can be very trying, so unless the station has a separate ticket office for foreign visitors, which is the case at Beijing train station, considers asking your hotel, tourist office, or travel agent to buy tickets for you ?they should be more than happy to do so for a small fee. Black-market operators buy tickets in bulk, and then resell them at a mark- up out ?side railway station. If you're buying tickets on the black-market, check the dates of travel, destination, and class printed on the tickets carefully.
Before boarding the train, visitors wait in a hall before filing past ticket-checkers to the platform. Retain your ticket as inspectors will ask to see it again, just before you reach your destination. Note that getting hold of tickets during the Chinese New Year (Spring Festival), and the May and October holiday periods can be very difficult, and it is inadvisable to travel during these times.
Traveling by Bus & Ferry
China's extensive network of road transport connects most cities, as well as distant, rural areas. Bus travel is essential for reaching places that are not served by road. In Fujian, where rail services exist, but are infuriatingly indirect, bus travel makes a lot of sense. In Guizhou and Huangxi, the more interesting areas inhabited by ethnic minorities are only accessible by bus and the tropical area of Xishuangbanna in Yunnan is best explored by bus or taxi. You will also need to take a bus (unless you are flying) to reach Lijiang in northern Yunnan and all of western Sichuan. Getting around Tibet will require long bus journeys, as will exploring the northwestern frontier of China if you want to get beyond the towns on the main train line. Numerous sites throughout China are off rail lines.
Many smooth, wide high-ways now link some of the major cities, making some bus travel, particularly on the east coast, reasonably comfortable. In some cases, the bus is now a faster way to reach your destination than the train.
All cities and most large towns have at least one long-distance bus station (changdu qiche zhan) where state-run buses arrive and depart. Private bus firms may have set up a few of their own bus stations in town; often, one of these is located next to the train station. Other stations may be located on the edges of town ?the North or East Bus Station will usually serve destinations to the north or east. Determining which of these stations serves the place you are trying to reach can be tricky, so you will need to do plenty of asking around. Destinations are displayed in Chinese characters on the front of buses.
Long-distance buses vary enormously in quality in quality, age, and comfort. You may find that several buses are running along the same route, so make sure you are sold a ticket for the fastest, most comfortable bus, or cheapest bus, if you prefer. Note that in general, long-haul bus journeys are taxing. Road conditions are often poor and road works are common, slowing the journey considerably. Drivers can be reckless and bus crashes are distressingly frequent. The noise level can be deafening, with music blaring and the driver learning on the horn, so take earplugs. Most buses are chocked with cigarette smoke.
Ordinary buses (putongche) are the cheapest and have basic wooden, or lightly padded, seats. These buses stop often, so progress can be slow. They provide little space for baggage ?there's no room under the seats and the luggage racks are minuscule. Suitcases and backpacks are usually stacked next to the driver, and you may be charged.
Sleeper buses (wo pu che) speed through the night making few stops, so reach their destination in good time. They usually have two tiers of bunks, or seats that recline almost flat. The older models can be quite dirty. Lower bunks (xia pu) cost as you are less likely to be thrown from your bed when the driver takes a corner at speed.
Shorter routes are served by rattling minibuses (xiao ba), which departed space has been filled by a paying passenger. Crammed to the roof, minibus trips can be quite uncomfortable.
Express buses (kuai che) are the best way to travel. Some are luxury (hao hua), have air conditioning, and enforce a no-smoking policy. Luggage is in a hold, which is fairly safe, given the few stops that are made en route.
In certain parts of China ?in Gansu and Sichuan, for instance ?you may be required to purchase insurance from the People's Insurance Company of China (PICC) before being allowed on a bus. Usually, however, it is included in the price of the ticket. This Insurance waives any responsibility of the government bus company should you be injured in a bus crash; it does not cover you in the event of an accident.
Bus Tickets & fares
Traveling by road is generally much cheaper than traveling by train. Tickets are sold at long-distance bus stations and, unless you are hoping for a seat at the front of a luxury bus, do not need to be bought in advance. Tickets for private buses and minibuses are either purchased on board the bus or from touts nearby. Main bus station invariably has computerized ticket offices, and the queues are much shorter than those at train stations.
Ferries & Boats
A small network of coastal routes survives in China, and vessels still ply the Yangzi River, but the increased convenience of traveling by air, road, and rail has reduced the variety and frequency of sea ?and ?river ?ferry sailings in China.
The most popular river route is the trip along the Yangzi between Chongqing and Yichang, through the Three Gorges (see pp352-4). An overnight ferry service for tourists runs along the Grand Canal between Suzhou and Hangzhou, and Wuxi and Hangzhou (see p217).
Popular coastal ferry routes include boats to Hainan Island from port in the province of Guangdong (including Guangzhou) and Beihai in Guangxi. A large number of vessels ply between Hong Kong and Macau, many of which are high-speed and operate round the clock. Macau is also connected to ports in Guangdong, while Hong Kong is linked to Zhuhai and several ports on the Pearl River delta. Within Hong Kong, a medley of craft runs to the outlying islands. There are quite a few vessels connecting Hong Kong with the rest of China, although services are becoming less frequent. Shanghai is currently linked to various towns and cities along the Yangzi River, including Nanjing and Wuhan. Because of the prohibitively long overland routes, ferries link the booming northeastern city of Dalian, with Yantai and Tianjin. Yantai and Weihai on the eastern tip of Shandong peninsula are accessible from Shanghai, Dalian, and Tianjin. Note that ferry timetables change frequently and services may have been added or terminated.
Several international sea routes link China to other countries. From Japan, Kobe is connected to both Tianjin and Shanghai on the east coast, while ferries also link Osaka with Shanghai. From South Korea, the port of Inchon is connected to the Chinese ports of Dalian, Weihai, Qingdao, and Tianjin.
Local Transport in Cities
Transport options vary greatly between cities in China. Many of the largest metropolises have complex networks with subway system, which, in many cases, are in the process if being extensively expanded. In Beijing and Shanghai, the subway (ditie) is the best way to get around, while in Hong Kong, the transport system is well integrated, and subways, trains, and buses are all convenient options. In most cities, buses are slow and usually packed, but are very cheap. Taxis (chuzu qiche) are a necessity for most travelers, and, despite the language barrier and misunderstandings with drivers, are the most convenient way to get around. Bicycles once ruled the roads of China's cities and although not as popular today, they are still one of the best ways to explore.
The subway system in Beijing is undergoing major fevelopment in preparation for the 2008 Olympic Games. Four lines are already built, numerous lines are planned, and lines to Beijing Capital Airport are under construction.
The subway is a swift way to get around this spread out city. The system is easy to use, although walks between lines at interchange stations can be long. Currently there are two different fares: one ticket for ?3 covers trips in lines 1 and 2; the ?5 ticket covers line 2 and 13. Buy your paper ticket at the ticket booth near the entrance. Tickets are undated, so, if you are in Beijing for a few days and you plan to keep using lines 1 and 2, it makes sense to buy a few. Show your ticket to the attendants at the entrance to the platform. Line 13 has automated ticket gates, as will any other lines that open up in the next few years.
The small, yet efficient, Shanghai subway system is clean and new, with the first line built in 1995. Lines 1 and 2 are most useful to the tourist; the raised Line 3, or Pear Line, travels the western out shirts of the city. Fares for Line 1 and 2 range between ?2 and ?4, depending on the number of stopped traveled. Check the map to determine your fare and then buy a ticket from the booth or machine. You can also buy ?50 pre-paid tickets. Put your ticket into the slot at the electronic barrier and the gates will open. Retrieve your ticket on the other side of the gate and hold on to it ?you will need it to exit at your destination.
The much touted Maglev (magnetic levitation) runs between Pudong Airport and the eastern end of Line 2 and reaches speeds of 270 miles per hour (430 km/h). It may still be faster to take a taxi from the airport because the Maglev is not running very frequently. Check the times of departure.
Hong Kong's MTR & KCR
Integrated and efficient, Hong Kong has the best public transportation system in the country. The city is easy to get around using all of its forms of transport-MTR (subway), KCR (overland train), buses, trains, and ferries ?and most signage is in English. You can buy single tickets for your journeys, but each type of transit requires a separate ticket. Alternatively, you can buy an Octopus card, an electronic card that allows you to hop on and off most of the system. You can buy these for a minimum of HK$150 including a HK$50 deposit, which is refunded when you return the card. Touch the card to the electronic reader at each ticket collection point and the fare will be deducted from your card. You can easily add credit at MTR and KCR stations.
The underground Mass Transit Railway (MTR) currently has seven lines, with many more planned. The fare increases with distance traveled, except on the Airport Express Line where a higher fee is charged. If you buy a single ticket, insert it into the turnstile and retrieve it on the other side. Hold on to your ticket as you will need it to exit the system. If you have an Octopus card to simply touch the card to the yellow reader on the turnstile.
The Kowloon-Canton Railway (KCR) now has three lines that comprehensively cover the New Territories. KCR East Rail was the original line and heads north into mainland China. Do not go past Sheung Shui (the second last stop), if you do not have documentation to enter the mainland.
Buses & Trams
City bus networks are extensive and cheap. The buses (gonggong qiche), however, are almost always overcrowded ?so much so that you are unlikely to be able to see out of the windows. These conditions are perfect for thieves, so stay well-aware of your belongings. Consider using buses only for short straightforward journeys. Avoid them if you are trying to get from one-you are likely to get stuck in traffic.
Bus routes can be tricky to navigate, particularly as most routes and destinations are listed in Chinese only. Hong Kong also has an old tram line that runs from Sheung Wan to Causeway Bay in Hong Kong Island. Dalian has a few trams as well. Maps of bus and tram route are widely available, especially in and around train stations.
The best way to get about in cities that don't have subway systems is by taxi (chuzu qiche). Taxis are found in large numbers in all Chinese cities-often congregating near train stations- and can be haied easily in the street. Guests staying at hotels can also ask the reception desk to summon a taxi. When arriving at airports, avoid the touts who immediately surround you, and head instead to the taxi rank outside where you are less likely to be overcharged. Also, make sure the driver uses the meter (dabiao) or negotiate a flat rate in advance. Taxis rarely have rear seat belt (anquan dai), so sit in front if you are traveling alone. Few taxi drivers speak English, so it is wise to have your destination written down in Chinese, which the staff at your hotel will gladly do for you.
Fares vary slightly from city to city, but taxis generally offer both good value and convenience. In many cities, different models of cars will have different rates. Tipping the driver is not necessary.
Taxi can also be hired for the day- a convenient way to see sights just out of town. Agree on a price beforehand, and make sure your drive is clear on the extent of your itinerary. In Tibet, you may find that hiring a jeep and driver is the only way to get to some sight. It is customary to pay for the driver's lunch.
In smaller towns, motorcycle rickshaws (sanlun motuoche) and rickshaws (sanlun che) are a convenient and entertaining way to get around town. Do not take these in major cities ?they cost about the same as a taxi. In some small towns, they are the only from of transport. Agree on the fare before climbing aboard.
Motorcycle taxis are a very quick way to cover longer distances, although they are really only practical if you are traveling alone with little luggage. Insist on the driver providing you with a helmet.
Hiring a bicycle is one of the best ways to explore towns and their environs. Bike lanes are common (although not always respected by drivers) and roadside repair stalls are everywhere. Beijing, with its spread-out sights and flat terrain, is the most cycle-able of the big cities, but if you are not used to cycling in heavy traffic, you may find it an intimidating experience. Make sure that any bike you rent has a lock provide. Handy bike stands are found in big cities and have an attendant to watch the bikes for a nominal fee.
Main streets, avenues, and thoroughfares are often divided into different sections based on the four cardinal points. For example, Zhongshan Lu (Zhongshan Road) may be divided into Zhongshan Xi Lu (East Road) and Zhongshan Dong Lu (West Road). Similarly, you may also see Zhongshan Bei Lu (North Road) and Zhongshan Nan Lu (South Road). Road names in large cities such as Beijing and Shanghai also display the pinyin translation, but in smaller towns and remote destinations, only Chinese is used. Apart from lu (road), other key words to look out for jie (street), dajie (avenue, literally "big street"), butong and xiang (lane or historic alleyway).