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One of the world’s most-populated cities with more than 21 million residents, China’s sprawling capital is a modern megapolis harbouring many of the country’s most popular and historic attractions.

Beijing is a common base for travellers making the pilgrimage to The Great Wall of China, some parts of which are about an hour outside the city by car or train. Back in the city centre, visitors will undoubtedly spend much of their time exploring the Dongcheng and Xicheng districts, homes of the ancient Forbidden City, Wangfujing shopping and food street, the National Centre for the Performing Arts, and numerous museums and parks. It’s also the final resting place of Chairman Mao, whose embalmed body is displayed in Chairman Mao Memorial Hall at Tiananmen Square.

Rapidly reinventing itself, Beijing is a city bound to literally leave a big impression.

Getting Around

Though Beijing is one of the world’s biggest and most-populated cities, getting around its central districts, where most visitors spend the bulk of their time, is quite manageable. It’s in these areas that you’ll find key sights like Tiananmen Square—and where you’ll get an up-close view of the vast open spaces that define China’s capital city.

For transportation, Beijing is well-serviced by a modern subway network that has 17 lines and (many) more on the way. Bicycling through flat Beijing is a scenic and safe way to take in the city’s distinct sights, sounds, and smells. Taxis are also convenient, so long as you have written or digital Chinese-language directions.

By Metro Train

Beijing’s excellent subway system, which has expanded to 17 lines (for now) and a direct airport express link, is the simplest and most cost-effective way of traversing this massive city. Clear English signage is provided throughout the stations, and English-language announcements are made on the trains.

Single-journey fares range from RMB3 to RMB9 (US$0.50 to $1.40), depending on distance travelled. To save transit time—queues for individual tickets can be extremely long—purchase a pre-paid Yikatong swipe card that allows easy in-and-out access and can be topped up as necessary. They’re available at stations for a RMB20 (US$3) refundable deposit.

Subway service is available from roughly 5am to 11pm, depending on the station.

By Taxi

Metered taxis are plentiful—except when it rains and during rush hours—and reasonably priced. The initial fare is just RMB13 (US$2), then increases by around RMB2 (US$0.30) every kilometre after the first three; a nominal fuel surcharge is added to the final tally, and you’ll also be responsible for covering any tolls incurred on the journey.

Most drivers do not speak or read any English, so ensure you have your destination’s address either written down or loaded on your phone in Chinese beforehand. It’s a good idea to carry a business card that has your hotel’s address in Chinese, as well.

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