The subway is a great way to get around in Beijing, though it can be very crowded at peak hours. The subway shuts down at midnight and starts again at 5am. Travellers can buy a prepaid card (Yîkâtông) for travel on subways and buses. The fare is the same for the subway, but reduced for buses. Most buses operate from 5am to 11pm. Driving in Beijing is a complicated and sometimes frightening process, with few English signs and non-stop traffic jams. Taxis are plentiful. Cycling is a good alternative with numerous bicycle rentals around the city, and well-defined bike lanes, bike parks and the company of millions of other cyclists, especially at rush hour. It may look intimidating, but can be the best way to get around for the more adventurous traveller. 50,000 bicycles are available to be rented at outlets close to subway stations, commercial districts, hotels and office buildings.
Local time is GMT +8.
Electrical current is 220 volts, 50Hz. Plug types vary, but the two-pin flat blade and oblique three-pin flat blade plugs are common. Adapters are generally required.
China's currency is the Renminbi Yuan (CNY), which is divided into 10 jiao or 100 fen. Make sure you exchange your leftover Yuan before returning home because you may have difficulty exchanging the currency outside China's borders. Foreign cash can be exchanged in cities at the Bank of China. Banks are closed weekends. The larger hotels and the special 'Friendship Stores' designed for foreigners will accept most Western currencies for purchases. Major credit cards are accepted in the main cities, but acceptance may be limited in more rural areas. ATMs are scarce in rural areas.
The international dialling code for China is +86. Phone cards are widely available and calls can be made from post offices and hotels; phone booths on the streets are usually for local calls only. In hotels, local calls are generally free or will be charged only a nominal fee. Mobile phone networks are very advanced and Chinese networks have roaming agreements with most non-North American international operators. Internet cafes are available in most main towns.
Emergencies: 110 (Police); 120 (Ambulance - Beijing)
|New Years Day||1 Jan||1 Jan - 3 Jan|
|Spring Festival||19 Feb - 25 Feb||8 Feb - 14 Feb|
|Qingming Festival (Tomb Sweeping Day)||4 Apr - 6 Apr||2 Apr - 4 Apr|
|May Day||1 May - 3 May||30 Apr - 2 May|
|Dragon Boat Festival||20 June - 22 Jun||9 Jun - 11 Jun|
|Mid-Autumn Festival||26 Sep - 28 Sep||15 Sep - 17 Sep|
|Peoples Republic of China birthday||1 Oct - 3 Oct||1 Oct - 7 Oct|
The climate of Beijing is rather extreme. There are four very distinct seasons, with a wide temperature variation between winter (well below freezing) and summer's hot humidity. Most of the rain falls in the summer; the sudden downpours make an umbrella a necessary travel accessory. Spring and autumn are relatively short seasons. Spring (February to April) has warm and windy conditions. Autumn (August to October) brings blue skies, pleasantly mild temperatures and slight humidity. Spring and autumn are the best seasons to travel to Beijing.
Shuttle buses run regularly (about every 45 minutes) to the city centre, Beijing Railway Station and major hotels. Metered taxis are also available, but it is recommended that passengers have their destination written in Chinese to avoid confusion. Travelling time to the city is about an hour.
Car rental is available, including Hertz and Avis.
Taxis are metered and tips are not expected. The 17 miles (28km) into the city should take about an hour. Avoid taxi drivers that approach customers and instead wait in the taxi line and insist on using the meter.
A shuttle bus service runs between the terminals.
There are several bureaux de change, a bank and ATMs, telephones, tourist information, numerous shops and duty free shopping, and a business centre. A food corridor provides a range of eating and drinking options, while an entertainment centre offers everything from films to Chinese massage.
The parking garage is located close to Terminal 3, and is connected to the terminal building by means of an underground walkway. There is also an airport subway linking the parking garage to the terminals. Parking is free for the first 30 minutes; and thereafter, CNY 6 for the first hour, and CNY 5 for every subsequent 30 minutes. The maximum daily charge is CNY 80 for the first two days.
Free wifi is available in five-hour sessions throughout the airport, but requires registration, either via sms with a mobile phone or by scanning your passport into the airport's system. Keep in mind that many sites are blocked, as internet access in China has extensive firewall restrictions.