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 (Smart Card) 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, but buses can be slow. Driving in Beijing is a complicated and sometimes frightening process, with few English signs and non-stop traffic jams. Taxis are plentiful, but be sure to have your destination written in Mandarin as few taxi drivers speak English. 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. Over 40,000 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. It is not possible to exchange Scottish or Northern Irish bank notes. 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 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. Hotels, cafes and restaurants offering free wifi are widely available. As international roaming costs can be high, purchasing a local prepaid SIM card can be a cheaper option.
110 (Police); 120 (Ambulance)
Beijing Airport is serviced by the Airport Express Line, a rail link that runs form Terminal 3 to Terminal 2 and then to the city with stops at Sanyuanqiao and Dongzhimen. The trains run every 15 minutes from 6am-11pm. 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.
Car rental is available.
Taxis are metered and tips are not expected. Any road tolls and bridge tolls will be expected to be paid for by the passenger. 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.
There are 4 parking garages, which are connected to the terminal buildings by means of an underground walkway. There is also an airport subway linking the parking garage to the terminals. Parking costs RMB 2.5 per 15 minutes, is free for the first 30 minutes, and RMB 5 for every subsequent 30 minutes. The maximum daily charge is RMB 80 for the first day.
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.