To discover the huge, multi-faceted aspects of a city such as Beijing, you have to consider the question of the transports: because of the weakness in your feet after any day spent on the Beihang campus, you can not expect to embark on the – very long – walk into the city. Then, you have to choose between the two ways, either by subway or taxi, both bringing its own advantages and inconveniences.
Firstly, the Chinese subway, the cheapest one. Do not worry, getting from Point A to Point B is not so difficult because of the very well-organized subway stations. Even if they seem to have the size of many of our airports, they are much easier to explore. But do not forget, you are in China, meaning that you can definitely not cross the subway station floor without a complete security check. Then, you just have to follow the different crosses or English-translated signals indicating your destination and patiently wait for your train following the lines on the floor. You can also be surprised by the absolute cleanliness of the subway stations contrary to the French one. The Beijing Subway deeply reflects the over-effectiveness of Chinese employees. From the 4 members of security staff in each exit to the plentiful number of cleaning ladies.
The first means of transport that you normally take when arriving in Beijing is the taxi. Not because this is the simplest and cheapest way to get to your residence (subway is better for that), but because carrying your luggage into the maze of corridors isn’t funny. You have to keep in mind that everything in Beijing is oversized! Moreover, certain stations control the countenance of your bags and can ask you to take out the liquid. The preferred mode of transport in the beginning is the taxi indeed.
During the day, you have to take the regulated taxi, which are green in Beijing (the color depends on the region you will visit). I personally was scammed at the airport because some persons assure you they are official taxis and offer you a global price for the run. But beware, you have to take the taxis that are offered at the counter.
Taking the taxi is a true experience! Namely because it is your first contact with a local resident. It is difficult to explain, but this will help you develop unexpected capacities. The easiest way to get along with the taxi driver is to note the direction in Chinese.
But even with this precaution, you can encounter some difficulties. Many taxi drivers have, surprisingly, not such good vision (bad thing for a taxi driver…). They wear glasses but China, as you should know, hasn’t established a social security yet (if it does one day …). And glasses are an expensive cost so they wear fake ones for the illusion of wearing some. So I highly recommend to write the direction in big characters so that you’re sure they’ll be able to read it.
What’s more? Taxis are THE solution if you want to go out at night. Subways close at 11:00pm and tuc-tuc is a bit risky (and a bit longer too). Finding taxis around Beihang is not so complicated but sometimes they refuse to take you because they don’t want to lose time understanding where you want to go. If no taxi stops, you will find one easily in front of the hotels (such as Park Plaza or Vision Hostels). Then, to come back home during the night you will hardly find official taxis everywhere. You have to know that it’s a bit more expensive but don’t be scammed: the safe option must be cheaper than in France!
(By Sarah Duchatelle, Heloïse Carrier and Mathieu Mazières)