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World Travel Guide > Guides > Asia > China > Beijing

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Getting around Beijing

Public transport

The local bus system in Beijing is dirt cheap and extremely extensive, but tough to negotiate for non-Chinese speakers. Travel by subway or taxi is far easier, although remember to carry with you the name of your destination in Chinese characters to show taxi drivers. Very few speak English. Beijing's subway is slick, modern and easy to use. Information in English is available from the Beijing Government website (www.ebeijing.gov.cn/feature_2/BeijingSubway/index.htm). Signs and announcements are in English as are ticket-buying machines. Tickets cost a flat rate for a single journey, no matter how far you travel. The ABC (Airport to Beijing City) express train connects the airport with Dongzhimen and Sanyuanqiao subway stations. 

Taxis

Taxis in Beijing are plentiful, cheap and metered, and are usually just hailed from the street. Tipping is not expected.

Driving

Few tourists attempt to drive in Beijing, as hiring a car is a lengthy process and roads are congested. Visitors also need a Chinese driving licence, which can only be obtained by resident permit holders. Basically, don't bother.

Car hire

Car rentals usually come with a driver, but familiar foreign car hire agencies are only slowly breaking into the market. Avis (tel: +86 400 882 1119; http://www.avis.cn/) has an online booking service. Otherwise try one of the local taxi companies such as Beijing Beiqi Taxi (tel: +86 10 8766 5998, ext 8053), although you'll need a Chinese speaker to help.

Bicycle hire

Cycling is a great option in Beijing. The roads are as flat as a chessboard, and almost all of them have bicycle lanes, although cars don't always keep out of them! You can hire bikes from many youth hostels and hotels. Alternatively, try Bicycle Kingdom, 81 BeiHeYan Street (tel: +86 10 6526 5857; www.bicyclekingdom.com).

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The Orchid

Hip and perfectly located in a lane just a short stroll from the Bell Tower and Drum Tower, the Orchid is a slice of wood-floored, design magazine modernism in the heart of old Beijing. Rooms are compact but calming, with contemporary designer furnishings. There’s even a roof terrace with views over the hutongs.

Jingshan Garden Hotel

A cute budget hotel with calm, comfy rooms set around a similarly serene courtyard, Jingshan Garden Hotel is in easy striking distance of the Forbidden City. It feels just like you'd imagine a Chinese hotel to feel, down to the odd piece of old-fashioned lacquered furniture in the rooms. It has a decent restaurant too.

Double Happiness Beijing Courtyard Hotel

Most guests agree with the name when they stay at this low-key but friendly hotel in the lanes near the Lama Temple. The small, simple rooms come with Chinese-style furniture, TVs and a computer for checking your email, plus an extra serving of homespun charm, but it can get a little cold here in winter.

Red Capital Residence

Located in a 200-year-old courtyard residence, this boutique hotel moves the historic theme forward to the Liberation era, with rooms and communal spaces decked out with Communist antiques and Mao memorabilia. The five suites are fit for a Communist Party bigwig, with some of Beijing’s most unique interior design, and the bar is set in a converted underground bomb shelter.

Temple Hotel

This former Tibetan Buddhist temple from the Qing Dynasty was saved for posterity by a UNESCO-endorsed restoration project. Buildings at the hotel have been standing for 250 years and they still swim with the air of times past. There are just eight well-appointed rooms, each with traces of the building's former life, firstly as a temple, then as a television factory after the Cultural Revolution.

Park Hyatt Beijing

Beijing’s highest hotel towers over the new central business district, and many guests come specifically for the panoramic views, particularly from the 66th-floor China Grill and the 65rd-floor bar. Undeniably one of the most opulent international hotels in Beijing, the Park Hyatt has 246 sleekly modern rooms and suites, with rainforest showers and spa-style tubs, plasma TVs, espresso machines and air purification systems.