Getting around Hangzhou
The best way to get around the lakeside is on foot or by bicycle. Maps are available from hotels and the Hangzhou Tourist Centre.
A comprehensive bus network plies the city streets but is difficult to navigate for those who can't speak or read Chinese. If you fancy trying, bus Y1 does a handy circuit of West Lake.
Hangzhou's 21st-century metro system has three lines (Line 1, 2 and 4), with more under construction. The original line connects Hangzhou East Train Station with the main railway station and skirts the northeast corner of West Lake between the two. Longxiang Qiao is the nearest station to the lake itself.
At West Lake you’ll also see plenty of electric buggies whizzing tourists around. These are handy if you in a hurry - or just knackered. You can ask for a complete circuit of the lake, or else just hop on until the buggy stops where you want to get off.
Taxis are plentiful, safe and reliable, but drivers don't speak English, so remember to carry with you the name and address of your intended destination in Chinese characters so you can show it to the driver when you hail a cab. Phoning for a taxi is unnecessary, and generally isn't done in China. Your hotel may be able to help, but note, you'll have to pay extra if you call the taxi, as the driver will also expect to be paid for the trip to come and get you.
Leave this to the more capable hands of the locals. Not only are the roads in Hangzhou confusing and congested, but questionably translated road signs and the need for a valid Chinese driving licence mean visitors are better off finding an alternative form of transport.
Car hire is not recommended for foreign travellers as a valid Chinese driving licence is required, for which you must have a residence permit. You're better off hiring a car with a driver. Jerry Zhou (tel: +86 137 5825 5323; www.hangzhoutaxi.com) speaks English, and is recommended for tours around the city and beyond.
Bike-rental kiosks, with rows of bright red bicycles, are all over the city, especially around West Lake. Once you've obtained a swipe card, you can pick up a bike from any kiosk and return it to any other. The first hour is free. After that, hire is still very cheap and a great way to ride around the lake.
You need your passport and a fully returnable deposit to get your swipe card, but note that not all the kiosks have facilities to distribute these cards. One that does is on the northeast corner of the lake on Beishan Lu. Also note, you cannot return a bike after the kiosks are closed for the evening. Youth hostels also rent out bikes, although prices are more expensive.