Understanding the Beijing Metro

Travel Tips — By Lauren Johnson on April 10, 2011 at 6:00 am

The Beijing Metro is a wonderful maze of easy transportation. Though getting from one line to another isn’t very easy the subway remains one of the key transportation tools of the city.

The image (left) shows the simple metro network that existed in the city in 2006, simply not that long ago! The yellow line (line 13) in the image isn’t fully revealed. It wraps up in a loop north and then back to the blue line (line 2). Line 1 in the red horizontal line. These three lines, 1,2 and 13, were all the city had for metro transport less than five years ago. When Beijing won the bid for the 2008 Olympics the metro building in Beijing kicked off like a flash! New lines were installed specifically for the Olympics (line 8) to whisk passengers directly to the Olympic Village.

Now, 2011 has a wealth of subway lines that criss-cross under the city like a maze (image below right). Sadly, it can be a difficult network to navigate simply because many of the lines don’t really intersect so it is hard to transfer from one line to another in only one move. Its like a real life chess game trying to get across the city. Luckily, Beijing has something figured out that Shanghai doesn’t– once you swipe in your 2 RMB payment you are underground and there is no risk of having to pay twice. You can walk around until you find the line you want underground. Beijing also has more subway route maps around the stations and, once you arrive, they have a map showing where you will pop out on the street including signs pointing to major landmarks in the area.

The fee for taking the Beijing metro is half of the Shanghai long distance fee, 2 RMB. This is one of the cheaper subways in Asia, and one of the nicer ones as well! You’ll find glass walls keeping passengers from falling into the tracks.  You’ll find trash bins, escalators and clean, bright trains with TV screens and the smell of newness. The metro stations are clean, bright and encased in marble and glass. This metro network is one of the nicest in the world in terms of usability, cleanliness and design. Modern art decorates some stations, and the system for swiping in with your Beijing transport card is efficient and quick.

If all else fails and you can’t use the subway, the bus system in Beijing connects subway lines making it more accessible. Most buses will announce in English the next stop and if it relates to a subway line. You may have to ask, and while the bus attendants won’t speak English they will understand the subway stop you are looking for and point you in the right direction.

Learn about the Shanghai Metro Network as well!

Tags: beijing metro, beijing metro cost, beijing subway, how to use the beijing subway

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