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How to get around in China

When traveling or living in China, you will figure out that, while in some places you can have a wide choice of alternatives to move around, in others there is really just one option only that is viable.
Chinese infrastructures are getting more and more famous worldwide – and rightly so – but they cannot be expected to be able to connect all places to each other.
For this reason, you’ll need to know when to choose one or another alternative, usually depending on where you come from and where you are going.
You can generally choose between the following:
1. Taxi or DiDi (Chinese Uber): relatively expensive if compared with other public transportation means, but quite cheap if compared with fares in the West. Taxis are available all day round and can easily be booked in advance for particularly important trips. Due to the huge possibility of getting into the periodic peak hour traffic, keep an eye on the clock when you choose to get on a taxi. Notice also that the peak hour is not the same for all the cities. They are both unadvised to travel long distances, due to the generally higher fees. If you want to drive on your own (which can be a very rewarding experience), that would be no problem, provided you have your own Chinese driving license. Your own country’s driving license (translated in Chinese by an authorized translator) should be accepted as proof of your practical capabilities in driving, but since the traffic law in China is not exactly identical to any other country, you’ll have to sustain a theory exam in english or Chinese.
2. Bus or tram: extremely cheap, it still suffers from peak hour traffic issues, so the same advise given for taxi will apply here. Transportation in between cities and outside the urban areas by bus can be convenient when compared with trains, especially when thinking about areas where railways are less developed.
3. Subway: often the most convenient option whenever available (which is, sometimes, only specific areas of the cities), it is quick, cheap and on time. Just make sure it can bring you really close to your destination, otherwise you’ll need to combine subway with a taxi, a bus or a bike instead of walking for a couple minutes.

4. Train: perfect for traveling in between cities or moving into the countryside, but pretty useless to move inside the city. The gaotie – high speed railway – can reach 400 to 450 km/h, are extremely efficient and inexpensive, and are widely taking over the older trains with sleeping couches.
5. Plane: advised only for long distance traveling, especially if there is no gaotie connection. Planes can often get delayed due to bad weather, so make sure you always can afford to be a couple of hours late on your schedule. Note: international flights do not have such issues.
6. Ship: it is not really an option anymore to travel by sea in China, since only one side of the country is connected to it and airplanes and trains are much more quick and efficient. Still, some of the lesser islands can be reached more easily (or only) by ship.
7. Bicycle: traveling by bicycle or electric bicycle is extremely convenient in China. Many cities have specific bicycle lanes parallel to the regular roads. Due to the amount of people using bicycles every day, though, we advise you to be very careful to traffic at the beginning – do not worry, you’ll eventually get the hang of it. The best part is that you can rent a bicycle or an electric bicycle through your phone, and leave it once you arrived in a bicycle parking, which are pretty much everywhere.

In mountainous, desert or less developed provinces, such as Tibet, Gansu and Inner Mongolia, you may have to adapt to their specific alternatives to move locally – we advise you in this case to always refer to a professional local helper.

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