Whether you’ve got some time to travel around China, or you just need to get from A to B, our transport guide will help.
LOCAL TRANSPORT IN CHINA
Most major cities in China have an efficient underground train network. Many are also currently being built.
The underground is a great way of getting around, and for just a few yuan (depending on where you're going) it’s a super-cheap option. This is good news for ESL teachers on a shoestring budget.
Inside a subway train in China.
Stations are glisteningly clean, they have security guards doing bag checks, and there are usually shops in or around the vicinity. This makes for a smooth and safe traveling experience.
However, the subway can get really packed, especially around peak hour. Travel outside the morning and early evening rush times if you can.
Buying tickets is easy, as there is an English option on the touch-screen menu. In most cities, you simply select the station you want to go to, choose one way or return, and how many tickets you would like.
It's easy getting around China's subway system thanks to the English menu option (see bottom right).
Taxi and ridesharing
Always try to get a registered taxi with a working meter rather than a private car acting as a taxi.
Unfortunately, many 'legitimate' taxis won't turn on their meter so in some situations it's impossible to pay the local price.
You will see touts at busy places such as train stations and intersections. If you're approached, decline their offer unless you want to pay a high price!
A taxi rank in Qingdao, north-east China.
An alternative to a taxi in China is ridesharing. Didi Chuxing is China's equivalent of Uber.
Note that Didi Chuxing is currently working on an English version of its app. This will make it easier for TEFL teachers in China who can't read Mandarin.
In the meantime, you can always ask a Chinese-speaking friend to book the ride for you. Just remember to pay your friend!
Riding in the back of a Didi Chuxing car.
Because China has a lot of people, it has a lot of buses. And they’re cheap! For one or two yuan, you can get from A to B in no time. It's another cheap option for English teachers on a budget.
Traffic in China can be insane, so hold on tight as the driver navigates their way through.
REGIONAL TRANSPORT IN CHINA
The best and cheapest way of getting around this enormous country is by bullet train. Most cities in China – even the smaller ones you’ve probably never heard of – are connected to the extensive bullet train network.
Some of the busiest stations will have an English speaking staff member, while other stations won't. So if you're buying a ticket at the counter you should probably have a Chinese-speaking friend accompany you.
You can look up train schedules for China here and even buy tickets online if you don't want to go in person.
Taking a bullet train is the best way to travel around China.
Try to buy your ticket at least a day or so in advance otherwise you may not get a seat, or have to wait hours at the station for the next train to your destination.
If you’re unfamiliar with the local transport of your destination, it can be confusing to find the correct local bus from the train station into town. So consider taking a taxi or rideshare from the train station.
Make sure you have the address of where you need to go written in Chinese characters, which you can show the driver as you hop in the car.
Domestic travel in China isn’t cheap. If you’re traveling on a budget, we don’t recommend it – bullet trains are much cheaper.
However, because of distance, sometimes you’ll have to fly domestically. For example, a trip from Shanghai to Urumqi, in Xinjiang province, is best taken in the air.
Regional transport in China is made easier with countless domestic flights - just watch the cost.
Skyscanner also does a good job of comparing flights so you can choose the best option for you.
No matter which mode of transport you choose while teaching English in China, always be safe. Look after your personal belongings and each other!