20 ultimate tips for taking a taxi in Beijing (and the rest of China)

Taking a taxi is pretty easy. But also in cities where you have no idea where you are? In countries where you probably don’t speak the language? Let’s say in Beijing, China. I’ve already told you here how weird and funny the situation can be when you are all alone in a Beijing taxi for the first time. For your first Chinese taxi ride, I come up with the 20 ultimate tips for taking a taxi in Beijing or elsewhere in China. 

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Taxi in Beijing

How to get a taxi in Beijing

1. Wave!
To get a taxi in Beijing go to any street, where there is at least a little bit of traffic, stand close to it, stretch out your flat right hand and move it slowly up and down. No worries, as I already told you, you are not going to reveal yourself as a supporter of a former german dictator.

2. Enlighten yourself!
The red light behind the windscreen indicates that the taxi is free. If the light is off, the taxi is not free. Believe me, even some Chinese don’t get it.

3. Backstreet instead of highway
Don’t just stand somewhere on the road, but look for the right place to wait for a taxi. And no, that is not the highway! You can often see people standing in the middle of the main road stupidly waving with their hands back and forth. The better idea is to look for an access road or a small side street, as it is more likely to find a free taxi there.

Taxi in Beijing
On most days, the streets are crowded, so it’s easy to get a taxi in Beijing.

4. First come, first drive
You’re not the only one who is waiting for a taxi? Then better be fast and fight for it! There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.

5. Walking is better than waiting
Imagine you are at the bar district Sanlitun at night and want to go home by taxi. Forget it! Better start walking home. Otherwise, you’ll wait for a long time.

6. No group orgy
Beijing Taxi drivers prefer to take one or two passengers and not a group of drunken foreigners. The better idea is to take a couple of cars.

7. Yes/ no/ maybe
You want to tell the driver where to go? Wait for it, until your actually in the car. Don’t lean outside the window beforehand to ask him, if he wants to drive to that particular place. If he has the slightest doubt, he will do this meaningless gesture that only Chinese people do and then just drive away.

8. Taxi like a boss
The best trick to catch a taxi: Hotels. First, walk inside, as if you’re the guy residing in the presidential suite. Then don’t call yourself a taxi, no, wait for the concierge to get you one. (By the way this works not only in China.)

Taxi in Beijing
This is what a taxi in Beijing looks from the inside.

9. Engli$hu#!§
In Beijing, not a single taxi driver speaks English. They don’t even understand „Stop!“ with your hectic hand gestures. You don’t believe me? Well, give it a try! During the 2008 Olympics drivers were offered free English classes. Well, they seem to be rather lazy when it comes to learning.

10. The mandarin trick
If you don’t speak Chinese, ask someone to write down the address in Mandarin and show it to the driver. Even better: If you’re staying in the hotel, take a business card with you that shows the address in Chinese.

11. The mobile trick
If it happens that you and the driver talk at cross-purposes (which is not unlikely), the best thing is to call someone who speaks Chinese and then give your mobile to the driver.
By the way, this might also happen the other way around: he hands you his mobile and then you’re talking to any Chinese dude. And don’t be suprised to hear a very funny kind of Englisch.

12. No map needed
Hardly any driver of a taxi in Beijing can read maps. All they use to get around in Beijing is photographic memory. Don’t even try. My taxi driver has turned around my Beijing map about five times before handing it back to me, laughing.

Taxi in Beijing
A typical taxi in Beijing.

Fake Taxis in Beijing

13. No license, no passenger
There has to be the taxi driver’s license on the dashboard, including a photo and a registration number. If it is missing, better look for another taxi.

14. Only with taximeter
When getting in the car, make sure the taximeter is running and that it doesn’t start at a high amount.

15. You talkin’ to me?
In case, that there is a black car stopping near you and the driver asks you if you need a ride, don’t get into the car. You are not doing this kind of thing at home, do you?

Rules for a Taxi in Beijing
There are rules for every taxi in Beijing.

16. All about the prices
The taxi rental price is 13 RMB (about 1.60 euros). After the first three kilometers there is a distance fare of 2.30 RMB (about 0.29 euros) per kilometer. For the period from 23:00 to 05:00 the distance fare is increased to 120%.
Another hint: The fare per kilometer is marked on a red sticker on the rear window and must be visible. If this it not the case, the driver has no permission.

17. It’s all about the oil
Due to the rise in oil prices, there is a new extra fee of ¥ 1 after 3 km. In case this is not automatically added to the final amount on the taximeter, the driver adds will add it in the end. So don’t be surprised and provoke a quarrel with the driver like I’ve done last May.

Taxi in Beijing

Traffic Jam while you’re in a taxi in Beijing

18. Stop and No-go
Forget everything you know about traffic jams. Beijing has quite different dimensions. Actually, there is no time of the day, where there is no traffic jam. So you should better plan for longer trips.
If the place you want to go is not too far, walk there or take a bike. And if it rains, don’t even think of taking a taxi. If you get one at all, you will be stuck in traffic for a long long time. The 3rd Ring Road, for example, one of Beijing’s main roads, is completely sealed on rainy days.

19. Rush hours and hours and hours…
My tip is, don’t try to get a taxi during rush hours between 7-11 and 17-20. Take the Metro if you’re not afraid of crowds… but that’s another problem.

Taxi in Beijing

20. Rip-off on arrival
Everyone that offers you a taxi in the arrival hall before you can leave the airport building wants to rip you off. The better idea is to go straight to the official taxi stand right outside the terminal. Get in line and you will eventually get a taxi. To Chaoyang District, which is “downtown”, it is about 130 RMB (about 16 euros), including twice a toll of 10 RMB.
Alternatively, there is a subway line since 2008 from Terminal 3 to Dongzhimen in the city.

I hope these tips will help you to survive your first ride with a taxi in Beijing or anywhere else in China. Nevertheless, things can change from time to time, unfortunately also the prices.

Have you ever used a taxi in Beijing ? What anekdotiques & tips do have? Leave a comment!

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  1. Marc says:

    Actually in sanlitun you just need to walk away a little bit and it’s still very possible to get taxis. Otherwise this was a very good article that everyone should read. It’s very accurate.

  2. Thank you for writing such a fantastic information for taking taxi in Beijing, I’m sure people would find very helpful information from this blog.

  3. Sourelly says:

    First time to this website and I already like it.
    I found the article while researching “Taking a taxi in Beijing”.
    After reading this article I feel a little bit more confident that I will be able to manage it.
    I have to travel to Beijing for work. This will be my first time but not the last one.
    I will be in Beijing for at least two weeks.
    I will post a comment with an update about my trip.


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