How to Use the Metro (Subway) in Beijing - Global Storybook

How To Use The Metro (Subway) in Beijing

If you will be visiting Beijing and are wondering how to navigate its extensive subway network – then this post is for you.  Beijing, with its current population of 21 million residents, is one of the largest cities in the World.  However, it can be easily navigable via the city’s widespread and easily accessible metro system.

Beijing’s subway network started operating in 1969.  It is clean, modern, safe (there are security cameras in every car, as well as X-ray bag screening procedures at almost every station), and very convenient (trains run every 3-6 minutes).  Though, if you’ve never used it before – it might be a bit confusing, initially.  So to save you time and trouble – here are the few things that you need to know.

How to Navigate Beijing’s Subway Lines:

The first thing that you need to know is the name of the station that you are traveling to.  For example, if you are going to visit the Lama Temple, you need to get off at the Yonghegong station – the closest one to the Temple.  If in doubt – you can easily find the nearest subway station on any city map.  The next thing you need to do is to look up on which subway line this stop is located.  For example, the Yonghegong stop is located on Line 5.

Finally, you need to know the stop from where you will be taking the subway from, and the direction of the train.  The direction of the train can be easily identified by the last stop to which a particular subway line is heading.  For example, Line 1 runs from Pingguoyuan station in the West to the Batong station in the East.  Line 5 runs from Tiantongyuan in the North, to the Yizhuang station in the South.  These two final stations (on the opposite ends) represent the two, parallel directions of the train.

How to Use the Metro (Subway) in Beijing - Global StorybookSo, if you are getting on at, let’s say, Tian’anmen West station on Line 1 – you need to catch a train heading in the East direction, towards Batong, then transfer at the Dongdan station to the Line 5, heading in the direction of Tiantongyuan in the North, and get off at your station –Yonghegong.

How To Use The Metro in Beijing - Global StorybookHelpful tip: download one of the free ‘Beijing metro’ apps that can help you navigate its subway system quickly.  We recommend an app called “Metro Beijing Subway”.  One of this app’s most helpful features is the “route planner” – plug in the names of any stations (“to” and “from”) and it will give you the line numbers, the directions of the trains, and the names of any transfers.

How to Buy a Subway Ticket:

How to Use the Metro (Subway) in Beijing - Global StorybookThere are two options here – you can buy one through an electronic vending machine or from an official ticket seller. The easiest option is to buy one through a vending machine.

Once you get to the ticket booth – the first thing you should click on is the word “English” at the bottom left corner, to change the language.  Unfortunately there are only two language options – English and Mandarin (Chinese).

Once you switch the language, the next thing you need to do is to find the station to which you are traveling to. To do this quickly – you need to know the Line on which the station is located, as mentioned above. Then, all you have to do is click on the line number, find the station you need, and click on it.  The machine will then prompt you to the payment screen where you can select the number of tickets and make a payment.

Please note the ticket machine only accepts small bills (up to 10 Yuan) and coins.  It does not accept credit cards, or any bills larger than 10.  If you do not have any small bills on you – you can then buy the ticket through a ticket seller.

Helpful tip: remember the exit of your station (A, B, C, etc.) where you get in, if you are planning to come back there and get out at the same entrance.

Finally, the most important thing that you need to remember is that you must keep your ticket for the duration of the trip, since you will need it to exit the station. 

Subway ticket cost: 3-6 Yuan (depending on the distance) for a one way ride.

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