With over 800 routes, Beijing’s buses are a great way to get around, especially when it comes to more remote areas of the city.
- The bus stop schedules are written exclusively in Chinese, so if you’re not fluent in Mandarin, make sure you’ve already researched which bus (and stop) you’re looking for. You can search for bus routes here.
- Check the time of your return journey. Some suburban services stop as early as 6 p.m., though most stop at around 11 p.m. Theoretically, there are night buses that run from 11 p.m. 4:30-5:00… but we’ve never seen them.
- Buy yourself one of those handy blueIC cards for subways and buses. This will ensure you a 60% discount on fare, reducing it from 1 RMB to .40 RMB. Just swipe it as you enter the bus and the fare will automatically deduct (some buses also require you to swipe as you get off; if you’re not sure, just watch what other people are doing). If you only have cash, buy your ticket from the ticket taker or, if there is none, drop it in the cash box at the front.
- If there are three doors on the bus, board in the middle door and exit in the back. Being none-the-wiser to this at first, I once exited in the middle, and found myself face to face with a mob of angry people waiting to board.
- Since the 2008 Beijing Olympics, most buses now have electronic marquees that announce the next stop in Pinyin (English) and Mandarin. If there’s no sign, the next stop will be announced over a microphone, so listen carefully!
- The bells on Beijing buses are either nonexistent or hard to find, so when your stop is announced, make sure you’re ready near the door. This way if the driver doesn’t stop (which almost never happens because the buses are always so full), you can just yell Ting che! (停车) and hop off.
- Prepare for a crowded journey. When the discount for IC card users was introduced in 2007, passenger numbers soared. As in the subway, you’re likely to be packed in tightly, with elbows digging into your stomach, people standing on your toes and a large scramble at each stop. So make sure you push your way as close to the door as possible just before your stop—there’s nothing worse than being stuck in the middle of a crowd when you need to get off!