Beijing Travel Essentials: Beijing Subway System
Subway Savvy: Get the low-down on the Beijing metro 地铁
First opened in 1969, Beijing's subway system has long been woefully inadequate to serve a city of such size and population.
Thanks to the 2008 Olympics, however, the entire network has recently been undergoing a major re-vamp and extension. There are currently 5 lines in operation on the Beijing subway with 142 km of tracks and 93 stations, servicing 3 million people daily - this will jump to 561 km and 8 million when all the planned extension work is complete in 2015. By that time Beijing's subway will be bigger than that of London, Moscow and New York.
As a result of the upgrades, the Beijing subway system will provide Beijing visitors with a fast, convenient and cheap way to get around. Many of the city's tourist hotspots such as Tiananmen Square, The Forbidden City, Wangfujing shopping street, Lama Temple, National Grand Theater (the Eggshell), Silk Market and Capital Museum are already serviced by subway stations, with many others close enough to walk. By August Beijing Airport and the Olympic Village will also be connected.
All fares on the Beijing subway are now a flat RMB 2, regardless of destination (with the exception of the soon-to-open airport line). Regular users should buy extra tickets or load up a prepaid swipe card, because rush hour ticket and swipe card update queues can be nightmarishly long. It's also a good idea to have small bills handy as occasionally a RMB 100 note can be difficult to change. In rush hour the subway cabs get very crowded so either avoid travel at these times or expect a crush!
Swipe cards cost RMB 20 (refundable deposit), plus whatever you want to put on the card itself. Ensure you get in the right queue at the subway station there are separate lines for swipe cards and tickets (swipe card lines will be indicated with a sign saying "IC". Subway stations themselves are easy to spot with their distinctive blue and white signs, and are often integrated into underpasses.
Beijing subway is not difficult to navigate, with signs and onboard announcements in English and Chinese. There are also LED displays in more modern carriages. Signs in subway stations on either side of the tracks indicate upcoming stations and journey times, so make sure to choose the right side.
On Line 2, which is a loop line, you will need to work out which direction will get you to your destination quickest. Most lines start operating between 5.00am and 5.30am, and everything shuts down before midnight. If you need to change between lines there will also be an on-board announcement, and transfer stations are clearly indicated on subway maps in stations and carriages.
The two original subway lines are Line 1 (red) which goes east-west across the city and Line 2 (dark blue) which is a loop line following the second ring road. Newer lines are Line 13 (yellow) which runs across the top of the city, and the recently completed Line 5 (purple) which runs north-south and goes close to the Olympic Green. Construction on the airport line (L1 - brown) is nearing completion, and also on Lines 8 (Olympic Spur Line - green) and part of Line 10 (pink) which will service the Olympic Green and northeast side of the city.
Where is the subway station?
I want to buy one ticket.
I don't have any change.
Do I have to change (lines)?
In Chinese, subway/underground is 'Dìtiě', and it's written 地铁.
Beijing Subway Map