On a recent trip to China, I have to say that I was hugely impressed by the subway system in Beijing. Not only was it clean, safe and efficient but it was also exceptionally good value for money. The subway is the oldest metro system in mainland China — the first line having opened as recently as 1969, and it has grown to 18 lines, 319 stations and 527 km of track in operation, making it the second longest subway system in the world after Shanghai. The subway is the world’s busiest with 3.209 billion trips undertaken in 2013. Indeed, the largest recorded number of daily users of the system was recorded earlier this year in April when over 11 million commuters used it during the course of a single day. There is a flat fee for using the system which is just two Yuan or approximately €0.26 and that takes you from any one station to any other station on the same network. Ticket machines can be found inside all subway stations and they are touch screen and menus are in both Chinese and English, as are all the station signs to it is relatively easy to find your way around without a single word of Mandarin. Fares that originate from the airport are more expensive but still represent great value for money.
Even though the prospect of using the system might appear daunting at first, it is well worth considering as traffic can be extremely heavy in the city and so getting from one place to another can end up becoming a bit of an ordeal. Don’t forget that Beijing is one of the world’s largest and most spread out cities with a population in excess of 20 million and a metropolitan area that exceeds 16,000 square kilometres in size — and no that figure is not a misprint — 16,000 square kilometres in size or more than twice the size of county Cork! Surprisingly, for a city of its size, the locals are extremely friendly but be warned about the spitting! Some habits take a while to change. More updates on China in coming blogs so keep an eye out in the coming weeks.