How to book a taxi
Finding a taxi is nowadays quite hard in China. The estimated number of taxis in Beijing is 66,000, but it is still quite difficult to get one.
In public places such as airports, hotels or taxi stands, your chance of getting it is greater.
Make sure that you get an authorized taxi. This guarantees you that the driver has a proper license and will not cheat you. Make sure the picture of the taxi driver shown in front of the passenger seat corresponds to the image of driver because this guarantees that you hailed an authorized taxi.
There is also the possibility to book a taxi over the phone calling dedicated numbers, which vary from city to city; there is no national hotline.
Some numbers to call a taxi:
Beijing: 96123; 96103; 96106
Some hotlines have operators who can speak English, but if you do not speak fluent Chinese it might be difficult to communicate and inform the operator about the place the taxi needs to pick you up.
In China, most of taxi drivers do not speak English, but only Chinese. Moreover, many hotels, meeting places, buildings have a Chinese name which does not correspond to the «European» (English) translation. I.e. The Great Wall Sheraton Hotel in Chinese is just 长城饭店 (Changcheng Fandian), and if you ask the driver to bring you to the Sheraton Hotel, you risk to reach to the wrong one (there are at least 3 Sheraton Hotels in Beijing!). It is therefore highly recommended to have the complete address of destination and the phone number of your Chinese contact with you, both in Chinese and English, for useful advice in case of emergency.
Make sure that the driver understands exactly your final destination since many drivers come from nearby villages and do not know the roads, districts and areas of the cities they drive in.
For your info, Chinese drivers often smoke although it is forbidden (it is your right to ask to put the cigarette out ). They also love to listen to the radio: if you happen to be a customer of someone who loves Chinese opera, just take your time and enjoy this cultural moment.
The biggest cities in China are always crowded and jammed with traffic. Take into account that the morning rush hour is from 7:00 to 10:00, and the evening rush hour runs from 17:00 to 20:00. During rush hours it may be even more difficult to hail a taxi.
Considering the traffic, do not forget that any trip by taxi will cost you at least 20 minutes of your time, even for short distances. It is therefore highly recommended, especially in Beijing, Shanghai …, not to schedule more than 3 meetings per day, or you risk to miss the appointment.
Sometimes it may happen that if your meeting point is not too far away, the driver may refuse to take you there since the trip is uneconomical for him.
Taxis in China are really cheap. However, it is advisable to make sure that the taximeter is on, or you risk to pay for your ride far more than the due amount.
Taxis issue official receipt (发票 fapiao) on top of which the total amount for the ride is printed. If you go to the airport, it may happen that the driver will ask you to pay the entrance fee for the highway and for the parking.
Fares are different from city to city, but they are calculated on the basis of km and time. You can get an idea of the prices following this website:
Be sure to have small notes ready for paying the taxi fare: normally the fares are really low, and it may be difficult to get the change from 100 RMB for a ride worth 20 RMB.
Taxi App in China
Statistics say that there are more than 150 millions Chinese people who rely on taxi app to hail a taxi.
The most popular ones are Didi Dache (滴滴打车), which has approximately 100million users in 300 cities, and Kuaidi Dache (快的打车) which has approximately 200million users in 300 cities.
Last entry is Uber, which is available in Beijing, Hangzhou, Chengdu, Wuhan and Shanghai.
If you intend to enjoy this opportunity, you’d better have skills in handling apps and speak and read Chinese fluently, or have someone you trust who can book the ride for you through the app.
Jason Luo, “Getting Around China - A Guide to Taking the Bus, Taxi, Train, Plane, Private Car, and Driving in China”; Kindle Edition, 2013
Andrew Jacobs , “Strikes by Taxi Drivers Spread Across China”, The New York Times, January 14, 2015
- Taxi fares: http://www.numbeo.com/taxi-fare/country_result.jsp?country=China
- Shanghai taxi: http://www.idealshanghai.com/travel/117090/
- Guangzhou taxi: http://www.taxiguangzhou.com/