The Beijing Subway has to be the quickest and cheapest way to get around Beijing and is clearly marked in English for travelers. At ¥2 per trip (unlimited transfers), Beijing subway is the cheapest subway system in China.
The subway is crowded most of the time in Beijing. If you are an older traveler, you may wish to consider taking a taxi or booking a private car tour, if you can afford it. If you are a person in a wheelchair, you could not even contemplate using this part of the subway because there are no provisions at all to cater to your special needs.
There is an unwritten code of behavior for travelling by subway in Beijing. It’s easy to pick it up though – follow these “survival” tips you can enjoy your subway ride:
1) Know the rush hours: Morning: 7:00AM-9: 30AM, Afternoon: 5:30PM-8: 30PM. There are mass amounts of people crammed into trains during rush hour. It’s also always wise to avoid L1, L2, L10 during rush hour or avoiding traveling at that time completely.
2) Allow passengers to exit before boarding. People always push their way out as it’s crowded, it’s difficult to try to push your way in through the crowd.
3) Get as close to the door as possible before you are due to get off. You don’t want to struggle at your actual stop and missing your station when your stop arrives. Saying ‘xià che!’ when approaching your stop can also help by letting people know that you will be getting off.
4) Stay a little close to the door if you’re going less than 4 stops. If you stay at the middle carriages it’s difficult to push your way through the crowd when your stop arrives.
5) Wait first in line for the next train if you are not rush. Check the indicator for the next train time before crushing into a crowded train. Sometimes an extra minute on the platform brings along a much emptier car.
6) Don’t stand on the left on escalators. Stand to the right, walk on the left. Don’t be the one who holds everyone up because they are standing on the left of the escalator. Don’t stop and stand at the bottom of the escalator to check your map or look for the correct platform. Remember hundreds of people are being propelled towards you and they can not stop!
8) Don’t crowd around the doors on longer subway trips. Move to the center of a crowded train if possible as staying close to the door you could be pushed from every possible angle by the large amount of people getting on and off the subway.
9) Take your rucksack off. If you are wearing a large backpack or carrying parcels, take care that they do not interfere with the space of others. It is generally best to hold your backpack in front of you while travelling on subway, especially during times when services are particularly crowded.
10) Have your ticket ready on entrance and exit, so you don’t have to stop and fumble in your bag or purse looking for it, creating a traffic jam behind you!
11) Move down the platform as best you can during peak travel times.
12) Keep on moving. Don’t stop: When walking around subway stations, make sure you consider the people behind you. Don’t stop at the top of escalators or after ticket barriers as this stops the flow of traffic behind you.
Please be aware that during the peak hours most people are only interested in getting from A to B and usually travel at great speed with their heads down. Don’t take it too personally if someone is rude after they have just run in to you, just accept that their pace of life isn’t as peaceful as yours.
Nevertheless, if you have a problem understanding it, or are confused about making connections while actually using the subway, the station attendants and most locals will advise you of the direction you need to take: it is only a matter of you asking for help.