Taxi in Beijing

Getting a taxi in Beijing could be quite a hassle.  Yes, I agree, the notion sounds weird…Why would you have trouble getting a cab in a big city anywhere in the world?  Well, Beijing is sort of unique.  You could spend a number of long cold hours on the street anywhere in Beijing while trying to get a ride.  In my experience, comparing all the way back to the late 1980s, the situation has become progressively worse up to today when you may be able to get a cab from your hotel or by calling one ahead of time to your appartment / house, but then your attempts to get one for the return ride while on the street could be incredibly frustrating.  

So, in case you are trying to figure out how to manage this situation, here are some useful tips:

  • If you live in Beijing or spending a significant / long period of time in Beijing, develop a relationship with a local taxi company / taxi drivers.  Get their business card and call ahead for service;
  • Make sure you have a card with your destination written in good legible Chinese (the taxi drivers are always afraid to pick up a foreigner as they may not be able to understand what they are being asked to do)
  • Plan you trip into the city to make sure you do not have a need to take a cab for a very short distance — the drivers will just refuse; Same thing applies if you are going to a location which is out of the cab driver's routine…
  • Many of the cab drivers have very poor knowledge of the city — they are recent migrants to Beijing and as such may not be able to assist you; Have instruction on how to find your destination;
  • Plan your trip into the city in a way that allows you to look for a cab near big Western hotels — you are more likely to get service there

Having listed all this there are some good alternatives to having to deal with inconsiderate taxi drivers.   Here is my list on the alternatives:

  • Consider renting a car – whether for a weekend or for a year (if living in Beijing) — go ahead and take the Chinese drivers license test and get a car.  You will enjoy the independence!
  • If you in for a short visit – consider chosing a hotel which is near a subway stop or a public bus stop.  You will get much more done if you could leverage these public transport options
  • Consider renting or buying a bicycle.

Beijing Traffic  storming the taxi


Air Pollution in Beijing

Air pollution in Beijing is becoming almost a regular article in various news and media outlets.   The most recent article is in the Financial Times from…. YES, April 1st 2013!  I looked back through this blog and found that I am writing on the topic just about every year.

Here is the article from

Air pollution is driving expatriates out of Beijing and making it harder for companies to recruit international talent, according to anecdotal accounts from diplomats, senior executives and businesses.

No official figures are available on how many people are planning to leave after three months of the worst air pollution on record in the Chinese capital. But companies that mainly serve foreign residents are bracing for an exodus around the middle of the year when the school term ends.

—————————  More from this article here ——————————–

At the same time I have experienced enough of the challenging climate and its air surprises to believe that the issue being raised by is real — folks are seriously considering their options on how to move to a different location.  The article states the opinion / experience of some of the expats — that their kids cannot go outside without face masks.  Yes, that is the case — I recall our daughter and her classmates not being allowed outisde during recess…..

Here is a photo from the area near the Astronomy Observatry in Central Beijing — you can judge for your self — this photo from late winter — February timeframe.

The Air Pollution in Beijing

So, you be the judge…!

Airline Travel Deals – Update

Airline Travel Deals – Another Survey (Spring 2013)

Earlier in February I published an update on air travel deals.  So, now it is time for another update.  In this posting, I will outline newer deals and the airlines that offer them.  Keep in mind there are price fluctuations in plane tickets constantly.  In my posting I am looking for the major / or in other words significant travel deals — those that can offer you a good bargain for major travel destinations.   Here we go:

  • Alaska Airlines – offering bargain airfares on flights to Mexico – for travel between April 16th and June 14th 2013; The tickets must be purchased by 11:59pm (PT) on April 4, 2013; The link is here — it also stipulates some blackout dates – check them out.
  • Virgin Atlantic is offering special fares on travel between many major cities on the East and West coast of the US, including transcontinental flights.  The deals are for flights between April 8th and June 14th.  Example is Washington DC to San Francisco US$179 one way ticket — this is a very nice deal!  Here is the link to more cities/airports;
  • Until April 15th 2013, flights on Malaysian Airlines continue to result in double Advantage miles on American Airlines
  • Interesting to see the somewhat of a price competition between American and United on their fare sales to Europe.  Boston to Heathrow (UK) is $849 on American and $855 on United.   Orlando to Paris is $1147 on American and $1222 on United.  Hence it looks like American is the low cost leader;
  • But if you can go to Europe earlier — i.e. in the Spring — you could leverage a set of special deals offered by Lufthansa.  The roundtrip from NYC start at $549;

Well this is it for this installment.  Let me know if you find any other special deals.