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.