Beijing has one of the most comprehensive and rapidly developing public transportation systems in the world. Whether you're touring the city for a week, studying for a year or making Beijing your long-term home, you never have to worry about how to get around. Subways lines extend to the outskirts of town and new routes are opening every year. Public busses go to virtually every neighborhood. Taxis are everywhere. Some tourist areas and suburbs even have Pedi cabs. And for the more adventurous, there are bicycles to rent. You can walk if you like, but there are plenty of other ways to get around.
One of the fears of using public transportation has always been the uncivilized behavior of some passengers. Like many places in the world, you have to keep your valuables out of easy reach of pickpockets. You may be shocked at some people's lack of chivalry, like the young man pictured below. He's sitting under the sign that says the seat is reserved for pregnant ladies, the disabled, the sick and children. The little boy seated beside him stood in front of the man for some time, until finally a middle-aged woman got up and yielded her seat to the lad. Fortunately, ill-mannered men like this are becoming less while the vast majority of people using public transportation are a pleasure to ride with.
Most of the time you can exit the subway without being crushed by people trying to crowd in. This has dramatically changed over the past decade. In the past, when the doors opened a mob of people stood directly in front of exiting passengers, trying to push straight in without first waiting for people to come out. Sometimes it still happens, but generally people stand to the side, like in the picture below.
Just before the 2008 Olympics, Beijing took huge steps to prepare for the masses of international visitors. Taxi drivers tried to learn English. Workers in subway stations were posted in boarding areas to assure people lined up correctly. Older busses were replaced with clean new ones. Dangerous unlicensed Pedi cabs were removed.
It wasn't that long ago when the Beijing subway system only consisted of line two, which circles around the inner city following Two Ring Road. And then line one was built, and eventually line 13 was added to carry passengers to the northern outskirts of the city. Several new routes were added before the 2008 Olympics, but it was only the beginning. Today new lines are being added all over the city.
The number of private cars on Beijing's streets is increasing at astronomical rates, but that's no reason to avoid getting out and exploring this amazing city. Public transportation is developing into one of the best systems in the world, making it convenient to venture out to almost anywhere in the capital city.