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Beijing Bus

Travelling by bus is by far the cheapest way of getting around Beijing Standard fares are¥1, although air—conditioned buses sometimes cost¥2. In 2006, the authorities introduced aBus transport IC card or yika tong, a prepaid swipe c rd that can be bought from most subway and bus stations, post offices and branches of China's CITIC bank. You can add money in multiples of¥10, with an initial ¥20 deposit. Using an IC card saves bus travellers 60% on fares.

The flipside to this affordable transport is overcrowding; buses are horrendously cramped during rush hours and journeys can be slow due to the lack of bus lanes. But, if you're willing to be patient and get to grips with the Chinese—only bus signs and route maps, you can reach most parts of Beijing on one of the 800 routes. Although it will seem complicated at first, there are some basic rules: buses with single and double digit numbers are for the inner city; the 100 series are trolley-buses; the 200 series are night buses; the 300 series cover suburban routes and 900 series buses go long distance. The most useful buses for tourists are the double-deckers, numbered 1 to 4, that run throughout the city centre.

To save the hassle of searching for the correct change, you can now buy three, seven and l4 day passes at the same outlets that sell IC cards if you do not read Chinese, try and find a conductor as soon as you get on and point to your desired destination on a map. Further information (including route maps) can be found at www.bjbus.com.