Friday, April 1, 2011

Beijing Taxi

It is with great delight that I have been reading about G & J's great adventure to Vietnam . There was some banter about wearing nylon jackets backwards whilst riding your scooter and I thought that I could find one in my collection when we went to China last October. I came up empty-handed but as I was viewing my photos I couldn't help but think to give you some impressions I had of their road system, which may be entirely incorrect, but from an outsider's point of view .

Most of the time we were herded into tour buses and only shown what I am sure, the tour guides were told to show us. China is not an open country where you are free to just wander about. I got this impression as our bus had to go through various checkpoints whilst on the highway.

After our tour of Beijing had ended we had to take a flight to Shanghai so we were on our own to get to the Airport. The easiest way was to take a Beijing Taxi


I notice that all taxis have standard transmissions and the traffic is horrendous in the city. There is gridlock everywhere. There is also no apparent reason or rules to driving and every driver is aggressive, cars cutting in and out trying to get a few inches ahead. And, the HORN IS YOUR FRIEND. There is honking all the time. Honking to get ahead, honking to pull in front, honking for you to get out of the way .


That's our driver on the right, we are at the refuelling station getting petrol. They are along side and integral to the highway system. You pull out into the fueling area and pull back in without actually exiting the freeway.


In this view we are separated from the main road by the fence on the right. There is one pump where you can fill on either side. Not much here only gas and they also sell some bottled water or soda. There doesn't seem to be any company markings on the pumps and I presume that 93 or 97 refer to the octane rating. This may be government run as a convenience to drivers


Pollution is very bad in Beijing as you can see here. It looks foggy and it is usually like this all day long, sort of like an overcast day, but there are no smells in the air. Our Taxi just speeds along taking whichever lane is the fastest changing lanes frequently along the way. I don't know if I have a photo of the signs but at the entrance to every bridge, or tunnel, or freeway entrance there is a picture of a motorcyle/scooter with a red circle and diagonal line through it. This means that motorcycles or any two wheeled vehicle is not allowed on the freeway, bridges or tunnels as a general rule.


Here are some highway signs, all unreadable for those from North America . Foreigners are not allowed to drive in China. The requirements are for all drivers to hold a license issued in China. If you wished to rent a car, they are supplied with a driver with a daily kilometer allowance, around 80-100 RMB per day. Our driver was not very conversant with English but he did seem to understand a few things that we asked. He had been driving for over 20 years and he showed us a photo of his family.


We came upon an accident which appeared had just occurred as the drivers had just gotten out of their vehicles. Our driver told us that this would be cleared up very fast, probably within minutes


The green and yellow colour scheme is another taxi company. I think that the roadways are very good since Beijing was recently the host to the World's Fair a couple of years ago and they upgraded their infrastructure in anticipation of tourists.


More highway signs, notice that different lanes have different speed limits. I would think those are high and minimum speed requirements for each lane . Our driver told us that they rigidly enforce the laws and it is a very large fine if you are caught. He told me how much the fines were, but I forgot, must be old age settling in again. I remember it was a few hundred RMB, remember that the average wage in Beijing is around 2000-2500 RMB (approx Cdn $320-400. per month). A lady driving an SUV was speeding past us on the right, then crossed our paths and changed lanes. He said she would get a big fine if caught


Another thing that was neat was the LED timer which counts down how many seconds your light will remain red


Here is the same light showing how long the light will remain Green

A little farther down we hit another red light


We finally get to the Beijing airport to await our flight to Shanghai

(Kentucky Fried Chicken; 20 RMB/Yuan = C$3.20)


  1. Wow, I certainly get to appreciate the clean air of the pacific west coast. Horrible that pollution.

  2. Thank you for posting the pictures. I had heard that the air pollution was bad but wow that is really bad. Worse than LA in the 1960s where I grew up. How much are the cab rides? And why would you go to China and have KFC???

  3. Great post Bob and I note that China also has countdown timers on the lights - that's a good move. Clearly, everything is far more regulated than Vietnam. You say that there's no smell from pollution and there wasn't in Hanoi either. I'm beginning to wonder whether the haze further south in 'nam had more to do with heat haze than vehicle pollution.

    P.S 3rd picture down. Was that your duty-free waiting to be loaded? ;-)

  4. Bob - Having seen how they drive in China I'm not sure I'd want to drive myself, so perhaps the car and driver is a good idea. And as for the pollution, that's one of my strongest memories as well. We were in Guangzhou in the southern mainland and the air was as thick as any fog I've every seen. Curiously though it didn't seem to have an odour - or perhaps we just got used to it.

  5. Interesting post. It doesn't have me chomping at the bit to go myself, but it is always fun to see how people do things in other parts of the world.

  6. Thanks for sharing these photos! I love learning about people in different parts of the world.

    The need to have a Chinese issued driver's license seems smart after reading about their road system!

  7. Great photos to share! In the image where you say the "driver on the right", are they allowed to pump their own petrol? I know in some countries someone else is required to do it.

    RichardM, I grew up in the LA basin in the 70's/80's. And LA didn't see any smog because it was blown INLAND!! Most days in my childhood and we couldn't see the mountains 10 miles away. :)

    I can see where the countdown on the red lights would help reduce waiting frustration. I wouldn't care for the green light count since it would only help people in my neck of the woods speed up to run the lights.

    Also love the petrol stations right off of the main road, not getting in the way of traffic. A highway down in Florida works that way and it is just so easy!

    Thanks for sharing.


  8. Wow - the air looks really bad! Can't imagine living with that day after day. I don't think I'd like riding or driving there, but I kind of like the timers for the lights. At least the red. Like Lori said, with the green it would just tell me how much I need to speed up!

  9. SonjaM: It was like a very overcast day and it blocked the sun. You could see it even when looking across the street

    RichardM: cabs are very cheap. I can't remember but something like 5 RMB per kilometer. (5 RMB = .80cents)

    Geoff: This morning I also noticed lots of countdown timers for Pedestrians, which are just visible to drivers in more populated areas of town .

    Canajun: after a few days it was just like a cloudy day, no unusual smells. Early in the morning you could see nearly normally, but got foggier as the day progressed

    ToadMama: It seems especially bad in the city. It was not noticeable in the country, or in smaller towns

    Heels: I don't think you could drive there anyway, you would have to be able to read Mandarin on the highway signs, plus you don't know the rules of the road.

    BeemerGirl: The petrol stations are merely for refueling without leaving the freeway system, which is tolled. You have to pay when you exit based upon distance (I presume), not so much in the city, but very prevalent when out of town. I think these check points are more to keep foreigners out of certain areas. This is the feeling I got. Our bus had an official document in the front window with authorizations and signatures issued by the Government. We also had to surrender our passports at every hotel for them to document our arrival and departures.

    Bluekat: Imagine the pollution, then everyone smoking everywhere. Hard to see the sun, every day is a cloudy day