Most expats who move to China to live and work are pleasantly surprised to learn that China has good public transportation, especially compared to the States.  Within China itself, you will find numerous options to get around – including planes, trains, and buses.  However, within most major cities you will also find an extensive, modern underground train system (typically called a Subway or Metro).  From Beijing, to Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chongqing, Chengdu, Kunming, Nanjing and so on, these underground metro systems are a great way to get around a city.  Even if you don’t speak Chinese, you don’t have to worry much about how to use the subway in China.

Standardized Subway System Makes it Easy for Expats in China

Since China has only recently become developed, many of these underground subway systems are fairly new (when compared to other cities around the world, like New York City).  As a result, the trains and train stations are not only modern, but the systems are quite standardized from city to city around China.  Whether you are riding the subway in Beijing or Guangzhou, everything is basically the same.

Most Signage is in English (Pinyin) and Chinese

For foreigners living, working, and traveling in China, using the subway system is made easier because cities will have most of the important signage in both Chinese and an English version (called Pinyin – translated Chinese using the Latin alphabet).  From the exterior and interior signage, to the ticketing machines, and even the overhead announcements on the subway trains themselves are translated in English.  This makes it so that expats can use the subway in China much easier.

How to Buy Chinese Subway Tickets

Throughout China, the subway system offers multiple ticket options.  Riders can purchase single-journey tickets using the kiosk machines — which should have a touchscreen interface as well as an English option.  Those who are living and working in China will use the subway in their city often.  For them, they can purchase a convenient pass at the customer service counter and load it with money.  This saves time by not having to purchase single tickets, and each time you use it, the turnstile will tell you how much is left on your card.  When it runs empty, just return to the customer service desk to reload it.

In most Chinese cities, these cards are also good for the public bus system as well.  Making it a convenient way to scan your card and pay for all your public transport.

VIDEO:  How to Use a Chinese Subway

Below is a video from our friend and teacher Collin in the city of Hefei, China.  An expat from the USA, Collin will take you on a journey using the Chinese subway in his city and provides a thorough explanation of how it works.

Video by:  Collin Rodefer, International Teacher at First Leap China in Hefei, China

Chinese Subway Maps

Below are links to some of the biggest and most popular subway systems for visitors and expats living in China.  Click on any of them to learn more and explore each subway system further.


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