China travel

Published on August 23rd, 2011 | by Paz


Public Transportation in China

Curious about public transportation in China? Check out what we think.

When picking what city in China we were going to move to we had a lot to think about…obviously. One thing we didn’t like about our home in the states was that we needed our car for EVERYTHING. We could only walk to a very very bad corner store that had nothing to offer other than nachos and cigarettes. Since we don’t smoke there was no need for cigarettes and the nachos weren’t that great either. So we made a list of all the things we wanted in our city and public transportation was number 3. So how has to public transportation been in China? 

There is every type of public transportation in Guangzhou available: bus, metro, train, speed train, planes, scooter taxi, taxi, and bike carts if you so choose. We have not found a place in China that we can’t access through public transportation. We only wish we could say this about our home in the US.


It is very inexpensive to travel in China via public transportation. The first brilliant idea that China has is that there are different levels of public transportation. If you are traveling far and have to take a bus or a train you pick from a hard seat or a soft seat. The hard seat is cheaper and the soft seat is more expensive. You can get to decide how much you want to pay for your travels. Love this concept.  Since we are traveling with kids..we tend to pick the soft seats.

Guangzhou’s local public transportation does not have different price options but it is very inexpensive as well. To travel 4 stops it normally is about 3 RMB or .50 cents and that could get you half way across Guangzhou.

All kids under 1.2 meters are free. It doesn’t go by age it is by height. I could almost be free…shoot! I like that system though. Many people also have told me that if your child is at the 1.2 meters you still don’t have to pay. So we could easily have another 4 years of not having to pay for our kids to travel via metro. Unless they are by themselves, then they need to pay. Many school kids take the subway to school.

Another brilliant idea is there public transportation pass. Why is it so awesome?

  1. It can be used on buses and the metro
  2. After using it 16 times you get 40% off every trip after that each month. (Example: From October 1 st to October 31st your first 16 swipes will be charged at the normal rate and then after that you get 40% off every swipe after that until October 31st)
  3. Everyone over 65 is free. I love this, because it lets those older folks get around for free. A great policy!!
  4. The money you put on your card can also be used at the 7 Elevens. Yup you heard me right you swipe your card to get on the metro and then stop at the 7 eleven to get your morning coffee or octopus balls. No need to carry cash.
  5. You can put money on your card at any 7 eleven and it takes 30 seconds…or however long the line is.
All of these are brilliant in my mind and should be adopted if they are already in place.

Getting around

Getting around on the subway  is very easy and user friendly. Anyone can use it! If you can read then you will be fine. Everything is well color coded, user friendly, and easy to read signs everywhere.
Here is your typical sign outside of any metro station. This tells you what time the line begins and finishes. It also gives you the name of the station in English and it’s destination stops in English.
Now where do you go? Just read the sign…duh. 🙂 I love that lots of people are always looking at the signs. So you don’t feel like a tourist staring at the sign….everyone is looking.
Not sure which is your exit? Well check the these lovely signs out! They tell you what you can find at each exit. Now this isn’t going to have everything on it, but it does have any tourist location, major school, and shopping centers. Follow the arrow.
Okay not sure where your exit is? There are large signs posted above each exit that are very easy to see from across the station.
Here is an example of another sign you will see in the metro. This is a great indication of how easy to read and follow their signs are. Now one quick note. Many people bring their luggage on the metro. That is the only rule we have seen broken. If you have to get to the airport and need to take the metro…no fear.

Are the metros kid friendly? 

The metro is actually very kid friendly. I would avoid it during rush hours for the obvious reasons of crowds, people rushing, and it not being a relaxing experience. However, we have traveled the metro during rush hour and it was just fine. You just need some extra patience. It is no different than any other city with 15 million people all trying to use the same subway at once. 🙂
There are not always escalators or elevators so you have to take the stairs. With a stroller and a baby that can be difficult. So Zeek opts to carry the stroller down the stairs with Abe inside. You will see many other Chinese parents doing the same.
I have to admit when I have to do this I get nervous about falling or tripping so I go very slow or push the stroller down the stairs one stair at a time.
After you are in the subway you still have to go down one more level to hop on your train. Here you will always find an escalator.
One of the reasons why we learned to love our umbrella stroller in Italy was for the same reason we love it in China. It is easy to maneuver, doesn’t add a lot of weight  for when you do have to pick it up, and can be folded very easily and quickly if needed.
There you have it now we are ready to get on our metro home.

Educational = High

Is there an educational value to using public transportation? Hmmm YES!
Now our four year old understands how to read a metro map. Look for your exit and navigate her way around. This is better than most high school geography lessons. Knowing how to navigate in a foreign country is something we are very happy she has learned. She knows our exit and where to go. She understands and counts how many stops we have to go to get to our destination. A little math thrown in there. Also learning how to deal with large crowds of people properly is a life lesson in patience and understanding.
Lupita waiting behind the line and minding the arrows while we wait for the metro. She is telling us to get in line nicely. hmmm
Lupita scored a seat.  Many times we have had people get up and move for her to sit down or for one of us who is holding Abe to sit down.
Here Lupita is laying on my lap on the subway. I loved the picture. 🙂


Yes, amazingly so! We aren’t exactly sure how or why the subway is cleaner than the streets outside, but we aren’t complaining. There is never any garbage laying around, and it is very clean. Much cleaner than any public transportation system we have been on in the states.

See how  clean it is!! This is what it looks like all the time.

This is our stop and we are almost home.

We are able to get around with out a vehicle and enjoy not having to worry about a parking space or parking tickets for that matter. The cost is more than affordable. The transportation is safe and reliable. The only trouble we have ever had was getting our toes stepped on.

If you are going to travel try leaving the rental car at Hertz and get familiar with the local mode of transportation. It could be a great experience  and exciting for all. Try it out what do you have to loose, .50 cents.

Tags: , ,

About the Author

Paz is an avid adventurer in life and food. Traveling across the globe with her family they enjoy cultural immersion and checking out the local eateries.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge
Back to Top ↑
  • About Us

    We are a family of four: dad, mom, sister, brother, who decided to leave our job, home, and community to live life in China. After a year abroad we decided to become permanent nomads. We road school our children and try to enjoy every minute.

  • Learning With Lupita

  • Contact Us

    We would love to hear from you. Have a question about China, or living and working abroad? We are here to help.

    Skype: paz.chentnik
    Connect on Facebook