Taxi in China
If you are new to China, and don’t feel comfortable enough to take the bus yet, then taking the taxi is another option. Taxis are clean and should take you where you want to go, from door to door. Taxis are more expensive than busses though, they work with a fixed starting rate and then a certain amount of RMB per km after that starting rate. The starting rate varies per city in China, I have seen it from 6 RMB in Hohhot, to 10 RMB in Beijing. This starting rate counts for the first several KM (about 3 KM) and after this the meter starts counting. The price per KM also varies per city in China, but the price is usually shown on the taxi window. Please note that when you are taking a taxi at night, the starting price will be higher (11 RMB in Beijing).
Most taxi drivers in China do not speak English, some know a few words and some can even have small conversations, but this is an exception. So if you can’t speak any Chinese, you will have to have a card on you which shows where you want to go in Chinese. If you are staying in a hotel or at a students dorm, these cards should be available for you. Just ask at the reception. If they don’t have these cards then just ask them to write down the adress in Chinese for you. It’s also very smart to write down the phone number of your destination. If the taxi driver can’t find the way or doesn’t know the adress, he can just call and ask them. As in big cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, even taxi drivers can still get lost. They don’t work wth GPS’s or navigation systems (with the exception of a few).
Usually the taxi drivers will just use the meter, but there are times when they try and negotiate a price with you. You can try and negotiate with them, but in my experience I have found that they always try to charge you more than the actual price (even if you speak Chinese). So if you want to negotiate it is important that you know where you want to go and what the price would be if you use the meter, otherwise there is a big chance that you will be paying more than that you would have paid had you used the meter. It’s usually at touristic places/attractions and rush hour/traffic jam that taxi drivers try and negotiate a price with you. You’ll also find that there are several ‘illegal’ or ‘black’ taxis driving around. These are just normal driver’s that don’t have the taxi license or a taxi car. Since they don’t have a meter you will always have to set a price with them before you go, so it’s important that you know about how much you would need to pay if you take a normal taxi. I haven’t had any problems with ‘illegal’ taxi’s so far, but I have heard stories of people being dropped off at an entirely different place, after which the driver demanded they pay more money for him to bring them to the right place. So if you are taking an illegal taxi, be cautious. If there are normal taxis available, always pick them over the ‘black’ taxis.
A helpful phrase with taxi drivers is: ”Da biao”, which means: Use the meter. You’ll be able to read from their body language if they want to use the meter or not, just say ”Da biao” when they are trying to negotiate a price and you want them to use the meter.