Chinese Language Blog

Getting Around in Chinese Posted by on Mar 30, 2016 in Uncategorized

China is a massive country with equally massive cities. Trying to navigate your way around the Middle Kingdom and metropolises like Beijing and Shanghai can be quite intimidating – especially when you have to do it in Chinese! Anyone who has traveled to or lived in China can attest to the fact that English is not widely spoken. You’ll often be met with confused looks and the all-too-common “I don’t understand” (我听不懂 – wǒ tīng bù dǒng). So, how does one go about getting around in China? Use Chinese, of course! We’ve had quite a few posts related to transportation over the years, so here are the links with descriptions for each post. Bookmark these, study them, and you’ll be cruising around China and its humongous cities like a pro in no time.

Transportation in Beijing



In a city as huge as Beijing, you’ve got no shortage of options when it comes to getting around. This post teaches you 15 Chinese words/phrases related to transportation in the capital, which you can apply to just about any Chinese city.

Beijing Transportation Video

They say seeing is believing, so check out this video that takes you on a tour of Beijing and its many transportation options. You’ll get to practice quite a few of the words/phrases from the previous post in this video.

Taking a Chinese Taxi

You'll have plenty of time to chat while you're stuck in traffic.

You’ll have plenty of time to chat while you’re stuck in traffic.

Taking the subway or the bus is all well and good, but sometimes you just don’t want to be crammed in like a sardine with the masses. Taxis are readily available in Chinese cities, but chances are your driver won’t speak any English. The good news is that this is a prime opportunity to practice your Chinese! This post gives you a sample conversation in a taxi that you can study and practice.

Chinese Taxi Cab Confessionals

Image by Michael Coghlan from

Image by Michael Coghlan from

I hate to disappoint you, but this post is nothing like the raunchy HBO show. Rather, it details my experiences taking cabs in Beijing and using them as a classroom. Chatting with drivers was one of the main ways I got my Chinese up to par, and I highly recommend doing so if you’re new to the language and looking for chances to practice. This post also teaches a bunch of useful vocabulary that will come in handy on those cab rides across the city.

Riding That (Chinese) Train

Enjoying the hard sleeper seats.

Enjoying the hard sleeper seats.

For traveling in between cities, nothing beats the train in China. The Chinese rail system is vast and sophisticated, with more and more high-speed lines opening up every month. Learn the basics of train travel in this post, including the Chinese names for the various classes of seats/sleepers available.

How to Buy Train Tickets in China

Chaos of a Chinese train station.

Chaos of a Chinese train station.

While riding the train is great, the experience of buying a ticket and fighting the crowd to actually board the train is anything but. In fact, it can be somewhat of a nightmare. Never fear, as I’m here to help you in your quest to travel by train. Study and practice the conversation in this post and then get out there and buy your tickets!

Culture Shock in China – Getting Around

Beijing subway during rush hour. Can you spot the two 老外?

Beijing subway during rush hour. Can you spot the two 老外?

Although this post doesn’t teach you Chinese related to transportation, it certainly helps understand what it’s like traveling around the most populous country on Earth. If you’re considering traveling or moving to China, it might be a good idea to give this a read beforehand.


After studying all of these posts, you should be well on your way to getting yourself around in Chinese. Don’t forget to sign up for our Chinese word of the day – that’s 365 new words every year!

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About the Author: sasha

Sasha is an English teacher, writer, photographer, and videographer from the great state of Michigan. Upon graduating from Michigan State University, he moved to China and spent 5+ years living, working, studying, and traveling there. He also studied Indonesian Language & Culture in Bali for a year. He and his wife run the travel blog Grateful Gypsies, and they're currently trying the digital nomad lifestyle across Latin America.

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