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The main international gateways to mainland China are Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, almost every sizable city will have an international airport. Major domestic airlines include China Southern, China Eastern, Air China and Hainan Airlines. China has many domestic flights connecting all the major cities and tourist destinations. Prices for domestic flights are set at standard rates, but discounts are common, especially on the busier routes.
Train travel is the major mode of long-distance transportation for Chinese. Their extensive, and rapidly expanding, network of routes covers the entire country. China also has a network of high-speed trains, similar to French TGV or Japanese Shinkansen bullet trains. These trains are already in service on several routes, they are called CRH and train numbers have a “G”, “C” or “D” prefix. If your route and budget allow, these are much the best way to get around.
Coaches originating from larger cities on the east coast tend to be air conditioned with soft seats or sleepers. The roads are very good and the ride is smooth, allowing you to enjoy the view or take a snooze.
There is regular ferry and hovercraft service between Hong Kong and Macau to the rest of the Pearl River Delta. It also has ferry service to Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Thailand from Shanghai, Tianjin, Qingdao, Xiamen and etc.
Major cities such as Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Wuhan, Shenyang, Xian, Chengdu and Nanjing, have a subway system. Chongqing has monorail systems. Xiamen has a system of bus-only roads, mostly elevated. Generally these are modern, clean and efficient. The signs and ticket machines are in both English and Chinese.
Travelling by public city buses or long distance buses is inexpensive and ideal for in-city and short distances transportation. Buses will normally have recorded announcements telling you the next stop, some major cities such as Beijing or Hangzhou will have English announcements on some major routes.
Taxis are generally common, and reasonably priced. In most situations, you can expect between ¥10 and ¥50 for an ordinary trip within the city. There is no extra charge for luggage, but in many cities rates are a bit higher at night, and tips are not expected. It is advisable to keep a written note of the name of place where you want to go to by taxi because it is unlikely to find an English-speaking taxi driver.
For tourists, bikes can be a cheap, convenient means of transport that is better than being squeezed into a public bus for hours on end. In most tourist areas, whether major cities like Beijing or heavily-touristed villages such as Yangshuo, bikes are easy to rent and there is a repair shop around every corner. Guided bike tours are also readily available.
China generally does not recognize International Driving Permits and does not permit foreigners to drive in China without a Chinese license. English directional signs are ubiquitous in Beijing, Shanghai and other major cities.
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