Transportation for expats moving to or already living in China is going to vary widely depending on your city. The two major cities in China offer amazing public transportation opportunities while outside of the city many expats choose to either buy a car, take taxis, rent a motorbike, or walk if the town is small enough.
Public Transportation for Expats
Shanghai and Beijing offer newly revamped public transportation and metro amenities that have really transformed accessibility and the quality of life in the city. The metro systems in both cities are clean, modern, reliable, on-time, and have reasonably wide networks within the city center.
Expats living in Beijing saw the metro expansions in the city just in time for the 2008 Olympic Games; the system was modernized and expanded to handle the millions of travelers visiting the city for the Olympics, and now that the games are long over the remaining transportation infrastructure is solid and usable.
For Shanghai expatriates, the metro system saw a similar overhaul but for the World Expo in 2010. Although not the same scale as the Olympics, the transportation system and major sites were made accessible to promote tourism and really give this city a strong boost for the residents as well as travelers visiting the city.
Take a Taxi
This is the fallback option in nearly every city in China. Even in Beihjing and Shanghai there will be many times where you need to go where the subway lines simply do not run. For that the taxis are the best and easiest option. Keep in mind though that most taxi drivers will neither read, nor speak English so you need basic Mandarin, or even better is to have the Chinese characters and location for where you’re going!
Also remember that Taxi drivers do not expect a tip, so pay your fare and move on!
Rent a Motorbike
If you’re living in a small to medium sized city and value personal transportation then the motorbike is a feasible option. These are popular among the locals and the fastest way to get around. Keep in mind though that the road infrastructure in China can be absolutely crap and you will share the road with huge trucks loaded down with materials…it can be nerve-wracking to drive anywhere in Asia and China is no exception!
China’s Train System
Many of the major areas within China are connected by trains and they are a surprisingly effective method of transportation! Distances within China are huge though, so many train rides will be long overnight train rides if you’re going from say Beijing to Guilin.
The train between Shanghai and Beijing is very simple and speedy and has made business between the two cities much easier and more effective for international business expats.