In a nutshell, renting a car is not a possibility when vacationing in Beijing: neither U.S. licenses nor IDPs are recognized in China. Nevertheless, this restriction should be cause for relief, as the city traffic is terrible and its drivers manic. A far better idea, if you want to get around by car, is to put yourself in the experienced hands of a local driver and sit back and relax. All the same, consider your itinerary carefully before doing so—the expanded subway system can be far quicker for central areas. Save the cars for excursions outside the city.
The quickest way to hire a car and driver is to flag down a taxi and hire it for the day. After some negotiating, expect to pay between Y350 and Y600, depending on the type of car. Most hotels can make arrangements for you, though they often charge you double that rate—you can probably guess whose pocket the difference goes into. Most drivers do not speak English, so it's a good idea to have your destination and hotel names written down in Chinese, as well as a few sentences telling them you'd like to rent their service for the day.
Another alternative is American car-rental agency Avis, which includes mandatory chauffeurs as part of all rental packages. A car and driver usually cost Y740 to Y850 per day for an economy vehicle.
Avis (400/882–1119. www.avis.cn.)