By Subway

With street-level traffic getting more crazed by the minute, Beijing's quick and efficient subway system is an excellent way to get about town. After operating for years with only two lines, the network is growing exponentially—there are now eight either fully or partly operating lines. Extensions on some of these, as well as brand new lines, are in the construction or planning phase.

At this writing, there are nine lines open. Line 1 (red) runs east–west under Chang'an Jie, crossing through the heart of the city. The circle line, or Line 2 (blue), runs roughly under the Second Ring Road. There are interchange stations between lines 1 and 2 at Fuxingmen and Jianguomen. The first north–south line, Line 5, gives access to the Lama Temple, the Temple of Heaven, and the Temple of Earth. Part of Line 10 is now open around the Olympic Village and the Olympic Branch Line extends north from there. The newest, the Hong Kong–operated Line 4, runs from the city's university district in Haidian in the northwest and skirts southeast through the western part of central Beijing. The Airport Line connects the Dongzhimen interchange with the airport—now a 20-minute jaunt at about Y25. The two remaining lines are mainly used by commuters and are less useful for sightseeing. The Batong Line extends Line 1 eastward, whereas Line 13 loops north off Line 2.

Subway stations are marked by blue signs with a "D" (for di tie, or subway) in a circle. Signs are not always obvious, so be prepared to hunt around for entrances or ask directions; Di tie zhan zai nar? (Where's the subway station?) is a useful phrase to remember. But sometimes simply saying di tie with an inquiring look may get you better results since native Chinese speakers are often confused by the mispronounced tones uttered by foreigners.

Stations are usually clean and safe, as are trains. Navigating the subway is very straightforward: station names are clearly displayed in Chinese and pinyin, and there are maps in each station. Once on board, each stop is clearly announced on a loudspeaker in Chinese and sometimes in English.