Taxis, which in Beijing are both plentiful and reasonably priced, are a good way to get to sights outside the city. Set a price beforehand; the metered fare can add up quickly (generally, rides start at Y13 for the first 3 km (2 miles), with an additional Y2.3 for each additional km and another Y2 per every five minutes of waiting time during rush-hour (Y1 otherwise). Also make sure that this covers the return journey, or face the prospect of haggling with illegal cab drivers on the way back—and they will fleece you! At the time of writing, a Y1 fuel surcharge is added for all trips. A small surcharge is also added between 11 pm and 5 am. Private-car services are available, and even if they aren't always cheap, they're in most cases worth the investment for the comfort, reliability, and ease of dealing with English-speaking operators and drivers.
Beijing Limo. A variety of cars and buses, complete with English-speaking drivers, are available. Prices range from Y900 for four hours of rental within the city to Y1,500 for trips farther out into the countryside. 010/6546–1588. www.beijinglimo.com/english. Mon.–Sun. 9–8.
Some day-trip-worthy sites, such as Yesanpo, Tianjin, Beidaihe, and Shanhaiguan, are accessible by train. Plan to get to the station at least 30 minutes before your train leaves, as stations are huge and often confusing for visitors (as well as being crowded). It's easy to buy train tickets once there, but these sell out fast on peak dates, so if you're on a tight schedule and can't afford a delay, buy a ticket beforehand.
If you decided to take the train to Chengde, most hotels will help you buy tickets up to four days in advance for a fee (typically Y5 to Y15 per ticket). There are also small train-ticket windows scattered around the city: look for the China Railways logo and make sure to bring your passport.