Beijing Subway

The Beijing Subway is the quick, reliable and inexpensive way to see all the great sights of the capital. Using the subway is usually faster than a taxi, so it’s the best way of getting out and around Beijing in the day and evening. We recommend purchasing a 20 RMB transport IC card charged with 50 RMB for about 10 to 15 journeys. At the ticket window, show this phrase with 70 RMB ready:


Time to travel

The first trains begin at about 5:00am, with all lines in full operation by 6:30am. Stations close between 10:00pm and 11:45pm. If you are going out at night, check when the last train leaves. For mobile phones, we recommend uploading the free and reliable MetroMan app, for the best results when travelling in Chinese cities.

Begin your travel

The Subway is mostly underground. Stations have multiple entry points on the street clearly marked with the blue Subway logo and a letter, such as A, B, C, but sometimes A1 or A2. As you enter the station, you will need to place all your bags through a scanner. There’s no need to remove items from your bags and the scanning process will be quick.

Carry your IC card within a wallet or pouch. If you don't have an IC card, you will need to purchase one-way tickets at the automatic ticket machines before every journey. To get through the barrier, look first for an entry point with a green arrow, then swipe your IC card or ticket over the blue button. The red door will open, allowing you to enter. The credit on your IC card will be shown on the barrier’s display screen.

Finding your platform

Within all Beijing’s subway stations you’ll find clear English signage, network maps, line maps, local street maps and television screens. To find the platform, you’ll need to know your line number and which station is last on the line, but for loop lines 2 and 10 you’ll need to know which station is next on the line.

When you arrive at the platform double-check the line map showing every station in that direction. On loop lines 2 and 10 note carefully the direction of the arrow. Don’t assume the station order is left to right or down to up. All in all, it will be very easy to find the right platform.

Catching the train

You’ll not wait more than a few minutes for a train to arrive. Stand behind the yellow lines and join in any queue. Allow passengers to exit the train before you board. When on board, you can double check the position of the train using the indicator lights above the door. A green light shows stations that the train will visit. A steady red light means the train has already visited that stop.

The train may be crowded, especially in morning peak. Seats should be offered to pregnant women and frail or older passengers. It’s appropriate to gently squeeze your way into the centre of the carriage if your journey is longer than two stations.

Finishing your journey

Announcements in Chinese and English will give you ample warning of your destination. A light indicates the doors that will next open. On a crowded train you may need time to squeeze your way to the door.

Once you are on the platform, you will easily find signs to the exits (A, B, C ). Avoid blocking the flow of passengers. You will also find a local street map and lists of nearby buildings posted on the walls. Use your IC card again to get through the barrier. Single tickets are inserted into a slot for reuse. Exit the station via the exit of your choice.


When needing to change lines, you will easily find a clearly signposted route through the station. Have in mind the line number and the last station on that line. For loop lines 2 and 10, keep in mind the next station on that line. Some transfer tunnels seem long and may be crowded in the morning peak (especially on escalators), but if you go with the flow, you’ll be on the next train in minutes.

IC card recharge

If you need more than 15 tickets, the IC card can be recharged at all stations and many vending machines – just look for the IC recharge sign. Vending machines have English instructions. Alternatively, you can hand your IC card with some cash to a ticket cashier and s/he will credit your account. There are no recharge fees.

IC card problems

If you have any problem with the IC card or getting through the barrier, friendly station staff will be quick to help out. Give them your card and follow their instructions or hand signals. They are well trained to resolve problems in an understanding fashion. In most cases, the IC card will not need to be replaced, but just checked or reset. You’ll be on your way in a minute.

Airport Line

The Airport Line is the fastest way to Beijing Capital Airport. To access the line, Dongzhimen and Sanyuanqiao are transfer stations. Exit the subway and follow the signs to the Airport Line. Trains leave every five minutes; arrive at Terminal 3 (above photo) after 20 minutes; then Terminal 2 after 35 minutes. Trains then return to the city. The ticket costs 25 RMB and your IC card can be used.


Most stations across the subway network have well sign-posted public toilets, usually at the end of the platform. While in China you should carry some toilet paper or at least strong tissue whenever out and about. The toilets are made to a good standard, but are so heavily used and difficult to ventilate that they may have strong odours. If you find yourself in a squat toilet, take care to keep your pants or dress off the floor. Paper and sanitary products should not be flushed down the toilet.

Stay connected

Mobile phone services reliably work across the subway network. You’ll be able to use any mobile device anywhere on the network, including within train tunnels and passageways.

The Improbable Beijing Guidebook - Sing Travel

Office 2603, Building B, 8 GuangQuMen Wai Avenue, Chaoyang District, Beijing 100022

Tel: +86-10-58612491 Fax: +86-10-58612490

Copyright. All Rights Reserved. Last Update 15-Feb-2019