From Metro to Bike: Navigating China’s Transport Options

As you prepare for your journey to study in China, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with the country’s transportation. China has some well-developed transport systems which are efficient in catering to the needs of its vast population. They are well-organized and utilize modern technology to improve the ease of use. Whether you’re traveling between cities, exploring urban areas, or simply looking for eco-friendly options, China has a wide range of transportation choices to suit your needs.

While the options can vary slightly between cities and between urban and rural areas, let’s look at some of the common modes of transport available.

READ MORE: How to Use Public Transport in China (+ Must-Have Apps)

High-Speed Train

High-speed trains in China, often referred to as “Gao Tie” (高铁), are an essential part of the country’s transportation infrastructure. China’s high-speed rail network is the most extensive in the world, covering thousands of kilometers and connecting major cities and regions across the country. They’re also well known for their punctuality and efficiency.

High-speed trains are a good option for covering long distances, as they can reach speeds of up to 350 km/h (217 mph) on some routes. You will find spacious seating, clean facilities, and even dining cars on these trains. They also feature modern amenities such as power outlets and Wi-Fi allowing you to use your devices throughout your journey.

High-speed trains are more eco-friendly compared to other modes of transportation, as they produce lower carbon emissions per passenger-kilometer. This aligns with China’s efforts to reduce its carbon footprint and promote sustainable transportation.

These are some of the key high-speed train lines in China:

  • Beijing-Shanghai High-Speed Railway
  • Beiijng-Guangzhou High-Speed Railway
  • Xi’an-Chengdu High-Speed Railway
  • Shanghai-Hong Kong High-Speed Railway
  • Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link
  • Harbin-Dalian High-Speed Railway
  • Shanghai-Nanjing Intercity High-Speed Railway
  • Wuhan-Guangzhou High-Speed Railway

Intercity Trains

Intercity trains in China offer a balance between speed and affordability when traveling between cities. While not as fast as high-speed trains, they are comfortable for medium to long distances, connecting various urban and rural areas across the country.

They typically operate at speeds ranging from 160 to 200 km/h (99 to 124 mph), and are known for their comfortable seating arrangements, making longer journeys more pleasant. Expect to find spacious seats, ample legroom, and clean, well-maintained interiors. Depending on the route, intercity trains can offer passengers scenic views of the countryside and rural landscapes as they travel between cities. They are often well-connected to local transportation networks, including buses and taxis, making them an excellent option to explore nearby areas during weekends or holidays.

Some of the notable intercity train lines are:

  • Beijing-Tianjin Intercity Railway
  • Guangzhou-Dongguan-Shenzhen Intercity Railway
  • Shanghai-Nanjing Intercity High-Speed Railway
  • Shenyang-Dalian Intercity Railway
  • Nanjing Hangzhou Intercity Railway


Buses in China are simply referred to as “公交车” (gōngjiāo chē), which translates to “public transit vehicles” or “public buses.” They are a cheap and affordable option for short distances within cities and longer intercity routes. In major metropolitan areas, they complement the metro system by providing last-mile connectivity. Inter-city buses can be a cost-effective way to explore regions around the country.


 Bicycles are popular as an eco-friendly and affordable mode of transportation. In fact, China was once known as the kingdom of bicycles as this mode’s popularity grew throughout the 1970s and 1980s, peaking in the early 1990s. Today, there are many bike-sharing programs where you can rent bicycles for short-term journeys and return them to designated docking stations. Biking is a great way to explore a city at a leisurely pace, avoid traffic congestion and enjoy scenic routes. Make sure you adhere to traffic rules and wear appropriate safety gear.

There are two major bike-sharing companies; MoBike and Ofo, each with more than 7 million bikes in operation covering over 170 cities! One of the biggest benefits of using a bicycle to get around is that it does not contribute pollution to the environment.


Known for their modern infrastructure and cutting-edge technology, the metro systems are vital modes of transportation in major cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and Chengdu. Stations are often strategically located near landmarks, universities, shopping districts, and business centers. Trains typically run with high frequency, especially during peak hours. Ticketing options include single-journey tickets, rechargeable cards or contactless payment systems like apps or bank cards.

Taxis and Ride-Hailing

In urban centers, traditional taxis are widely available and easily recognizable by their distinctcolors and signage. Ride-hailing services, such as Didi Chuxing, have gained immense popularity and provide a convenient way to book rides through mobile apps. Both options are safe and reliable for getting around cities. Ride-hailing services provide additional features like cashless payments, real-time tracking, and driver ratings.

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Whether you prefer the speed and comfort of intercity trains, the convenience of the metro, or the affordability of buses, you should find it fairly easy to get around China. Additionally, taxis and ride-hailing services are safe and reliable choices to get around within a city. Don’t forget that there are many resources to help you navigate your way, ranging from useful apps to public transit maps and route information that can be found at bus stops, transit stations and online.

For more valuable information and tips about arriving and settling in, be sure to download your free copy of our Moving to China guidebook, made especially for international students.

If you plan to apply for a program for the 2024 intake, use our platform to learn more about your options and to submit your application when you’re ready.

Kay is a marketing assistant at China Admissions. A "third-culture kid" based in Thailand, she has had lifelong exposure to international communities and has worked with top global brands. Having studied abroad herself, she encourages young minds to invest in their self-development and foster an appreciation for new countries and cultures.
Kay Marlowe

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