As one of the world’s largest countries, China is home to a wide variety of ways to travel. From the ultra-modern bullet trains of Shanghai to the convenient highway network linking many of China’s interior cities, getting around China by train, by road, by bus, and even by boat is rarely a difficult or expensive process.
In terms of sheer size, China is one of the world’s largest countries. Boasting a land area that’s close to the United States in terms of coverage, China is a spread out country that can take quite a lot of time to travel around. Despite this, the country’s great air travel network and rapidly developing rail options make it one of Asia’s easiest countries to get around as an expatriate or retiree.
Transportation in China’s Major Cities
Many of China’s largest cities are developing at a rapid pace, with ultra-modern rail networks and highly organized bus systems popping up every year. If you’re planning to move to one of China’s large cities – particularly one of the country’s highly urbanized coastal cities – you can expect a wide range of inexpensive and highly convenient transportation options.
Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen, and a wide variety of other coastal Chinese cities are all home to their own underground or above-ground train networks. In Shenzhen’s case, the metropolitan rail system even boasts an international line, linking it with the trading hotspot of Hong Kong. Shanghai is also home to an ultra-modern rail system, as is the country’s political center to the north, in Beijing.
Many of China’s economic powerhouses also boast modern high-speed rail networks. Shanghai, for example, is home to one of the world’s fastest magnetic trains, with visitors able to travel between the city and its airport at incredibly high speeds. Many of China’s coastal cities also boast rail links that allow visitors to travel between cities along the urbanized coastline at very high speeds.
China’s major cities are also home to large bus networks, which offer inexpensive travel for retirees and expatriates. Unlike many of China’s urban rail networks, which feature signage in both Chinese (Mandarin, and often Cantonese) and English, many of China’s metropolitan bus systems only use Chinese signage, making usage difficult for non-Chinese speaking expatriates and retirees.
As well as trains and buses, most of China’s large cities are home to inexpensive, typically useful taxis. Many taxi drivers in international cities such as Shanghai and Beijing will speak English as a second language, making them useful for expatriates and retirees. In second-tier cities, however, the quality of spoken English decreases and many taxis are less useful for transportation.
Finally, many of China’s coastal cities are quite walkable, and getting around on foot is a reliable option for expatriates and retirees. Large cities such as Shanghai and Shenzhen feature signage in both Chinese and English, making it easy for English speakers to find their way around some of China’s largest cities. Bicycling, which is quite popular amongst locals, is also an option.
Transportation Between China’s Major Cities
While China lacks a rail system that’s on par with South Korea or Japan, it is home to a growing network of inter-city trains. A variety of modern train lines now connect China’s coastal cities, as well as many second-tier cities in the country’s interior. Many trains are now capable of travelling between cities at high speed, making train travel a viable option for expatriates in China.
As well as the country’s rapidly developing high-speed train network, China is home to a variety of low-speed local and long distance train services. The level of comfort and convenience offered by the low-speed trains can vary, as can the level of English spoken. As such, expatriates and retirees are advised to research trains online carefully before using a local or low-speed train service.
China’s cities are home to well equipped international airports, making travel by air an inexpensive and reliable option for getting around the country. A variety of international airlines operate, giving locals and expatriates alike a large level of choice. Most air routes fly between China’s large cities, resulting in the popularity of combined rail-and-air travel for locals in second-tier interior cities.
Finally, China is home to a large highway network that connects many of the country’s major cities and economic zones. While foreigners residing in China were unable to drive unless they possessed a Chinese license until 2007, current laws allow expatriates and retirees to operate their own vehicle in China. As such, many retirees and expatriates purchase their own vehicles while living in China.
China’s highway network is well developed and ideal for traveling between major cities. It’s worth noting, however, that the frequency of English signage decreases substantially as you exit the large, international city zones such as Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Beijing. Many rural highways in China are not equipped with any English signage, making GPS navigation a valuable help.
Whether you’re planning to travel by road, by rail, by air, or by bus, China’s large transportation network makes it one of Asia’s easiest countries to travel around. Despite its truly massive size, China remains one of Asia’s best countries for visitors looking to quickly, easily, and inexpensively travel between major cities, rural tourist destinations, and other popular areas.