How to Use Subways in China

In China, subways are found only in metropolises including Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Nanjing, Guangzhou and Shenzhen, as well as the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

In Mainland China, although the subway lines are not fully developed and the coverage is limited, it is still a good way to get around, as the subway takes you to the city’s major places where you can conveniently transfer to other means of transportation. Taking the subway is also a good way to avoid frequent traffic jams, but please try to avoid it during rush hours (7– 9 AM / 5–7 PM) when the carriages are packed with people.

Taking the subway might not be easy due to language barriers, but you can overcome the difficulties and enjoy the riding experience by following the guidelines and tips below.

Guidelines for Taking Subway

  • Find the nearest subway station.

    Simply look for the signs, which are usually located in conspicuous places and have metro images and station names written in Chinese. English names are also provided most of the time..

  • Buy a ticket.

    In most stations, the ticket area is easy to find. Simploy follow the signs that lead you to the ticket area. You can buy the tickets from either a ticket machine or the ticket window.

    The ticket machines are quick and easy. The screen presents you with a map of the metro lines marked with station names, luckily in both Chinese and English. Touch the screen and follow the instructions. After you’ve chosen your destination and paid the fare, the machine issues you a ticket. The ticket is a thin piece of plastic, like a credit card or a coin, or sometimes a slip of paper.

    If you have difficulty with the machine, or the machine is not working, you can always buy tickets at the ticket window. Simply tell the clerk your destination, how many tickets you need, and pay the fare. You can also write the station names on a piece of paper beforehand to show the clerk.

  • Go through the ticket entrance.

    Follow the signs to get to the ticket entrance. Swipe your ticket over the scanner or insert your ticket into the slot, and then go thorugh the turnstile. Be sure to pick up your ticket before you leave the turnstile, as you might need to use it again at the station exit..

  • Go to the platform and wait.

    Follow the escalators or stairs down to the platform. The trains on either side run in opposite directions, therefore you need to find out the correct train by locating the route indicator or by simply ask others for help.

  • Board the train.

    When the train arrives and the door opens, the rule is normally to let people get off the train first then get on. Be prepared to board as soon as you can. When the train is about to depart, the light above the gate flashes and the buzzer rings as a warning. For your safety, if you still haven’t boarded by this time, please retreat to the platform and wait for the next one, which is only a few minutes away.

  • Get off the train.

    Listen for your station to be announced. The announcement is made in both Chinese and English. It is better to have a rough idea of how many stops to go, and be prepared to move close to the door about one stop before yours. Once the door opens, disembark as soon as possible..

  • Exit the subway.

    Follow the signs to the exit. Insert your ticket into the slot and go through the turnstile. This time, leave the ticket in the slot. Many stations have many exits, and there are signs showing the destination of each exit. If you are confused, ask others for help or simply go upstairs to get your bearings.


  • When you pass through the ticket entrance, be sure to get your ticket before you leave the turnstile, as you might need to use it again at the exit..
  • If the train is so crowded that you cannot board on train, please don’t worry. The next train is only a few minutes away.
  • Move close to the door before your stop, so that you can get off as quickly as you can.
  • Pickpockets hang out in subways. Don’t carry your on your backpack on the back, but in front of you, and watch an eye on it. Keep your valuables safe.