The Beijing Transportation Smart Card, more commonly known as the Yikatong (/ee-kaa-tong/ 一卡通literally means ‘one card pass’), was first issued in May 2006. It is a contactless smart card that can be used in the Beijing Subway, on city buses, on Airport Express trains , on S2 trains, in taxis, for shared bicycles, and in many other places. It is similar to Hong Kong’s Octopus card, Singapore’s CEPAS, and the Oyster card in London.
Benefits of Getting an Yikatong
- The card is cheap, only costing 20 yuan (about $3). It is refundable and no other extra card fees are charged.
- Convenient tourist cards that are valid for 1–3 days are issued, for which no ID is needed and there is no need to return the card either.
- Receive a 50% discount from the normal fare (2 yuan/$0.30) when taking city buses.
- Save time queuing at either ticket machines (which only accept 5 or 10 yuan notes and coins) or ticket windows.
- Any smartphone with this app can be scanned to make your payment when taking buses.
- You can scan a smartphone (only Android phones) to take the Beijing Subway once you install the app.
- Starting from 2019, no deposit will be required when registering for an electronic Yikatong via its app on a smartphone.
- Receive a 20% discount for further travel payments in one month if you spend more than 100 yuan on one card within that month (Airport Express excluded).
- Receive a 50% discount for further travel payments in one month if you spend more than 150 yuan on one card within that month (Airport Express excluded).
Beijing Yikatong Tourist Short-Term Pass Packages
At present, Beijing Municipal Administration issues three types of short-term passes to tourists:
|Package||Cost (CNY)||Usage Limitation||Deposit (CNY) (Refundable)||Valid For|
|3-day pass||10||18 rides||20||3 days|
|7-day pass||20||42 rides||20||7 days|
|15-day pass||40||90 rides||20||15 days|
- No refills are available for short-term cards.
- Buses with a number starting with 8 or 9 won’t accept a short-term pass.
- Short-term cards can be shared by different people.
- The pass becomes invalid automatically once it exceeds its usage or its valid date.
Where to Buy a Yikatong and How to Apply for It
There are about 1,400 designated points in Beijing where you can buy a Yikatong or get a refund for it. These points are mostly located in the subway stations as well as certain bus stations, some convenience shops, certain banks, and Beijing Capital Airport T2.
Table of Subway Stations That Issue/Refund Yikatong Cards, Which Are Commonly Used by Tourists (Open 7am–9pm).
|Tian’anmen East; Tian’anmen West, Xidan||Issue||Line 1|
|Fuxingmen||Issue/Refund||Line 1, Line 2|
|Hepingmen, Xuanwumen, Jishuitan||Issue||Line 2|
|Lingjing Hutong||Issue/Refund||Line 4|
|Tian Qiao||Issue||Line 8 South Section|
|Shichahai||Issue||Line 8 North Section|
- 6-Day Beijing Winter Tour with Skiing in a 2022 Olympic Winter Games Venue
- One Day Beijing Highlights Private Tour
How to apply a Yikatong
- No identification document is needed when applying.
- A deposit of 20 yuan (about $3) is needed.
- Add a minimum value of 20 yuan of credit to be used.
How to Get a Refund
The best way is to make sure there is less than 100 yuan ($15) on the card prior to returning it, and your deposit and balance can be refunded on the spot.
- No refunds are given for willfully damaged cards.
- Short-term passes can only be refunded at certain points.
- Individuals can only receive refunds for as many as five cards at one window at a time.
Where a Yikatong Can Be Used
- All city buses
- All subway lines including the Airport Express line
- The S2 railway lines (Beijing to Yanqing and Beijing to Shacheng)
- Taxis: 96% of some 67,000 taxis in Beijing accept payments by a Yikatong
- Wangfujing Department Store
- McDonald’s, KFC, Yoshinoya
- Watsons, Walmart, Century Mart
- Convenience stores, self-service vending machines
- Shared bicycles, some parking lots, gasoline stations, gymnasiums, pharmacies, and 20 parks
How to Use a Yikatong
A Yikatong card is tactile. Just scan it over the card reader on a bus or in a subway station and the machine will automatically take the payment and show you the remaining credit on your card.
On a city bus: Scan it once when getting on the bus.
On a long-distance bus: Scan it twice – when getting on and off the bus – as the fare is charged by the distance traveled.
On a subway train: Scan the card when you enter and exit the station.
- One card can only be used by one person on each journey.
- A Yikatong doesn’t have a front or back - you can scan it on either side.
How to Top Up a Yikatong
Top it up at stations: A Yikatong can be credited by units of 50 and 100 yuan at Beijing Subway ticket machines.
- Choose a credit-adding machine or a ticket vending machine that provides such a service in subway or bus stations.
- Insert your Yikatong into the slot.
- Press ‘add credit’ (充值).
- Put flat notes into the slot for notes. Only 50 and 100 yuan notes will be accepted.
- Press ‘add credit’ to add the credit to your Yikatong or ‘cancel’ (取消) to retrieve your money.
- After successfully adding credit to your Yikatong, you can choose to print a receipt.
Below is a picture showing how to top up electronic Beijing Yikatong by phone.
Things You Need to Know When Using a Yikatong
- Avoid using the subway during rush hours (7–10am and 5–7pm).
- Subway stations have a security check so don’t take any items that are regarded as being dangerous to the public.
- When taking S2 trains in Beijing, there has to be at least 16 yuan credit on the card to enter the station.
- Once a Yikatong is lost, a new card will be issued rather than issuing another card with the same number.
- The Yikatong must be activated for use again if it hasn’t been topped up for more than 2 years.
Discover Beijing with Us
Riding on subway will enable you to see most of the interesting places inside Beijing city, but it can't get you to the famous Great Walls which are outside of the city center. You can contact us for a tailor-made tour to great wall, or you can see our guide to how to plan a Great Wall tour.
Our recommended tours for inspiration:
- The comprehensive classic Beijing itinerary: 4-Day Essence of Beijing Tour with Mutianyu Great Wall Hiking
- The hikers' Great Wall adventure: 3-Day Discovery Great Wall Hiking from Jiankou to Jinshanling
- The unique night experience at the Great Wall: 2-Day Great Wall Mutianyu-Simatai Day-Night Tour