Beijing

Do you need a car in Beijing?

Should you rent a car in Beijing China > Beijing

When it comes to making transport choices, whether it is roads that are as thick as treacle, crowded subways or streets that are impossible to cross, Beijing really looks as bad as it gets, however you prefer to get around.

Beijing Introduction

Why? Why not? Ratings

Why should you rent a car in Beijing?

In terms of factors like the cost of the hire itself, fuel costs, road tolls and parking charges, is it worth hiring a car in Beijing?

Beijing Car hire summary


Overall drive rating

40%

 

Cheapest rate for one week

€160

 #188/300

 

How much should I expect to pay in the peak season?

 

 €150

90/300

 

Free parking score

Total 1061 - of which 376 have free parking. [full notes - parking]

35%

#179/300

 
  • No reasons!!! – Beijing car rental is not advised / not usually possible without Chinese licence.
  • See taxi / hiring a car with driver below.
  • Pedestrian perils – the streets in Beijing are very difficult to cross, even if you consider yourself to be a “confident” and agile pedestrian. Be prepared for turning cars to come at you from the left and the right, even when you have a green man. Dangerous traffic violations are a common everyday occurrence in Beijing – far more so than in any comparable city that I have visited. However, this still isn’t a reason to consider driving here!
  • Crowded subway – the subway in Beijing is notoriously crowded, and at peak times you will have to queue to get in to some of the busiest stations. Transfer corridors between platforms can be crowded too, as of course are the trains! However, this is still no reason to really think about any alternative choices. Buses are crowded too, and slow over any distance.
  • You will have a much bigger problem finding a taxi, and even if you do find one, the subway is still going to be far quicker once you get on it!
[whynot2 num=”30″]
  • Superlative subway – Beijing has the busiest single metro system in the world. (The combined systems of Tokyo – Yokohama are busier).
  • The Beijing subway serves all of the major points of interest. It provides comprehensive coverage of the whole city.
  • Buses are also widely available. They are very useful for shorter local trips.
  • The subway and the buses are both extremely cheap to use . Expect to pay around $0.25 per trip.
  • Taxis are widely available and cheap. (But it can be a problem to find one in the rush hour).
  • Most of the places of interest in the city are within the inner circle (Line 2) of the Beijing subway.

Beijing Airport Express

If you do decide to get around the city using just public transport and walking, then it’s still worth bearing in mind that the cheap prices that apply on the buses and subway do not apply on the airport express rail link. Depending on whereabouts in the city you are staying, and the size of your group, it might still be worth just taking a taxi for this particular trip. Remember that the airport rail link in Beijing is nothing special. It’s not a superfast maglev like Shanghai, nor is it particularly well connected with the rest of the city.

Getting out of Beijing / Car + driver

For any kind of travel beyond the city of Beijing, then a hire car or at the very least a car with driver might start to look like a reasonable idea. There is still no need for this if you just want to visit popular tourist sites. In particular, if you just want to go to the most accessible parts of the Great Wall of China, you can do this by tour bus.

Visiting the Great Wall of China from Beijing

Numerous different tour operators will provide day trips to the Great Wall of China from Beijing, typically going to either Badaling or Mutianyu.

Before confirming any booking, make sure you check the language that the tour will be offered in. You might well find agents offering seemingly very cheap trips to the wall from around US$10, but the tour will be entirely in Mandarin, and the tour guide will speak very little English.

James says - a few trip notes:


Now if you are a local Beijing resident, then you are already heavily discouraged from owning a car through heavy taxation rates on first year car registrations. Car ownership is only possible by entering into a ballot where only one in 5 applicants wins.

Beijing’s transport nightmare

So what has this got to do with whether or not to get a rental car in Beijing? Well, as a tourist, you will have to face even heavier restrictions! If you don’t have a local Chinese driving licence (see box text), then there’s no point in even going to the rental desk in the first place. You might expect that all of these very heavy restrictions on car usage would add up to creating a city where it was reasonably easy to get around by other means.

So if we were just assessing Beijing by based on public transport alone, then the city does actually look perfectly respectable. If we were just doing our assessment based on raw statistics, then the fact that is Beijing has the world’s busiest metro system. Beijing also has one of the world’s biggest networks of dedicated bus lanes, with a single journey on either system costing around just $0.25.

The stats don’t paint the whole picture!

This all looks very good, but statistics alone never paint the complete picture. Just try going out of one of the many super heated (in winter) complexes of buildings in Beijing and crossing the road at a busy intersection. Never mind the worry of drivers making right turns, they are coming at you making left turns as well. It feels like this special privilege of owning and driving a car in Beijing gives drivers an entitlement that means that the pedestrian here frankly just doesn’t matter.

The city does have a token urban bike hire programme. But with many cycle lanes acting as impromptu car parks, very few people dare to cycle. For 9 million bicycles in Beijing, read there now being about 9,000 left.

On top of the unpleasant  challenge of crossing the road, Beijing is one of the most heavily polluted cities on earth!

Car or no car? It’s lose-lose either way!

So it goes without saying that any advice we could offer for getting around the city of Beijing itself isn’t going to based on hiring a car. We don’t think this transfers in any way to a suggestion that Beijing is a pleasant place to get around without one. Instead when it comes to transport alone, Beijing feels more like a 21st century transport dystopia. If you really want to feel like you are on the set of Blade-runner, there are one or two buildings that can make you feel just that!


Do you need a car in Beijing? – No, absolutely not!

Ratings

Car rental in - Beijing Need v worth & should!

Do you need a car in Beijing?

Based on comparison with transit, walking and cycling.
 

Is it worth hiring a car in Beijing?

Based on value for money
 

Should you rent a car in Beijing?

Weighing up the above, if you are asking about hiring a car, is it a good idea?
 

Who is travelling?

Is it worth renting a car in Beijing if I am a solo / budget traveller?

What about for 2 people travelling together?

For families?

 

Where are you staying?

Do you need a car in Beijing if we are staying in a central area?

What if we are staying on the edge of the city/resort?

Or in a rural area?

 

What is your attitude towards driving?

Should I hire a car in Beijing if I prefer not to drive?

If I am easy either way?

If I prefer to drive?


 

Verdict

Final score:

0

Go back up to:
Why? Why not? Ratings Comments
 

Would you hire a car in Beijing?

Have you driven in Beijing? Do you agree with our advice on whether or not it's worth hiring a car in Beijing?
Tell us what you think using the comments section below:
 

Guangzhou

Should you rent a car in Guangzhou?

Should you rent a car in Guangzhou China > Guangzhou

Guangzhou Introduction

Why? Why not? Ratings

[China]

Local restrictions essentially all but exclude most tourists from hiring a car, although in Guangzhou we don’t really advise doing that anyway, even if you could. Whereas there are other scenic areas in China where it would be extremely useful to be able to drive in a hire car, or where it’s well worth arranging some sort of other private tour with a driver (e.g. Guilin), this simply isn’t the case in Guangzhou.

Why should you rent a car in Guangzhou?

In terms of factors like the cost of the hire itself, fuel costs, road tolls and parking charges, is it worth hiring a car in Guangzhou?

Guangzhou Car hire summary


Overall drive rating

90%

 

Cheapest rate for one week

€155

 #180/300

 

How much should I expect to pay in the peak season?

 

 €X

300/300

 

Free parking score

Total 998 - of which 473 have free parking. [full notes - parking]

47%

#134/300

 
  • Car hire not advised.

Why not? Visiting Guangzhou without a car

Why? Why not? Ratings Comments

Guangzhou public transport quick facts

Train score

 

10%

Water travel score

30%

Overall public transport score

30%

Walking and Cycling Overview

Active travel score

(walking + cycling)

50%

  • Firstly, and most obviously, Guangzhou, formerly known as Canton, sits right at the top of the Pearl River Delta, and in the middle of a mega-city region which has more people than any other on earth. Needless to say, public transport here is very well developed, so much so, that the Guangzhou metro bleeds into the metro in neighbouring Fonghsan.
  • In turn, Fonghsan sprawls into Dongguan, which then sprawls into Shenzhen, and both of these cities, each with a population above 10 million people, also have their own metro and urban rail systems.

Should you rent a car in Guangzhou? This entire region is simply so built-up that there is very little green space between any of these cities, and the most interesting places to visit are undoubtedly within the centres themselves. This simply creates very little motivation to want to hire a car, even if the option was available.

Therefore our car hire advice per Guangzhou itself is an absolute no.

Ratings

Car rental in - Guangzhou Need v worth & should!

Do you need a car in Guangzhou?

Based on comparison with transit, walking and cycling.
 

Is it worth hiring a car in Guangzhou?

Based on value for money
 

Should you rent a car in Guangzhou?

Weighing up the above, if you are asking about hiring a car, is it a good idea?
 

Who is travelling?

Is it worth renting a car in Guangzhou if I am a solo / budget traveller?

What about for 2 people travelling together?

For families?

 

Where are you staying?

Do you need a car in Guangzhou if we are staying in a central area?

What if we are staying on the edge of the city/resort?

Or in a rural area?

 

What is your attitude towards driving?

Should I hire a car in Guangzhou if I prefer not to drive?

If I am easy either way?

If I prefer to drive?


 

Verdict

Final score:

1

Go back up to:
Why? Why not? Ratings Comments
 

Would you hire a car in Guangzhou?

Have you driven in Guangzhou? Do you agree with our advice on whether or not it's worth hiring a car in Guangzhou?
Tell us what you think using the comments section below:
 

Guilin

Should you hire a car in Guilin?

Should you rent a car in Guilin China > Guilin

Guilin Introduction

Why? Why not? Ratings

[China]

Local restrictions would naturally would make a recommendations for any Chinese city extremely straightforward – if you can’t hire a car, why would you even try? This is only compounded by the problem major Chinese cities have by being clogged with traffic and choking in air pollution.

However, Guilin is very different, as the focus here is very much on the landscape, and less on the city of Guilin itself. Yet it is still perfectly possible to travel around here either by taking an organised bus tour or by doing a river cruise, but you will still have more flexibility if you use a car for some of your trip.

Therefore, our advice here is that if you either have the appropriate licence, or you are travelling with someone who does, then Guilin is definitely the sort of destination where it’s well worth considering getting a hire car.

Even if you aren’t able to hire a car yourself, then it might still be worth looking at getting a car with driver, or taking a private tour.

Should you hire a car in Guilin? Yes – in certain circumstances.

Ratings

Car rental in - Guilin Need v worth & should!

Do you need a car in Guilin?

Based on comparison with transit, walking and cycling.
 

Is it worth hiring a car in Guilin?

Based on value for money
 

Should you rent a car in Guilin?

Weighing up the above, if you are asking about hiring a car, is it a good idea?
 

Who is travelling?

Is it worth renting a car in Guilin if I am a solo / budget traveller?

What about for 2 people travelling together?

For families?

 

Where are you staying?

Do you need a car in Guilin if we are staying in a central area?

What if we are staying on the edge of the city/resort?

Or in a rural area?

 

What is your attitude towards driving?

Should I hire a car in Guilin if I prefer not to drive?

If I am easy either way?

If I prefer to drive?


 

Verdict

Final score:

6

Go back up to:
Why? Why not? Ratings Comments
 

Would you hire a car in Guilin?

Have you driven in Guilin? Do you agree with our advice on whether or not it's worth hiring a car in Guilin?
Tell us what you think using the comments section below:
 

Hangzhou

Should you rent a car in Hangzhou?
Should you rent a car in Hangzhou China > Hangzhou

[top num=”107″]

[China]

Although Hangzhou is little-known in the west, it is still widely regarded as one of China’s most beautiful cities. Hangzhou it is rated as one of the top 100 international visitor destinations.

The easiest way to reach Hangzhou from further afield is to take a direct long haul flight to Shanghai, and then to travel here by train. It’s also possible to fly here from other cities within China.

Why should you rent a car in Hangzhou?

In terms of factors like the cost of the hire itself, fuel costs, road tolls and parking charges, is it worth hiring a car in Hangzhou?

Hangzhou Car hire summary


Overall drive rating

10%

 

Cheapest rate for one week

€150

 #173/300

 

How much should I expect to pay in the peak season?

 

 €X

300/300

 

Free parking score

Total 417 - of which 232 have free parking. [full notes - parking]

56%

#104/300

 
  • Generally, we don’t advise trying to rent a car in Hangzhou.

Why not? Visiting Hangzhou without a car

Why? Why not? Ratings Comments

Hangzhou public transport quick facts

Train score

 

10%

Water travel score

70%

Overall public transport score

20%

Walking and Cycling Overview

Active travel score

(walking + cycling)

00%

  • Transit: Hangzhou has a well-developed public transport system, which includes mass transit railways as well as buses.
  • Walking: many of the city’s attractive gardens and palaces are all within a short walk from each other.

Given the extensive restrictions on international visitors hiring cars in China, car rental isn’t really an option in Hangzhou anyway. There is little need for it.

[coming]

Should you rent a car in Hangzhou? – No!

Ratings

Car rental in - Hangzhou Need v worth & should!

Do you need a car in Hangzhou?

Based on comparison with transit, walking and cycling.
 

Is it worth hiring a car in Hangzhou?

Based on value for money
 

Should you rent a car in Hangzhou?

Weighing up the above, if you are asking about hiring a car, is it a good idea?
 

Who is travelling?

Is it worth renting a car in Hangzhou if I am a solo / budget traveller?

What about for 2 people travelling together?

For families?

 

Where are you staying?

Do you need a car in Hangzhou if we are staying in a central area?

What if we are staying on the edge of the city/resort?

Or in a rural area?

 

What is your attitude towards driving?

Should I hire a car in Hangzhou if I prefer not to drive?

If I am easy either way?

If I prefer to drive?


 

Verdict

Final score:

1

Go back up to:
Why? Why not? Ratings Comments
 

Would you hire a car in Hangzhou?

Have you driven in Hangzhou? Do you agree with our advice on whether or not it's worth hiring a car in Hangzhou?
Tell us what you think using the comments section below:
 

Shanghai

Is it worth hiring a car in Shanghai?

Should you rent a car in Shanghai China > Shanghai

Shanghai Introduction

Why? Why not? Ratings

[China]

This naturally means that any Shanghai car hire suggestions have to lean heavily towards saying that it’s probably best not to bother, although you can always hire a car with driver if you really want to go somewhere that is out of range of the more obvious taxis or public transport options.

Naturally, it goes without saying that for getting around the huge modern metropolis that is Shanghai, you can use the well developed subway system, which is one of the busiest in the world. On top of this, whether you arrive into the main Pudong International airport or not, it’s worth experiencing the Shanghai maglev train, just for the sheer thrill of it – the ride might be over in just 8 minutes, but this is still the fastest train service anywhere in the world!

Needless to say, for heading to destinations which are outside the reach of local trains, longer distance express services combined with high-speed trains running on dedicated lines make up a comprehensive network of rail routes, and this will almost certainly be faster and more convenient than going in a car (with hired driver).

Beyond Shanghai

Suzhou and Hangzhou

In particular, trains are useful for visiting Suzhou to the west and Hangzhou to the south-east, with both of these cities being within range of a long day trip, although we would suggest that it would be far better to overnight in the beautiful city of Hangzhou, which is well renowned for its gardens.

A two-week holiday in China might well include stopping off in Shanghai when travelling between Hong Kong and Beijing, a journey which would take around 10 hours to do by express train, with Shanghai being roughly in the middle, although many people will prefer to fly.

Three Gorges

Heading inland from Shanghai, you might want to look into a cruise through the legendary Three Gorges. The hugely controversial Three Gorges Dam has meant that some of the original points of interest in the Gorges, including  spectacular cliff hugging walkways, have been submerged, but the flipside has been that the dam has made this area more navigable, so there’s a wider choice of cruises on offer, and some have much better reputations than others!

However, the Three Gorges are still nowhere near Shanghai, but they are closer to Shanghai than any other major city with which Westerners might be familiar. A typical Three Gorges cruise might last 3 or 4 nights, and it would be easiest to fly to Chongqing first and then transfer back from Yichang to Chongqing by bus. The road journey is a spectacular mix of impressive engineering through tunnels and over bridges. you could also fly back to Shanghai, or onwards elsewhere from Yichang

Needless to say, whichever way you look at it, any excursion from Shanghai that involves the Three Gorges doesn’t need a rental car.

Is it worth hiring a car in Shanghai?  There’s little reason to want to hire a car here, and it’s extremely difficult to do so unless you either hire a car with driver or already have a valid Chinese licence.

Ratings

Car rental in - Shanghai Need v worth & should!

Do you need a car in Shanghai?

Based on comparison with transit, walking and cycling.
 

Is it worth hiring a car in Shanghai?

Based on value for money
 

Should you rent a car in Shanghai?

Weighing up the above, if you are asking about hiring a car, is it a good idea?
 

Who is travelling?

Is it worth renting a car in Shanghai if I am a solo / budget traveller?

What about for 2 people travelling together?

For families?

 

Where are you staying?

Do you need a car in Shanghai if we are staying in a central area?

What if we are staying on the edge of the city/resort?

Or in a rural area?

 

What is your attitude towards driving?

Should I hire a car in Shanghai if I prefer not to drive?

If I am easy either way?

If I prefer to drive?


 

Verdict

Final score:

2

Go back up to:
Why? Why not? Ratings Comments
 

Would you hire a car in Shanghai?

Have you driven in Shanghai? Do you agree with our advice on whether or not it's worth hiring a car in Shanghai?
Tell us what you think using the comments section below:
 

Shenzen

Is it worth hiring a car in Shenzen?

Should you rent a car in Shenzhen China > Shenzhen

Senior citizens in Hong Kong might comment at how they literally used to look down on Shenzen as being little more than a fishing village, whereas now it is a city of more than 10 million people, and it is one of China’s emerging global cities. It’s easy enough for the visitor to Hong Kong to come across at one of the two border crossings (Lo Wu and Futian) that Shenzen shares with the Special Administrative Region, where subway systems are available on both sides.

Shenzhen Introduction

Why? Why not? Ratings

You can travel around Shenzen in a day using local public transport, and you can also travel elsewhere in the Pearl River Delta region, including to the city of Guangzhou, using express rail services from Shenzen’s main railway station, which is four stops from the border. A dedicated high speed link between Hong Kong and Guangzhou is under construction, with the first section through Shenzen already being open.

[China]

Why should you rent a car in Shenzhen?

In terms of factors like the cost of the hire itself, fuel costs, road tolls and parking charges, is it worth hiring a car in Shenzhen?

Shenzhen Car hire summary


Overall drive rating

20%

 

Cheapest rate for one week

€X

 #299/300

 

How much should I expect to pay in the peak season?

 

 €X

300/300

 

Free parking score

Total 639 - of which 339 have free parking. [full notes - parking]

53%

#112/300

 

However, Shenzen might still be somewhere where it makes sense to hire a car, if you are able to get hold of the appropriate licence to do so. The key reason for this is that if you have been staying in Hong Kong or even in Macau, then you will have noted that there are very tight restrictions on driving in both locations, and with Hong Kong and Macau driving on the left (that being the more trivial observation) and with local authorities simply not wanting huge volumes of cars driving across from the Pearl River Delta (that being the more practical and political observation), you would simply never find yourself flying into either Hong Kong or Macau and then picking up a hire car to do a road trip into southern China – that’s just not going to happen, even with the right licences.

So even though there is little reason to hire a car in Shenzen just to drive locally, you might want to look into getting one the driving elsewhere, especially if your plan is to head well beyond the cities of this region.

Why not? Visiting Shenzhen without a car

Why? Why not? Ratings Comments

Shenzhen public transport quick facts

Train score

 

70%

Water travel score

80%

Overall public transport score

80%

Walking and Cycling Overview

Active travel score

(walking + cycling)

40%

  • Simply because if you are just here on a day trip excursion from Hong Kong, there’s no need to do so.
  • Hiring a car in China is always problematic (see text, above), but in the Pearl River Delta, traffic is a particularly bad problem.
  • There is an extensive metro system in Shenzen. This links in with high speed rail services for travelling between Hong Kong and Guangzhou (partially open).

Is it worth hiring a car in Shenzen? Verdict – if you are considering hiring a car in Shenzen as a potential continuation from Hong Kong, and if you have the correct paperwork. If you are simply visiting Shenzen or anywhere else in the Pearl River Delta as part of a day trip from Hong Kong, then there is no point in even looking at car hire options.

Ratings

Car rental in - Shenzhen Need v worth & should!

Do you need a car in Shenzhen?

Based on comparison with transit, walking and cycling.
 

Is it worth hiring a car in Shenzhen?

Based on value for money
 

Should you rent a car in Shenzhen?

Weighing up the above, if you are asking about hiring a car, is it a good idea?
 

Who is travelling?

Is it worth renting a car in Shenzhen if I am a solo / budget traveller?

What about for 2 people travelling together?

For families?

 

Where are you staying?

Do you need a car in Shenzhen if we are staying in a central area?

What if we are staying on the edge of the city/resort?

Or in a rural area?

 

What is your attitude towards driving?

Should I hire a car in Shenzhen if I prefer not to drive?

If I am easy either way?

If I prefer to drive?


 

Verdict

Final score:

5

Go back up to:
Why? Why not? Ratings Comments
 

Would you hire a car in Shenzhen?

Have you driven in Shenzhen? Do you agree with our advice on whether or not it's worth hiring a car in Shenzhen?
Tell us what you think using the comments section below:
 

Zhuhai

Should you hire a car in Zhuhai?

Should you rent a car in Zhuhai China > Zhuhai

Zhuhai Introduction

Why? Why not? Ratings

[China]

As with other cities in mainland China, we can’t recommend getting a rental car here unless you have a local Chinese driving licence.

However, whereas we would generally dismiss any sort of car hire suggestions in places like Beijing and Shanghai out of hand, it might be worth looking at hiring a car in Zhuhai if you are already in Macau and then wanting to take some sort of road trip in southern China.

Please also see our Shenzen car hire advice. The situation is similar there. It’s all but impossible to hire a car in either Hong Kong or Macau, and even if you could, you wouldn’t be able to take it across into mainland China. This then creates the possibility of Zhuhai being the access point to the Chinese road network, or even the start of some kind of road trip.

Generally, we still think that travelling around anywhere in the Pearl River Delta is still easier to do using the ubiquitous train services. If you do happen to be looking at some sort of itinerary that involves visiting Hong Kong or Macau and then travelling onwards, then you’re probably going to have quicker access to less congested roads if you drive out of Zhuhai. It’s better than trying to fight your way out of Shenzen. This is really going to  depend on where else you’re planning on getting to. Even just driving around the Pearl River Delta might take you all day in traffic!

New bridge crossing Honk Kong – Zhuhai – Macau

Driving out of Zhuhai is going to become a lot more interesting some time in 2018 (dates unconfirmed) when the Hong Kong to Macau to Zhuhai bridge opens, although given that there are still heavy restrictions on car travel between these locations, it’s almost certainly going to be easier to do in a bus!

Should you hire a car in Zhuhai? Verdict – yes, but only if you are wanting to travel onwards from Macau, have the ability to drive in China and cannot easily reach the places you want to see by train or bus.

Ratings

Car rental in - Zhuhai Need v worth & should!

Do you need a car in Zhuhai?

Based on comparison with transit, walking and cycling.
 

Is it worth hiring a car in Zhuhai?

Based on value for money
 

Should you rent a car in Zhuhai?

Weighing up the above, if you are asking about hiring a car, is it a good idea?
 

Who is travelling?

Is it worth renting a car in Zhuhai if I am a solo / budget traveller?

What about for 2 people travelling together?

For families?

 

Where are you staying?

Do you need a car in Zhuhai if we are staying in a central area?

What if we are staying on the edge of the city/resort?

Or in a rural area?

 

What is your attitude towards driving?

Should I hire a car in Zhuhai if I prefer not to drive?

If I am easy either way?

If I prefer to drive?


 

Verdict

Final score:

5

Go back up to:
Why? Why not? Ratings Comments
 

Would you hire a car in Zhuhai?

Have you driven in Zhuhai? Do you agree with our advice on whether or not it's worth hiring a car in Zhuhai?
Tell us what you think using the comments section below: