Get cheap tickets by air-ticket search engine
Although railway and long distance bus are generally the cheapest way to travel in China, you can still find unbelievable tickets more often than not. Similar to the well known air-ticket search engine skyscanner.net, there are some local Chinese air-ticket search engines: Qunar and Kuxun.
No discount even if you book in advance
In contrast to Europe, you will not get any discount even if you book your ticket two months in advance. However, it is necessary to book it early anyway because it is usually so difficult to get a ticket because of the imbalanced ratio between the rail capacity and population.
There are many tips for buying the tickets. For instance, the earliest you can book a train ticket from the DMU (motor train unit) is 19:00 five days in advance; the ticket office in the train station gives you more possibility to get the ticket. For more detailed information, check the how to buy train tickets in Beijing area 2009
Also, websites are becoming a more effective method to get train tickets. Although train tickets can not be officially booked online yet, there are actually many websites where you can find people who are selling their own tickets. Since selling train tickets for profit is illegal in China, the ticket you got from websites will never be more expensive than its actual price, it may even be cheaper. Some common train tickets transactional sites are:
Transportation in the city
(The exchange rate between RMB and Euro is about 9:1 as at March 30, 2009)
Compared with Europe, the cost of taking urban public transportation in China is unbelievably cheap. Take Beijing for example, it only costs 2 RMB to take the subway to go anywhere in the city. If you buy the “1 pass”, you only need to pay 0.4 RMB to get to almost any place in the city. This “pass” can also be used to pay for public phones, pay a taxi fare or even to buy goods in the supermarket.
Except for Beijing, Shanghai and several big cities, taking a taxi actually can be an option for a budget traveler. For instance, in Chengdu, 6 RMB basically can send you to anywhere in the city. If you share the ride with other tourists, it is rather cheaper than taking bus.
For your information, if you would like to go out after midnight, except for a few night buses, taxi is probably the only choice you would have. However, you may find some private cars functioning as taxis and attracting customers. They generally offer a cheaper price than taxi, however, the safety can not be guaranteed (although China is actually one of the world’s safest countries for travelers) and you should keep in mind that taking “black taxi” is illegal in China according to the law.