It is possible to hire an english speaking taxi to take you around Beijing. One of my days, I had several special locations to go to that the tour companies did not have on any of their tours. One of those stops was a meeting at Lenovo World Headquarters.
As I was unfamiliar with the subway, I decided the best way to go would be to rent a taxi for the entire day. That would allow me the advantage of stopping at several locations, but knowing in advance what my cost would be. It also gave me the advantage of being able to cover more locations quickly.
I contacted the Beijing Eastern Taxi Service to see if they can provide me with an English-speaking driver. They were quite happy to accommodate me and offered me several options.
Their prices were based on eight or less hours and a total travel distance of less than 100 km. The two most common options were an economy sedan for 750 RMB and a luxury car for 850 RMB. Now the difference in those two cars is that the economy sedan is the original Chinese brand called Red Flag. A luxury car in this case would be a Buick Regal.
Of course, at the time of this writing, the conversion rate from US dollars to RMB is about 1 to 6.3. This means the price for an economy sedan would be about US$117 per day. Double check the pricing with the taxi service as it will fluctuate over time.
If you’re daylong trip in the taxi goes over either the time limit with a mileage limit, you will be charged 100 RMB per extra hour and three RMB per extra kilometer.
In my request of the taxi service, I requested that my driver be able to leave the car and come with me to take pictures. The taxi service said that would be fine. My thought was that it was save me considerable time and not having to set up my camera with the timer in order to get pictures containing myself. On that basis, I went ahead and rented an economy sedan for the full-day.
In order to help things along, I plotted all locations lay wanted to go to on Google maps, and in select copy of the Google map to the taxi company. This actually turned out to be quite advantageous. The taxi company actually printed out the map and then wrote the Chinese name next to each of the locations I wanted to go to.
My driver, Mr. Wang, met me at my hotel at the agreed time. He was a delightful gentleman, but alas, his English wasn’t that good. Still, we have fun together as he carried me around Beijing to all the locations that I wanted to go to that day.
I actually wore Mr. Wang out, as I insisted that he come with me into all the locations of I went to visit. He was very helpful in taking photos for me, and also lent me a degree of authority wherever I went. I guess it’s helpful to have a Chinese person with you wherever you are in Beijing, because then everyone thinks you are a businessman instead of the tourist.
At the end of the day, I actually went over one hour. It was also quite funny when my driver checked the mileage readings and found that I had used exactly 99 km. I also gave Mr. Wang a good tip as he was a real trooper following me into all the locations. Even though his English was not up to what I expected, he was a real pleasure to travel with.
With this taxi service, I chose to not make any payment in advance. There are other payment options. If you decide to wait and pay at the end of the day, as I did, you have to pay in cash. Make sure that you have enough RMB with you to pay the driver the full amount, plus any overage, plus a decent tip. A decent tip, in this case, would be anywhere from 70 to 100 RMB. Never make the mistake of giving anyone a tip of 40 RMB. They would rather you give them 35 RMB, as the number four is associated with death. In easy way to make sure that you have enough money at the end of the day is to schedule a stop at an ATM as your last stop of the day. Just make sure it’s an ATM with the Visa sign. Most banks now have ATMs with the Visa sign on them.
So my suggestion to you, if you decide to rent an English-speaking taxi in Beijing, is to prepare an itinerary in Google maps and send that to the taxi company in advance. Tell the taxi service that you want an English speaking driver, but don’t expect him to be able to speak good English. Just sit back and enjoy letting somebody else do the driving.
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