How to Catch a Cab

In Beijing and Shanghai, look for the comfortable new Hyundais and Volkswagens. Elsewhere, reputable cabs have a red light in the windshield and an illuminated light box on the roof to indicate availability. Steer clear of illegal black taxis (they’re literally black, with no license on the dashboard). It’s customary to hail a cab with your palm facing down, forearm pulling inward, though simply raising your arm should also work. Catching a cab in downtown city traffic is very difficult during rush hour (8–10 a.m. and 5–7 p.m.); it’s best to have your hotel call for one.

How to Communicate

Don’t assume your driver will understand much more than hello. So always ask your concierge to write down your destination’s address, phone number, and any nearby landmarks. And be sure to bring a business card from your hotel, with the address in Chinese, for the return trip. Beijing and Shanghai also have free tourist hotlines that offer a translator to serve as a liaison between you and your driver (in Beijing call 86-10/6513-0828, and in Shanghai call 86-21/962-020).

What to Pay

Expect to spend about $2 for a 10-minute trip; $5 to head across town; and $15 to get out of town. Taxis accept only cash, so it’s wise to make sure you have small change. And tipping is not customary.