Getting around Suzhou

Suzhou transport can be a bit tricky to get your head around! We tell you all the tips for getting around Suzhou, as part of this Suzhou travel guide.

Good maps of the city and its outskirts, with road and place names in Chinese characters and pinyin, can be bought at the city’s Xinhua Bookstore on Shi Road near the Changshu Road intersection. A hand drawn map of the historical centre, with most places of interest clearly marked, is available at hostels and bookstores (¥20). You’ll also find decent maps in some of the city’s free English language magazines, available wherever foreigners gather.

Taxi

Taxis are, in general, the fastest and easiest way to move around Suzhou. Almost all are either VW Santanas or Passats. Flag fare is ¥10. Santanas cost ¥1.8 per kilometre after the first three, Passats cost ¥2.

Unless it’s raining, it shouldn’t take long to hail a cab. Telling the driver where to go is more difficult: taxi drivers, almost without exception, do not speak English. Staff at your hotel will happily write down a Chinese address for you, and it’s a good idea to collect the business cards of places you’d like to return to, including your hotel’s. A map with street names in Chinese characters is also useful.

Suzhou has a taxi hotline, but to use it you’ll need to speak Chinese. The number is (0512) 6777 6777.

Bus

Buses in Suzhou, like almost everywhere else in China, are incredibly cheap but very difficult to use. The signs at bus stops, which explain the city’s many bus routes, are only in Chinese. If you are going to be in the city for more than a few days, the maps available at the Xinhua Bookstore outline routes and route numbers. Fares for city buses are ¥1, tourist buses cost ¥2.

Bicycle

The historical centre of Suzhou is quite compact and a cycle between sites often passes through picturesque neighbourhoods beside quiet canals. You can rent bikes from a number of the city’s hostels. Mingtown Youth Hostel’s (28 Pingjiang Rd, 0512-65816869) bikes cost ¥10 for four hours. You’ll be asked to leave either a ¥400 deposit or your passport. Min Han Tang Youth Hostel (61 Guyang Ji Road, near Shantang Street, 0512-65833331) has small, collapsible bikes, which fit into a taxi (¥20 per 1 day), and mountain bikes (¥30 per day). You have to leave your passport as a deposit. There are also bike rental shops on Renmin Lu, just north of the Silk Museum.

Where next?

This page by Iain Manley, who arrived in China at the end of an eighteen month overland journey from London and stayed for three years. His first book, about the pirates, prostitutes and opium pedlars of old Singapore, was published last year. You can find him at Old World Wandering, his award winning collection of overland travel stories.

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