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Beijing car service [2006-2010 discussion]

Beijing car service [2006-2010 discussion]

Old Oct 26, 06, 10:47 pm
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Beijing car service [2006-2010 discussion]

I am planning a 3 day trip to Beijing, and would like to hire a car service for one day to take me to the Great Wall (I haven't decided which section yet, but not the close one) instead of sitting on a tour that is going to take me to several factories with shopping forced on me. Should I try to book this before I get to Beijing, or just let the concierge do it? I know it will be more expensive from the hotel, but wonder if I will be better assured of the quality if the hotel makes the reservation. I am hoping for a small car for right around $100 US.

Sorry if this answer is in another thread, but I have had a heck of a time trying to get the search engine to work in the China forum - most of my searches come back "page not found".

Thanks!
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Old Oct 26, 06, 11:13 pm
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You mention 'small car'. I suspect the best option is to hire a taxi for the day or however long the trip will be. If you speak no Chinese then do it from the hotel taxi rank and they will translate for you. If you speak Chinese do it from the street and get a slightly better price. Either way I think you'll be paying far less than $100.

Even better - make a call to the guy moondog suggested in his recent 'I've found an English speaking taxi driver' thread:

http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/showthread.php?t=592876

Booking something on the web will lose you flexibility, and probably cost significantly more as well.
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Old Oct 27, 06, 1:56 am
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While in Beijing in August ran into some friends who had just paid about $300 through the hotel for a car to take them to the Great Wall with an English speaking driver. They were happy as they were taken to a relatively non-touristy spot on the Wall and also visited the Ming Tombs on the way back.

We took the mini-bus for 12 RMB each way and met some very interesting folks on the bus. However, we went to the most touristy spot, which was fine.

Next time, I might try the taxi, after getting the hotel desk to write down where I wanted to go in Chinese. Keep in mind that most everything in China is negotiable, so see if you can dicker for a flat rate to the Wall and back. Don't pay up front! Or you may be walking back.
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Old Oct 27, 06, 2:33 am
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Originally Posted by phillipas
Even better - make a call to the guy moondog suggested in his recent 'I've found an English speaking taxi driver' thread:
at least two other fters have used him for wall trips since i posted that thread and they enjoyed their conversations with him (he's not a guide, but he prob knows more about china than you do).

his car is not at all "fly", but i think his asking prices are pretty fair.

i know many other drivers as well, if you don't care about the english req but want a nicer car, with whom i'd be happy to put you in touch.

but, if i didn't speak chinese, i'd go with the english speaking guy in a heartbeat.

e
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Old Oct 27, 06, 2:47 am
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Originally Posted by moondog
he's not a guide, but he prob knows more about china than you do.
Him knowing more about China than me isn't that difficult!

In reality him not being a guide is probably a plus point. He'll be less inclined to keep repeating how everything is very 'famous', has a 'long history', is incredibly 'beautiful', and how he hopes you are 'happy' - all things your average Chinese tour guide is want to do with irritating frequency.

Just out of curiosity, what's a fair price for a taxi for a day trip to the Great Wall near Beijing?
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Old Oct 27, 06, 7:36 am
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Originally Posted by phillipas
Just out of curiosity, what's a fair price for a taxi for a day trip to the Great Wall near Beijing?
moondog (thanks again and belated Happy Birthday) arranged a car for us to Mutianyu for y600. Nice black Honda Accord that was very clean. Driver, Mr. Hu, was a very pleasant guy (although he spoke almost no English). Great trip and the Wall was almost deserted in July.
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Old Oct 27, 06, 9:12 am
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I've used a driver for past 4 -5 yrs but he only speaks Chinese. He now drives a van and charges about RMB$800 per day, 8 am to 5 pm. When he had his old toyota crown, the rate was only RMB$500/day.

Anyone interested in him or a colleague with a sedan, PM me.
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Old Oct 27, 06, 9:12 pm
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Originally Posted by phillipas
Just out of curiosity, what's a fair price for a taxi for a day trip to the Great Wall near Beijing?
This depends on what section you go to--the total number of kilometres is the key issue, and the final price should be well under the posted price per km times the number of kms. You'll also have to pay any road tolls of course. I usually buy the driver lunch, too.

But even for something far flung, say around 100kms away, Y300-350.

The key is to start stopping taxis the day before and negotiating, and just to flag them down in the street for this, rather than talking to any hanging around near hotels or tourist sites. Y1.6/Y2 taxis are only pulling in around this sum per day anyway, whereas the (few remaining) cheaper machines pull in more. Some drivers have to consult vehicle owners, others have to be back in town in time to hand over at the end of their shift (the vehicle works 24 hours a day, seven days a week, until it fall to bits, or later). Many are happy to have a day's guaranteed work, since they all consider Beijing taxi numbers (usually given as 67,500) to be too many, but others are intimidated at the idea of going out of the city. Guaranteeing an exact km distance when negotiating is a poor idea since to go even 1km further will present an opportunity for tiresome renegotiation, and there are plenty of chances to get lost on most destinations outside Beijing.

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Old Oct 28, 06, 3:23 am
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Originally Posted by Peter N-H
But even for something far flung, say around 100kms away, Y300-350.
In general, it costs more than that now. y500 will get you a Sonota to Mutianyu with a competant driver (add 100 to reach Simatai; subtract 100 for lesser car).

I do know of several guys that still quote prices in the 3s, but can't recommend any here (a friend of mine had a bad experience with one earlier this year; the problem had more to do with driver stupidity than anything else).
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Old Oct 28, 06, 3:55 am
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I agree with moondog - 500 is the price from central beijing. My parents were here last August and I asked 10+ cabs at different times of day -- None would go lower. Look for a Sonata without the annoying driver cage. If you don't speak chinese, no problem- just say what section of the wall you want to go to (Mutianyu is a relatively good mix of proximity/peace) - and write down 500 RMB and 8:00 a.m., on your hotel card so he'll know where to pick you up.

the hotel car was twice this price, and not much bigger than a Sonata.
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Old Oct 28, 06, 10:02 am
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It's always been common to deny that such prices are available, yet year after year I obtain them (late last year being the last time). It's always been 'common knowledge' that you have to pay at least Y500, a view that more tourist-oriented cabbies are happy to spread, and it's usually been possible to get Y300. Of course meter rates are rising, and last year was the first time I paid Y350.

But Moondog's posting doesn't say '500 is the price from central Beijing', it says that there are still trips available in the 300s, and that 400 is the price for a 'lesser car' to Mutianyu, although that's the price I'd probably now be aiming for for Simatai, which is much more distant. If you specify a higher class of vehicle of course you can expect to pay a higher price.

Nevertheless, many may feel that it's not worth making much effort to save Y50 of Y100, and it can be argued that a cabbie who thinks he's doing well is a happy cabbie, and one less likely to cause problems (although that won't of course be universally true, and I haven't had anything other than navigations problems with the cabbies I've used). Nevertheless, in general terms, as long as people are making under (preferably well under) Y500 their target, they are at least operating in the real world, and being saved from the often heard Beijing chit-chat that Y800 or Y1000 is the minimum (Y1600 upwards from some Beijing hotels).

For most popular Great Wall destinations there are of course public transport options for a fraction of the price.

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Old Oct 28, 06, 10:49 am
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Originally Posted by Peter N-H
But Moondog's posting doesn't say '500 is the price from central Beijing', it says that there are still trips available in the 300s, and that 400 is the price for a 'lesser car' to Mutianyu, although that's the price I'd probably now be aiming for for Simatai, which is much more distant.
I've collected a sizable amount of pricing data over the course of the past year because:

1) whenever I encounter a well groomed driver with a decent car, I ask;

2) During the past several months, I have put 10+ FTers in touch with these drivers and told them to negotiate to their hearts' content;

and

3) I've gotten to know a handful of drivers really well and have had in-depth conversations with them about all aspects of their trade (including the desirability of day trips v. local stuff)

My research has revealed that most drivers who don't tell you to pound sand for offering less than 500 are not really up to par, simply because demand is currently strong.

That having been said, if (any of) you encounter any good Y350 drivers, please post their details here.
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Old Oct 28, 06, 1:38 pm
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These conversations are always in danger of being reduced to 'I can bargain better than you' stand-offs, and it's a quirk of human nature that few can bear the idea that they've paid more than they need to. I can only report on what I've actually paid. I cannot say what's happening in Beijing right now, because I don't happen to be in Beijing right now. But I do know that it's been claimed for years that Y500 must be paid, when I've been paying Y300, and know many others who have done the same (including Beijing expats who had been denying it was possible until they actually tried).

Meter rates have been rising, as have petrol prices, so perhaps there have been recent rises. But as I remarked earlier, the fundamentals of the calculation are the distance to be travelled times the price per km (without the 'dan ci' one-way button being pushed, which in Beijing increases the rate by 50% after 15km). The amount you pay should be less than the result of this calculation. For many one-day trips Y500 would have you paying more than the meter rate, and what would be the point of that? Even allowing for waiting time it would be better to go on the meter (insisting that the one-way button isn't pushed, since it won't be a one-way trip).

Just using the meter (no button) is often very acceptable to drivers, and it's a method I use when wanting extended hires in cities other than Beijing, such as when I want to travel around a number of places outside the city in a hurry, don't have time for bargaining, and don't anyway know the distance involved so as to give me some kind of target.

And just on the points made:

Again, the demand for a 'better vehicle' means that like is not being compared with like. If it's a higher rate per km vehicle obviously you can expect to pay more. It was admitted in an earlier posting that Y300 trips are still available, so we seem to be going round in circles. If a superior car is chosen, it will come with a superior price. I haven't had any bad Y300 experiences, although they no doubt exist. But then so do Y500 bad experiences. There are many random variables beyond the state of the vehicle and the driver's grooming. It should be apparent to anyone that a sharp suit doesn't guarantee fair practice (and indeed many think it works the other way), and indeed there are some notorious very presentable scammers amongst Beijing taxi drivers who happily spam discussion boards across the Internet and who charge gullible visitors double what they should pay.

Originally Posted by moondog
1) whenever I encounter a well groomed driver with a decent car, I ask;
Yes, but does just asking count as research? It's necessary to have a strong intent to make a purchase and to bargain enthusiastically, including perhaps walking away once, in order to find out what a truly acceptable price is. A casual conversation won't get you there.

Originally Posted by moondog
2) During the past several months, I have put 10+ FTers in touch with these drivers and told them to negotiate to their hearts' content;
Yes, but good bargaining partly depends on a realistic expectation of what the lowest price will be. If the expectation is already that, say Y400 is acceptable, then no real attempt will be made to get Y300. Then when Y400 is paid, those who pay it go around determined that Y400 is the 'proper' or 'best' price, unwilling to accept they might have done better, and telling everyone else that it's the best you can do, so that they then aim for the same price, and even accept Y450 as being close enough. The numbers of people sent to these drivers will tend to increase this reassurance by the drivers that higher prices can be obtained and by the hirers that they must be. Meanwhile those with a clearer understanding of pricing, and a lower target price, and not sent to drivers whose expectations have been raised, may well be paying less.

Of course, for the 'better' vehicles chosen, with their 'well-groomed' drivers, Y500 may in fact be the best you can do. But the original assertion on pricing wasn't made with this limitation in mind. So again, like is not being compared with like. There are those travellers whose desire will be for an adequate vehicle at the lowest available price, and on those grounds the original statement stands.

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Old Oct 28, 06, 1:48 pm
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Peter:

I don't doubt you that y300 drivers with acceptable cars still exist. However, I don't know of any. The y350 guy I referred to upthread drove a Citroen with a cage (i.e. not comfortable) and turned out to be illiterate (literally) so he doesn't qualify for mention here.

But, like I said earlier, if you have any good leads, post 'em.
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Old Oct 28, 06, 2:58 pm
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Peter vs. Moondog

I'm surprised at this exchange...although I admit having been back to BJ for 16 months. My sense has been that BJ drivers normallycharge a flat price per day (in the 500 range) and OT (hours usually 8 am to 5 pm) whereas in Shanghai, it's a combo of flat price plus X km limit.

I will be in BJ in two weeks and have already arranged with my 'old' driver and will ask him what's happening in the market place.

As an aside, in May on a quick 36 hrs to shanghai, picked up a taxi at Pudong airport and was chatting with him. He agreed to a flat RMB$500/day fee and I was shocked .... maybe business was down? I also intend to use him on the Shanghai sector of my forthcoming trip.

Unfortunately, both are chinese speaking only.


Moondog - if you're in town btw Nov 14-22, BJ/Shanghai, like to buy you a drink for setting me up at Pan Harvest last trip. Going to use it again this trip and in fact recommended to most of my regional colleagues who stay in Shanghai.
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