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CHINA: Getting Around

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Now that private carriers have been allowed to set up operations in China, CAAC has assumed the role of `umbrella organisation' over airlines including China Eastern, China Southern, China Northern, Great Wall, Yunnan Airlines and several others. There is no such thing as a discount, no matter where you buy your ticket and you'll usually be slugged with an agents commisioning fee. There is an airport tax of Y50 payable on all domestic flights. Use your China cell phone rental too book a flight in China.

Long-distance buses are one of the best means of getting around on the ground; they're frequent and cheap (which also translates as crowded and stuffy) but there's extensive services, passable roads and interesting towns and villages en route. An even better mode is the train, which reaches into every province (apart from Tibet) along a 52,000-km network. It's cheap, relatively fast and a safer proposition than buses; the only dangers on the trains is getting your luggage pinched or dying from shock at the state of the toilets. Use your international cell phone rental to reserve a train ticket in China.

As land transport improves, the romantic days of domestic boat travel are fading. But there are still a number of popular boat trips to be had between Hong Kong and the mainland. The best known river trip is the three-day cruise along the Yangzi River from Chongqing to Wuhan. Use your international China cellular rentals to book a cruise in China.

Taxis don't cruise the streets except in the largest of cities, and while most cabs have meters they usually only get switched on by accident. You can use your international China mobile phone rental to call a trust-worthy cab company in China. Motorcycle taxis, motor-tricycles and/or pedicabs hunt in packs around most major train and bus stations. They're a motley bunch, but they're cheap and useful if you don't mind sudden traffic-induced adrenalin rushes. But really, once you've settled in somewhere, the best way to get around is by renting a bike and joining the pedalling throng.

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