Unlike the subway, which may have large gaps between stations, taking the bus in Beijing will often drop you off exactly where you want to be. Despite this convenience, the thought of riding the bus can be intimidating if you’re unsure how to navigate the system. We’ll be posting a series of blogs to help ease your way into bus travel, starting with how to read a bus sign.
Bus number and station
Item 1 is the bus number, and item 2 is the name of the bus stop where you are standing. Some stops will also mark the name in pinyin, but this is not a guarantee, particularly in neighborhoods with a lower foreign population. Note that the name of the current stop is also marked with a white arrow on the sign. Alternatively, the current stop may also be marked using black text. Next time you're leaving home, take a quick look at the closest bus stop. Knowing the name of your stop and which numbers stop there means that, even if you're unfamiliar with routes, you'll know how to get home if you see one of those bus numbers around town.
First and last stations
Item 3 is the first stop or "origin station" on that number's route, and item 4 is the last stop or "terminal station" on the route. Item 5 tells you when the bus is in operation. So, for this route, the first bus leaves the origin (Shangezhuang Xizhan) at 5:30am headed for the terminal (Xinjiyuan Shicaishichang) and the last bus leaves the origin at 10pm headed for the terminal.
Note: Not every bus runs on the same time schedule in both directions. If you’re planning on taking a bus in the evening, it’s important to know when the last bus leaves. We’ll go into more detail on how to do this in the next post.
Direction and cost to ride
Item 6 indicates the direction the bus is traveling. So, even if you’re unsure which is the origin and which is the terminal, this arrow will let you know. Item 7 tells you the fare cost. In this case, the fare is different depending on how far you travel. If you’re using your transit card, you don’t really need to worry about this. You’ll just swipe it when you get on the bus and swipe it again when you get off. If you’re paying with cash, the attendant will ask you where you are going and tell you the fare price to travel there.