“What? I need a guide to get a cab?!” You may be thinking. But despite being a seemingly simple task, even if you attempt to hail a car with its VACANT light on in the street, you’re likely to be ignored anyway. The most convenient and foolproof way is to use an app instead.
The most widely used taxi app in China is DiDi (iOS; Android). You can either hail a cab via DiDi, saving you the hassle of struggling to get a cab on the streets, or let the app match you with an express car driver. In the latter, you may also choose to car-pool with other passengers, which can cost you less. The Chinese app has similar mechanics as Uber, but it offers the cab-hailing service that Uber doesn’t have. DiDi took over Uber in 2016, so Uber’s universal version can no longer be used in China. Instead, there’s a China-only version of Uber, which is in effect a variant of DiDi. In March 2017, DiDi also rolled out their first English service, making it even more convenient for English speakers and tourists to hail a cab in China.
You can also reserve a car in advance using the app. It works similarly to the hotline run by the taxi company, but saves you the reservation fee. For people without internet connection, you can still use hotline: 96103; 96106; 96109. For those looking for a little luxury, there’s a Premier option, which for an extra cost you’ll be assigned a professional driver and complimentary bottled water and cell phone chargers provided throughout your journey.
Taxi apps are relatively new to the Chinese market, coming into play within the last five years. China is working on the relevant laws to maintain order in the business. Beijing issued a strict regulation in December 2016, stating that its express car drivers have to have a Beijing hukou (residence registration account) and a Beijing license plate. Drivers also need to register their identity information before they can start their business, ensuring security for all passengers.