Teaching English Overseas

Transport in China | Teaching in China

Teaching in China |  TEFL Jobs in China 

It's very difficult for an Australian to appreciate how wonderful public transport is in China. Whether you live in a large city such as Shanghai, Beijing or Guangzhou or a smaller city such as Kaifeng in Henan Province, there is never any problem getting around and all forms of transport are very cheap by any standards. For the people who want to get TEFL jobs to teach in China, transport may be the most important factor they need to consider about. 

I have lived in large cities such as Beijing and smaller cities such as Kaifeng and never felt freer when it comes to getting around. In fact it must be said that the public transport in Chinese cities left me feeling that my own country (Australia), a supposedly developed country was, ….well,.....somewhat underdeveloped.

In most cities there are subways, buses, mini buses and taxis. All are easy to use and run frequently. Taxis are very cheap but sometimes ‘not for the faint hearted’. Taxi drivers are very skilled at negotiating the sometimes chaotic traffic but the manner in which they do this can be a bit hair-raising until you become accustomed to it. Perhaps the greatest similarity between taxi drivers in big cities in China and those in Australia is that they can't always find the address you want to go to. This is not surprising in a huge Chinese city but it's best to know this before being seduced by the cheap fares and choosing a trip to an outer suburb. Major airports are often some distance from the city.

Overall I'd say it’s probably more economical both in terms of time and money to take a subway or bus if at all possible. Taking the subway means you'll avoid being caught in a traffic jam and taking the bus will mean that if there is a traffic accident you will be less likely to be injured.

Smaller cities such as Kaifeng with a population of several million (most Chinese would call this a town but we would call it a city) are also very easy to get around. Kaifeng is one of the Eight Ancient Capitals of China and was once the Capital of the Song Dynasty. Although many Chinese people I spoke to found it difficult to understand why I would want to teach in Kaifeng because they said it was “so old”, I loved teaching there! I enjoyed the old parts of the city and all the historical sites and at the same time managed to find fast food, interesting shops, cinemas and markets.

In Kaifeng I taught at one of the universities with several other westerners. Our apartments were either on the campus or within walking distance to it so we didn't need public transport to get to the classrooms – just a good level of fitness as we had to walk up about 4 flights of stairs several times a day. At the end of the day we would eat at local restaurants with our Chinese colleagues and then jump on a bus to get into the center of the city. The ride took only about 10 minutes and cost was around Y2. If we couldn't be bothered waiting for a bus to take us home, even though the wait might only be a few minutes, we'd grab a taxi and be home in 5 mins for around Y12-15 or less. On certain occasions the municipality would announce that bus fares for the day would only cost Y1 (about 20c). I never did understand why this was.

There was no subway in Kaifeng when I taught there but there is now a light rail linking it to the city of Zhengzhou. The city is now also connected to a railway station where you can take a High Speed or Bullet train. Next week there'll probably be a subway! Just joking, but the pace of development in China is so fast that it's difficult to be sure you are 'up with the latest'.

All this rapid expansion of the transport system is great for English teachers in China. During your time off, it's easy to get out and explore without spending much time or money. It means it’s quite easy to visit other cities on weekends and during your holidays. I travelled from Kaifeng to Beijing for the weekend using a regular train. With a bit more planning I could have organised a trip on a high speed train. I booked a sleeping compartment and slept most of the way, arriving around 6.00am, so it was pretty painless.  Check it out – it's a long way but it was still do-able on a weekend.