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.
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.
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.
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.
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.