If you're heading to China for business for the first time, don't make the mistake of assuming Chinese taxi drivers will recognise the English name of your hotel.
You must have the name and address of the hotel written in Chinese, otherwise you'll be chowing down the dollars as you use global roaming to search Google for the details on the hotel's website.
Hotels will generally have a business card they can hand you as you walk out the door, with their name and details written in Chinese for taxi drivers. But if you forget to get it, or leave it in the wrong coat, you'll be in trouble.
One inexpensive iPhone/iPod Touch app can circumvent this problem, ensuring you'll always be able to get back to your hotel, even if you've forgotten to bring the hotel's card with you.
This is especially useful for catching a taxi from the airport, before you've even arrived at the hotel.
The "China Hotel Cards" app only costs 99c on the iTunes Store (Australia | US) and gives you bilingual listings for the details of 5,000 hotels in China. It has all the details built in, so an internet connection is not required.
China taxi tips
Other things to bear in mind when taking a taxi in China:
- Keep small notes on you for payment -- most drivers won't have change for the large 100RMB notes you'll get from hotel ATMs. Most hotel service desks will change notes down for you.
- Tipping is not required in taxis in China (and if you try, it may just cause confusion unless you speak Mandarin.)
- Make sure you get a receipt. This is vital for tracking down items you might accidentally have left in the taxi (something that Australian Business Traveller has experience in first-hand...!)
- If you know where you're going throughout the day, ask the hotel where the best place to catch a legal taxi would be. Illegal taxis are unfortunately common in China and may not have properly metered fares, or be easy to contact if you leave something in the taxi.