Chengdu's rush hour traffic can be hellish. Plan your itinerary around not having to be on the road during these hours.
The first line of the Chengdu Metro opened in October 2010, slicing north-south through the city along Renmin Rd and connecting the North and South railway stations together. The fare for a single ride is ¥2-4 depending on distance. You can purchase tickets from machines (English available) with ¥1 coins or 5¥ and 10¥ notes. Ticket booths are also available if you don't have suitable notes.
When entering the metro you need to put your bags through an x-ray machine. The ticket is flashed by the gates on the reader on your right side. You need the ticket to get out as well so keep it safe. When exiting the ticket is placed into a slot that collects it. Again this slot is on the right side of the gate, so pay attention since it's very easy to accidentally open the gate next to you. When exiting, you must wait behind the yellow line until the passenger in front of you has passed and the gate shows it now accepts your ticket. If you're beyond the line the gate won't let you through and you need to back away for it to accept you as a new passenger.
Line 2 of the Chengdu Metro has opened in September 2012. This line runs from the North West suburbs of Chengdu to the South East of the City, interchanging with Line 1 at Tianfu Square Station. This line is most handy to travelers arriving and departing via Chengdu East Railway Station.
Chengdu has an extensive system of city buses plying the streets. At each bus stop, there is a list of the bus lines coming through on this road, and on some city maps the whole network is displayed. However, the bus lines and maps only use Chinese characters, and even if the bus announces the station, it will usually only be in Chinese. Tickets are ¥1 for non-aircon (now very rare) and ¥2 for air-conditioned buses. The fare is paid by putting the exact amount to a metal box next to the driver. There's no possibility to get change so make sure you have the exact amount of cash available. Normally, you enter via the front door, and alight by the rear door. On the new articulated buses, you can enter at either the front or rear door, with the middle door designated for alighting only.
There's no official route map on the Internet but there is a well functional service available in Chinese. Click on Chengdu on the map, then select the middle tab from (公交) from the search field. To show the route of a particular line, click 高级搜索 and type the line number to the search field that appeared on the right side. You can also select from and to destinations from the map via a context menu (the two topmost options) and the service shows the route with bus line numbers and also where to change the bus if needed. Classical bus useful for tourists are 1 and 99 (inside city), 300 (link between south airport to north railway station). You can also use the Google Maps app on your smartphone to plan your travel and it will tell you which bus and subway lines to take to your destination.
If you will be in Chengdu a while, you may want to purchase a transit card (公交卡). They are sold at all Hong Qi markets and at some pharmacies. Not only do you no longer have to worry about carrying correct change, but you get free transfers for two hours plus some discounts. The card costs ¥20 and can be loaded with three types of credit. The first is cash. You will receive a 10% discount off the cash fare when using your card's cash. So a regular bus ride will cost ¥1.80 instead of ¥2. You can also load credits (次) for this month and credits for next month. Each credit costs ¥0.50, and most bus rides use two credits (the increasingly rare non-aircon buses cost one credit). So most rides then cost you only ¥1. Credits expire at the end of the month for which they were designated, so it can take a little effort to not buy too many or too few. Note that some bus lines (usually higher numbered ones) and the subway only accept your cash balance (not credits), which does not expire. Other lines (usually those going way out to the suburbs) accept only cash. When you board the bus and tap your card, the display will show the number of this month's credits remaining (if you used credits) or the cash balance (if you used your card's stored cash value).
Official taxis are either green or blue and are equipped with meters. A free taxi will display an illuminated sign with Chinese characters in its dashboard. The meter is turned on by tilting the sign, make sure the driver does that and if not, you can try to do it yourself and the driver usually gets your point. Some taxi drivers may try to offer you a fixed price but don't take it unless you know it's cheaper than with the meter on. Taxi drivers don't speak English nor do they understand the map, so have an address written in Chinese with you. Drivers don't know many street names so it's best to have the address to some well known place close to your destination. Collect taxi cards from hotels and restaurants and show them to the drivers, and when close to your destination start instructing by pointing with your hand. This method usually gets you there - some drivers however will not follow your instructions or get angry for you traveling a longer distance than what they expected.
Taxi fare is ¥8 on flagfall for the older taxis ¥9 for the new ones, and increase at ¥1.9 per km after the first 2 kilometers. For rides from 10 to 60 km the km fare is increased by 50% to compensate the taxi returning empty. During night time the starting price is ¥1 more and per km price is ¥2.20. Waiting price for the taxi is one km fare per every five minutes, and the meter counts traveling with speed less than 12 km/h as waiting time. Taxis often refuse to accept ¥100 bills so try to have some change on hand.
Taxis can be difficult to find depending on the area. There are also unlicensed taxis in the city but they're quite hard to notice. If you use one, know your destination and expected price and negotiate the fare beforehand.
There are still some motorized bicycle-propelled pedicabs called san lun che (三轮车) which can take you moderate distances. Fix a price (¥5-¥15) in advance. The passengers ride behind the driver. The ride is fun, but san lun che are being phased out and are forbidden cross or ride on certain streets, and may be gone altogether soon. Until the year 2005, all of these pedicabs were modified bicycles actually pedalled by the driver. Today, virtually all are motorized, either by electric or gasoline powered engines.
Most guest houses have bicycles for hire. Check for technical problems before starting out unless you want to be held responsible for it later. If you leave your bicycle, do so in one of the designated "bicycle parks", where it will be guarded over for a small fee. If you can not find such a place, be sure to lock it securely against some structure. Be careful as the bike traffic flow can be intense.
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