The Beijing subway system covers most of the city. It was our preferred way of traveling around Beijing. For a 20 RMB deposit you can purchase a subway card at most stations. Most trips cost 2 or 3 RMB, so for several days, 50 RMB should be plenty for local trips (you get the unused money and deposit back at the end). You can also use the card for the airport express, which stops at both terminals 2 and 3 of the Beijing Capital Airport (for 25 RMB).
For each trip, swipe the smart card as you enter, and then swipe as you leave. The card automatically deducts the fare. Whenever there is a problem, there are workers there to help. Be ready to go through security anytime you use the subway.
The subway system is clean and easy to navigate. The only negatives are the crowds at peak time - never overwhelming but still a bit uncomfortable - and the long walks when transferring between lines.
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