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Driving to Beijing

Today I am planning to go to Beijing. Not by train, as most Chinese would do, nor by plane, which is the fastest option. No, for the first time I am going to drive my car the 1200+ kilometers from Shanghai to Beijing. Why? Because I have never done it before, and it seemed like a good idea a few weeks ago while having a couple of beers. But now I am not so sure anymore. First of all the weather seems to be rainy for most of the ride (Jiangsu and Shandong province both report heavy rain), and second the trip will take at least 12 hours that I also could have spent relaxing, reading or doing sports (or working of course, but it’s holiday now, so I try to forget about that for a few hours).

I actually don’t know anybody who has driven this road him or herself, and that surprised me. Shanghai and Beijing are China’s main cities, but nobody I talked to has ever driven a car between the two of them. In Europe or the US a 2400 kilometer road trip (roundtrip) is not uncommon actually, but here people look at you as if you are crazy. The roads should be OK, according to my map most of the roads should be expressways. Of course traffic is a bit dangerous, especially in rural areas. From past driving experiences I know that I can expect ghost drivers, trucks that back up on the high speed lane, bike riders in the middle lane, farmers crossing the road with loads of vegetables, and of course the trucks and buses that do not follow any of the road rules in order to get from A to B as soon as possible.

Anyway, too late to turn back now. I am going to get going! The next blog post will hopefully be from Beijing.

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  1. Not sure how ‘s your wife ‘s driving skill. If you have to drive all the way long, it’s quite exhausted. Anyway, Drive safe!!! We are looking forward to your new posts.

  2. Marc, maybe because flying is cheap and relative safe people tend to do that rather then increasing the risk of unexpected events happening.

    Anyway, bring a video and still camera and share some shots 🙂

    Hope we can see some movie from the “Laowai goes north Expedition”

    Enjoy the festivities up there!


  3. and also be careful of any living stock such as chicken trying to cross highways…

  4. I guess I should have mounted a camera in my car. Some of the things I have seen during the trip could have made it to the front page of Tudou (or YouTube)! Glad I survived (see my next post for details).

  5. Hi Marc
    I’m driving to Beijing this week – what are the roads like? any advice welcome?

  6. There are expressways (4-6 lane toll roads) all the way from Shanghai to Beijing, so the roads are fine. Try to drive during daytime as much as possible, traffic is always dangerous in China but at night even more. Good luck!

  7. hi marc – would love to know how long it took you to drive this trip? and how much did it cost you in tolls?

  8. It’s about a 12 hour drive. Tolls I don’t remember, my guess would be around USD 100-150.

  9. hey mate. i am planning a similar trip. though i have 3 weeks to get there and 2 weeks to come home. the main highway is not my thing. could you offer any suggestions on must see things, spots, locations on the way. thanks Jason

  10. I haven’t seen much during my trip, so can’t give you a lot of advice. If you don’t take the main highway I would buy a detailed China guidebook and look for nice places in there. Personally I like Shandong province a lot, a drive along the coast is certainly nice there. Make sure to visit Qingdao and Yantai there. If you pass by Nangjing that’s certainly a good place to spend some time as well. Enjoy the trip!

  11. My husband and I are planning on doing this drive from Beijing to Shanghai as we need to transport our dog down. Do you know of any hotels that will accept a dog? thanks

  12. I don’t have pets, so have no experience with dog friendly hotels in China. The drive can be done in one day, so if you’re lucky you won’t need a hotel. Another option might be the new high-speed train that will start running from July 1, maybe they also accept dogs on board, you may want to check (total duration of BJ-SH journey is 4 hr 45 min).