Knowledge Base Stories Travels

China for beginners: Taking the Guangzhou metro (part 1)

Unexpected assistance

Before my most recent trip to Guangzhou for the Canton Fair, I decided that for my trips around the city I would only use the metro. Previously I had shied away from it and took taxis since it was a lot easier and more convenient. But riding the metro is inexpensive and easy, once you figure out how it works. As I wrote in my previous article, I had arrived by high-speed train at Guangzhou South Railway Station and found it very easy to follow the signs from there to the metro station. Armed with my WeChat wallet and cash as a backup, I was ready to buy one of the tokens needed to ride the metro.

How to hold your phone in order to scan the WeChat code can sometimes make all the difference.

At the automated ticketing machines, I joyfully discovered that everything was in both Chinese and English.  After a few minor misunderstandings, I could follow the instructions without any major problem. All I needed to do was select the destination and the number of tokens and then pay the amount displayed on the screen. Proudly I wanted to pay with WeChat, but for some reason, the scanning process didn’t work. I then wanted to pay with cash, but again for some reason, the machine didn’t take my cash. By that time a huge line had formed behind me. Since it was rush hour, people wanted to get home and I was holding up the line for a lengthy amount of time. The people behind me tried to help by shouting (what I presumed to be) instructions in Chinese, which of course didn’t help as my stress level rose with their volume. People around me started getting agitated until finally, a lady in the line next to me told me in English to scan my WeChat. Again, it didn’t work. When I tried with cash again, she just shook her head and said: “I will pay for you!”. Which she then did, and refused to take any of my cash. Thank you, wonderful and kind stranger, for being so generous and helping me out. For all my subsequent metro trips, I figured out how WeChat scanning worked (you need to hold the mobile quite close and parallel to the scanner) and I had fun travelling all over Guangzhou by metro.