Jun

13

 1. Bicycles.

There are a LOT of shared bicycles on sidewalks in many cities. It's now very easy to use them. Pre-registration or deposit are no longer needed. With either Alipay or WeChat apps on a smartphone, one needs only to scan the two-dimensional QR code printed on a bike to unlock it. One can basically leave it anywhere when finished. Locking it concludes the rental. For basic bicycles, the rent is 1 yuan per half hour. Considering the cost of a bike is about 500 yuan or less, the rate can make the business very profitable if usage is high. It looks now that there are just so many bikes available. In addition to basic bicycles, there are also electric bikes, for which the rents are higher.

2. Cars.

Car rentals are nearly pervasive in cities. The easy way to rent one is by an app like Ctrip where electronic payment is conducted. One surprise to me is the rental rates. The rate can be as low as 25 yuan per day for an economy car with unlimited mileage. Cars are not brand new though, usually with 50k kms on them. A rate of 60 yuan is fairly common. The cars are of all major brands, not only chinese. What's odd with the low rates is the high cost of mandatory insurance. About 40 yuan per day for the basic coverage with about 1500 yuan deductable is required (one's own personal car insurance policy doesn't cover rental cars). This is way too expensive given a similar but better covering mandatory policy for a private car costs only 1000 yuan per year. One should note that car rental companies are all private and the insurance companies are all state-owned. So the low rental rates vs. the high insurance rates illustrate quite well about the business environment in the country, where state-owned companies command higher prices.

3. Ride.

With the exit of Uber a couple years ago, there is basically just one car hailing company: Didi. The cost of calling a car is up: now more expensive than calling a taxi. And oftentimes, either the system or the driver play some tricks jacking up from the estimated amount, citing things like congestions. Although the cars are in better condition than taxis, the experience is far poorer than when the competition was here.

4. Housing.

Airbnb is still here. There are also a couple domestic companies. Short-term rentals are quite abundant. A 3-bedroom apartment that easily sells for over 1 million yuan can be rented for about 300 yuan per day with nice furnishings included. Many places as required by the government only accept Chinese nationals, though.

5. Trains/flights.

Most trains are now bullet trains with top speed around 300km/h. Prices are set by the government, and are roughly 150 yuan for about 300km for second-class seats, which is about 3 times higher than the old train. First-class seats are about 250 yuan and business class seats (higher than first-class) are 500 yuan for the same distance. Old trains are mostly out of service. Trains are mostly full. Despite being owned and operated by the government, the trains are not without competitions. Flights, controlled by a different department of the government, set in to compete, albeit slightly. For a 1000km trip, a flight taking less than 2 hours was discounted to be a bit less than the train taking over 5 hours.

6. Places of interests.

Every place a bit interesting, from city park, temple, mosque, to natural site and certainly historical site (original or man-made), charges an entrance fee plus other fees like internal transportation, guides and performances. There is almost no interesting place in the country that is not encircled up for money collection. Entrance fees range from 30 yuan to as high as 400 yuan. Around 100 yuan is fairly common. Take the famous terracotta warriors museum in Xi'an for instance. Entrance fee is 150 yuan. Guide is 90 yuan for a group up to 6 people. Earphone to listen to the guide is 8 yuan per person. Bus for 1km is 10 yuan. Self-photo in front of a nice scene is 20 yuan. Self-photo without waiting in-line is 100 yuan. There is a large shop in a big exhibition hall which sells a lot of over-priced items. After visit, one has to walk through a 1.5km shopping street to get to the exit.

7. Cashless payments

Again, with AliPay or WeChat, one now can pay almost anything electronically, from from small snacks on the streets, to buses and taxis, to groceries, to any tickets (either on the spot or online).


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