Hailing a ride in Beijing in 2019 is easier than ever, with numerous platforms at your fingertips waiting to whisk you away across the city with minimal trouble. Didi Chuxing remains by far the most popular ride-hailing app, especially since launching an English edition but doesn’t necessarily mean you can get away with a totally Chinese-free ride.

The biggest obstacle usually comes before your ride event starts, as the driver is likely to call you to make sure your GPS position is correct and/or whether you’re already at the pick-up point. An easy solution is to send one of the pre-written messages in Didi informing them of your location and status prior to their call. Meanwhile, here are some other useful phrases to navigate your ride.

Pick-up and finding your driver

If your location is accurate:

nín hǎo, wǒ de dìngwèi zhǔnquè.
Hello, my position is correct.

Or if it’s slightly different:

máfan nín wǎng nán/běi/dōng/xī kāi yī diǎn.
Please drive a bit further to you south/north/east/west.

Even with GPS, not all the drivers are familiar with Beijing’s roads. If you’ve arrived at the pick-up point but your driver is nowhere to be seen, you can call and inquire:

wǒ yǐjīng dàole, qǐngwèn nín hái yǒu duōjiǔ.
I’m at the pick-up point. How far away you are?

If you’re running late to the pick-up point:

wǒ mǎshàng dào, shāo děng.
I’ll be there soon, please wait a moment.

Sometimes it may be difficult to spot your Didi. if so, you can call and ask the driver:

wǒ méi kàn dào nín de chē, nín néng dǎ shuāngshǎn ma?
I don’t see your car. Can you turn on your warning lights?

Once you’re in the car

After you finally get your Didi, don’t forget to greet your driver:

shīfù nín hǎo.
 (师傅 is a common and respectful way to address a male or female stranger)
Hello, driver.

It’s also common for the driver to check you’re the correct person: “您是尾号 (last four digits of your phone number) 的乘客吗? Nín shì wěi hào XXXX de chéngkè ma? You can simply reply “对 duì” unless you’ve managed to get in the wrong car…

duìbùqǐ, shàng cuòchē le.
Sorry, I got in the wrong car.

A legit driver will also ask your preferred route, especially when there’s an option to take a tolled highway, which will be quicker but more expensive. If you don’t mind either way, you can say “按导航走 àn dǎoháng zǒu” (follow the navigation), or if you’d rather save your cash, say “不走高速 bù zǒu gāosù” (avoid the highway).

Some drivers might drive too fast or use their phones while driving. You can let the driver know that you feel unsafe/uncomfortable by saying:

kāichē de shíhòu qǐng bùyào shǐyòng shǒujī.
Please don’t use your mobile phone while driving.

nín kāi màn yīdiǎn, ānquán dì yī.
Slow down. Safety first.

Alternatively, if you’re in a rush:

Gǎn shíjiān
, máfan nín shāowéi kuài yīdiǎn.
I’m in a rush, could you drive a little bit faster, please.

To inquire how long it will take to get to your destination:

lùshàng dǔchē ma?dàgài xūyào duō cháng shíjiān dào?
Is there any traffic? How long do you reckon it will take?

Creature comforts

When you want some fresh air:

chē li yǒudiǎn mèn, kěyǐ kāi chuāng ma?
It’s a bit stuffy here, would you mind opening the window?

Or if you want to adjust the temperature:

chē lǐ hěn rè, kěyǐ kāi kòngtiáo ma?
It’s a bit hot, can you turn the AC on?

kòngtiáo kěyǐ kāi gāo yīdiǎn ma, yǒudiǎn lěng.
It’s a bit cold, could turn the AC up a bit?

Bonus round (the tricky stuff)

If you need to pick somebody up in the middle of your trip:

我中途需要接一个朋友,麻烦您到 place停一下?
wǒ zhōngtú xūyào jiē yīgè péngyǒu, máfan nín dào place tíng yīxià?
I need to pick someone up. Could you please stop at place?

Or if you need to change your original destination (as of writing, the English Didi app does not allow you to change your destination, unlike the Chinese app. This can make things extra tricky if your driver doesn’t have any sense of direction):

我需要改一下目的地,改成 place
wǒ xūyào gǎi yīxià mùdì dì, gǎi chéng place.

I would like to change my destination to place.

Arriving at your destination

When approaching your destination:

kàobiān tíng jiù kěyǐ le, xièxiè.
Just pull over by the roadside. Thanks!

Some of the drivers will check if you’ll pay in cash or directly by the app. You can answer.

wǒ yòng shǒujī/xiànjīn zhīfù.
I’ll pay via mobile phone/cash.

If you want a receipt:

kěyǐ tígōng fāpiào ma?
Can you provide a receipt?

Finally, give your farewells:

xièxiè shīfù, nín màn zǒu!
Thanks, Mister/Ma’am. Take care!

As you probably know, taxi drivers can be a chatty bunch and will often ask questions considered a bit too private for a first interaction. In that case, remember this one important one-answer-fits-all: “保密 bǎomì“(it’s a secret). The driver will most likely laugh it off and leave you alone. Happy hailing!

Or you want to make friends with your Didi driver?