This article is a simple how to for those of you wanting to get in on using the popular app 滴滴出行 (di di chu xing) simply known as Didi. This app can be a lifesaver if you want to catch a cab in a hurry or if you need one at an unusual time- like if you have to go to the airport at two in the morning. Not only is the app extremely convenient but it can save you money over just hailing a taxi from the street.
Getting registered is pretty straight forward. You’ll need a phone number, a bank card (you can link your WeChat, or Alipay 支付宝 account to pay), and your passport number. Registering should take you only a few minutes. Once you finish you’ll see this screen with the 7 main options across the top.
Mostly you need to pay attention to the first 4 options because these are likely what you’ll use the most. You can swipe or click the three (…) where the arrow is pointing to see options 6 and 7.
From left to right, the options are:
1. 快车 (kuai che) “express” – the cheapest option. The prices are set by the app and you pay through your phone. You can pay at your convenience within 24 hours (but you can’t get another taxi until you pay).
2. 出租车 (chu zu che) “taxi” – Use this to call a traditional taxi. You will be able to get a regular taxi and pay by cash according to the meter.
3. 顺风车 (shun feng che) “ride share” – Carpool with someone.
4. 专车 (zhuan che) “special taxi” – VIP taxis.
5. 代驾 (dai jia) “substitute driver” – Call someone to drive your own car.
6. 试驾 (shi jia) “car rental” – Rent-a-car.
7. 公交 (gong jiao) “public bus” – Different than the regular buses. These are coach buses that go longer distances than regular public buses (in the same city).
8. 现在 xian zai ‘now’
9. 预约yu yue ‘book for later’
Now comes the tricky part. You need to enter the place you want to go (in Chinese obviously). You can enter an exact address or just use a nearby landmark, like a SOHO or a well-known tower, stadium, or some other landmark. Once you start entering your destination the app will help you out (just like searching online). To set the pick-up point you can move the green pin around. Sometimes you have to move it to a main road or another location before it allows you to order a taxi.
The first option 快车 (kuai che) is usually the cheapest, the main exception being during rush hour when some extra money is added to account for traffic. If you chose this option and put in your destination you will see something similar to this screen.
The orange number by the pick-up location is 分钟 (fen zhong- minutes), this is the amount of time it will take for the nearest taxi to reach you. At the bottom you have two options. The left option is 拼车 (pin che- carpool) and will be cheaper as you will likely be sharing with another person (or 3). The right option is 不拼车 (no carpool) and will be slightly more expensive.
The second option is 出租车 (chu zu che- taxi) and will get you a regular taxi, sparing you the hassle of attempting to call a taxi the old fashioned way. If you choose this option, you will pay the fare by the meter in the taxi.
For the third option 顺风车 (shun feng che- carpool) you need to reserve a ride for the future. This is a car pool only option where you’ll hitch a ride with someone as they travel their regular route (i.e. from work to home or vice versa). This takes a little more knowledge of the Chinese language.
The fourth option, 专车 (zhuan che- special taxi) is for those that want to ride and arrive in style. Inside this option you have 3 additional options displayed at the bottom.
1. 舒适型 (Shu shi xing) cozy car
2. 七座商务 (qi zuo shang wu) 7-person commercial car
3. 豪华型 (hao hua xing) deluxe model
Sometimes with a cozy car, and almost always with the deluxe models the driver will get out and open the door for you. Deluxe models are… well… deluxe: they’re sometimes Mercedes, Lexus, or other high end Audi or Volkswagen models. You can see the price for the ‘deluxe’ car is twice as much as the ‘cozy’ cars.
Once you’ve made the appropriate selections press the orange bar at the bottom to order the taxi!
The fifth option, 代驾 (dai jia- substitute driver) can’t be used by many expats. Let’s say you go out to the bar on Friday and you drove your car, upon leaving the club you realize that you are much to inebriated to drive. You can use this option to have someone drive your own car (and you) home. Very useful, just not for 99% of expats in China.
The sixth option is 试驾 (shi jia – test car)- Again, this one can’t be used by most expats: it’s for car rentals.
The seventh option is 公交 (gong jiao- bus). Bus routes are created by Didi when a group of 50 or more people request a specific route. You can also find previously established routes by selecting this option. Didi gives you bus route options based on your current location. The white circles along the route represent stops where you can get off the bus.
That’s about it for the basics of Didi. Now you know how to conveniently call a taxi to your location. Next is the difficult part: the drivers will often times call you to confirm your location. Next time we will go over common phrases that you will need in order to communicate with taxi drivers.