Last updated on Feb 28, 2012
Public buses may not be the most convenient transport method for foreigners trying to navigate their way around Suzhou. Having some knowledge about the bus service on offer however, will give you an extra transport option when you find yourself stuck in the middle of nowhere one day or unable to find a taxi because it’s not so easy to get a taxi in the city.
Suzhou buses can be rather crowded during rush hours and some of them are not especially clean. But buses running through busy shopping streets or those connecting major attractions are in an excellent condition and during off-peak hours it is a pleasure to use them. Plus, the bigger windows of a bus will give you a better view of the city than taxis.
In the tourist city, five special “tourist” buses, numbered from 1-5, make getting around much easier for travelers. These buses have marks at the top of the buses’ rear end such as “游1” representing Tourist Bus No. 1.
To check real-time information about the location of buses, or if they are running late, visit www.szjt.gov.cn. All real time information is only available in Chinese at present.
Bus fares range from 1 yuan to 5 yuan, depending on the length of your journey or whether the bus has air conditioning. Public transport cards can be used on both buses and taxis. Bus routes and timetables may be changed frequently for several years while the subway lines are being built. Check the latest information on the website before taking buses.
Many Suzhou bus stops, especially along Renmin Road, have a charming old Chinese style and will appeal to tourists.
Within the downtown area, there are more than 120 bus stops that are easily recognizable because of their traditional old Chinese style pavilion shape, and brown color.
Besides, each bus stop displays four forms of Chinese poetry including verses, ditties, odes and songs, to keep you good company while waiting.
Getting on and off
Many Suzhou buses have no conductors. You should get on at the front door and put the bus fare into a moneybox beside the driver. The back door is for getting off.
It's advisable to keep some loose change for riding on the no-conductor buses. The boxes do not provide change and the drivers are not allowed to handle cash. If you want to test your Chinese and courage, you can throw in a 10-yuan bill and ask the driver to allow you to collect other passengers' money as your change.
There are seats reserved for senior citizens, children, the sick, disabled, pregnant women and anyone carrying a baby. The conductor or driver may ask people to give up those seats.
Suzhou has six bus companies that operate bus service independently in different areas of the city. Buses running across the Old Town Area can take visitors to almost every scenic spot within the area and in the near suburb, among which the five tourist lines are especially useful. Since most foreign residents especially expats now live in Suzhou Industrial Park area east of the Old Town and Suzhou New District (a high-tech industrial zone) in the west, buses commuting between the Old Town and any of the two areas can also be much helpful. We will introduce these useful buses as follow.
Tourist Line 1
The bus commutes between Huqiu Scenic Area and Suzhou Train Station from 5:15am to 9pm if starting at the Huqiu Scenic Area or from 5:30am to 9:40pm if starting at Suzhou Train Station. Major attractions along the route are in northern Old Town, including Liuyuan Garden, Shizilin Garden, Zhuozhengyuan Garden, Suzhou Museum and Beita Temple. They also stop in Renming Road and Guanqian Road, two of Suzhou's busiest streets for shopping. The buses’ interval is 10-15 minutes.
Tourist Line 2
This route runs in south-north direction across the Old Town from 5:45am to 6:45pm if buses start from Huqiu Scenic Area or from 6am to 7:45pm if buses start from West Jiefang Road. Major attractions along the route are Shizilin Garden, Zhuozhengyuan Garden, Suzhou Museum, Wangshiyuan Garden, Panmen Scenic Area and the former residence of the famous poet Tang Yin in Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Visitor can also take the bus to Shiquan Street, where there are some good silk shops and bars. This is the only one of the five tourist lines that doesn’t pass by Suzhou Train Station. The buses’ interval is 9-12 minutes.
Tourist Line 3
The bus mainly links Suzhou Train Station and Suzhou Amusement Park in Suzhou New District. It runs from 5:05am to 8:45pm if starting from Jinshan Road near the park or from 5:55am to 9:35pm if starting from Suzhou Train Station. The buses’ interval is 10-15 minutes.
Tourist Line 4
This route runs from Suzhou Train Station in the north of the Old Town down to reach the South Ring Expressway and then extends westward to reach Mudu Old Village, a famous tourism village of Suzhou. Buses set out from the train station every 6-10 minutes and operate from 5am to 21:10pm, passing by downtown attractions like Silk Museum (at Pingmen Stop), Beisi Pagoda, Yiyuan Garden, Canglang Pavillion and the former residence of the famous poet Tang Yin.
Tourist Line 5
This is a circular line covering most part of the Old Town. These buses operate from 6am to 10:15pm at 9 or 12 minutes intervals, taking visitors to Suzhou Train Station, Shizilin Garden, Zhuozhengyuan Garden, Suzhou Museum and Panmen Scenic Area.
Line No. 38
This is another useful line for people to go from the Old Town to Suzhou New District. Buses setting out from Suzhou Train Station operate from 5am to 9:30pm at intervals of 8-11 minutes, taking people to Suzhou Amusement Park and Mudu Old Village along its way.
Line No. 305
The bus mainly runs from northeast to southwest of the Old Town and major attractions along the route are Pingjiang Road, Shizilin Road, Guanqian Street, Panmen Scenic Area and the former residence of Poet Tang Yin. Buses operate mainly from 5:55am to 8:40pm at intervals of 10-20 minutes.
Express No. 2
Buses starting from Suzhou Train Station operate from 6am to 10:30pm at interval of 6-15 minutes, linking the Old Town with SIP. Important locations along the route are International Exhibition Center, Wenhui Plaza and Dushu Lake District.
Suzhou Public Transport Card can be used in all types of buses in Suzhou, and people can easily enjoy the recharge service in Kedi convenience stores that can be found everywhere in Suzhou.
Starting from September 2011, people with Suzhou Public Transport Card can enjoy a discount of 40% off when taking a bus and starting from December 2011, free bus service is available for all disabled people.
The minimum bus fare is 1 yuan in spring and autumn, and 2 yuan in summer and winter, because there is 1 yuan extra charge for air-conditioning.
Elder generation (above 70) can enjoy monthly bus pass which costs only 20 yuan each.
There is only one bus route with English service in Suzhou, bus No. 89 which runs through Hui Hailong Station to Zhujiang Community Service Center Station, from 5:30am to 8:30pm daily.
Endeavor in promoting traditional Suzhou, Tour Bus No. 1 to No. 5 provide Suzhou local language voice announcer, and same as Bus No. 1 which runs through Gongjiao No. 1 Residential Quarter to New Train Station (North Station) from 5am to 11pm every day.