How to Take the Dalian Metro

Fun fact: Dalian is big. And not just population big (6.7 million people), but area big–over 13 000 square kilometers. That’s double the size of New York City. Like all five boroughs. So needless to say when we arrived here without a car, figuring out how to get around became a necessity. And once we did, the whole city opened up to us.

But like navigating any city–especially Chinese cities–there is a bit of a learning curve. So we’ve put together all the info you need to explore Dalian, public-transit-style.

This post deals with using the Dalian Metro, Dalian’s subway system. There’s another post for using Dalian’s buses.

Taking the Dalian Metro

The Dalian subway system was only opened in 2003, so you can revel in the shiny, new and generally clean stations scattered along all four lines. Because it is so new, some map apps–ahem*Google Maps*ahem–won’t show you this transportation option when trying to get around. (We recommend using Baidu Maps to use while exploring China.)


Like most subway stations in China, you need to go through a security check point before being let onto the platforms. We’ve never encountered problems here so it’s nothing to be concerned about. Just place any bag you’re carrying onto the conveyer belt to be X-rayed, airport style. If you’re carrying any water bottles, you may be asked to take a sip to ensure that it is, in fact, water. Again, no big deal, just sip away and waltz into the station.

Buying Single Tickets

Single subway tickets can be bought at automated machines located in all of the stations, sometimes before the security checkpoint and sometimes after. These machines will show English instructions with a button on the touch screen. Simply choose the line and stop you are travelling to, and input the fare in cash–WeChat and Alipay aren’t accepted. Fares range from 2 to 4 yuan. Most machines take coins and small bills (less than 50 yuan), but occasionally only take one or the other. It will dispense a credit-card sized ticket. Hold onto this ticket for the duration of your journey. You need it to exit the subway!

Buying Refillable Transit Cards

If you’re staying in Dalian for a longer period of time, you may want to get a refillable transit card that can be used on both the subway and buses. You can get one with a refundable deposit of 30 yuan at any Bank of Dalian, or purchase one at the orange machine near the ticketing machines. Unfortunately, this machine does not have English titles, but generally you can use the blue button to purchase a card and the yellow button to refill your card. These machines do take WeChat and Alipay. Use your transit card the same way you would use a single-use ticket.

Dalian metro ticket machine.
Screen for the refillable transit card.

Tip For This Spot: If you encounter any issues trying to purchase tickets or transit cards, or getting onto the platform, there is always a station attendant usually hanging out by the ‘Fare Adjustment’ window near the security checkpoint who can help you out.

Riding the Subway

You will need to pass through the gates to enter the subway platforms by tapping your ticket on the card reader. With a valid ticket, the automated gate should open and you can follow the signs to the platform. Find the subway that is going in your desired direction by looking at the maps and signs located on the walls. There are clear markings on the floor in English indicating where to stand while waiting for the next train. Hang out until it pulls up, wait for passengers to exit the subway car, and make your way on.

If it’s crowded, don’t be afraid to squeeze in close to your neighbours. This is China, after all.

Exiting the Subway

This one is as easy as it seems. Exit the subway car (again, gentle pushing may be necessary), and follow the green arrows on the floor to the nearest escalator up to ground-level. Use your ticket to tap through the gates in the same way that you entered the station. And voila!

Tip For This Spot: Mistakes happen. If you get off of the subway at a different stop than you selected when you bought your ticket, the automated gates won’t open when you try to tap out of the station. No big deal! Just head to the ‘Fare Adjustment’ counter near the security check point and settle up whatever discrepancy there is on the fare you purchased.

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