Friend Or Fussy Foe? The Auto Ticket Machines

Beginning June 9, you'll also be able to get your Subway tickets from -- that's right -- non-humans. This human-made "thing" called an "auto ticket machine" (the name sounds automatic enough, to start with) will add to the clutter in the average Subway station, but also, miraculously enough, cut crowds in front of the ticket counters.

We'll tackle the whole ticket machines in two blows: single journey tickets and Super Passes.

Good For Your Next Ride: Getting Your Single Journey Ticket

The most significant benling, or feature, of just about every single one of these auto ticket machines, is to supply you with a ticket to get into the underground maze. If they can't do that -- they can't serve you. (You'll have to be served by those "real" humans instead.)

Every station has at the very least two auto ticket machines. We've seen stations with up to fifteen such machines, which -- in fact -- is a normal scene in a People's Republic.

So here's how you go about getting your Single Journey Ticket:

1. Find yourself a machine that works.

Thankfully, the top of every machine has a display which either reads "IN SERVICE", "MAINTENANCE" or "OUT OF SERVICE". (If they read anything else, they've -- a -- problem.)

2. Pick the number of tickets you want.

You can buy up to ten tickets in one blow. Note that the tickets you buy from the machine must be validated at this very station. You can't do it any other way.

3. Feed the thing with your income.

The difference between choosing your ticket and actually getting it is that you have to lose a bit of your pocketbook to travel in the subterranean railway world. In other words, this is the point where you pay.

The machine accepts CNY 1 coins (only), as well as CNY 5 and CNY 10 banknotes. The banknotes need to be nearly new, and they can't contain any wrinkles or be folded up to the extent that they appear mutilated. And nope, we're thinking that the banknote you ripped into halves and then sellotaped together -- probably won't make it alive into the machine. If the dog ate it, the machine won't eat it. Neat and easy.

If you're caught using counterfeit money, the police gets informed. This thing has teeth.

4. Confirm.

You have to tell the machine that you're absolutely positive you want to donate your money on the Subway system in exchange for a Mozart Line ride before the thing lets you in with a Single Journey Ticket. If the idea of a Wall's ice cream attack hits you -- and you want to delay your journey -- this is where you can back out. Click Cancel and you get your money back -- no harm done.

5. Grab the ticket (and the change).

This has got to be the most surreal thing you've ever seen the machine do. Out comes your ticket (in the form of a super-slim card that puts the MacBook Air to shame) and any change. The most surreal bit is if you've just chosen one ticket but chose to spend CNY 10 for it (in the form of a CNY 10 banknote). No less than eight CNY 1 coins will bang out of the machine -- and yes, we can just visualize your facial expression at that.

So what if all you wanted to do was to top up your Super Pass? We hear you.

Top Me Up: Adding Value To Your Beijing Super Pass

If you, like me, get around by the Subway more than you think you'll ever do, it's probably best to pick up a Beijing Super Pass (aka a "Yikatong card"). The thing is yours for CNY 40 (including an initial value of CNY 20), and you can get this at just about any Subway station in the city.

Now that you have a Super Pass (and some money to top up on), it's time to put that machine to use -- to charge up your card!

1. Find yourself a machine that can do recharges.

Life sure is hell if you're on Line 1 (from approximately Yuquanlu through to Fuxingmen and again at Jianguomen) or Line 2 (the whole line). There, not a single machine can pull off the stunt. Get a real human to pull off the stunt instead.

Life sure is heaven, on the other hand, if you're on Lines 5, 8 or 10, or the Airport Express. There, all machines double as both ticket vendors and Super Pass top-up machines.

2. If you're travelling on Lines 5, 8, 10 or the Airport Express, tap "Recharge".

Remember, these machines must be reminded of your intentions!

3. Insert the Super Pass.

If the card is properly inserted, your card will either be fully inserted (on machines on Lines 1, 13 or Batong) or appear in "cradle position" (aw, how cute!) (on Line 5 machines). You are now ready to rock.

4. Insert your money.

This is where life gets tough. You can only top up in increments of CNY 50. Your maximum top up is CNY 500 per go, and the most stored value you can get with a card is CNY 1,000.

Only CNY 50 and CNY 100 banknotes are accepted. If you use fake money -- hey, you might get arrested. These machines have teeth.

5. Convince the machine you need to be recharged. (Tap "Recharge.")

See, it's a machine -- so it needs to be sure you want to add value to your Super Pass. Of course you want to do that. Tap Recharge.

Unless you suddenly change your mind and think you want to spend that CNY 100 on -- we don't know, gas for your car? (We can only guess.) In that case, tap Cancel.

6. If you want, grab a receipt.

This step is required if you want an official fapiao. No receipt = no official fapiao.

If you're just as happy without a receipt, tap No, and get ready to grab your card.

7. Remove your card and be on your way.

See, that wasn't so hard, right?

Final Instalment: The Writing On The Wall