Urumqi BRT & K Buses: How to Navigate Urumqi Traffic

January 28 | 9 Comments

Urumqi BRT

Ever since the Urumqi BRT opened in 2011, I’ve been incredibly curious to find out how it would improve the terrible traffic in Xinjiang’s capital.

Now that I call Urumqi, Xinjiang my home I’ve had a chance to try it out first hand and I must say that it’s a vast improvement over the congestion that normally plagues the roads here.

For those that will be traveling here to Xinjiang or even those that are planning to move here, it’s not a bad idea to get acquainted with the the BRT system before you arrive. If I were you, I would even attempt to stay as close to a BRT stop as possible to make things convenient.

How the BRT System Works

BRT, which stands for “Bus Rapid Transit“, is actually a system that has been implemented all across China as a means to speed up bus transportation by separating it from the rest of traffic.

Have you seen the Urumqi City Guide?

Most of the time (not all the time) the BRT buses have their own lanes blocked off by fences to keep other cars out. Practically speaking, this means I can usually get from my stop near the Children’s Park (儿童园) across town to the International Bazaar (二道桥) in about 30 minutes, something that wouldn’t be possible with traditional buses.

Essentially the BRT acts like an above-ground subway. You wait in a designated area for the bus to arrive and then glass doors open to allow passengers to leave and enter.

How to Use the Urumqi BRT

Map of the Urumqi BRT 1 and 3 lines The Urumqi BRT has four different lines – 1,2,3 and 5 (why they skipped four, I have no earthly idea). The problem with the BRT, something that I’ve found is confusing even for the locals, is that even the same number can take a different route.

Take the 3, for instance, which I’m most familiar with. I once took the bus expecting to arrive back at home only to find us veering off north to some place I’d never been. I now always look at the sign on the bus that says not only “3” but also the start and end points.

The BRT is a simple 1元 to use, which can be paid either in cash or with a convenient pre-paid bus card that you can purchase at certain stops. Because the system is set up similar to a subway, the nice thing is that often you can exit one bus and immediately take another without paying a second fee.

Important Note: like every other form of transportation in China, if you plan on using the BRT it’s best to avoid getting on between 6-8pm Beijing time. More than likely you’ll find yourself uncomfortably crammed in and unable to exit at your stop.

Here are a few things worth noting about specific BRT lines:

  • BRT Line 1: runs from near the Urumqi Diwopu airport all the way to the Urumqi train station
  • BRT Line 2: great connection between YouHao 友好 (upscale hotels & shopping) to BeiMen 北门
  • BRT Line 3: the only line that always goes through the Uyghur part of town, including the International Bazaar and the south bus station
  • BRT Line 5: cuts east-west through the city – not useful for most tourist

NEW! The Urumqi K Bus

Urumqi-K-Bus As of January 17, 2014 two new bus lines have been opened: the Urumqi K001 and the Urumqi K002.

Why does this matter?

This is the fastest way to get between the airport and the train station. Each bus only has about 7 stops the entire way and both avoid high traffic areas that cause delays.

Note: The airport stop is actually at Huang Shan Jie 黄山街 which is a bit south of the airport but still convenient.

These buses are new and incredibly comfortable but cost 5元 instead of 1元. Still, not a bad price if you need to get from the airport to the bus station quickly, something that would normally cost you about 30-40元 in a taxi.

Routes for the new Urumqi K001 and K002 lines

About Josh Summers

Josh is the author of Xinjiang | A Traveler's Guide to Far West China, the most highly-reviewed and comprehensive travel guide on China's western region of Xinjiang. He lived, studied and run a business in Xinjiang, China for more than 10 years, earning recognition for his work from CCTV, BBC, Lonely Planet and many others.

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Leave a Comment

  1. Superstition is why they skipped having a line 4! 四 is similar to 死, so best not to have a bus line that could almost be a homonym for death. Same reason that a lot of hospitals in China don’t label any floor as the fourth.

    [Reply]

    EMA on January 29th, 2014 at 10:39 am

    Meant *homophone*

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    Josh on January 31st, 2014 at 9:41 pm

    Hmm…that makes perfect sense in a weird Chinese way. Interesting that in all the plans I’ve seen for the upcoming subway, though, they all have a “Line 4” in it. Wonder why they omit it for buses but not subways?

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  2. Hi Josh, In case you haven’t found out why there is no BRT 4, the number 4 has the same pronunciation as a certain other word which is fatal.
    Just seen the blog and I will ask my ss why line 4 in the subway but brt. Let you know

    [Reply]

    Josh Summers on July 15th, 2015 at 9:17 pm

    Ha! Yea, that makes sense. They’ve also skipped a “BRT-6”, opting instead for a “BRT-7″…strange.

    Thanks for the comment, Colin!

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  3. I am a international student in 一卡大学。BRT3 is our main transit routes. I need to go Grand bazaar by BRT3. Whats the name of that stop to reach near Grand Bazaar?

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    Josh Summers on February 13th, 2017 at 3:41 pm

    Hi Ajish, usually the stop would have been the “Grand Bazaar” stop, but thanks to the current subway construction (2017), the BRT3 has been rerouted. I would get the “Yan An Lu” stop for now and then walk back toward the Grand Bazaar.

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  4. Dear Josh,
    I am coming to Urumqi for business , but have half a day ( say from 2 PM onward) free.what place would you recommend shopping and knowing the culture and photography ? shopping is the last in priority.

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    Josh Summers on December 20th, 2017 at 9:24 pm

    Hi Valmik, I would recommend wandering the streets surrounding the Grand Bazaar. The bazaar itself is a bit touristy, but the streets around there offer great food and fun culture. Also, don’t forget to grab a copy of the FarWestChina Urumqi City Guide before you go. It’s really cheap and could provide some other ideas for you!

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