These directions with photos were compiled by Amy, who was recently in Guangzhou. You can read more detailed directions (but without pictures) on how to take the subway from the China Hotel to Shamian Island in this post by Elizabeth at Ordinary Time. Yvette at Bringing Home Holland has a post on how to get to the Safari Park from the China Hotel which includes pictures, but is from 2011.
So from the Garden, you walk out the front door and to the right and will find a station almost directly in front of the hotel. Take the escalator down. The China Hotel also has a subway station adjacent, next to the 7-11.
Once you are in, you will come to a bank of ticket machines (look similar to an atm). There is a green button on the bottom right of the screen to change to English, if you wish.
You choose, from the bottom, the line you wish to get off at. Then you touch the station you wish to get off (ex. We got off on Beijing Lu to walk to the Pearl River cruise).
If you have more than one person in your party, then touch the number at the right to get tickets for all (if you have a really large group you may have to make multiple transactions).
Then simply deposit your money. It does not take 1 yuan bills, only 1 yuan coins and larger bills (think small bills). For us to go to the cruise was 3 yuan each, one way. Shamian island was 4 yuan each one way.
Once your money is deposited, green coins are dispensed (like a vending machine). Collect your coins and go to the set of “gates” You simply touch your coin to a little pad thing (watch the locals), the gate opens, and you walk through.
Follow the signs to your train. Once you’ve reached the train platform, look and see which one you need. There are large signs that list each stop along the route. Find the train going your direction and wait in line.
For most destinations, you will change trains. Simply follow the signs and choose the correct train once at the platform.
Once on the trains there is a map of stops, as well as, a flashing sign that lets you know the next stop of the train.
When you reach your destination, follow the signs to exit. Just before you go through the “gates” again, look for the large sign to tell you whether you need exit a, b, c, etc.
When you exit, you will deposit your green coin and leave. When you start your journey back, you will do it all over again.
Google maps is your friend. It will show you the stop where you need to exit. Take a screen shot and you can always ask locals to help once you emerge from the subway. Ask at your hotel concierge desk for a subway map. You can also find a metro map online here, along with detailed information about the various lines. Have fun and enjoy.