What You Should Know Before Going to Beijing

Beijing is one of the most visited cities in the world.  The city is a fusion of contemporary China, evident by its amazing skyscrapers and traditional China, with well-preserved hutongs (Traditional Chinese street) and historic sites.  Seeing the Great Wall of China has always been an ultimate dream and we were glad to have finally seen it.  It was an amazing experience and we thought it would be best to share with you the things you should know before you go to Beijing.

What You Should Know Before Going to Beijing

Going to one unfamiliar place is exciting and not knowing what to expect adds thrill to the excitement.  But, sometimes, planning can help your trip be as hassle-free as it can be.  This is especially true if you are going on a short visit or on a tight budget.  We came prepared as far as we know, but there were still unforeseen things we didn’t expect.  We are glad to share with you the things you ought to know before going.

Visa

Most countries do require to obtain a visa to go to China.  For Filipinos, visa is required before entering as Visa on Arrival is not applicable.  For many countries, a 72-hour or 144-hour visa-free transit can be obtained when entering Beijing.  This China’s visa policy has made the life of travellers from participating countries easy.

To check whether you are eligible for this policy and for conditions, you can visit this site:  China Visa Policy.

If you are not eligible for Visa on Arrival, obtain your visa from your home country.  Even if you are in Macau or Hong Kong, getting a China visa is not possible.

READ:  Three-Day Beijing Itinerary

Airport

To say that Beijing Airport is big is an understatement.  The airport is big that if you have a connecting flight, you must make sure that you have ample time.  Expect a queue on immigration and to prevent any delays make sure that you sign the Custom Declaration Form or Entry Form before facing the Immigration officer.

Getting to the city is not a struggle from the airport as train (subway) is readily available.  Public buses and taxis are available, too.  

Please do note that taking the Airport express is very convenient, but if you have lots of luggage and you need to transfer trains, prepare to carry all those.  Except for the Airport Station, all other stations have limited to no access to elevators or escalators.  Having 2 or more heavy luggage when going to the city centre by train can be a struggle.  

You can hire a van to bring you to your hotel if you have many luggage and enjoy the public transport during your stay.

Currency

The official currency of China is RMB or Renminbi.  One USD is roughly around 6.25RMB.  Make sure to exchange currency on your home country for better rate.  If you cannot exchange, then find money changer around the city and not at the airport.

Where to Stay?

Staying in the city near any Metro stations is the ideal choice of stay.  Hotels are quite pricey compare to some other hotels in Asia but still not as expensive as hotels in Western countries.  If you could find hotels along the street of Wangfujing, Dengshikou, Dongdan, and Tian’anmen, then you’ll be near to most of the tourist attractions in the city.

Staying along and near Wangfujing will get you near shopping centres, restaurants (local and foreign), Metro and bus lines, and the famous food street.  Make sure you check the location before making your hotel booking.

We stayed at one of the hotels along Dengshikou St which was 5-min walk to Dengshikou St and 10-min away from Wangfujing Street.  It was a very accessible location to anywhere you would want to go.

Public Transportation

Beijing has a very efficient Metro System and can bring you to anywhere you want to go.  Buses are also available but it gets too crowded especially during peak hours.  Try to utilise Beijing subway during your trip or for some tourist attractions, go walking.

Wangfujing Street, Tian’anmen Square, Forbidden City and Jinshang Park are literally within walking distance.  Except for summer, walking along Beijing streets and the Hutongs is a good way to spend a day.

Here’s a sample of Beijing Subway Map:

Great Wall of China

Almost if not all, who’s going to Beijing has the Great Wall of China on the top of the list of places to go when visiting Beijing.  It richly deserved to be the priority because after all, it is one of the original 7 Ancient Wonders of the World.  

Planning to go to Great Wall of China doesn’t end with saying you want to go.  The Great Wall is one long wall that is reaching beyond Beijing and it is divided into sections.  If you are on a short visit, choosing which section to hike is something you should consider.  There are many sections near Beijing that is reachable by public transportation but some are easier to reach than the others.

Badaling Section, Mutianyu, Jinshanling, and Simatai are just four of the most popular and most accessible sections of Great Wall.  Badaling is the nearest one from Beijing and it is fully restored.  Since it is the nearest section, it is also the most crowded part of the wall.  If you want a lesser crowd but is as easily accessible from Beijing as Badaling, then, Mutianyu is the perfect choice for you.

Mutianyu Section is almost fully restored too but it gets fewer crowds than Badaling.  The views in Mutianyu is beyond amazing and the hike isn’t strenuous but enjoyable.


READ:  Mutianyu Section of the Great Wall of China
If you want a more authentic feel of the wall, Jinshanling and Simatai are the sections you should go to.  They are farther from Beijing than the first two but still accessible by public transportation.
No matter which section you’ll choose to hike, one thing is guaranteed, you’ll have a great time.  It is one of the landmarks in the world that one should see at least once in your life.  It is a humbling and rewarding experience.
 
Tian’anmen Square and Forbidden City
 
Next to Great Wall of China, Tian’anmen Square and Forbidden City are the two next most popular tourist spots.  These two tourist attractions are important to Chinese history.  Tian’anmen Square is the home of the tomb of their former leader, Mao Zedong and also the place of the infamous Tian’anmen Massacre.  
With its popularity, you’ll get overwhelmed by lots of tourists.  When I say lots of tourists, I mean lots. 

Here’s an actual scenario of what you’ll expect when you go here:

After exiting the Metro or after getting off the bus, you’ll have to pass through the security check first.  This is the most annoying but maybe necessary part.  You’ll have to queue and if you are lucky, you’ll queue for just under one hour.  If you come during peak hours or weekend, then it’s probably longer than that.


After the security check, you’ll enter Tian’anmen Square.  Another queue awaits if you decide to pay respect to Mao Zedong’s tomb.  After exploring the square, enter the Forbidden Palace.  You’ll have to pay for the entrance of RMB40.  It’s going to be a long walk.  You’ll have to finish the Forbidden Palace to get to the other side.  
Once you’ve exited, cross the street to Jinshang Park and you’ll get the amazing view of the palaces.  The view alone is worth the RMB2 entrance fee.
Please note that getting a taxi or bus is hard from the exit of Forbidden City.  You can queue and wait for the bus but it’ll take forever.  From here, walk to Wangfujing Street which is 20-min away and explore the place or get back to your hotel from there.
If these spots are not important to Chinese, skipping it is a sane decision.  But, with its importance, the hassle of being with a horde of tourists seems worth it.


Important Things to Know
 
Bring a face mask because there is a big chance the air pollution is bad.
Traffic is horrible in some areas and during peak hours.
Cross the street carefully as cars are from everywhere.
They speak English, but to be safe, ask someone to write the address or anything you need in Chinese.
Make use of the subway to get to and from popular places.
If you are atleast four in a group, hire a van to bring you and pick your group to and from the Great Wall of China.
Beware of scams.
Do not forget to visit atleast one hutong for a quintessential Beijing experience.
Try one exotic food.
Enjoy every moment of the tour.
Pin this for later!