The capital city with a twist.
Beijing is a shock to the system for anyone visiting China for the first time. The city is bustling with people, bicycles, motorbikes and cars. There are street vendors on every corner selling delicious food and the smells of the city are intoxicating.
N.B: Before visiting Beijing, it is important to research the various scams that regularly occur around the city. I will list the most common further down the post, but please do your research.
Things to see and do:
The Great Wall
The Forbidden City
Yonghe Lama Temple
The Temple of Heaven
The Summer Palace
Wanfujing Food Market
Walk around the side streets and alleys
Things to eat and drink:
Various street foods
Most things on a stick
Beijing is incredibly busy. In fact ‘busy’ is an understatement, there are people everywhere. If you want to see places around the city you will need to make sure that you’re up early to avoid the queues. In general, an 8am start is recommended and you should already be out the door by this time. I visited Beijing during the ‘off’ season in winter and even then, it was pretty hectic. I can only imagine what peak season in summer is like.
The two most popular things to do in Beijing are The Great Wall and The Forbidden City.
The Great Wall:
There are a few ways to visit The Great Wall, one of which is to book a tour through your hotel or hostel. The general price is roughly between 160RMB to 300RMB, which generally includes your transport there and back, a lunch and the entire experience being hassle free. The downside to this option is that the tours will give you a time limit at the wall.
It is advised that you avoid the cheaper online tours as there is always a catch. Like anything, if it sounds too good to be true, it generally is. These cheaper tours are notorious for stopping at various shops along the way, forcing you to spend more money whilst they get commission.
Another way to get to the wall is to do it yourself. However, this may not always be cheaper if you are alone, it can also be quite stressful depending on which part of the wall you want to visit. I was lucky enough to meet a Canadian who had a friend studying Mandarin in Beijing and had found a tried a tested route to the Mutianyu part of the wall.
Getting to the Mutianyu part of The Great Wall yourself:
Get a metro to Dongzhimen station
Take bus 916 to the stop called Huai Rou Bei Da Jie
Hail a legitimate taxi (licence plate starts with a ‘B’ and there is a taxi sign on the car) cost 50 RMB
Get the taxi cabs number so that you can call them up or get the ticket office at the wall to call them up for the return journey.
- There will be many “black taxi” people who will jump on to the bus and try to persuade you to get into their car for an astronomical fee. Just say no. It will happen many times, just be firm and don’t let them persuade you.
- When you get off the bus, make sure you hail a legitimate cab. “Black taxi’s” will be everywhere trying to scam you.
- Although the Mutianyu part of the wall was spectacular EducatingKavita does not recommend travelling to this part alone as it will actually work out more expensive than a tour. But if you are in a group it is definitely a cheaper way to go. There are also other parts of the wall that are easier to get to but these may be more crowded.
- EducatingKavita visited The Great Wall during February when tourism is relatively low and the weather is slightly harsher. But the snow definitely makes the wall look quite magnificent.
The Forbidden City:
The Forbidden City is a fantastic place to visit. You will initially go through security before entering Tiananmen Square and then continue to enter the Forbidden city. The traditional architecture within the city is simply stunning as you walk through “old” china. It is recommended that you give yourself a couple of hours in the city. It is also a good idea to head up to Jingshan Park for a further 2 RMB to get a spectacular view of the entire city (on a clear day)
Scams around Beijing:
As a rule, it is rare to find a Chinese native who can speak English fluently, so if they are able to converse with you in English, are overly friendly and are going out of their way to speak to you, it’s unfortunately (more often than not) a scam.
- The tea house scam: fluent English speaking Chinese people befriending you and taking you out to a tea house where you end up footing an incredibly high bill and your new friend is nowhere to be seen. This scenario almost always ends with a group of incredibly scary looking Chinese men threatening you if you don’t pay up.
- Black taxi’s: People pretending to be helpful taxi drivers but severely overcharging you and then dropping you off in remote places.
- Fake currency: People changing your legitimate notes to fake notes and then telling you that the note you gave them is fake whilst pocketing your real note.
- Card scams: Charging you in US $ instead of RMB on your card. Just pay in cash.
My favourite part of Beijing was meeting some of the most awesome people at my hostel. In all honesty, if it wasn’t for them I would have walked away from Beijing feeling slightly deflated, but their great sense of humour, stories, generosity and friendship made me sad to leave.
To the “Idiot abroad” with the gimbal, the lady who cycled from England to China (can you imagine!?!- Interview to come), my “getting stared at” dumpling partner, and the friendly Canadians who invited me along on their adventures, you all made my trip to Beijing incredibly memorable and I am truly grateful.