Walking the Great Wall of China is a once in a lifetime experience
What do you need to know before you visit the Great Wall? Well… a lot! Before you set out on your fantasy trip, read this quick and handy guide to make sure you have the best Great Wall trip! And keep these 14 tips in mind to make your Great Wall tour easier when you get there!
1. Visit The Great Wall On A Weekday To Avoid Crowds
On the weekends, tourists and locals alike understandably flood to the Great Wall for a retreat so try to go on a weekday in order to have the Wall as uncrowded as possible. Also, avoid traveling during any of Chinese public holidays if at all possible, especially Labor Day (May 1), National Day (October 1) and Chinese New Years (January or February).
2. Your Passport Isn’t Necessary To Enter The Great Wall
It isn’t necessary to show your passport when buying tickets to visit the Great Wall. Normally as a tourist, you are not checked in the tourist attractions in the city. One of the exceptions to this is if you’re planning to visit the Forbidden City, then it will require you to present passport before issuing a ticket.
There are other attractions also require visitors to show passports for entry. Some of these include the Military Museum, the Capitol Museum, the National Museum, the Great Hall of the People, and the Mao mausoleum. A word to the wise: it is best to carry your passport with you in the city just in case you’re asked for it. But for the sole purpose of visiting the Great Wall it is not necessary.
3. Three Ways To Travel To The Great Wall: By Train, By Bus, Or Pre-book A Car.
A number of trains are available for going to Badaling daily from Beijing Huangtudian Railway Station. It takes approx. 1.5 hours to travel to Badaling by train.
Bus number 877 and 978 also go to Badaling, and they’ll get you there less than 2 hours. Take exit A from Jishuitan subway station, Deshengmen Arrow Tower will be on your left. Both buses (877 or 879 leave exactly behind the tower.
To get to Mutianyu, you can take bus line 916 Express from Dongzhimen Bus Station, get off at Huairou North Avenue (Huairou Beidajie) Station. There, transfer to bus line h23, h24, h35, or h36 to Mutianyu Roundabout. Finally, walk about 500 meters to the ticket office of the scenic area.
It’s very easy to pre-book a car and driver to take you to the Wall. Usually, it takes about 1.5 hour to reach Badaling or Mutianyu from downtown. This is a hassle-free and convenient way to see the Wall without crowds. The one challenge is that drivers speak few English, so make sure that you and the driver both understand the pickup time and the place before you leave.
4. Public Transportation Is More Difficult Than You Might Think
Public transport is a nice choice for budget travelers. Going this way would add to the sense of adventure (subway plus bus). If it works out for them it can be, but the reality is that it’s much more difficult than you might think. You need to change stations and find bus stops, go over read the signs, take a couple of minutes to digest where you are. Usually getting a private driver or tour is far easier.
5. It’s Worth Getting There Early- Just Be Prepared To Walk
Leave your hotel at around 7:30am, and you will get to the Wall by 9am. This is the prime time to get a serene feel for the site. By 10am, Badaling will be crowded you can hardly walk through some places. Getting to Mutianyu early in the morning you will enjoy the best walk, with the perfect opportunity to ride cable car or chairlift for the shortest trip up the wall.
6. Badaling Is Very Crowded
Because this is one of the most popular tourist areas about 3/4 of all visitors to the Wall are here. You might consider Mutianyu or Jinshanling. Mutianyu is much quieter and easier to walk in than Badaling. You’re likely to find these areas to be more relaxing and have fewer tourists.
7. Some Parts Of The Wall Are Very Steep.
There are parts of the wall that are nearly vertical. It’s important to plan your trip to the wall and to understand how able and willing you are to hike. The easiest area to walk is Mutianyu because it is fully restored. However, the area between tower 19 and 20 of Mutianyu is really steep, and has approx. 450 steps. If you find climbing vertical steps exciting, you will enjoy this part of the wall.
8. Wear Comfortable Shoes
Most important is a good pair of hiking boots or walking shoes. Tennis shoes are an option and can be worn for walking the Great Wall; however, they may not be your most effective and safe choice due to the vertical steps, rugged terrain or broken towers on the Wall.
9. Hiking The Great Wall Is Not Tough
Hiking Jinshanling or Jiankou to Mutianyu is not tough. The difficulty of the hike is moderate, with some elevation changes. This hike is suitable for all age groups with average fitness. Children under ten to senior citizens, have successfully hiked from Jinshanling or Jiankou towards Mutianyu.
Jinshanling remains wild, ruined, and preserved—offering a moderate-challenging hike. Jiankou is much more wild and isolated compared with Jinshanling. You need to be comfortable with walking for 3 -5 hours on the Wall, depending on your level of fitness.
10. Not A Hiker? No Problem, You Can Visit Mutianyu Instead
Mutianyu is good alternative for Badaling. Mutianyu attracts visitors because it has the convenient facilities including cable car, chairlift and toboggan. With the easier walking conditions and fewer crowds, Mutianyu is much more enjoyable to walk in than Badaling.
11. Many Options For Day-Trip
From private car trips to group bus tours, guided hiking tours and self-guided hikes, there are many day-trip options to choose from, depending on your interests, the amount of time at your disposal, , budget, and preferred mode of transport.
Booking a car is easy and convenient but a little bit more expensive than bus, which is thrifty but a bit more complicated.
12. Expect Long Travel Times To The Great Wall
Be prepared for lots of long hours spent in transportation, due to possible traffic in the city.
13. There Are No Restrooms Beyond The Main Entrance
You’ll find restrooms just outside the gate before you get on the Wall. Be sure to use before you enter or wait until you’re on your way out.
14. Simatai Is The Good Option To Enjoy Night View
At night Simatai is well lit and the view is breathtaking. You can enjoy the walk from tower 1 to tower 10 and return. This walk takes approximately 2 to 3 hours. There are lots of photo opportunities along the path.