Use Our Guide to Avoid the Worst and See the Best of Beijing
Being suckered into a tourist trap is always such an awful feeling because you just wasted your precious time, and money, on something that was overpriced and not that enjoyable. And when you’re on vacation, time and money are two things that can be in very short supply. Here are 5 of the biggest tourist traps you’ll want to avoid for a more authentic Beijing holiday.
5. The “Art Student” Scam
China has a booming art scene that celebrates both historic beauty and modern techniques. This makes it a great destination for art enthusiasts, but beware. When you’re in the art district, near historical sites, or at public transport hubs, you may be approached by a young, well-dressed person claiming to be an ‘art student. They will offer to take you to a free art show. Go with them and you may find yourself in an ‘art shop’ overflowing with a wide variety of mass-produced items at high price tags. If some of these items appeal to you, you can find identical pieces at inexpensive street markets. Your best response is to simply say ‘no’ to the ‘art student.’
4. The Counterfeit Chinese Money Scam
If you are planning to rely on taxis to get around Beijing, stay alert for this scam. Here, you may pay your taxi driver with, say, a 100 RMB note. An unscrupulous taxi driver will secretly switch it with counterfeit currency and accuse you of passing him fake money. Your best bet to prevent this is to watch very carefully as you pay. Be aware that the police may not be able to do much when it is your word against the driver’s.
3. The Tea House Scam
Here, an attractive young lady or friendly college student invites their tourist target to a tea house. Once there, you’ll find yourself faced with one expense after another. That cup of tea you thought you bought for a reasonable amount? The price tag was actually for a small ‘taste’ of it, and the entire cup will be very expensive indeed. These places may also tack on numerous other fees. The scam is mostly seen in big cities and your best bet, when approached, is to simply say ‘no, thanks.’
2. The Black Taxi Scam
In Beijing, reputable taxi drivers will use their meter. However you may run across ‘black,’ illegal taxis. These don’t use their meter and instead find every way possible to increase your bill including charging you for ‘dirtying’ their taxis. In the worst cases, these taxi drivers may stop in the middle of nowhere and threaten to abandon you unless you pay them extra. Avoid this scam by sticking with reputable metered taxis. If you’re in the airport or major travel hubs, just follow the signs. Also, make sure that the driver puts down the meter flag.
1. The ‘Too Good To Be True’ Tour Scam
When you get to Beijing, you may be bombarded by touts offering extremely low-priced tours to the Great Wall or other famous sights. Unfortunately, these dirt-cheap excursions come with hidden cost. You may find yourself in an unhygienic bus, taking a tour of all the expensive tourist traps in the area. It may take hours to run the gauntlet before you’re taken to the main attraction.
Overall, Beijing is full of locals who are genuinely happy to accommodate you during your stay. That’s probably why so many visitors keep coming back.
Are you visiting the Forbidden City for the first time? After the Great Wall, the Forbidden City is one of China’s top attractions. Its opulence and mystery makes it a can’t-miss sight in Beijing. Here you’ll find miles of walking tracks and over 900 buildings constructed in the finest Ming Dynasty style. Read our eleven tips before visiting Forbidden City for the first time to get the most out of your trip.
1. Bring Your Passport or Identity Card.
Due to new regulations, the Forbidden City cannot be entered without an ID card. Your passport will do; just present it to be checked when you get your tickets. If you forget your passport you can try something else but that doesn’t always work. Remember to leave lighters and knives at your hotel.
2. Go Early.
The Forbidden City draws large crowds. To avoid being jostled by so many people, start at the South Entrance and get there early. Tickets stop being sold around 15:30.
3. Wear Comfortable Shoes.
You’ll need to do a lot of walking to take in all of the magnificent sights here. Expect to be walking for 2-3 hours, often in direct sun. There’s also little shade and few places to sit. Pack sun protection and comfortable shoes before you go.
4. Don’t Go On Mondays.
The Forbidden City is usually closed every Monday. Exceptions include: Chinese national public holidays and the summer vacation period from July 1st to August 31st.
5. Get Off the Most Popular Path.
Most visitors jostle for position along the same central route that cuts through the heart of the Forbidden City. This is a shame, as these crowds are missing some of the hidden wonders of this palace complex. Uncover lesser-known sights and avoid the crowds by turning left or right once you get in.
6. It’s Super Big–Allow Yourself More Time to Get Around.
The Forbidden City truly is a city within Beijing. This expansive area covers 720,000 square meters. There are miles of footpaths, staircases, and just under a thousand rooms within the complex. Make sure you allot enough time to take it in.
7. Free of Charge For Some Children.
You may be used to signs like ‘children under 10 years enter free,’ but the Forbidden City is a little different. If your child is under 1.2 meters (3’11”) tall, they can come in for free as long as they’re escorted by an adult.
8. Don’t Miss the Northeast Turrets – The Best Photo Spots.
The Forbidden City has countless amazing places to take a picture of, but it’s generally agreed that the Northeast turrets are among the best photo spots. Although you can’t go inside them, the unique architecture here makes for amazing shots.
9. Love History? A Guide Can Enrich Your Experience Here.
The Forbidden City is steeped in over 600 years of history. To get the most out of the experience, consider hiring a guide. He can point out the best sights and share the stories behind them.
10. Get Up to Jingshan Park For Panoramic View.
This park, just north of the Forbidden City, offers fantastic views looking down on the rooftops of the complex. You can go here for shade and peaceful natural surroundings.
11. Take food and drinks with you.
Although there are vendors inside the complex, the prices there are massively expensive. Take plenty to snack on and lots of water if it’s a hot day.
Sit back, Relax and Enjoy the Company of a Hundred Strangers in the Best People-Watching Spots in Beijing.
People watching is about more than just seeing the fantastic and unique styles that Beijing locals and visitors sport. It’s also a fun way to get a taste for the colorful mix of cultures that make China such a wonderfully diverse country.
The best people watching spots let you do more than look. They also offer you opportunities to observe the hustle and bustle of city life, meet others, or simply spend a day enjoying live music and delicious food. Here are eight places where you can watch and experience Beijing’s blend of cultures:
1. Sanlitun Bar Street
Are you looking for an exciting mix of daytime shopping and vibrant nightlife? Look no farther than Sanlitun Bar Street. This cosmopolitan road is a favorite for both locals and travelers. Bring plenty of money because the shopping here is top notch, with the most high-end options to the north.
2. Wangfujing Street
This street is great for people looking for souvenirs, as well as anyone who misses the flavors of their home country. It has both chain restaurants including KFC and Starbucks and a vibrant street food scene. The vendors here offer everything from tasty fried egg rolls to, for the adventurous, scorpions on a stick. It’s a nice place for shopping and people watch.
3. Houhai Lake Bar Street
For a change of pace, head over to Shichahai Lake. This is a beautiful place for an afternoon of people watching, strolling past the many restaurants dotting the area, or cooling off with a tranquil boat ride on the lake itself. If you can, try to visit at night when the neon signs reflect off the water creating a colorful wonderland.
4. Nanluoguxiang (Hutong area)
This area may be close to the traditional Forbidden City, but Nanluoguxiang has a very youthful and modern energy. You can spend all day people watching to see how the trendy, younger generation expresses themselves. Duck into the hutongs (alleyways) in this area and you will find a mix of 800-year-old architecture and modern construction from when Nanluoguxiang was refurbished for the 2008 Olympics.
5. Jingshan Park
Jingshan Park is where locals go to relax. In this 23 hectare park next to the Forbidden City, you’ll find people of many cultures coming together to build a community around common interests like kung fu, tai chi, dancing, and playing chess. You can watch people, enjoy singing opera and stick fighting, or try your hand at some of the games.
6. Qian Men Shopping Area
This famous pedestrian street is perfect for a relaxed stroll. You can people watch while appreciating its 600 year history. The hostels and budget-friendly eateries in the area attract crowds of students and backpackers who love to linger at the pleasant outdoor tables and benches. If you’re looking to have a conversation or make a friend, this is a great place to start.
7. 798 Art District
Beijing has a vibrant art scene where the new generation pushes the boundaries of the imagination with creative paintings, scupltures, and more. You can watch people and take in the art at the cluster of galleries in this art district. Don’t miss the outdoor exhibits that showcase some of China’s best modern art.
8. Temple of Heaven Park
The Temple of Heaven is a vast park for both locals and tourists. It is located about six kilometers southeastern of the Forbidden City. It is a great place to watch people. You’ll find crowds of Beijingers taking shelter in the awnings, practice their Tai Chi moves, old folks dancing, and holding impromptu singing sessions. The park is vast, and you should be prepared for a long walk.
Take a Look at Some of the Most Beautiful Mosques That Are Worth Visiting When Traveling in Beijing
Beijing, the glittering capitol city of China, has been a center for many Asian cultures and beliefs for thousands of years. While visiting this amazing destination, why not experience some of Beijing’s lesser known cultural attractions? From historical artifacts to unique architecture to sprawling gardens, the eight mosques on this list each have their own character and charm. Many tourists will visit the Great Wall and the Forbidden City but, by venturing off the beaten path, you can have an exciting adventure and experience a side of Beijing that few will see.
1. Niujie Mosque
Niujie Mosque is renowned for being the largest such building in all of Beijing. The mosque and grounds cover an area of nearly 10,000 square meters, so there’s a lot to see here. It features a fabulously colorful interior that offers visitors a unique blend of traditional Chinese and Islamic decor.
2. Dongsi Mosque
Dongsi Mosque has been renovated many times over its 650 year history, which allows you to glimpse both older and more modern styles of Chinese Islamic decorations. Many of its features reflect the mosque’s Ming Dynasty roots. Inside the building, you can view some rare cultural relics including a hand-written copy of the Quran from the Yuan Dynasty.
3. Madian Mosque
The beauty of this gleaming white and green-accented mosque can be seen from far away, drawing visitors closer. Here, you will find a traditional courtyard and vibrant Chinese-influenced accents including magnificent green-tinged windows. You can linger in the shade of the tree-filled courtyard to enjoy the view.
4. Nan Douya Mosque
This sleek, austere mosque features a beautifully precise attention to every detail of its construction. The Nan Douya Mosque is free for foreigners and visitors, making it a welcoming, peaceful respite for travelers who have had a very busy day.
5. Jinshifang Street Mosque
The Jinshifang Street Mosque, also known as the Pushou Mosque, is located in the Xicheng District of Beijing. It glitters in the bright sunlight with an amazing display of gold, blue, green, and white. The main prayer area covers 600 square feet and is a prime example of the classical Chinese architecture of the Ming Dynasty.
6. Changying Mosque
Visitors and worshipers alike find their spirits soothed by the cool blue interior of this mosque. The Changying Mosque and grounds cover a massive 8,500 square meters. This attraction has an airy, welcoming courtyard overflowing with blossoms and ancient trees.
7. Dongzhimen Wai Mosque
This Mosque is one of the most active among Islamic Chinese, giving visitors ample opportunities to see the authentic culture here. It was originally built in the Yuan Dynasty, and then rebuilt in the late Qing Dynasty. One interesting fact about this mosque is that it was moved to its current location in Dongzhimen.
8. Huashi Mosque
If you love Beijing’s flower gardens and forests, you will want to visit the Huashi Mosque. This appealing structure’s colorful exterior of red and green hides an even more vividly colored interior courtyard. The spacious grounds cover 2,000 square meters, offering plenty to see. Its massive prayer hall features numerous editions of the Quran and a stone tablet of Emperor Yongzheng.
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.
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 tour or driver 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.