Group / Bus Tour vs. Private Tour: Which is Better?

I like hiking in a small groups rather than large ones, although I’m also out a lot only with my wife. The problem with large groups is the pace they move at. For example, Mutianyu Great Wall opens at 8:30am. Tour groups arrive at around 10:30am when the attraction is at the busiest time. Independant tourists may get to Mutianyu on opening when it is quiet.

Although major attractions in Beijing have group tours window where they could buy group tickets a bit faster (group tours have a different line to get into attractions as well), you will have to stick with group timings. Group tourists are still at Mutianyu when it’s heaving while Independant tourists leave Mutianyu before lunch and have the rest of the day in Beijng. Although large groups can be good fun, in my opinion 10 is the ideal maximum for large groups.

With a smallish group, there’s more group bonding and people support each other, more personal attention and interaction with each other. Tour leaders can manage difficult sections more easily. Small groups has less visual intrusion into the environment, more interaction with local community and other tourists.

With a private guide, chances are your guide will be very knowledgable and you can time your visits to your interests, have all your questions asked and hopefully answered. You can spot a special sight or stop somewhere just for amoment of tranquility away from the crowds. Your guide can give you a lot of help with eating, getting around and shopping. Beijing traffic can be horrendous at rush hours, so plan your transit times effectively.

Bus tour might save a bit of money but they do so at the expense of rushing you from place to place, regardless of your individual interests. It can take quite awhile for them to do all the pick-ups (and drop-offs at the end) as the bus will stop at different hotels/hostels before leaving the city. Small group tour take you where you want to go, when you can go which won’t cost you too much (rather than share a tour guide with 20 others on the bus).

Semi-Independent travellers always have a handy guide book and have a bit of a sense of adventure. All in all, on the balance, I prefer small group tours or private tour to bus tour if I am not concerned about the difference in price when hiking Jiankou, Jinshanling,Simatai etc

Related Tours: Gubeikou to Jinshanling Hike
                          Jinshanling Simatai West Hike 
Related Link:   Simatai Reopen
Your turn

Do you have a question? What do you think about it? If you’ve enjoyed this article, I’d ask that you share it with a friend or consider leaving a comment below. As always, your thoughts and opinions matter, so feel free to leave them below. We’d love to hear from you!


Travel tips: how to get to Huanghuacheng Great Wall

Huanghuacheng Great Wall is picturesque, much quieter, much less developed and less known than other sections in Beijing. It is one of the best sections to explore. The ancient Wall is about 10.8 km (6.7 miles) long and combine with a summer resort, mountains and lakes. You could easily spend a whole day here.

Getting to huanghuacheng is a little difficult as there is no direct bus that goes here from Beijing, but still this is the place for you if you like beautiful scenery, mountains, lakes and peacefulness of it.

Looking for a cheap, reliable car hire service? Check out our Great Wall car rental service page; Car hire to Great Wall from Beijing.

 

By Bus

How to get to Huanghuacheng Great Wall by bus? Catch 916 Express bus at the Dongzhimen bus transfer depot in Beijing stop and get off at Nanhuayuansanqu. 916 Express is at North Bus Platform of Dongzhimen bus transfer. It takes a little more than an hour from Dongzhimen to Huairou and it costs 4.4RMB by using Beijing IC Card/ commuter pass. From Nanhuayuansanqu bus stop go forward about 100 meters (110 yards) you will see the traffic light then cross the street and turn right to get to Huairou Dishui bus stop.

The bus stop is in front of the pubic toilet (white building) which is next to Huairou Local Tax Bureau Building. Then take the local bus that runs between Huairou and Shui changcheng (Water Great Wall). The local bus with the sign written only in Chinese saying it runs between Huairou and Water Great Wall. It takes more or less one hour to reach Huanghuacheng (The last stop). The bus ticket costs 3.2RMB by using Beijing commuter pass.

 

 

Where is 916 Express bus station in Beijing?

916 Expressbus station is at the North Bus Platform which is inside the bus transfer depot of Dongzhimen. The bus transfer depot is just outside of exit B of Dongzhimen Line 2 subway staion. There are signs, in English, throughout the subway station pointing you toward the bus transfer depot and exit B. Most of the buses are inside bus transfer depot in a massive building.

 

Two hiking routes to choose from- the western one and the eastern one.

Eastern hiking route: The route is mainly on the Wall itself. In some parts it is very steep and quite shattered. Take the eastern hiking route by crossing the river on the damn. Ascend the hill and climb up onto the Wall with a ladder. The route is breathtaking including the winding Wall through the steep mountains and the lake by the damn. It is so called: “Walking the dragon’s back as it dives and emerges from the lake”.

After winding up and down with the Wall, through steps and watchtowers, at a certain point you go down a steep slope to the bottom of a creek. It may take you one hour to cover 200 meters as this is an extremely steep descent with exceptionally narrow shattered steps. Look eastward you will see the deteriorating Wall meandering up the 1500 meter high mountain. If you have strength, time and gear to camp, you may want to spend two days on attempting this climb.

 

 

 

Western hiking route: The initial hike up to the watchtowers is quite strenuous but the view is definitely worth it. Take the western one by walking through an unmarked trail through the pastoral chestnut, walnut, apricot and vegetable patches to a really steep sections. Make sure you wear good walking/hiking shoes and bring a camera, lots of water (especially in summer when it’s in hotter conditions). This kind of ‘wild’ bit of the Wall is best done via a tour, or hiring a car. If you are adventurous, you do it by public transport. In my opinion, how you actually do it probably depends on your budget.

 

 

Hiring Private Car to the Great Wall

Hiring a private car for excursions outside the city a good choice if you are not travelling on budget and want to avoid the crowded people and traffic. If you are travelling with 3 or 4 friends, this way is much more cost-efficient. We offer a single online destination to service all of your rental car needs including round trip rental cars, one-way rental cars, airport rental cars and off-airport rental cars.Your rental car with a licensed driver will help you get the most out of your holiday!

Vehicle (Car, Van, Coach) Rental Rates (RMB)

Options Airport-pickup/ drop off Mutianyu+Ming Tombs  Longqing Gorge Badaling OR Huanghuacheng Mutianyu Great Wall  Mutianyu+Summer Palace Simatai OR Jinshanling 
4 seats Hyundai/Camry
300 790 890 750 690 790 990
6 seats Refine/Buick 350 950 1090 890 890 950 1290
14 seats Ford Transit
550 1490 1490 1390 1390 1490 1790
18 seats Joylong 750  1890  1790  1690 1690 1890 2090

Vehicle (Car, Van, Coach) Rental Rates (RMB)

Options Tiananmen, Forbidden City
Mutianyu
Airport pick up Mutianyu
airport drop off
Airport pick up / drop off
Mutianyu & city sites

Loingqing Gorge & Badaling

Shilinxia (Glass Platform) Eastern Qing Tombs Cuandixia Village
4 seats Hyundai/Camry
790 850 1190 950 950 990 990
6 seats Buick Mini Van 990 1050 1390 1140 1150 1290 1190
14 seats Ford Transit
1290 1490 1590 1590 1390 1490 1690
18 seats Joylong 1790 1890 1890 1890 1690 1890 1890

All Prices shown are in RMB (Chinese Yuan) unless otherwise stated. Driver’s working time is 9 hours daily. The extra cost is 100RMB per hour.

The cost includes:
  • City accommodation pick up / drop off,
  • Non-English / Chinese speaking driver
  • Quality vehicle with A/C
  • Transportation fees
  • Parking fees, gasoline, toll fees
The cost doesn’t include
  • entrance fees to the sites
  • single journey of chairlift / toboggan / cable car (optional)
  • round trip of chairlift / toboggan / cable car (optional)
  • Meal and tips
Weekend Special!

Enjoy weekend rate of 600RMB for a four-seater air-conditioning car to visit the splendid Mutianyu Great Wall from Beijing. Explore the spectacular Mutianyu on an intimate, private car trip. Recommended length of visit: 2-4 hours. Check out Mutianyu travel guide for more tips.

The cost includes:
  • City accommodation pick up / drop off,
  • Non-English / Chinese speaking driver
  • Quality vehicle with A/C
  • Transportation fees
  • Parking fees, gasoline, toll fees
The cost doesn’t include
  • Airport (hotel) pick up / drop off
  • 60RMB p.p entrance fees to Mutianyu
  • 100RMB p.p for single journey of chairlift / toboggan / cable car (optional)
  • 120RMB p.p for round trip of chairlift / toboggan / cable car (optional)
  • Meal and tips
Price Promises:
  • No factory / shopping stop
  • No hidden costs
  • Quality time on attractions
  • Honest prices, no surprise

Fields marked with an * are required

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Beijing Winter clothes shopping guide

The Best Places to Buy Cheap Winter Clothes in Beijing

 

Winter clothes in Beijing – what to pack for winter?

Bringing winter clothes onto the plane is an absolute must when you’re traveling to chilly Beijing in winter. As winters are generally long and range from cold to bone-chilling in Beijing, you would appreciate having winter clothes in your bag when you get off plane.

Layers is the key when visiting Beijing in winter. If you are out and about from late November to early February, wearing a nice pair of thermal underwear would be a good idea. If you plan to spend much time outdoors, you might appreciate having a nice thick pair of trousers, and then a nice jumper with a thick coat, and a scarf.

You’re likely to encounter snow in Beijing, so outer wear is crucial. Don’t underestimate QUALITY gloves, wool socks.It really helps a lot. Make space in your bags for wool socks and sweaters. It is advisable to use body lotion and lip gloss in winter.

Buy winter clothes in Beijing

I listed places (and mapped them out) to make it easier than pie for shopping for winter clothes in Beijing. You can right click the map to enlarge or download.

 

1: Yashow Clothing Market – Winter jackets are not that expensive in Yashow. You will find that shops there have western size clothes. There are quite a lot of selection there but also you need to bargain. Authenticity will be a problem. The cheaper it is, the more likely it is fake.

winter clothes in Beijing

 

Getting there:  Num.58, Gongti West Road, Chaoyang District. Take subway line 10 and get off at at the station of Tuanjiehu,  take Exit D. Opening Hours: 9am-9pm daily.

 

2: Silk Market – The Silk Market have quite a lot of shops where you can buy jackets, but you have to bargain. The sales girls are very aggressive and shopping could be an unpleasant experience. There is a wholesale market a block south of the Beijing zoo. It would be cheaper if you don’t care much about quality and style.

winter clothes in beijing

 

Getting there: North of Dong Chang An Avenue, Jianguimenwai Street, Chaoyang District. Subway: take subway line 1 then get off at the station of Yonganli, take Exit A. Opening Hours: 9am-9pm daily.

winter clothes in beijing

 

3:  Hong Qiao Pearl Market is a huge tourist market like Silk Market. located to the opposite side of Temple of Heaven. Peal market is a good option too, but you will need to bargain significantly to get a decent price. The asking prices are often quite high so it is important to haggle.

Getting there: 9 Tiantan Rd, Dongcheng, the opposite the east gate of Temple of Heaven. Take Subway Line 5 and get off at the station of Tiantandongmen ( East Gate of Temple of Heaven ), then cross the street. Opening Hours: 8:30am-7pm daily.

winter clothes in beijing

 

4: Beijing Zoo Clothing Wholesale Market – Best to go on a weekday — gets really crowded during weekends. Wholesaler is located very near to the Beijing zoo. You can easily combine seeing some pandas with your shopping.

The wholesale market group includes seven markets, located around Beijing Zoo. Just across the street from the Beijing Zoo, Julong (the best one — street wear, casual wear, ironic sweaters, shoes, retro, vintage), Dong Ding (shoes, accessories), Tianlegong (designer wear) and Shiji Tianle are collectively and commonly known as the Zoo Market.

winter clothes in beijing

 

Getting there: Around Beijing Zoo, Xizhimen Wai Dajie, Xicheng District. Subway station: Beijing Zoo, take exit C. Hours: 7:30 am – 5 pm daily.

5: Decathlon – Decathlon is a good European outdoor store that sells quality stuff at low prices. There is one just outside of Gong Yi Xi Qiao subway station (bottom of Line 4). Actually there may be four Decathlon stores in Beijing.

Getting there: Dajiaoting S St, Chaoyang. It’s a little bit difficult to find the place. Take the line 1 to  Dawanglu Station, then take the bus #31 then get off at Bawangfen Nan. 9:00 am – 9:00 pm daily.

 

6: Big department stores – Many big department stores in Beijing where you don’t have to worry about price. To any department store no need bargain. ( If you go to shops where no tourists will come, you do not really bargain.) They do not speak English, but that is not a real problem. You just point what you want and they show you on a calculator what it will cost you. Prices there are low anyway.  Wangfujing or Xi’dan area have several good department stores to choose from.

Winters in Beijing are generally long and range from cold to bone-chilling. If you’re not planning on bringing winter clothes, to change into on the plane, still you have good places to buy winter clothes when you arrive in Beijing.

winter clothes in Beijing

 

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Simatai reopening–recent experience report

 

Recently I spent half day at the construction site of Simatai. It only took me 1.5 hours to get to Simatai with little traffic. Simatai is closed from 17 June 2010 as the result of agreement to redevelope the Simatai area for a hot springs resort between Miyun local district government and CYTS in June 2010.

Re-opening date of Great Wall Simatai is unclear but I was told by local villagers and security guard working for Simatai administrative office that Simatai will reopen in May 2013. No official notice yet. Be prepared to adjust your travel plan to Jinshanling, Mutianyu, GubeikouJiankou or other sections of Great Wall while you are in Beijing.

The hot springs resort at the foot of Simatai is under construction.

 

Great Wall Simatai is about 120 Km / 75miles from Beijing but with the freeway it takes about 2.5 hours to get there. It is less-crowded, a bit more untouched and often you feel you are on the Wall on your own (not like Badaling which is closer to Beijing is overun with tourists).

Originally built during the Northern Qi dynasty (550–577) and rebuilt in the Hongwu years of the Ming dynasty by General Qi Jiguang, Simatai Great Wall retains the original features of the Ming dynasty Great Wall. It has the best view or ups and downs. The scenery is stunning.

 

Simatai Great Wall is around 3.4miles/5.4km in length, with 35 watchtowers. It is separated into eastern and western parts by a valley, with a rainbow-like chain bridge over the valley. Eastern part has 16 watchtower while western part has 18 watchtowers. It is a favorite for photographers who specialized in Great Wall. If you have time, an overnight stay allows you to watch sunrise early in the morning or sunset in the afternoon. There are several good hotels within 10 minutes walk to the foot of the Wall.

 

It’s predicted that Simatai will be re-opened in May 2013 and the original hike from Jinshanling to Simatai can be done only halfway. You can still walk to tower 22 (Simatai West) rather than tower 30 and then have to stop at Qilin Tower and exit from the newly constructed trail, or go back the same way you came to Jinshanling. You will be followed by vendors selling ice-water and souvenirs while you are hiking this section, but it is relatively peaceful, not too crowded, and less refurbished. Words don’t describe what’s happening at Simatai, so perhaps the photos I shared will help.

Related Tour: Jinshanling Simatai West Hiking

Hiring Private Car to the Great Wall

Hiring a private car for excursions outside the city a good choice if you are not travelling on budget and want to avoid the crowded people and traffic. If you are travelling with 3 or 4 friends, this way is much more cost-efficient. We offer a single online destination to service all of your rental car needs including round trip rental cars, one-way rental cars, airport rental cars and off-airport rental cars.Your rental car with a licensed driver will help you get the most out of your holiday!

Vehicle (Car, Van, Coach) Rental Rates (RMB)

Options Airport-pickup drop off Half Day  Downtown (within 4hrs) Full Day Downtown(8 hrs) Badaling Great Wall Mutianyu Great Wall Mutianyu+Summer Palace Jinshanling Great Wall
4 seats Hyundai
200 250 600 650 650 750 900
4 seats Red Flag 250 300 650 700 800 900 950
7 seats Refine
300 350 650 700 800 900 950
7 seats BuickGL8 300 350 700 800 900 950 1000
12 seats MB100
300 400 800 900 1000 1100 1200

 

Your turn

Do you have a question? What do you think about it? If you’ve enjoyed this article, I’d ask that you share it with a friend or consider leaving a comment below. As always, your thoughts and opinions matter, so feel free to leave them below. We’d love to hear from you!


How to get to Badaling Great Wall?

badaling-great-wall-of-china

 

How far is Badaling Great Wall from Beijing?

Badaling Great Wall is around 45km away from Beijing. If you are staying at Wangfujing area, the distance between Badaling Great Wall and Wangfujing is around 71km, 1.5 hours by road.

 

Badaling Great Wall can be done via a tour, or hiring a vehicle. If you are adventurous, technically, you can do it by public transport. In practice, how you actually do it probably depends on your budget and how much time you have in Beijing etc.

Hiring a car to Badaling Great Wall

Hiring a private car are a great, hassle-free and convenient way to get to Badaling Great Wall if your budget is not tight and want to avoid the crowds and traffic. If you are travelling with 3 or 4 people, this way is really good value for your money without having to rely on public transport.

Looking for a cheap, reliable car hire service? Check out our Great Wall car rental service page; Car hire to Great Wall from Beijing.

Getting to Badaling Great Wall by bus

The Beijing bus network has seen many improvements in recent years with new buses, more frequent services and improved accessibility. If you would like to spend a day on Great Wall Badaling, bus 919/880/877 are the cheapest way to get to Badaling but it takes at least 1 hours to get there from Deshengmen by using the local bus service.

badaling-great-wall-beijing-china

 

Where is 877/880/919 bus station in Beijing?

The 877/880/919 bus station is at the parking lot behind the Deshengmen Arrow Tower – an ancient building with lots of square hole on the wall.

Important notes: To the west side of the Arrow Tower, some illegal bus owners even claim that their buses are No. 919, 880 or 877 by putting a FAKE sign on front windows.

These bus owners may convince you to get on their bus. Please ignore them without any hesitation as these illegal buses will certainly charge more, may take you to some shopping places than the official buses.

 

How to get to 877/880/919 bus station at Deshengmen?

The nearest subway station to Deshengmen is Jishuitan station of subway line 2. Take line 2 and leave the subway station from Exit A. Walk for around 10 minutes you will easily see the Arrow Tower at  Deshengmen just in front of you.

 

Cross the street and go behind the Arrow Tower. You will see 877/880/919 bus stops just below the Arrow Tower, which is just a short walk from Deshengmen subway station. Bus 877 is clearly signposted around the Arrow Tower.

919 bus sign at Arrow Tower
880 bus sign at Arrow Tower

Which bus should I take to get to Badaling Great Wall?

Bus 877: This non-stop bus service picks up from Deshengmen and drop you off at Front Hill  of Badaling Great Wall. Bus 877 is a quicker, convenient and cheap way to travel to Badaling as it’s the only direct connection between Deshengmen and Badaling Great Wall.

From Deshengmen: 06:00-12:00(Apr.1-Oct.31) | 06:00-12:30(Nov.1-Mar.31)

From Badaling: 12:00-16:30(Apr.1-Oct.31) | 12:00-17:30(Nov.1-Mar.31)

Journey time: 1 -1.5 hours. Journey time variation depends on route and traffic.

Costs: Standard ticket prices are 12RMB/person by cash or 4.8RMB/person by using transportation smart card.

Notes: Direct Service, Half Hourly/Hourly Service. Bus 877 drops you off near the pulley station and Black Bear Zoo at the front hill of Badaling. The closest ticket office is just inside the parking lot of bus 877.

You will take about 10 minutes walk to the entrance then you start to walk on the Wall from North Tower 11. At bus station, direct bus 879 which runs between Badaling and Ming Tombs (Chang Tomb) is available if you have extra time to explore the Ming Tombs after visiting Badaling Great Wall.

Bus 877 at Arrow Tower

 

877 bus station at front hill of Badaling

 

Bus 880/919: The bus services pick up from Arrow Tower of Deshengmen and drops you off at Great Wall Palace (a grey building, which is about 2 kilometers away from real hill )At Great Wall Palace, free shuttle service is available which will drop you off near the parking lot in front of real hill.

 

 

Bus station in front of Great Wall Palace
Free shuttle bus service at 880 /919 bus station
Free shuttle bus service between 7:00 and 18:00

 

Operating hours: 06:00-19:00  Journey time variation depends on route and any interchange waiting time.

Costs: Standard ticket prices are 12RMB/person by cash or 4.8RMB/person by using by transportation smart card.

Note: Not direct Service, Half Hourly/Hourly Service. Bus 877 drops you off at Great Wall Palace, then you have to change free shuttle bus to real hill. If you want to get back late taking bus 880 or 919 rather than bus 877 as their last buses go back to Beijing city much more late. At 919/880 bus station, bus 879 which runs between Badaling and Ming Tombs (Chang Tomb) is available if you want to combine your Badaling trip with visiting the Ming Tombs.

bus 879 runs between Badaling and Ming Tombs

Hiring Private Car with driver to Badaling Great Wall

Rent a car with driver to Great Wall, entrance fees for Badaling, food make up your tour would be paid on your own at cost price and in addition to your daily fee to add the freedom, flexibility of your tour. If you are travelling with 3, 4 or more people, this way is much more cost-efficient.

We offer a single online destination to service all of your rental car needs including round trip rental cars, one-way rental cars, airport rental cars and off-airport rental cars. Your rental car with a licensed driver will help you get the most out of your holiday!

Vehicle (Car, Van, Coach) Rental Rates (RMB)

Options Airport-pickup/ drop off Mutianyu+Ming Tombs  Longqing Gorge Badaling OR Huanghuacheng Mutianyu Great Wall  Mutianyu+Summer Palace Simatai OR Jinshanling 
4 seats Hyundai/Camry
300 790 890 750 690 790 990
6 seats Refine/Buick 350 950 1090 890 890 950 1290
14 seats Ford Transit
550 1490 1490 1390 1390 1490 1790
18 seats Joylong 750  1890  1790  1690 1690 1890 2090

Vehicle (Car, Van, Coach) Rental Rates (RMB)

Options Tiananmen, Forbidden City
Mutianyu
Airport pick up Mutianyu
airport drop off
Airport pick up / drop off
Mutianyu & city sites

Loingqing Gorge & Badaling

Shilinxia (Glass Platform) Eastern Qing Tombs Cuandixia Village
4 seats Hyundai/Camry
790 850 1190 950 950 990 990
6 seats Buick Mini Van 990 1050 1390 1140 1150 1290 1190
14 seats Ford Transit
1290 1490 1590 1590 1390 1490 1690
18 seats Joylong 1790 1890 1890 1890 1690 1890 1890

All Prices shown are in RMB (Chinese Yuan) unless otherwise stated. Driver’s working time is 9 hours daily. The extra cost is 100RMB per hour.

The cost includes:
  • City accommodation pick up / drop off,
  • Non-English / Chinese speaking driver
  • Quality vehicle with A/C
  • Transportation fees
  • Parking fees, gasoline, toll fees
The cost doesn’t include
  • entrance fees to the sites
  • single journey of chairlift / toboggan / cable car (optional)
  • round trip of chairlift / toboggan / cable car (optional)
  • Meal and tips
Weekend Special!

Enjoy weekend rate of 600RMB for a four-seater air-conditioning car to visit the splendid Mutianyu Great Wall from Beijing. Explore the spectacular Mutianyu on an intimate, private car trip. Recommended length of visit: 2-4 hours. Check out Mutianyu travel guide for more tips.

The cost includes:
  • City accommodation pick up / drop off,
  • Non-English / Chinese speaking driver
  • Quality vehicle with A/C
  • Transportation fees
  • Parking fees, gasoline, toll fees
The cost doesn’t include
  • Airport (hotel) pick up / drop off
  • 60RMB p.p entrance fees to Mutianyu
  • 100RMB p.p for single journey of chairlift / toboggan / cable car (optional)
  • 120RMB p.p for round trip of chairlift / toboggan / cable car (optional)
  • Meal and tips
Price Promises:
  • No factory / shopping stop
  • No hidden costs
  • Quality time on attractions
  • Honest prices, no surprise

If you are interested in requesting any tours, please submit your request using the form below. Please include as much information as you can to help us give you the best and quickest service possible.Request an Itinerary / Quote

If you have any questions, please contact +86 185 1025 4530 via  Whatsapp / phone / Wechat / Skype for additional information.
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