Top Ten Tips to Save Money in Beijing
A trip to Beijing doesn’t have to be full of expensive activities. In fact, there’s plenty to do that doesn’t involve too much money at all. The following tips are aimed at those who wish to experience the delights of Chinese culture, without spending a fortune doing so.
1, Hire a Personal Driver to the Great Wall
When visiting the Great Wall of China, get a private car, and avoid the crowded people and traffic. If you are travelling with 3 or 4 friends, this way is much more cost-efficient.
The scenery provides a fascinating contrast between urban and rural China. Be aware most cab drivers in Beijing speak very little English. Or alternatively, you can pre-book private car tour to Mutianyu through travel agents or specialist tour operators.
2, Eat in the Street
If your priority is simply to fill your belly at dinnertime, then dumplings and skewered kebabs are a very cheap option. The quality ranges from adequate to superb, and you can afford to experiment.
Another delicious and economical treat is rou jia mou a mixture of chicken, onions and lettuce available in most supermarkets.
3, Take the Underground/Subway
The quality of restaurants is not always reflected in the price. If money is more of an issue than time, take the Underground/Subway out to the suburbs.
The trains are so inexpensive that it is worth the fare. Outside the city center, restaurants are noticeably cheaper and of a similar standard.
4, Be Wary of Market Stalls
Unless you can speak at least some Chinese, be wary of market stalls. Many traders will overcharge, whilst others refuse to sell produce in small quantities i.e. two bananas. It seems a shame to favour large companies over independent retailers, but the supermarkets are more convenient and affordable. In large shops the prices are clearly marked.
5, Under No Circumstances Join a Gym.
There are hundreds of outdoor exercise areas in Beijing providing citizens with the opportunity to exercise free of charge. They are also a great way to connect with the locals. Perhaps the finest example is in Beibinhe Park, north of Tianmen Square.
6, Avoid the Large Indoor Markets
Avoid the large tourist oriented indoor markets such as the Silk Market and Yashow. Haggling in China can be a very unrewarding experience, especially for those unfamiliar with the language. Most of the goods sold are also counterfeit, so if you do buy, make sure you get a low price.
7, Get Cheap Drinks in Beijing
Beijing certainly caters for those fond of a tipple. The bars have no set closing time, which means the evenings don’t get under way until midnight. The most cost-effective approach is to have a few drinks before you go out. Or why not walk with a beer in-hand to your destination, rather than getting a taxi?
Beer is much cheaper than in Europe or North America. However, in western-style venues the mark up can be astronomical. Finding a modestly-priced bar will not only save you money, but probably win you friends. If you’re the only foreigner in a pub, you’ll be treated as the most valued customer.
8, Avoid Foreign Food Shops For Eating
Beijing has a number of foreign food shops, the most famous chains being April Gourmets and Jenny Lou’s. If you’re short of cash, it is advisable to stay well away from these. However, if you spend some time in China you may well begin to crave western cuisine. In such circumstances set yourself a strict budget, and don’t get carried away with impromptu buys.
9, Never Get a Taxi.
In rush hour it really is quicker walking, and you won’t be contributing to the high levels of pollution. Remember Beijing is an extremely safe city. Random attacks on foreigners are exceptionally rare, and single women can walk at night in perfect safety.
10, Rent a Bicycle
Even if you’re only in Beijing for a couple of weeks, consider renting a bicycle. Cycling around Beijing is a joy. So take advantage of the myriad cycle-paths that traverse a very flat city. There are plenty of interesting districts to view for free, like the Russian Quarter of Yabao Lu.
Beijing is an enthralling place to visit, and whether you seek history, culture, or nightlife it can all be found in here. You’ll also find it easy to make new acquaintances, since many locals are keen to meet foreigners, and practice their English. With Chinese friends to advise you, even greater savings can be made!