We certainly didn’t enjoy being told that we couldn’t visit the top attractions. Our friends didn’t like being told that they overpaid when they took tours. Avoid other people’s mistakes and read out top 3 tips when visiting Beijing.
Consider Avoiding Great Wall Tours (when on a budget)
The Great Wall is a wonder of the world and it’ll be on your bucket list when visiting Beijing. However, these tours are over-priced and often sell for 220-300 RMB ($40-$50). The tours will take you to a section of the wall where you can walk for couple of hours at your leisure. There’s often no historical information given and whilst that may sound great for people who usually dislike tours, here’s what they don’t say – You can visit the wall by yourself (or with your new hostel mates) using a local bus and it will cost you a fraction of the price. You can find more information here.
There may also be other locations on your trip where you can see the Great Wall – Will saw the Great Wall in Dandong (next to North Korea) for example.
Forbidden City Tickets Sell Out
Devastatingly, Will didn’t get to see the Forbidden City. At midday, on a weekday, all the tickets were sold out. Whilst this doesn’t always happen, buying online can reduce disappointment (the official website (in Mandarin) is here). To save yourself the hassle of navigating a Chinese website, you could buy that hostel tour, but be prepared to shell out a few more hard earned dollars for the privilege.
If you do miss out on the Forbidden City, a consolation prize may be the fact that nearby Jingshan Park has a great view of the Forbidden City and is only 10 RMB to enter. We did it and we can fully recommend a visit there.
Don’t take the subway from Tiananmen to Temple of Heaven
It’s a simple subway ride from Tiananmen to Temple of Heaven, so why not take it? The reason is simple. You’d be missing out on the great side streets and neighbourhoods between the two. It’s recommended that you walk the short distance and keep off the main road. There are two areas of interest that we found. The first one (marked on the map below) is a neighbourhood full of artsy goods and antiques where you will find classic architecture and a chilled, backstreets vibe. The second area is a bustling shopping area sandwiched between the main artery roads running to Temple of Heaven (Meishi Street and East Qianmen Road). You’ll find the area south Qianmen subway station and north of Zushikou subway station. There’s plenty of cheap sweet shops and bakeries in the side streets that sprout off from the main pedestrianised high street. Again, there are great examples of classic Chinese architecture and provides some great photo opportunities of busy and unmistakably Chinese streets.
If you’re visiting Beijing, you should also read Our Top 5 China Tips.