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Tourist Guide for Beijing (September 2008)
General Comments:

This page is dedicated to Tours of Beijing booked internally in China. Please interpolate flight and transfer times according to your personal itinerary - it is very hard to generalise to suit everybody. Actual tour information and options are specific for all visitors

Beijing is the modern Capital City of China with a population of about 14 million. It is a very 'BIG' city, and new attractions are undoubtedly the venues for the Olympic Games. Other 'Must-see' are The Forbidden City, New Summer Palace, and of course The Great Wall

Beijing also boasts great public transport at very low cost. The Underground (Metro, Subway, Tube) has recently expanded and now rivals London's for convenient sight-seeing. The only premium route is to the airport = worth knowing if things go wrong. Most Chinese use the excellent and frequent local buses, which have a basic charge no matter the distance travelled - I think it is Y1? Very little anyway. Watch-out for the low double-decker's, as headroom is set at 5' 6"! Most buses into town go to Quinmen = the far Eastern end of Tiananmen Square. Fixed price, metered local taxi cars are fine. Avoid motor tricycles = extortionate rates. To ease traffic congestion, motorcycles are banned in central Beijing (?)

I have personally been to Beijing twice; once 4* and the second Chinese 2*. There is little real difference between them (Except cost), and you will not have nightlife as part of your program. Below are listed what we consider to be major attractions + personal advice and tips

This is a short guide dealing with the Must See's. Please also refer to our very extensive Online Guide to Beijing

1. Carry your Hotel Business Card (In Chinese) at all times!
Ensure at least one for each person in your party
2. Collect free maps and general tourist information from your hotel foyer, nearest posh western hotel, or tourist information office
3. Seriously consider a longer trip if you want a more relaxed and fulfilling visit to Beijing - we recommend 4 full days minimum + days of arrival and day of departure = 6 days, 5 nights - it makes a very big difference!
4. Consider staying at a Central Western 5* hotel. The Quinmen (East) end of Tiananmen Square is ideal for everything you may wish to do. Friends stayed at The Nova Hotel, stating it was excellent and extremely convenient. Remember to haggle the price, especially in low-season
5. A budget package may not provide anything you consider as breakfast? There will always be MacDonald's and KFC nearby. Otherwise find a Top Western hotel and pay them for full English or Continental breakfast, it is cheaper than you think, and common practice
6. See our: In-depth Guide to Beijing

Standard Tours of Beijing:

Let's take a standard 5-day, 4-night tour of Beijing as prime example:

Day 1 and day 5 are actually half days due to travelling. Consider you will physically be in Beijing Airport at 1pm, regardless of direction of travel. Therefore you have 3 full days and 4 useable nights in Beijing. Plan careful usage of your limited time here. Use the booked tour for flights, transfers, and hotel. Do days 2, 3, and 4 independently, and let your guide know this is your intention. Normally you do not offer tips in China, but on this occasion I would tip the Guide - she is your first line of help if you get into trouble, so get her mobile number also

Suggested sights:

1. The Forbidden City. Start at Tiananmen Square and head into The Forbidden City, it is a one-way route. Visit the new museum, and use the electronic guides. Exit ignoring Hawkers, and cross to park behind with hill. Walk around the inter-connecting parks heading for The Mosque. After this follow the shore to a main road and cross it. Left up a track are beautiful Imperial gardens and Arty shops. The gardens are interesting, and have a traditional Tea-house with short display of Beijing Opera. Right and by the canal is a great nightlife area. End evening here and later return to your hotel

2. Go to see The Great Wall. Coach tours are very tiresome, so book a taxi or Private driver for the day (Y300 to Y500). Try to start early (7.30am) - thus allowing you time to see another major attraction (And save a day). Total minimum time for the Wall and travelling, about 5 hours. The old version is better, has rides connecting to the wall proper, and you can smoke here. The new version is a lot flatter, far easier, and non-smoking. We suggest you visit a local Jade factory shop en route. Forget everything else - and go direct to The New Summer Palace for about 2pm. If later, choose somewhere else instead

3. The are two summer palaces, the old one being more interesting, but mainly ruins. The New Summer Palace is excellent, very expansive, and lots of interesting things to do and see. It is set on a very large man-made lake, with Imperial courtyards and temples scattered liberally about the adjoining hill. You can also hire boats, pedilos, and see a side museum near the main entrance. Please get a ticket that includes all attractions, as you can only buy entrance for the museum outside, and not on the local gate inside! This has great transport connections, mainly by local coach and taxi. Nearby are also a Crystal shop and Cloisonne factory that are very worth seeing. Minimum time 4 hours inside + Crystal and Cloisonne

4. You may also want to see: The Olympic Park near Tiananmen, Quinmen area, The Temple of Heaven, YongHeGong Buddhist Temple, Tobacco Street

5. For evening we recommend: The Acrobatics show = breath-taking! Nearby is 'Weird Foods Street' = eat scorpion kebabs, live and colourful wrigley maggots, etc. Yuck! Alternatively, Quinmen for back-street late-night culture and shopping in local street-markets. Beijing 'Downtown' for restaurants, clubs, and bright lights.

6. Alternative treats include: Beijing Farm Museum, zoos, and theme parks. Other areas are renowned for arts, or local minority culture. You will probably not understand, nor manage to endure? a full performance of Beijing Opera - so do a 20-minute sample at a traditional Tea-house instead. Also worth seeing is Beijing aquatics centre, which is a massive and very deep hole in the ground filled with water, which displays numerous sea-life. Well worth an hour viewing through very thick glass walls, which twist downwards, and underneath on occasions

1. The Silk Market - street version = Nightmare!. The Mall version is fine.
2. Migrant hawkers are extremely prevalent at a very few restricted locations - be very brusque with them, or totally ignore if possible. I only know them from on The Great Wall itself, and at the rear of The Forbidden City.
3. Begging is illegal in China;and you are unlikely to see it in Beijing. However, if you stray a little you will meet them. The vast majority are pimped by rich Chinese 'Gangsters' - and little kids as babies are bought especially for this purpose. Virtually all amputees have self-inflicted wounds. If Beggars accept left-over food, they are either genuine or starving. Never give them money - it all goes to the already rich Boss, whom in all likelihood is driving around in the latest and most expensive Mercedes...
4. Gambling is also illegal in China - don't do it
5. Be circumspect with students of Beijing Arts Collage near The Forbidden City. They are genuine, and the displays they want you to see (So I am told) are excellent. However, if this is not your thing, then please refuse immediately and politely. Otherwise their eloquent and interesting conversations will suddenly use up at least 30-minutes of your time, and often a lot more!

By total contrast: do have your picture taken with local Chinese who ask - this is never a con-trick, but a genuine offer of friendship. They are usually on their first visit to Beijing also, and you may be the very first Foreigner they have ever spoken to
2. Do dive into back-streets, especially ones with either street-markets or local communities.

1. Flash wads of cash around in a public place
2. Girls: Be very careful about your handbags. Ideally use one with a shoulder-strap worn over your head. China is extremely safe in general, and virtually the only crime you will meet is snatching of handbags - either on foot or via pillion passenger (Locations). The perpetrators are invariably 20's male itinerants. They are only after cash, plus anything readily saleable (Jewellery and designer items etc). The rest (Your: Passport, credit cards, house keys, purse with personal photos, important papers, etc) will be dumped in the river. Be careful!
3. Pickpockets do exist. They are rare, and if affected, you have probably been very stupid ... see 1 above
4. Obviously the normal precautions apply anywhere in the world. Don't have unprotected sex. Call a friend if you think you are in trouble - including us. Don't ever try to apply the rules of your society to Chinese culture. Dial 110 for Police assistance.
5. Don't treat Chinese peoples, or their Culture and Customs with disrespect. 999, 999 out of every 1 million are very honest and extremely hardworking. It is their pleasure to know you

Beijing is fantastic, but there is too much emphasis on sight-seeing, sales opportunities, and little regarding nightlife, unless you push the clock and do it yourself after tour hours. I cannot complain about any of the food, but I would have preferred options to sample menus elsewhere. Beijing does boast some of the best Internationally renown restaurants in the world - including excellent French and Ukrainian cuisine, as well as Beijing Duck and other Chinese delicacies

Dedicate one day to The Forbidden City, at your own pace. Do adjacent Parks on foot, and end at the Nightlife area. Dedicate another day to The New Summer Palace, and have time to spare. Hire a Taxi or Private Driver for The Great Wall. Combine The Great Wall and New Summer Palace into one day if you are pushed for time and need to save a full day. Do Beijing nightlife, restaurants, and Acrobatics show. There are also a few hidden gems such as Tobacco Street

It is the ordinary people that make Beijing such a great city
Related Pages: Ten Tips      Independent Travellers     China Guides

This information is as supplied by the Chinese Embassy in UK, as dated 20th June 2008, and/or other reliable sources. Please check this information yourself as it may alter without notice, and whilst we try our best to ensure it is correct, please do not hold us responsible for any errors - this is intended as a simple guide only
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