Guides for China
Tourist Guide for Beijing (September 2008)
| General Comments:
This is a simple yet very detailed example comparing
a Standard Tour of Beijing, with an itinerary we would
find a lot more enjoyable. The comments are mainly from
my own personal experiences during two visits to the
Capital; augmented by advice from other foreigners and
Our standard City Guides are very brief by comparison
to below, but do highlight the most important information
and personally recommended alternatives
1. Carry your Hotel Business Card (In Chinese) at all
Ensure at least one for each person in your party
Standard Tours of Beijing:
These are hectic things, with virtually all your personal
time already allocated for sight-seeing. Let's take
a standard 5-day, 4-night tour of Beijing as prime example:
1. Arrive Beijing airport around 2pm.
2. Go to see The Temple of Heaven -
worth a couple of hours
3. Go for dinner at an 'OK' restaurant
4. Arrive at Hotel and go to sleep
1. Wake at 6am, have a Chinese breakfast
(4* has a version of Western foods?)
2. 7am, get on charabanc for days tour
3. 7.20 arrive Tiananmen Square and
get in long queue to see Chairman Mao's Mausoleum. Takes
4. Walk down Tiananmen Square to The
Forbidden City. Enter. You have about 3-hours here,
and it needs about 5 hours, especially if you want to
see the museum and other side attractions. Some of your
party will decide to queue and see the view from the
Main Gate. This takes up to 1 hour. In the meantime
you hang around wondering why your guide will not let
you go off and explore? You now have only 2 hours left
- except you don't know that. The rest is then a blur,
and there is no time to take advantage of things such
as: the English Language electronic guides (Excellent
btw), or stay a while at places you like. When you reach
the private gardens to the rear, you are dying for some
water, and unless you brought your own - you will be
forced to pay 20 times street price for a bottle. You
then hustle out, only to be greeted by some very obnoxious
hawkers (Mainly agents for illegal taxi's and private
drivers) - make a quick exit across the square and slightly
left to the pedestrian underpass
5. You are now in a Park with a large
hill that overlooks The Forbidden City from the rear.
It is well worth climbing up (Quite easy). Leave the
Park after 1 hour or so
6. Back on the charabanc, and round
the corner to see the lake with Beijing Mosque on the
far shore. No time to see it up close though. Instead
you are taken to see a large free-standing wall with
dragons all over it. This is actually quite interesting
once you understand what it is all about - but no electronic
guides for this yet. It is about 2.30 pm now
7. Back on the bus - basically to cross
the road and next stop is the Gardens of some Emperor.
These are very nice, and included is a visit to an historical
(Replicated) Tea House, complete with small sample of
Beijing Opera. You have waitress service for teas and
8. You leave and have a short trek
to the bus, which is great because there are a lot of
interesting and artistic shops here. About 2+1/2 hours
here in total
9. As you exit the small road into
this complex, you guide will point out that just on
your left, across a small canal, is a very good area
for nightlife. Instead of partaking, you join the Beijing
10. Next is The Silk Market (Street
version) - which is a rip-off + major haggling. Don't
bother, as everything sold there is a cheap Chinese
copy, poor quality, and doesn't last. The stall-holders
are also extremely pushy and may even grasp your arm
to try and stop you leaving = very unusual for China!
11. Later we do a very weird street
that is lined with stalls selling delicacies such a
scorpions, live colourful maggots, and similar. We look,
and adjourn to a local bar whilst the Chinese fill their
12. About 7pm you will arrive at another
Chinese eatery. The food is free, and also runs to a
couple of bottles of local beer
13. About 8pm, your coach will deliver
you to a theatre and acrobatics display, which turned
out to be superb, and one of the most extremely memorable
experiences of my life! A must do!
14. Return to the hotel around 11 pm,
with instructions to be ready early next morning. Great!
15. Later you may look at a map, and
notice that virtually everywhere you went today is actually
interlinked - so why not walk it? And why go to some
ordinary and out of the way restaurant for dinner through
Beijing rush-hour traffic, when the nightlife area looked
very welcoming! I would revise this, and do the Acrobatics
16. You are tired and go to sleep.
I go out and see what the local streets have to offer
- but that's another story!
1. Wake at 5.30am, go down for a Chinese
hotel breakfast - Oppps! Not open yet! Later sleepy
staff may look at you as if you are slightly crazy?
2. 6.15am, get on the charabanc for
a trip to The Great Wall! Yippie!
3. 8am arrive at a cross-roads with
a few building scattered around. Pull-up near a Chinese
transport cafe, and enter for a free and very Chinese
breakfast. Tip - the hard boiled eggs are a safe bet
4. You will notice no movement, and
consider sampling some other delicacies from the menu
- before deciding it is better to look around outside
for a bit. After 40 minutes you are herded back onto
the charabanc for a 1-minute trip to one of two local
Jade outlets. The expensive one is more interesting
and has displays of Jade processing, a free Jade examination
of your personal Jade jewellery, and a very large shop.
The other is more of a warehouse, but has interesting
eateries and other outlets attached - which you aren't
allowed to go to, in theory. You can actually specify
which one you want to go to btw, and the coach will
take you there
5. These are actually very good places
to buy genuine quality Jade. You leave around 10am for
The Great Wall!
6. Sorry - next is The Ming Tombs -
a bit like a Chinese version of the Egyptian Valley
of the Kings. You can only actually visit a couple of
the tombs, and one will be selected for you. They are
fine - as far as ancient tombs go...
7. Back on the bus - and the Guide
tells you that you are now going to The Great Wall.
8. Ah! But first you need to call at
a local centre for Chinese medicine. Why? No sleeping
it-off on the bus either. So go and suffer an hour of
Chinese medicine sales, in Mandarin of course. You get
a free consultation with a doctor, and treatments cost
around Y250. If you have never experienced Chinese Medicine
before, then the consultation is unusual - as all diagnosis
are made via three fingers placed on your wrist - think
pulses here. The results are often surprising, and for
those with know maladies, always correct! Interesting...
9. And now for The Great Wall!
10. Nope! Now it is a Beijing Duck
supermarket, which also specialises in sweets (Candy),
nuts, and sticky buns. The vacuum packed Beijing Duck
is worth buying + other stuff I suppose - if this is
11. It is now about 1.30pm, and I have
just about given-up all hope of ever seeing The Great
Wall. The Jade factory shops were actually worth a visit,
and a little longer would have been great. The rest
was nothing important at all
12. Gawd-Blimey! A little after 2pm
we actually arrive at The Great Wall! I am very excited.
I have been twice: One is the modern version, which
is relatively flat and non-smoking. Durrr? This is ok-ish,
but a tad boring actually. Magnificent all the same!
The other version is the old wall, and this is mega!
There is a ride to go up in, and a slide to go down
afterwards. Excellent! I didn't even consider a cigarette,
as the path was so steep - they even had ropes for you
to cling onto whilst 'Walking up the steps'. More like
mountaineering! Some of the steps here are 3 feet high!
Everything excellent has a downside of course, and here
it was Hawkers. Very invasive and not locals. They hang
around the flat areas that have stalls with some interesting
knickknacks. I basically couldn't be done with the hassle
of it all - but left alone, I would undoubtedly have
bought several things. Not sure they understand Brit's
yet? However, I would definitely go to this version
again = Fantastic experience!
13. I was very looking forward to the
high-speed slide down the mountainside on the Chinese
tea-tray affair, and it did not disappoint. Awesome!
14. Back on the charabanc about 6pm,
and off to Beijing
15. We did enjoy another Chinese meal
- somewhere? This time we had learnt to order our own
beers on entry, and pay for them ourselves = excellent
16. Back to the Hotel after 9pm, and
overall, a thoroughly enjoyable day. The good news is
we can lie-in tomorrow - as the coach won't collect
us until 7.30am. Wow! I have a quick shower and change,
as I have a Chinese 'Date' waiting
1. I awake at ? I haven't actually
gone to sleep yet, but tuck into a hearty Chinese breakfast
as I need the energy, then onto the bus for a quick
nap. It pulls-out at around 8am
2. 9am and we are at The Summer Palace.
There are actually two of these, and we are at The New
Summer Palace. Keep-up. Must get some coffee...
3. This turns out to be one of the
best places I have ever been. I love it! A hill with
loads of Chinese Imperial stuff, massive buildings all
over the plot, and a gigantic and very romantic lake
complete with cruises. Wow! I included the side-museums
in my second visit here, as you can only get tickets
for them on the front door = weird - Here is China!
We upset our Guide by doing this, but it was well worth
it. We caught them up near the Marble Boat - a life-size
Imperial boat, after getting some Nescafe coffee - ah,
bliss! We were just in time to catch a backwater Jade
sales shop. Great! The Party took 40 minutes here -
then a frog-march over the hill with no time to stop,
and outside to wait for the coach. We left with the
impression this place was worth a whole day, and forget
the Jade sales
4. Next was an excellent place that
sells all manner of Crystal. I love this place, and
am very happy to look at natural crystal 'eggs', and
some remarkable cheap crystal sculptures. I do recommend
you buy here
5. Back on the bus, and a stop at an
ok Chinese Cloisonné factory outlet. This one
was a bit tacky, but some are excellent, so you need
to specify the 4* version, which also boasts workshops
and production processes - all accompanied by higher
quality wares. I do love Cloisonné, which is
basically intricate enamelware; and I use it daily in
6. Back on the charabanc and we are
dropped at our hotel, it is now 1pm. We have the rest
of the day free. We get a taxi and go back to the New
Summer Palace to see it properly. It is excellent.
7. The Guide also arranges for us personally
to visit a Chinese Silk factory en route, which is definitely
unscheduled, and very good
8. The taxi back cost a couple of quid
(£2) through rush-hour traffic
9. Later we share a couple of beers
at a local corner street shop, and eat local + and have
an early night. The days are just too long to enjoy
the attractions properly. The worst part is, time spent
at the actual attractions themselves is far too short
10. I will always remember 'One Night
in Beijing' as being about the most excellent of my
1. We had a late start and local stuff
2. You will have Olympic Park
3. Then off to the airport after lunch
As Westerners ourselves, we obviously have a very good
idea what you are actually wanting. We usually recommend
you take a standard tour package, because the basics
such as flights, hotels, and transfers are cheap and
You can book a trip to The Great Wall from any hotel
- this being the only attraction that requires a little
planning, and most coach tours leave at 7am. It is very
worth considering the services of a taxi or Private
Driver for this = freeing up your day, and available
(Limited) time in Beijing. Cost should be around Y300
for a short day. We can tell you how to enjoy the rest
of your trip at your own pace; focusing only upon what
you want to do
The rest of 'Our Version ' of Beijing follows below:
1. Arrive Beijing airport around 2pm.
2. Free transfer to hotel via method
above (Acceptable), or use the Underground (Metro, Subway,
Tube) if doing this yourself. Combine with City taxi's
as required and only pay the meter charge
3. Arrive at hotel and relax + get
a map and make plans
4. Options to see an attraction for
a few hours include The Temple of Heaven, YongHeGong
Buddhist Temple, and the Olympic Village - all near
stations on the Underground network. The Olympic Village
is also very near Tiananmen / Quinamen area
5. Check which evenings The Beijing
Theatre shows the Acrobatics - usually alternate evenings!
This is extremely worth seeing, and needs planning ahead.
If available tonight, do it - otherwise do it tomorrow
instead. This does affect what you do tomorrow daytime
also. This plan is for the Acrobatics tonight...
6. The Acrobatics gig is located somewhere
between YongHeGong and Quinamen, and very near the street
that sells weird eats such as scorpions. More info soon
I hope (Help!). It is worth a look at the weird foods,
and then get tickets for the Acrobatics (If not already
sorted). Once there, head for the main street and choose
a restaurant you like. Head back to see the Acrobatics.
6A. If the Acrobatics is tomorrow,
I suggest you see the Olympics Village (If this is your
thing), and then head for Quinamen, go past the bus
semi-circle, and dine at any restaurant that you like
the look of - somewhere along the Northernmost main
road headed East. Later, to your right (South), dive
into an interesting looking back-street and haggle with
local market street-traders and shop-keepers. This is
real Beijing street-life! Vaguely head back towards
the transportation hub at Quinamen, and stop for a beer
at a local 'hole in the wall 'place! This area is like
a warren actually, but quite safe and very interesting.
If you don't like one bit, leave and move-on to another
part or street-restaurant. I enjoyed a most memorable
evening here - in a very nondescript place. The Landlord
spoke Mandarin + a little English, but was friendly
and outgoing. I spoke English and a little Cantonese
+ was outgoing and friendly. After a few minutes our
joviality was augmented by a patron that spoke English,
Cantonese, and reasonable Mandarin. The Landlord then
phoned some friends to drop by, and we ended up having
a party! A comedy of errors of course, and great fun!
Here is China!
7. Afterwards head back to your hotel
if sight-seeing is your priority; or head for 'Downtown'
if you want clubs and nightlife. Streets local to your
hotel are probably the best bet if tomorrow is busy,
as you are near to your bed, yet can sample local beijing
culture over a few beers - and leave easily when you
1. Wake in time for breakfast, have
a Chinese breakfast (4* has a version of Western foods?),
or find a local MacDonald's / KFC - they are everywhere!
You can always go to a 5* hotel for real and full English
or International cuisine of course, and very cheap also.
Now is a very good time to buy a lot of water and a
packed lunch. Your hotel may provide this, or else a
5* will, or somewhere local will (Even another and more
Western or presumably expensive hotel)
2. Say 9am, get a bus or Underground
train to Quinamen, where there is a MacDonald's nearby,
and excellent Chinese eatery underneath. Navigate the
bus semi-circle Westward, and across the main road into
Tiananmen Square itself. The Underground will leave
you either in the square or on the road opposite, depending
upon your choice of exit.
3. 9.20 arrive Tiananmen Square and
look to the corner on your right + across the wide road,
for an internet cafe. Further along on the right is
an American Coffee place (Star bucks or Pacific Coffee
House; or similar). To your left and across another
wide road, near the top of Mao's Mausoleum, is a Bank
with secure internal cash-point and English speaking
staff. Buy some water at a local shop = Y2 per litre-ish.
If you have not brought a packed lunch, buy something
suitable around Quinamen - I am pretty sure there is
a Subway Food outlet here? Take a stroll down Tiananmen
Square - it is very big!
4. At the far end is The Forbidden
City. Cross a very busy road via underpass, and find
the ticket office to the left of the Main Entrance.
Fee is around Y100, and there may be options for other
internal attractions? Enter.
5. The Forbidden City is amazing, and
once inside, you can queue for a view from the Main
Gate above = very good if the queue is small. Further
in are a long series of temple-like structures, but
the English translations on plaques are a little weird.
Once you understand Chinese Imperial culture they make
sense, but best you stick with the electronic guides.
The museum inside is definitely worth an hour or more,
plus there are other important sights to the sides,
depending upon your level of interest? Most of you will
probably just go through the main walkways, and enjoy
the gardens to the rear, which are worth exploring in
greater depth. You can also 'cock-a-hoop' at the expensive
drink counters and imbibe your own water :- )
6. You will have spent between 3 and
5 hours here, so make a quick exit across the square
outside and go slightly left to the pedestrian underpass
with determination to avoid the Hawkers. You are now
in a Park with a large hill that overlooks The Forbidden
City from the rear. It is well worth climbing up (Quite
easy). Stop here for photo opportunities, and find a
quite spot to enjoy your packed lunch. Wander around
as suits, and leave the Park to your left after 1 hour
or so = just follow the main path
7. Wander around the inter-connecting
lakes, and following the main paths is easy and ideal
- plus: generally head for the Mosque on the skyline.
You should get there around 3 pm. After entry to this
park near the Mosque, and subsequently doing what you
will, take the shore path to your left. Near the exit
and again on your left, it the Dragon wall.
7. At the exit look across the road:
7a. If your time is now 2 pm, then
cross left to a dirt-track and walk half a mile to sample
the delights of the Gardens of some Emperor. These are
very nice, and included is a visit to an historical
(Replicated) Tea House, complete with small sample of
Beijing Opera. You have waitress service for teas and
7b. If your time is now 6pm, then this
is ideal to head to your right across the road, and
into the nightlife area by the canal
7c. If you get here around 4.30 or later, then
there is probably not enough time to do the Gardens.
However, as mentioned the section above, 'The Arty'
shops here are excellent, so wander around up the dirt
track - - until you think it is time to relax
8. Either way, you should arrive here
around 6 or 7 pm, which is ideal. Early arrivals can
usually claim outdoor tables overlooking the canal,
as can very late arrivals (7.50, but not 8pm). Take
your pick of the bars and restaurants in this area -
they are very geared for Westerners, whilst some cross
the Cultural boundaries and offer an excellent mix of
Chinese, presented in Western style. The choice is yours
9. I have no idea when you will leave
here: it could be very early, or extremely late. Enjoy,
and remember the Hotel Business Card
I mentioned at the very top of this page? You may really
need it now!
10. You will arrive back at your hotel,
by your own devices; and if you left the nightlife area
early - then ideal time for a 'Body Massage', 'Foot
Massage' (Highly recommended), or 'Hair Washy'; on the
local streets near your hotel. They are excellent, but
if you get a girl who seems to be using you as a punch
bag, realise she doesn't understand how inflexible Westerner's
bodies are - be firm, and forceful if necessary, and
demand a relaxing massage. You will now be in a world
where communications are reduced to simple mime. Make
your point very exuberantly ... and smile!
11. Later you will reach your hotel
- suitably chilled. Pleasant dreams
1. Wake at some hour and chose what
you want to do for breakfast. This is probably your
best day to do The Great Wall. If doing a local charabanc,
you need to be on the streets and at the right place
around 7am - normally either a local hotel car park,
or the correct normal looking bus stop. We highly recommend
you get hotel or local help for ordering a Private Driver
for set fee per day - nominally Y300 for The Great Wall,
but well worth paying Y500 for a whole day...
2. 6.15am, get on the charabanc for
a trip to The Great Wall! Yippie!
3. Go directly to The Great Wall (Less
hassle with migrant Hawkers), and I would personally
do the old wall version. You can also do the new version
if it suits you better - they are very close together.
You can also tell the driver to take you to the other
one if you end-up at the wrong one (Possible)
4. I would suggest you visit the Jade
place(s) on the way back, and after the daily tour buses
have gone through
5. If you start around 7am, you should
be back in Beijing around late-lunchtime.
6. Go directly to The New Summer palace,
and buy the ticket with all options, including side
museums. You can safely dismiss your driver at this
point = saving of Y200 for the day, but is it worth
it? Up to you lol
7. Once inside The New Summer Palace,
pat the strange dragon-dog-thingymagig, and head slightly
left-ish for a Coffee and Chinese sausage on a stick.
If you are not hungry, go left to find the museums area
+ associated Island bridge, pleasure boats and chill
stuff. Alternatively, go straight-ahead, and follow
the shoreline to the restaurants area, near the Marble
Boat. Some great souvenir opportunities here also -
but be careful and look in all the outlets before buying.
Beyond the Marble Boat, and over a lovely Bridge, are
garden areas not exploited fully, and very relaxing.
Otherwise do the touristy bit, and then either head
up-hill, or return to the very big worship building.
Hidden away at the top are wonderful and typical Imperial
Qing Empire private gardens and residencies. The lake
is Man-made btw, as is some of the hill...
8. Whilst most will find this New Summer
Palace a beautiful place; some may prefer to see an
older version of Chinese Imperialism, as witnessed within
the adjacent, and largely un restored Old Summer Palace
9. When finished, go back to the hotel
and chill for an hour. Shower and change - then head
for 'Beijing Downtown'! This has been a 'Mega-Day',
and the night is just beginning - for sure!
10. Food first I guess, so hit the
International restaurant area and take your pick, I
went Chinese Beijing Style here, but you may prefer
something more Western?
11. If you still want nightlife after
an excellent meal, then get a local taxi on meter, and
ask for 'Bar Street' or 'Downtown', or both lol. Enjoy
12. It is now about 1.30 am, or 3.30am,
or perhaps later? ...and you still have your hotel business
13. Go back to your hotel and have
a great and peaceful sleep
1. You awake at ? You haven't got a
clue have you! Eat as much as you can, and drink an
awful lot of plain water. Have a nap
2. Well, this is now a 'Free-day' -
as thanks to the Private Driver yesterday, you actually
did two days in one. So lie in bed all day if you want
to - your partner is now going shopping. Ouch!
3. Time to surface and do stuff...
4. There are actually some excellent
places still to visit - but ones not on the usual tourist
schedules: The Street of Masks, Tobacco Street, + a
couple of hours at each of any attractions you may have
5. Get a prime table at any quality
restaurant that interests you personally just before
5.45pm (All Chinese eat at 6pm prompt, and arrive early!)
6. This night is your own - although
I have many diverse suggestions...
1. Finish your list of Beijing 'Must
do', and bid farewell to a most wonderful City, and
2. Then off to the airport after lunch
This is a very different version of Beijing, and one
we hope you will enjoy.
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. Do Beijing nightlife and restaurants.
There are also a few hidden gems
It is the ordinary people that make Beijing such a great
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
& Free Online Chinese Language Portal
Thousands of free print-friendly Chinese reference sheets,
tests and revision aids.
Easy Learning format &
Listen to Spoken Words
British Foreign Office
Resource and Advice for Travellers Worldwide
Chinese Embassy in UK
Information About China
Visa & Consular
UK Embassy in China
Information About UK
Visa & Consular
Information for Teachers
|Down The Road.org
How We Traded Our Ordinary Lives For a Global Bicycle Touring Adventure
Us in China
Empowering Disadvantaged Children
& Their Communities = Worldwide
Based in Shangri-la,
Dedicated to Exploring Remote Areas of China
Committed to Nature Conservation and Preserving Ethnic
Cultures & Traditions
Based in Xi'an,
China's Premiere Travel Agency and International Travel
Committed to providing:
Best travel deals & current information for all
Online Trading and Information Resource
Link goes to Chinese Tourism and Galleries Section