Earlier than I moved to Beijing in 2016 I used to be actually, actually nervous. I anticipated to expertise main tradition shock, apocalyptic air pollution and insane crowds. However the second I landed in China’s capital, I used to be like, What was I so afraid of?
Beijing is in contrast to anywhere I’ve ever been, and that’s a great factor. I’m not going to say that touring to Beijing is the simplest factor on the earth, as a result of China undoubtedly has its quirks and challenges, however it actually is a tremendous metropolis.
Simply take a look at this magnificence!
I began my time in Beijing identical to another vacationer. I stayed for every week at a lodge close to the Forbidden Metropolis and I explored the town armed with nothing greater than my Lonely Planet.
After spending every week enjoying vacationer in Beijing, I used to be stunned by how straightforward it had been to navigate the town. However after dwelling there for 2 years, I now understand that there’s lots that first-timers miss out on. There are such a lot of issues I want I might have recognized earlier than I first touched down within the metropolis. So when you’re visiting the town for the primary time, listed here are a number of useful hints and important Beijing journey ideas to assist you take advantage of out of your journey.
- 1 Get a VPN as a result of your favourite social media websites are banned in China
- 2 Keep within the hutongs, not close to the Forbidden metropolis
- 3 Beijing’s subway system is a lifesaver
- 4 Taxis might be troublesome to hail
- 5 The language barrier is actual… particularly at eating places
- 6 Go on a meals tour to get your bearings
- 7 Beijing has a air pollution drawback…however it’s not what you assume
- 8 Go to Beijing’s well-known points of interest on the weekdays
- 9 The meals in Beijing is superb
- 10 Go to the Nice Wall with a personal driver
- 11 The most effective time to go to Beijing is…
- 12 Useful websites for first-time guests:
I already knew this earlier than I touched down in Beijing as a result of I used to be shifting there. However it surprises me what number of vacationers journey to China and don’t know concerning the Nice Firewall. In a nutshell, websites like Google, Fb, Instagram, Twitter (and so many extra) are all banned in China. And sure, that goes for Google Maps and Gmail too!
So until you’ve a VPN, you gained’t have the ability to entry these websites throughout your journey. It’s not the top of the world, however for those who’re counting on issues like Fb messenger to talk with individuals on the bottom in China or again house, you’re out of luck. On the very least, I like to recommend downloading WeChat (a highly regarded and unbanned messaging website in China). WhatsApp isn’t banned in China, nevertheless it’s iffy.
The VPN state of affairs in China is consistently fluctuating. However on the time of writing ExpressVPN is the one which works greatest for everybody I do know. For a full information on VPNs in China, click on right here.
Keep within the hutongs, not close to the Forbidden metropolis
That is one other factor I want I might have recognized earlier than I first visited Beijing. Like most vacationers, I stayed close to the Forbidden Metropolis. And whereas my lodge was nice and inside strolling distance of iconic landmarks like Tiananmen Sq. and the Forbidden Metropolis, it wasn’t probably the most thrilling space to keep. However as a result of I didn’t know any higher, I had no concept what I used to be lacking out on!
Gulou and Andingmen are nice locations to base your self. These areas are well-known for his or her mazelike hutongs and historic points of interest just like the Drum and Bell Towers and the Lama Temple.
The hutongs are my favourite factor about Beijing.
The hutongs are undoubtedly the guts of Beijing. There are tons of quirky boutiques, hole-in-the-wall eating places and energetic bars to maintain you entertained for days and days. It’s a simple place to base your self and you may all the time take the subway to get to most of Beijing’s vacationer points of interest, together with Tiananmen Sq. and the Forbidden Metropolis. Which brings me to my subsequent level…
Beijing’s subway system is a lifesaver
OK, OK when you’ve adopted my weblog for a when you’ll know that I always griped about taking the subway in Beijing. However that’s as a result of I had to commute 1-hour (every means) from my out-of-town condominium to my workplace in downtown Beijing…throughout rush hour!
In case you can, keep away from taking the Beijing metro throughout rush hour (5-7pm throughout weekdays). However critically it’s not that dangerous. Simply be ready to snuggle up together with your neighbors throughout rush hour. The Beijing subway has stops close to most main vacationer points of interest in Beijing. It’s low cost and it’s tremendous easy to use. So take benefit! Do word that the subway does shut ridiculously early for an enormous metropolis. It varies from line to line however most shut at 11 pm and open at 6 am. So plan accordingly so that you don’t get stranded.
Taxis might be troublesome to hail
Most locals and expats use DiDi (China’s model of Uber) to order taxis. That’s a part of the rationale you’ll discover unoccupied taxis passing you by. Moreover, a lot of taxi drivers gained’t cease for foreigners on the road. Critically, it’s a factor in Beijing. The opposite drawback is that, until you’ve a Chinese language checking account, you possibly can’t join DiDi. Should you’re in a touristy space like Gulou or Sanlitun you can see a taxi ultimately, however relying on the time of day it may be a problem. I’ve been stranded in Gulou at 2 am so many occasions. That’s why I favor taking the subway once I can. Oh did I point out there’s no Uber in China? As a result of there’s not.
The language barrier is actual… particularly at eating places
In Beijing, individuals converse Mandarin and indicators and menus are principally in Chinese language characters. It makes figuring out companies and ordering off of menus very difficult. To prime it off, lots of people don’t converse a lot English. For those who’re going to a restaurant and the menu is all in Chinese language, worry not. Beijing’s restaurateurs love image menus. This no less than provides you a basic concept of what you’re ordering. There are additionally loads of vacationer and expat oriented eating places that provide English menus, so that you’ll discover lots to eat.
Go on a meals tour to get your bearings
Happening Misplaced Plate’s Hutong Meals Tour was one among my favourite issues that I did in Beijing. I appreciated the truth that their excursions give attention to family-run, off-the-beaten-path eating places and that they take delight in giving historic and cultural information about Beijing’s native meals scene. I additionally appreciated the concept I’d be shuttled across the hutongs in tuk-tuks and supplied with limitless quantities of free beer.
Photograph courtesy of Misplaced Plate.
I’m usually not a fan of excursions however this one is nicely value it. Through the tour, we took our tuk-tuk to six very native, very hidden eating places. There was cook-it-yourself Beijing barbecue, handmade noodles with probably the most scrumptious sesame sauce ever, selfmade flatbreads crammed with eggs, veggies (and pork for the non-vegetarians) and a scrumptious (and barely alcoholic) conventional dessert. To prime it off, we wrapped up the night time with a pint of craft beer at an area brewery. This tour is a good way for newcomers to pattern Beijing’s superb meals…and get just a little tipsy whereas doing so.
Beijing has a air pollution drawback…however it’s not what you assume
Beijing is polluted, however not on a regular basis. There are days when the air pollution is so dangerous you can barely see throughout the road. That is when Beijing’s notorious “airpocalypse” headlines unfold like wildfire everywhere in the worldwide information. And it’s these sensational headlines that scare individuals off of visiting this unimaginable metropolis. The truth is that today are few and much between. They undoubtedly do exist although. And they’re brutal.
There are additionally days when the skies are so crystal clear and blue that you simply’d by no means know the town had a air pollution drawback. Many vacationers get fortunate and see nothing however blue skies throughout their journeys.
One of many clearest days I ever skilled in Beijing.
However more often than not, the air high quality is unhealthy however bearable. Until you’ve lived in a polluted place you won’t even know that that haze outdoors is definitely air pollution; you may assume it’s fog or overcast skies.
See how the sky is white? The skies aren’t gloomy; they’re polluted. Although it’s not all that apparent to the untrained eye. That is an instance of a mean polluted day in Beijing.
The air pollution does have a tendency to worsen within the winter when the area burns large quantities of coal for heating. However actually, it’s unimaginable to time your journey to Beijing based mostly on air pollution. You simply get what you get. And truthfully don’t be too paranoid. You’re solely there for a number of days. It’s individuals who reside in Beijing who’ve to fear about well being issues. You’re going to be positive. Although do put on a masks when you’ve got lung points.
Go to Beijing’s well-known points of interest on the weekdays
That point I by accident visited a park throughout a cherry blossom pageant, probably the most crowded day of the yr.
Beijing is a metropolis of over 21 million individuals, so the crowds could be intense. When you have the prospect undoubtedly go to the preferred points of interest – just like the Lama Temple, Temple of Heaven, the Forbidden Metropolis, the Nice Wall – throughout a weekday. Relying on the time of yr, there’ll nonetheless be crowds nevertheless it’s rather more bearable.
The meals in Beijing is superb
The meals in Beijing is one thing particular. For those who’re American, like me, you may be anticipating issues like chow mein, orange hen and the like. That sort of “Chinese food” is completely American and doesn’t exist in China. However that’s not a nasty factor.
What’s nice about Beijing is that it’s residence to individuals from all corners of China, which suggests the meals is tremendous assorted and genuine. Yow will discover spicy Sichuan, conventional Cantonese and (my favourite) Yunnanese throughout the town. However there’s much more than that to select from. Additionally, be certain that to attempt a jianbing (principally a crepe full of egg, lettuce, spices and a crispy cracker). You’ll discover meals carts serving jianbing everywhere.
Go to the Nice Wall with a personal driver
Likelihood is you’re going to go to the Nice Wall throughout your journey to Beijing. However assume twice about reserving a tour. It’s method higher to go by yourself. I do know it sounds costly to rent a driver however it’s truly not, particularly if in case you have a small group. Plus, it provides you the choice of visiting extra distant and fewer crowded areas of the Wall.
Most excursions will take you to the Badaling and Mutianyu sections of the Wall. These are each restored areas of the Nice Wall and since they’re the simplest to entry from Beijing, they’re by far probably the most crowded. As an alternative, I opted to rent a driver for roughly $100 for 3 individuals and go to the unrestored Gubeikou part of the Nice Wall, situated two hours from downtown Beijing. It was by far my favourite Beijing expertise. I employed a driver by means of Beijing Personal Driver. Whereas the driving force didn’t converse English, the supervisor of the corporate did, so we managed simply high quality.
The most effective time to go to Beijing is…
For my part, the most effective time to go to in Beijing is within the spring and within the fall when the climate is delicate and the air high quality is (often) at its greatest. Plus, within the spring the town is crammed with cherry blossoms and within the autumn the yellow ginko timber burst with shade. That being stated, Beijing is an excellent metropolis to go to at any time of yr.
Spring in Beijing is the perfect!
Simply know that Beijing’s climate varies wildly. The summer time may be oppressively scorching and the winter might be bitterly chilly. Simply do your analysis and pack accordingly. In the event you’re visiting through the winter be certain that to convey a puffy coat. It’s the heavy winds that make issues bone-chillingly chilly!
Freezing in February however nonetheless having enjoyable exploring the town.
Useful websites for first-time guests:
In case you actually need to be within the find out about what’s happening round city, then flick through a few of the hottest expat-oriented web sites and magazines: That’s Beijing (the place I labored!), The Beijinger and TimeOut Beijing are all nice assets.
On all of those websites, you will discover nice guides on what to discover within the metropolis, study new eating places to eat at, and discover nice occasions which might be happening within the metropolis. From craft beer festivals to wild events to stay music to instructional strolling excursions, there’s all the time one thing enjoyable happening in Beijing.
I’m positive I’ve left a lot off this record. Have you ever ever been to Beijing? Do you will have any Beijing journey ideas you’d like to add?