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Beijing

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The southern gate of the Forbidden City

Beijing (北京 Běijīng) is the capital of the most populous country in the world, the People's Republic of China. It was also the seat of the Ming and Qing dynasty emperors until the formation of a republic in 1911. As such it is rich in historical sites and important government institutions.

The city is well known for its flatness and regular construction. There is only one hill to be found in the city limits (in Jingshan Park to the north of the famous Forbidden City). Like the configuration of the Forbidden City, Beijing has concentric "ring roads", which are actually rectangular, that go around the metropolis.

Beijing will be hosting the Summer Olympics on August 8-24, 2008


Much of the city is presently in upheaval as infrastructure is being frenetically constructed and sights are being renovated for the Olympics; the best time to visit as a tourist will thus probably be right after them or during the Olympics if you are lucky enough to get the tickets.

the best time to go to beijing is in sep or oct.

Districts

Beijing has a total of 16 districts and 2 counties.

8 districts are close to the city centre:

  • Dongcheng District (东城区 Dōngchéng Qū)
  • Xicheng District (西城区 Xīchéng Qū)
  • Chongwen District (崇文区 Chóngwén Qū)
  • Xuanwu District (宣武区 Xuānwǔ Qū)
  • Chaoyang District (朝阳区 Cháoyáng Qū)
  • Haidian District (海淀区 Hǎidiàn Qū) Home of 'China's Silicon Valley' Zhongguancun (中关村 Zhōngguāncūn) and 39 universities including Peking, Tsinghua, Renmin Universities and Beijing Normal University.
  • Fengtai District (丰台区 Fēngtái Qū )
  • Shijingshan District (石景山区 Shíjǐngshān Qū)

The other 8 districts are further afield:

  • Mentougou District (门头沟区 Méntóugōu Qū)
  • Fangshan District (房山区 Fángshān Qū)
  • Tongzhou District (通州区 Tōngzhōu Qū)
  • Shunyi District (顺义区 Shùnyì Qū)
  • Changping District (昌平区 Chāngpíng Qū)
  • Daxing District (大兴区 Dàxīng Qū)
  • Pinggu District (平谷区 Pínggǔ Qū)
  • Huairou District (怀柔区 Huáiróu Qū)

Except for Mentougou, all of these eight districts switched from being counties to districts from 1988 to 2001.

Counties

The two counties lie very far from central Beijing:

  • Yanqing County (延庆县 Yánqìng Xiàn)
  • Miyun County (密云县 Mìyún Xiàn)

the Pinggu District (平谷区 Pínggǔ Qū) also lie very far from central Beijing

Understand

History

Beijing literally means "Northern Capital", a role it has played many times in China's long history. While various small towns and warlord capitals have been traced back as far as the 1st millennium BCE, Beijing first served as the capital of a (more or less) united China in 1264 when Kublai Khan's victorious Mongol forces set up what they named the Great Capital (大都 Dà Dū) to rule their new empire, from a northern location closer to the Mongol homelands.

After the fall of the Mongol Yuan dynasty in 1368, the capital was moved back to Nanjing ("Southern Capital"), but in 1403, the 3rd Ming emperor Zhu Di moved it to Beijing again and also gave the city its present name. This was Beijing's golden era: the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven and many other Beijing landmarks were built at this time. Beijing remained the capital into the Qing era and into the revolutionary ferment of the early 1900s, but in the chaos following the abdication of the last Emperor, Beijing was beset by fighting warlords. The Kuomintang thus moved the capital to Nanjing again in 1928, renaming Beijing as Beiping ("Northern Peace") to emphasize that it was no longer a capital. However, the Kuomintang was eventually defeated by the Communists, who in 1949 proclaimed the People's Republic of China with its capital at Beijing.

Language

The language of Beijing is Mandarin Chinese. Mandarin itself was the administrative language of the Ming and Qing dynasties and was based on the Beijing dialect. For language students (see below) this makes studying in Beijing an excellent chance to learn the language in its purest form. That being said, Beijing dialect (北京话) contains nasal "er" sounds (儿话) at the end of many words. Hence the ubiquitous lamb kabobs (羊肉串 yáng ròu chuàn) become "yáng ròu chuàer." Beijing taxi drivers are famously chatty and will gladly engage students of the language offering excellent chances to practice the language and get a feel for the changes in the city and country from an "Old Beijinger" (老北京人).

Get in

By plane

Scams at the airport
Arrival: Take your taxis from the stand outside, not the touts or desks inside, and insist on the meter. If you are in a group of three or more or have a lot of luggage, touts will tell you you need a minibus, and then lead you towards a people carrier in a car park, but then it will turn out they are actually leading you to a shabby taxi parked behind it, which will charge far more than the regulated fare.

Be aware of another scam where impostors who pretend to work for the taxi company pose at the official-looking stands outside offering rides to the city (especially in the non-regular hours where there are not many people about). You will be led into a "taxi" with a fake meter (which could be hidden) which runs very quickly (¥200-300 to the city). Read the section on taxis for details on how to distinguish between fake and legitimate taxis.

Departure: Ignore any people walking around offering to sell you an exit fee ticket/receipt. There used to be an airport construction (or exit) fee of ¥90, but now it is included in the plane ticket.


Beijing Capital International Airport (北京首都国际机场 Běijīng Shǒudū Guójì Jīcháng, IATA: PEK) [1] is located to the northeast of the central districts, 26km from the city centre. The airport is being expanded at a furious pace to be ready in time for the 2008 Olympics, and now has three terminals, broadly speaking divided as follows:

  • Terminal 1: Hainan Airlines
  • Terminal 2: China Southern Airlines, China Eastern Airlines, Skyteam
  • Terminal 3: Air China, Shanghai Airlines, Oneworld, Star Alliance

Terminal 3 officially opened on March 26th, but migration will be gradual. Some airlines, such as Air China/Shanghai Airlines, moved immediately and other carriers are following later. Double-check your departure terminal before arrival. Travel between Terminals 1 and 2 is via a long corridor with travelators. A fit person can make the route in about 10 minutes. A free shuttle bus runs between Terminal 2 and the new terminal 3. It departs every ten minutes or so and the journey time is about 10 minutes. Terminal 3 is huge: It alone is bigger than all five of Heathrow (London)'s terminals. Additional time should be allocated when flying from here. T3 check in closes 45 minutes before flights depart.

Facilities on arrival include ATMs and money changers. Be aware that upon departure, porters may want ¥10 to wheel your bags 50m to check-in and that most eating options are rather outrageously priced. Before you cross through security, if you want a bite to eat in the Terminal 1, there is a KFC which has lowered its prices a little, and in Terminal 2, there are 2 KFCs, and the restaurants in the basement have relatively low prices compared to what's above. A meal at any of these places should be around ¥20.

Many people use taxicabs to reach town from the airport. Try to get the Chinese name in characters of your hotel so that you can let your taxi driver read where you want to go. It is important to do this as most drivers cannot read English and many are recent arrivals from the countryside who do no know the city well. A taxi from the airport should cost ¥70-120. You will have to pay the fee shown on the meter (make sure the driver uses it) plus ¥10 toll for the airport expressway. Traffic jams are common.

The cheapest way to get to the city centre is to take the airport shuttle [2] (+86 10 64594375/64594376) . There are several lines running to different locations throughout Beijing. Buses for each route leave every 10-30 minutes, and tickets cost ¥16 for a one-way trip. Follow signs for the buses (机场巴士 Jīchǎng Bāshì) to find the bus-stops:

  • Line 1 (to Fangzhuang): 1. Liàngmǎqiáo (亮马桥); 2. Báijiāzhuāng (白家庄); 3. Dàběiyáo (大北窑)/World Trade Centre (国贸 Guómào); 4. Pānjiāyuán (潘家园); 5. Shílǐhé (十里河)/KingWing Hot Spring International Hotel (京瑞大厦 Jīngruì Dàshà ); 6. Fāngzhuāng (方庄)/Guiyou Shopping Mall (贵友大厦 Guìyǒu Dàshà). Runs 7:30-22:30. Return stops are 6, 3, and the airport. Convenient for getting to the south east of the city.
  • Line 2 (to Xidan): 1. Sānyuánqiáo (三元桥;) 2. Dōngzhímén (东直门); 3. Dōngsìshítiáo Bridge (东四十条桥); 4. Xīdān (西单)/Civil Aviation Building (民航营业大厦 Mínháng Yíngyè Dàshà). Return stops are 4, 2, and the airport. Runs 7:00 till the last flight. Heads south-west.
  • Line 3 (to Beijing Railway Station): 1. Yuyang Hotel (渔阳饭店 Yúyáng fàndiàn); 2. Dōngdàqiáo (东大桥, bypassed after 22:30); 3. Cháoyángmén (朝阳门); 4. Yǎbǎolù (雅宝路); 5. Beijing Railway Station (北京站 Běijīng zhàn). Runs 7:30 till the last flight. The Beijing Railway Station stop is actually at the west gate of the International Hotel (国际饭店 Guójì Fàndiàn), across Chang'an Avenue. Return stops are 5, Dōngzhímén, the Jingxin Building West Gate (京信大厦西门 Jīngxìn Dàshà Xīmén), and the airport. Convenient for the city center, the southeast of the city, and Chaoyang, Chongwen, and Dongcheng districts.
  • Line 4 (to Gongzhufen): 1. China International Exhibition Centre (国际展览中心 Guójì Zhǎnlǎn Zhōngxīn); 2. Xībàhé (西坝河); 3. Anzhen Bridge (安贞桥 Ānzhēnqiáo); 4. Madian Bridge (马甸桥 Mǎdiàn Qiáo); 5. Běitàipíngzhuāng (北太平庄); 6. Jimen Bridge (蓟门桥 Jìmén Qiáo); 7. Friendship Hotel (友谊宾馆 Yǒuyì Bīnguǎn); 8. Beijing TV Station (北京电视台 Běijīng Diànshìtái); 9. Zizhu Bridge (紫竹桥 Zǐzhú Qiáo); 10. Hangtian Bridge (航天桥 Hángtiān Qiáo); 11. Gongzhufen (公主坟 Gōngzhǔfén)/Xinxing Hotel (新兴宾馆 Xīnxīng Bīnguǎn). Return stops are 11, 7, 5, 3, and the airport. Runs from 7:00 to 23:00. Convenient for the north and north-west of the city, and Haidian district.
  • Line 5 (to Zhongguancun): 1. Wàngjīng (望京)/Huājiādì (花家地); 2. Xiǎoyíng (小营); 3. Asian Games Village (亚运村 Yàyùncūn)/Anhui Bridge (安慧桥 Ān huìqiáo); 4.Xueyuan Bridge (学院桥 Xuéyuàn qiáo); 5. Just west of Bǎofúsì Qiáo (保福寺桥). Return stops are 5, Beijing Aeronautics University North Gate (北航北门 Běiháng Běimén), Huixin West Street (惠新西街 Huìxīn XīJiē)/Anhui Building (安徽大厦 Ānhuī Dàshà), Huixin Dongjie (惠新东街 Huìxīn Dōngjiē)/SINOPEC (中国石化集团 Zhōngguó Shíhuà Jítuán), and the airport. From 8:30 to 21:30. Convenient for the north of the city, particularly the university district within Haidian.

The shuttle bus website also has a map available.

Public bus #359 also runs from the airport to Dongzhimen, where you can catch subway 2 or 13, but this is not very fast or convenient.

A number of youth hostels and luxury hotels run their own complimentary shuttle buses services - do ask the place where you are staying if they have one.

The Beijing subway system should complete its spur to the airport in 2008.

Nanyuan Airport (南苑机场 Nányuàn Jīchǎng, IATA: NAY) is a former military airfield 17km to the south of Beijing, currently used only by army-linked low-cost operator China United (中国联合 Zhōngguó Liánhé) [3]. China United currently fields daily flights to Harbin, Dalian, Sanya, Chongqing, Chengdu, and Wuxi. Free shuttle buses run from China United's ticket office to and from the Xidan Aviation Building (西单民航大厦 Xīdān Mínháng Dàshà). Times depend on flight schedules.

By train

Beijing West Railway Station

Beijing has many railway stations. Most trains arrive at the central or West stations.

By car

By the time of the Olympics in 2008, foreigners will be allowed to rent vehicles while in China.

Beijing is the hub of several expressways heading in all directions and the following is a list of the expressways and their destinations:

  • Jichang (Airport) Expressway (Beijing (Sanyuanqiao - Siyuan - Beigao - Xiaotianzu - Beijing Capital International Airport))
  • Jingcheng (Beijing (Taiyanggong - Wanghe Bridge - Gaoliying - Huairou - Miyun - Gubeikou) - Luanping (Hebei) - Chengde)
  • Jingtong/Jingha (Beijing (Dawang Bridge - Sihui - Gaobeidian - Shuangqiao - Huicun - Tongzhou District))
  • Jingshen (Beijing (Sifang Bridge - Shiyuan Bridge - Huoxian County, Tongzhou - Xiji) - Xianghe (Hebei) - Jixian County (Tianjin) - Jinwei - Tangshan (Hebei) - Beidaihe - Qinhuangdao - Shanhaiguan - Jinzhou (Liaoning) - Shenyang)
  • Jingjintang (Beijing (Fenzhongsi - Shibalidian - Dayangfang - Majuqiao - Caiyu) - Langfang (Hebei) - Tianjin (Yangcun - Central Tianjin - Tianjin Airport - Tanggu District/TEDA))
  • Jingkai (Beijing (Yuquanying - Daxing - Huangcun - Panggezhuang - Yufa) - China National Highway 106))
  • Jingshi (Beijing (Liuliqiao - Wanping - Liulihe) - Shijiazhuang (Hebei)) {Also known as the 'Jingzhu Expressway' (Beijing - Zhuhai)}
  • Badaling (Jingzhang) Expressway (Beijing - Badaling Expressway - Donghuayuan - Huailai - Xiahuayuan - Zhangjiakou)

11 China National Highways (国道 Guódào) also link into Beijing.

By bus

Long-distance buses from areas as far as Shanghai and the Mongolian border connect to Beijing. You can reach areas as far as Harbin or Xian on a single bus ride. Beijing has over 20 long distance bus stations, but what you need to do is go to the bus station located on the edge of the city in the direction you want to travel.

  • Xizhimen Long Distance Bus station (西直门长途汽车站 Xīzhímén Chángtú Qìchēzhàn) +86 10 62183454. Handles buses heading north and west. Destinations include Anshan, Baochang (宝昌 Bǎochāng), Baotou, Binzhou (滨州 Bīnzhōu), Boshan (博山 Bóshān), Changchun, Chengde (4.5 hrs), Chifeng (赤峰 Chìfēng, 12 hrs), Daban (大阪 Dàbǎn), Dazhangzi (大仗子 Dàzhàngzǐ), Fengshan (凤山 Fèngshān), Harbin, Hohhot, Huimin (惠民 Huìmín), Jinan, Jining (集宁 Jíníng, 7 hrs), Jinzhou, Kuancheng (宽城 Kuānchéng), Lindong (林东 Líndōng), Linhe (临河 Línhé), Luanping (滦平 Luánpíng), Ningcheng (宁城 Níngchéng), Pingzhuang (平庄 Píngzhuāng), Qinhuangdao (7.5 hrs), Tieling (铁岭 Tiělǐng), , Leling (乐陵 Lèlíng), Pingquan (平泉 Píngquán), Xilin (锡林 Xīlín), Shenyang, Shacheng (沙城 Shāchéng, 5 hrs), Shanhaiguan, Shenmu, Shizuishan, Tangshan (唐山 Tángshān, 5 hrs), Weixian (蔚县 Wèixiàn, 8 hrs), Wudan (乌丹 Wūdān), Xuanying 选营 (Xuǎnyíng, 7 hrs), Xinglong (兴垄 Xīnglǒng), Yinchuan, Yingxian (应县 Yīngxiàn), Yulin, and Zhangjiakou (张家口 Zhāngjiākǒu).
  • Deshengmen Long Distance Bus Station (德胜门外长途汽车站 Déshèngménwài Chángtú Qìchēzhàn) +86 10 82847096. Also handles buses for the north and northwest. Destinations include: Baochang (宝昌 Bǎochāng), Chicheng (赤城 Chìchéng), Dongmao (东卯 Dōngmǎo), Guyuan, Sandaochuan (三道川 Sāndàochuān), Yuxian (芋县 Yùxiàn), and Zhangjiakou (Zhāngjiākǒu 张家口).
  • Dongzhimen Long Distance Bus Station (东直门长途汽车站 Dōngzhímén Chángtú Qìchēzhàn) +86 10 64674995/64671346. Handles buses heading northeast. Destinations include Changyuan (长垣 Chángyuán), Chengde (4.5 hrs), Chifeng (赤峰 Chìfēng, 12 hrs), Fengning (丰宁 Fēngníng, 5 hrs), Fengshan (凤山 Fèngshān), Guanshang (关上 Guānshàng), Huairou district, Jiaozhuanghu (焦庄户 Jiāozhuānghù), Mafang (马坊 Mǎfāng), Miyun County, Nanzhuangtou (南庄头 Nánzhuāngtóu), Pinggu district (2.5 hrs), Sishang (寺上 Sìshàng), Shunyi district, Wuxiongsi (吴雄寺 Wúxióngsì), and Xinglong (兴隆 Xīnglōng).
  • Sihui Long Distance Bus Station (四惠长途汽车站 Sìhuì Chángtú Qìchēzhàn) +86 10 65574804. Handles buses mainly heading east. Destinations include: Changchun, Chengde, Dalian, Dandong, Liaoyang (辽阳 Liáoyáng), Tangshan (唐山 Tángshān), and Tianjin.
  • Zhaogongkou Long Distance Bus Station (赵公口长途汽车站 Zhàogōngkǒu Chángtú Qìchēzhàn) +86 10 67237328. Handles buses heading south and southeast. Destinations include Cangzhou (沧州 Cāngzhōu, 3.5hrs., ¥70), Jinan (5.5hrs., ¥114), Tanggu (塘沽 Tánggū, 2.5hrs., ¥45), Tianjin (1.5hrs., ¥35).
  • Lianhuachi Long Distance Bus Station (莲花池长途汽车站 Liánhuāchí Chángtú Qìchēzhàn) +86 10 63322354. Handles buses heading south. Destinations include: Kaifeng, Luoyang, Shijiazhuang, Taiyuan, Wuhan, and Zhengzhou.

Most of the buses from the Long Distance Bus Stations will be regular or express buses, which take the expressways, cost from ¥200-600 per trip, have comfy seats, and most rides don't take more than 6-12 hours, but sleeper buses are also available. A sleeper bus, with bunk beds in rows, average about ¥100 per trip, but many go really slowly up hills, avoid expressways, stop at every city or town, provide "meals" which you have to pay extra for, take the potholed National Highways to save money, and a bus ride can take up to 24 hours. The average speed is only 40 km/hr on the moderately fast sleeper buses, and the range could be from 25 to 60 km/hr. It may be a good authentic taste of how less wealthy Chinese people travel.

Get around

Though many residents of Beijing know conversational English, one should not count on finding a taxi driver who knows English well. Neither should a foreigner with minimal experience with the Chinese language put undue faith in his or her ability to pronounce Chinese place names so that a local can understand clearly. Before embarking on a trip around the city, print out the names of places you want to visit in Chinese characters. Show the text to the taxi driver, or just ask for help on the street. You have more chance to get help in English if you address younger people, as many schools in China have expanded their English education in the last few years.

By train / subway

Beijing subway map

The subway is a good way to quickly get around the city and a traveler can easily figure it out through the station maps and English signs and language. Be warned that due to the decrease in ticket prices the network is extremely overcrowded right now, especially on line 1 and at rush hour. Beijing now has five subway lines (beginning October 7, 2007):

  • Line 1 runs from the industrial Pingguoyuan area in the west to Sihui East in eastern Beijing. It has 21 stops and follows Chang'an Avenue, the main avenue of Beijing. It links Xidan, Tian'anmen East and West, Wangfujing, Dongdan, Guomao, and Yong'anli. Transfer stations are at Fuxingmen (Line 2), Dongdan (Line 5), Jianguomen (Line 2), and Sihui/Sihui East (Batong Line). The visual identifying color is Red.
  • Line 2 is also called the Loop Line and follows the north part of the 2nd Ring Road and Qianmen Avenue. Major stops of interest include Qianmen, a major transportation hub as well as an attraction in its own right. Transfer stations are at Fuxingmen (Line 1), Jianguomen (Line 1), Yonghegong the Lama Temple (Line 5), Chongwenmen (Line 5), Xizhimen (Line 13), and Dongzhimen (Line 13). The visual identifying color is Blue.
  • Line 5 is Beijing's first north-south subway line. It is a brand new line opened at October 7, 2007. Useful stops include the Temple of Heaven (Tiantan Dongmen). Transfer stations are at Lishuiqiao (Line 13), Yonghegong the Lama Temple (Line 2), Dongdan (Line 1), and Chongwenmen (Line 2). The visual identifying color is Purple.
  • Line 13 does an extended northern semi-loop from Dongzhimen via Huilongguan through to Xizhimen. Transfer stations are at Xizhimen and Dongzhimen (both to Line 2), Lishuiqiao (Line 5). The visual identifying color is Orange Yellow.
  • Batong Line (aka Line 8T) runs east from Sihui to Tuqiao in eastern suburban Beijing. Transfer stations are at Sihui and Sihui East (both to Line 1). The Batong Line is not of much use for travelers. The visual identifying color is Red.
Subway station in Beijing.

Seven additional subway lines are under construction in preparation for the 2008 Olympics.

The subway station entrances are identified by a large blue stylized letter G wrapped around a smaller letter B.

Purchase tickets at the window. Note that if you want two tickets, do not show your thumb and index finger, the Chinese way to signify numbers is different from the west, thumb and index finger mean eight not two.

The subway ticket costs ¥2 since October 7, 2007. From March 2008 the flat fare of ¥2 will be replaced by a new charge by distance similar to the systems used in Hong Kong and London. There is a pre-paid card system (一卡通 Yīkātōng). There is a ¥20 payment for the card. It can also be used for reduced-price bus rides.

By bicycle

Once known as a nation of bicycles, China today has an evergrowing number of private car owners. So, nowadays you are guaranteed to see more bikes in any city in the Netherlands than in Bejing. Exploring Beijing on a bike is excellent since the city is flat as a pancake, and all major streets have bike lanes. Bicycling is often faster than car, taxi or bus because of the traffic congestion in the motorized traffic lanes.

Four-wheeled motorized traffic in Beijing usually observes traffic signals with the exception of making turns on red lights which is often done without slowing or deferring to pedestrians or bicyclists. Pedestrians, bicycles and all other vehicles (for example, motorized bicycles, mopeds and tricycles) generally do not observe traffic signals. Also, cars, trucks and buses do not defer to bicyclists on the road so it is common for a vehicle to make a right turn from an inside lane across a bike lane with no concern for bicyclists traveling in the bike lane. Sometimes a right-turning vehicle crossing a bike lane will sound its horn as a warning, but not always. Bicyclists also need to be on the lookout for wrong-way traffic in the bike lanes, usually bicycles and tricycles but sometimes motor vehicles, too. Wrong-way traffic usually stays close to the curb so you move to the left to get by them, but not always. Helmets are not worn by bicycling Beijingers. Nor are lights used at night with few bikes even having rear reflectors. The moderate pace and sheer numbers of bicyclists in Beijing appears to make bike travel safer than it would be otherwise.

While you will see bicyclists use many creative paths across wide, busy intersections in Beijing, the safest way for bicyclists is to observe the traffic signals (there are often special signals for bicyclists) and to make left turns in two steps as a pedestrian would. But if you spend any significant amount of time bicycling in Beijing, you will probably start adopting more creative approaches. These can be learned by finding a local bicyclist going your way and following him or her across the intersection.

Several professional bike rental companies, as well as major hotels and some hostels, rent bikes on an hourly basis. For those who need the security of a guide, a bike touring company like Bicycle Kingdom Rentals & Tours [4] would be a great way to go.

If you are staying more than a few days a reasonable bike can be bought for ¥300. Ensure that you have a good lock included in the price no matter how cheap the bike as I have seen even a $10 bike disappear from local bars. The cheapest bikes are not worth the additional savings as you will get what you pay for. The cheapest bikes will start to deteriorate as soon as you begin to ride, so spend a little more and get a bike in the 300-400 range. I am sure that you can get a bike for less, but I got a "Giant" brand bike with a heavy duty lock and basket for ¥350. Bike rentals may have good bikes, but you pay a high price and run the risk of the bike being stolen.

By bus

Beijing's bus system is cheap, convenient and covers the entire city—perfect for locals but, alas, difficult to use if you don't understand Chinese. The bus staff speak little English, and only a few bus lines in the city center broadcast stop names in English. Bus stop signs are also entirely in Chinese. But should you speak Chinese or have a healthy sense of adventure, a bus can get you almost anywhere, and often somewhere that you never intended to go: it's a great way to see parts of the city that tourists normally don't visit.

Most bus fares are relatively cheap, but if you get a public transportation card from a metro station (a card that acts as a debit card for the metro and buses) you can get a 60% discount on all fares.

A flurry of shiny new buses have arrived on the streets in preparation for the Olympics. Many buses now feature air-conditioning (heating in winter), TVs, a scrolling screen that displays stops in Chinese, and a broadcast system that announces stops. If you are having problems navigating the bus system, call the English-speaking operators at the Beijing Public Transportation Customer Helpline (96166).

Warning: Beijing buses can get very crowded so be prepared and keep an eye on your valuables. Many pickpockets frequent buses and subways, so carry backpacks in the front, and try to put your valuables somewhere hard to access. Be aware of a scam offering bus rides to the Great Wall masquerading as the real bus service. Instead of directly driving to the Great Wall, you will instead be led to a series of tours to dilapidated theme parks, tourist shops, museums, etc before finally reaching the Great Wall near the end of the day.

Bus routes

Bus lines are numbered from 1-999. Buses under 300 serve the city center. Buses 300 and up run between the city center and more distant areas (such as beyond the Third Ring Road). Buses in the 900s connect Beijing with its "rural" districts (i.e., Changping, Yanqing, Shunyi, etc) that are not considered part of Beijing proper.

Full maps of the system are available only in Chinese. The Beijing Public Transport Co. [5] website has limited information in English, but the Chinese version has a very helpful routing service with an interactive map. You can input your starting point and your ending point and see all the bus routes that will get you from A to B, look up a bus route by number, or input a place name and see all the routes that go stop there.

Fares and operating hours

Most buses with a line number under 200 run daily from 5:00 to 23:00. Buses with a line number greater than 300 run from 6:00 till 20:00-22:00. All buses with a line number in the 200s are night buses. Many routes get very crowded during rush hours (6:30-9:00 and 17:00-19:00). On all major holidays, there will be more frequent service on most city routes.

For passengers paying by cash: Lines 1-199 operate on a flat rate of ¥1 per journey. Lines 300-899 charge ¥1 for the first 12km of each journey and ¥0.5 for each additional 5km. Buses with air-condition (800-899) start at ¥2. The night buses (200-299) charge ¥2 per journey.

For passengers paying by the new pre-paid Smart Card (yikatong): Lines 1-499 operate on a flat rate of ¥0.40 per journey. Lines 500-899 get 60% off the cash price. There are also 3-day, 7-day and 15-day passes available for travelers. There is no return ticket or day ticket.

By minibus

Minibuses are very common in the countryside outside the urban areas. Privately operated, most trips cost less than ¥10 per short journey and only a little more for longer journeys.

By taxi

a Citroen taxi with dark red paint, in front of the gate of Summer Palace. Note the small blue label with white word "TAXI" on the top left of the windshield

Taxis are the preferred choice for getting around, as they are convenient and are fairly inexpensive for travelers from Western countries. The only downside is that Beijing's congested traffic often results in long jams. Vehicles used as taxis include the Hyundai Sonata and Elantra, Volkswagen Santana and Jetta (the old model, designed in the 1980s), and China-made Citroens. These taxis are dark red, or yellow top with dark blue bottom, or painted with new colors (see picture). Luxurious black executive cars (usually Audis) can also be found, usually waiting outside hotels.

Fares and meters

Beginning from June 2006, all taxis charge a starting fee of ¥10, and an additional ¥2 per kilometer after the first 3km. Taxi meters keep running when the speed is slower than 12km per hr. or when waiting for green lights; five minutes of waiting time equals 1 km running. Outside of rush hour, an average trip through the city costs around ¥20-25, and a cross-town journey about ¥50 (for example, from the city center to the northern side of the Fourth Ring Road).

If the taxi driver "forgets" to switch the taxi meter on, remind him or her by politely saying "qǐng dǎ biǎo" (请打表) (pronunciation: qǐng slightly like "ching", da like "Dalai Lama", biao= b(b in "blue") -i(y in "yellow") -ao(au in "Austria"). This means "Run the meter, please". Get a receipt (in case you want to make a complaint later or for business reimbursement purposes) by saying "fā piào" (发票) or gesturing at the meter and making a writing motion.

new paint of Beijing taxis, with a dark yellow strip and name of the taxi company in the center, and other parts are dark reddish brown (also could be white, dark green or dark blue)

If you want a tour around Beijing and its vicinities, you can ask your hotel to hire a cab for one day or several days. It usually costs ¥400-600 per day, depending on where you go. If you have Chinese-speaking assistance, then bargain down the cost. No matter the cost, the taxi is yours for the day and will wait for you at various destinations.

Communicating with the drivers can be a problem, as most do not speak English. You can ask that your hotel write your destination on a card to give to the driver. Make sure also to take the hotel's card (and a map) that lists the hotel's address in Chinese. This can be a 'get out of jail free' card if you get lost and need to get back via taxi. A regular city map with streets and sights in Chinese will help also.

a shabby taxi with a "京C" license, outside gate of the Summer Palace

Avoiding scams and fakes

All official taxis have license plates beginning with the letter "B", as in "京B". "Black cabs" may look like taxis but their license plates will start with letters other than B. It's nearly impossible to hail a black cab on the streets; they generally hang out around tourist sights like the Great Wall and the Summer Palace or around subway stops. Black cabs will charge you a higher fee for the journey, unless you are a good bargainer, know where you are going, and know what the right fare should be. Sometimes they drop foreign tourists in wrong places. In some extreme cases, the driver may even take them to the countryside and rob them. If you find you hired a fake taxi and are overcharged, don't argue if you are alone, pay the driver and remember the car's license plate number, then call police later.

To avoid being taken advantage of, it is a good idea to know the rough direction, cost, and distance of your destination. You can easily find this out from asking locals before calling a cab. Verify these values with the taxicab driver to show them that you are in the know, and are probably too much trouble to cheat. Keep track of the direction of travel with a compass and/or the sun. If the cab goes in the wrong direction for a long distance, verify the location with the taxi driver. For scamming drivers, that is usually enough for them to go back on the right track (without ever acknowledging that they were trying to cheat you). Honest drivers will explain why they are going that way.

Keep in mind that central Beijing can be off limits at certain times, forcing cabs to reroute. And some roads forbid left turns (with big road signs) either at certain hours or all the time, so the driver might make a detour.

By car

Renting a car normally is not recommended for the ordinary visitor. Besides being extremely expensive, driving in Beijing can be quite complicated, language difficulties included. Many hotels, however, rent cars that come with drivers, for those who can afford it, up to ¥1000 per day.

  • BCNC Car Rental. Toll-free in China 010800/810-9001, [6]. Based at the Capital Airport, this agency is appointed as an option by several guides. An air ticket is required, as well as an international driving license. Mind you that deposits can be huge, and there are extra charges for permission to venture beyond the city limits.
  • Avis also operates a car-rental service in Beijing.

See also Driving in China.

See

  • 798 Art District. A district full of galleries of contemporary Chinese art, located in an old industrial district. Also many Western style cafes.

Many tourist areas in Beijing are under renovation for the 2008 Olympics. The Forbidden City and the Summer Palace all had sections under renovation as of the middle of March 2006. Renovations on the Temple of Heaven are completed. As a plus, ticket prices were reduced for sights under renovation. Just be aware that prior to the Olympics there may be continued renovations.

  • Forbidden City (故宫 Gù Gōng) (also known as the Palace Museum). Get there when the gates open (around 8.30am) if you want to walk through the vast and spectacular courtyards in relative peace. This is truly the spot to appreciate the might and grandeur of the Imperial Chinese court during the height of its power in the Ming and Qing dynasties. Despite the transformation of the city around it, the Forbidden City remains mercifully relatively untouched. A few years ago there was a lot of local fuss when a Starbucks coffee shop opened in the Forbidden City, some interpreting this as a return to the bad old days of colonial domination. However, in July 2007, Starbucks decided to close the shop as part of the restoration of the Forbidden City, which is in part toning down the commercial locations inside the city walls. There are a handful of other cafes and gift shops. Only 2/5 area of the palace is opened, but some places are under restorations and will be opened before 2008. Current entry fee is ¥60. You can rent an audio guided tour which explains certain temples and their uses for ¥40 with a ¥100 deposit (more than a dozen languages available). The signs posted around and on buildings inside are fairly short and are written in both Chinese and English. You could reach the Forbidden City via subway line 1 in the station of Tian An Men West or Tian An Men East,the bus station in the same name for line 1,4,52 and 728 is also convenient for catch in the Chang An Street. Alternatively, the bus station of "Gugong" for line 101,109 and 810 is sitting in the north gate of Forbidden City.
Tiananmen Square
  • Tiananmen Square (天安门广场 Tiānānmén Guǎngchǎng). Largest square in the world. Built by Mao to impress; his riposte to the Forbidden City, the square is surrounded by Soviet-style monuments and government buildings, and houses Mao's mausoleum at the end opposite the entrance to the Forbidden City. It remains an astounding place and a spot to linger and see visitors from all over China, many visiting their capital for the first time. There is a flag raising and lowering ceremony at dawn and dusk. There are 4 marble lions in front of the Tiananmen gate, the northwest one has a bullet hole on its stomach from the 1989 Tianamen Square massacre (the lions are enclosed by fences, making the NW one nearly impossible to see close up).
Temple of Heaven
  • Temple of Heaven (天坛 Tiāntán), south east of Qianmen and the Tiananmen Square. Not only a beautiful sight, but also surrounded by a vast public park popular with local residents practicing tai chi, dancing, and so on in the mornings and on weekends. Home to many ancient trees, this is also the greenest place in Beijing. Just a short stroll away from the historical sights will bring you to peaceful woods and, amazingly, solitude (especially toward the West Gate). The temple itself was the site where the emperor prayed every year for good harvests and fair weather. The most convenient way for getting there is taking the Subway Line 5 to the Tian Tan Dong Men Station (East Gate). It also can be reached by buses 2, 7, 17, 20, 110, 120, 803, 814, 826 to the West Gate (天坛西门 Tiāntán Xīmén); or buses 35 and 106 to the North Gate (天坛北门 Tiāntán Běimén). Park and historical sights (like the temple) ¥35, park only ¥15.
Summer Palace [March 2006]
  • Summer Palace (颐和园 Yíhé yuán). Extensive gardens and the ruins of palaces constructed by the Qing emperors. Most visitors stay in the front hill area, but if you prefer quiet places, the west bank and back hill areas are good choices. There are some quiet and secret ruins, caves, and other fun stuff in the back hill area. You could easily take bus No. 690 or 808 from Tian An Men Square to the terminal station, the Summer Palace. The Bus 826 would bring you from Temple of Heaven to Summer Palace.
  • Beijing Zoo and Aquarium (北京动物园 Běijīng Dòngwù Yuán). (They do have Pandas, but displays are not great, your best bet is to go to the Panda Breeding Centre in Chengdu, Sichuan Province). Some are concerned with the way animals are treated in the Zoo, but the aquarium is one of the biggest in the world, and very impressive. The Zoo was built on the sites of some ancient gardens, has lakes, pounds, pavilions and other beautiful old buildings. The Soviet revival Beijing Exhibition Hall is located nearby and has a Russian restaurant, "Moscow Restaurant". Please note that the Zoo is also an important traffic center, which means the terminal station for Bus No. 103,105,107 and 111. The new subway line 4 should be ready in 2009.
  • Beihai Park (北海 Běihǎi), (Take bus 101 103 109 846 to the south gate, bus 13 118 810 to the north gate, opposite the Shi Sha Hai). Nov-Mar 09:00-16:00 Apr-Oct 09:00-17:00. Beihai is a good place to take a glance at Zhongnanhai (中南海 Zhōngnánhǎi), heart of Communist China. There's a big island and white pagoda which was built in the 17th century. The giant buildings westward outside are PRC's Ministry of Defence and General Staff, which, to be honest, ruin the scene of the west bank. On the north bank, you can visit some small but beautiful gardens. ¥20.
  • Yonghegong (雍和宮 Yōnghégōng), (also known as Lama Temple or Palace of Peace). The temple was built by Chinese emperors who harbored a deep fascination for the Tibetan (Tantric) version of Buddhism. Over the years many Tibetan and Mongolian monks lived and taught here, and there are still monks in residence today. The temple is famous for its 18m statue of Maitreya Buddha carved from a single piece of sandalwood. Visitors aren't allowed to take pictures of holy statues inside most of the temples. You can view most of buildings in an hour or less. Admission is 25RMB and seems a bit overpriced. Closes at 4PM.
  • Prince Gong's Mansion (恭王府 Gōngwáng Fǔ). The garden is fulled with Chinese tourists, and the mansion will be opened as a museum before 2008, which will display the life of princes during the Qing dynasty
  • Legation Quarter, east of Tiananmen Square. Once famous in the Boxer Rebellion, the legation quarter is now occupied by government offices and army offices but can still be seen from outside. There's a wonderful bakery store called "Sapporo" near the legation quarter, famous for its breads and cheesecakes.
  • Fragrant Hills (香山 Xiāng Shān), in the northwestern corner of Beijing. A good place for weekend outings and picnics. Formerly a Qing imperial garden, today Fragrant Hills makes an easy short climb in the suburbs of Beijing. It's also home to the Fragrant Hills Hotel, designed by I.M. Pei (Louvre Museum Pyramid). Take buses 331, 360 or 634 to the last stop. Admission Fee is ¥10, students ¥5.
  • Beijing Botanical Gardens (北京植物园 Běijīng Zhíwù Yuán), steps away from the east gate of Fragrant Hill. Acres of greenery and flowers for those tired of urban smog and traffic noise. Sir Johnston, teacher of the last emperor Puyi, had a villa in Cherry Glen, a silent and beautiful retreat in the Gardens. In the spring, the gardens hosts special exhibits of tulips, peach and plum blossoms, peonies, and the like. Take buses 331, 726. ¥10, students ¥5.
  • Hutongs (胡同 Hútòng) are Beijing's ancient alleyways, where you can find traditional Beijing architecture. They date back to when Beijing was the capitol of the Yuan dynasty (1266-1368). Most buildings in hutongs are made in the traditional siheyuan (四合院), or courtyard, style. Many of these courtyard homes were originally occupied by aristocrats, though after the Communist takeover in 1949 the aristocrats were pushed out and replaced with poor families. Hutongs can still be found throughout the area within the 2nd Ring Road, though many are being demolished to make way for new buildings and wider roads. Most popular among tourists are the hutongs near Qianmen (前门) and Houhai (后海).
  • Military Museum of the Chinese People's Revolution (中国人民革命军事博物馆 Zhōngguó Rénmín Gémìng Jūnshì Bówùguǎn) +86 10 68529647. A great place to read the official Chinese version of what happened in Chinese military history, from ancient times up to 1949. There are also airplanes, boats, guns, missiles, rockets and vehicles on display (including U.S. military hardware evidently seized during the Korean conflict). The exhibit in "The Hall of the War to Resist U.S. Aggression and Aid Korea" was unfortunately inaccessible as of April 2007. You can pay an extra ¥5 to take a picture in a 1980's era Chinese tank. Entrance fee is ¥20.
  • China Aviation Museum. A must see for all aviation fans. It is located about 50 km outside Beijing in Changping District and is probably better known by the name Datangshan. Best way to get there is to arrange a taxi from your hotel. The other more adventurous way is to take bus 912 (or 643 if you can't find the 912) from Andingmen bus station, just remember that 912 has some branch lines and not all of these go via museum. The museum hosts over 200 exhibits, many of them very rare. Entrance fee is ¥50, and an extra ¥8 if you want to board Chairman Mao's plane.
  • The Museum of History and the Museum of the Revolution, on the east side of Tiananmen Square. It is undergoing renovation from 2007 until 2010 and will not be accessible until finished.
  • Ox Street Mosque. Famous Mosque, beautifully decorated in red. A must see if staying for more than a few days. South of Forbidden City.

Do

See Beijing 2008 for the Olympics.
  • Rent a bicycle and traverse some of the remaining hutongs. Three is no better way to see Beijing firsthand than on a bicycle but just be very aware of cars (most people are driving their first car ever). See above for bike rental information.
  • Visit the Temple of Heaven early in the morning to see thousands of Beijingers starting the day with tai chi.
  • Have a highly enjoyable and relaxing foot massage and/or pedicure etc. (for a fraction of the price in the West) from any of the respectable and professional offerings in central Beijing (in the vicinity of the Beijing Hotel for example).
  • See a Beijing opera at the Laoshe Tea House (老舍茶馆 Lǎoshě Cháguǎn) just west of Qianmen station. There always are short displays in the afternoon (about 40 min). They are free of admission, but you should buy a cup of tea. Long displays are in the evening. You should book a seat in advance, since the place is always crowded. Tickets start at ¥180 and include tea and snacks.
  • Shoot Chinese automatic guns and other crazy military grade weapons at the International Shooting Range [7] north of Beijing. Contact tel: +86 1069771368 ext 3103 (Chinese only).
  • Enjoy life as the locals do at a spa complex. The Bigeast Ocean Gymnastic Club (ignore the Gymnastic part, tel: +861087323329/+861087323328, 200m eash of Huawei Bridge) has a huge sauna, 3 different kinds of spas to soak in, a steam room, and showers. After a jaunt in the spa room, get dressed up in pajamas and head upstairs to witness a variety show with comedians, singers, and clowns. After the show, you can relax in the reclining sofa room or grab some snacks from the cafe. The truly unique experience for someone who's "seen it all" in China.
  • Club Oasis Fitness Centre & Spa, Grand Hyatt Beijing Hotel, 1 East Chang An Avenue, +86 10 8518 1234 (), [8].

Learn

Universities

Nearly all of the universities in Beijing accept foreign students. Most foreign students are on Chinese language programs which can last from a few weeks to a couple of years. If you have a sufficient HSK level [9] you can enroll in programs to study other subjects.

  • Tsinghua University (清华大学 Qīnghuá Dàxué) [10]
Tsinghua University, Beijing, China.Founded in 1911
  • Peking University (北京大学 Běijīng Dàxué) [11]
  • Renmin University of China (中国人民大学 Zhōngguó Rénmín Dàxué) [12]
  • Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics (北京航空航天大学 Běijīng Hángkōng Hángtiān Dàxué) [13]
  • Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications (北京邮电大学 Běijīng Yóudiàn Dàxué) [14]
  • Beijing Jiaotong University (北京交通大学 Běijīng Jiāotōng Dàxué) [15]
  • Beijing Normal University (北京师范大学 Běijīng Shīfàn Dàxué) [16]
  • Beijing Institute of Technology (北京理工大学 Běijīng Lǐgōng Dàxué) [17]
  • China Media University (中国传媒大学 Zhōngguó Chuánméi Dàxué) [18]
  • University of International Business and Economics (对外经济贸易大学 Duìwài Jīngjì Màoyì Dàxué) [19]
  • Beijing Language and Culture University(北京语言文化大学 Běijīng Yǔyán Wénhuà Dàxué) [20]
  • Beijing University of Technology(北京工业大学 Běijīng Gōngyè Dàxué) [21]
  • Beijing University of Science and Technology (北京科技大学 Běijīng Kējì Dàxué) [22]
  • China Youth University for Political Sciences (中国青年政治学院 Zhōngguó Qīngnián Zhèngzhi Xuéyuàn) [23]

Private Schools

  • Beiyan Language and culture Institute(贝彦语言文化培训学校)[24] [25] One of the best place for Chinese language courses for Western students. Teaching quality greater than Beijing Language University.
  • Global Village (地球村学校 Dìqiú Cūn Xuéxiào) - with branches in both Wangjing and Wudaokou, this is an extremely popular place for Chinese language courses for Korean students. Teaching quality is reportedly high.


Chinese companies providing Chinese language teaching (without control of Chinese educational authorities)

  • Hutong School, [26]. Offers intensive Chinese language courses and internship opportunities in a beautifully renovated courtyard. Very good prices and the staff are helpful and friendly.
  • Frontiers School, [27]. Private school, cheaper than studying Chinese at any of the above, nice staff.
  • Easyou, [28]. Private school, you can study for as little as a week, or for many months. Staff are friendly and helpful.
  • That's Mandarin, [29]. One on one lessons. Some students have reported they received good one-on-one attention at this school.
  • The Beijing Center for Chinese Studies, [30]. A learning institution initially supported by Loyola Marymount University and currently by Loyola University of Chicago.

Work

Most of the commercial areas are in the following areas:

  • Guomao (国贸)
  • Dawang (大望)
  • Eastern 3rd Ring Road (东三环)
  • Chao yangmen (朝阳门)
  • Hai dian(海淀)

Wherever you see the acronym CBD, it means it is located near the Central Business District. It can be both residential or commercial area.

Like all of China, finding a job teaching English in Beijing is relatively easy for native speakers. In fact, if you are of European descent some employers may assume that you are already qualified enough to teach English to Chinese students. However, more prestigious employers (especially universities and language schools) will generally require an English teaching qualification or a Bachelor's degree (normally in any discipline, although sometimes specifically in English/linguistics).

Caution: there has been something of an "explosion" in English teaching in recent years, but this has brought some attendant problems with unregulated schools who fail to deliver on their contracts with teaching staff. Most teachers have been getting by with business visas and working as outside contractors for the schools, but there seems to be an ongoing government crackdown on this practice in the run-up to the Olympics. You are advised to check with existing teachers before signing a teaching contract with an unknown school.

See also: Teaching English

Buy

  • Throughout nearly all markets in Beijing, haggling is essential. Especially when browsing through large, "touristy" shopping areas for common items, do not put it beneath your dignity to start bargaining at 15% of the vendor's initial asking price. After spending some time haggling, never hesitate to threaten walking away, as this is often the quickest way to see a vendor lower his or her prices to a reasonable level. Buying in bulk or in groups may also lower the price. Beware that if you start your bargaining at too low of a price, such as 5% of the asking price, the vendor may just immediately give up on trying to sell the item to you. How high or low the vendor sets the asking price depends on the customer, the vendor, the product's popularity, and even the time of day. Vendors also tend to target visible minorities more, such as Caucasians or people of African descent.
  • The true clothing market where the Chinese buy, is located in Xizhi Men, next to the Zoo. directions: in front of the Zoo there is a new huge building, which is just another big market, BUT behind it, there is the wholesale market, with the best prices, almost no need to bargain, and a lot of genuine goods (clothing). This market is much more local than others listed here, and is perhaps not ideal for the more sensitive traveller.
  • The Malls at Oriental Plaza (东方新天地) - East of Tian'anmen Square, next to Wangfujing Street. Shopping area (expensive) but provides you with a lot of buying opportunities from diamonds, to real (affordable) DVD's, (international) Music CD's and food. Oriental Plaza is the place where I often hang out with friends. It is just located in the most famous shopping street in Beijing, called Wang Fu Jing Street. You can find lots of brands in Oriental Plaza, from top to the normal like Calvin Klein, G-star, Esprit, Only, etc. Besides shopping, you also can eat here, from western food to traditional Chinese food.
  • Wangfujing (王府井大街)- where many of the higher end shops are located
  • Xidan(西单) - West of Tiananmen square. Several large malls near a substation, and look for the market, it's quite good - bargaining is a must (sellers even enjoy it)!
  • Golden Resources Shopping Mall near Yuanda Bridge / Yuanda Road -- Located by West Fourth Ring Road (Xisihuan) in Haidian District, Beijing, the mall covers 680.000 square meters, the second largest in Asia. Multiple stories, snaking alleys, infinite shopping opportunities... you get the gist.
  • China World Trade Center (Guomao) -- here you will find a lot of expensive stores and some international convenience stores.
  • Silk Street or the Silk Market (秀水街 Xiùshuǐ Jiē) at 8 East Xiùshuǐ Street, Jiànguómén Wài Dàjiē (建国门外大街,东秀水街8号). This building is located east of Tian'anmen square. It was reopened in March 2005 as a 5 story air conditioned building selling entirely for foreign visitors. You can find luggage, leather bags, electronics, sporting goods, jewellery, clothing and Chinese artwork. This location caters entirely to foreign customers. However, compared to other Asian markets in, say, Hong Kong and Bangkok, this market may be overpriced. Counterfeit Polo Ralph Lauren golf shirts in Hong Kong are roughly 30 Hong Kong dollars (US$4) while at the Silk Market, the general starting price is roughly US$50 and you would be lucky after lengthy bartering to get the shirt for US$20. Again, generally way overpriced for knock-off goods, and tourists might want to consider spending their money elsewhere.
  • SanLiTun YaShou Clothing Market -- Located at 58 Gongti Beilu, this is very similar to Silk Street (see above) with slightly better prices. Its less touristy than Silk Street, and prices will start far closer to a reasonable sale price. The net result is the bargaining is far less agressive and you will probably feel more comfortable with your purchases here. The vendors are generally pleasant and fun to negotiate with. A great time to visit is in the midafternoon, when sales are slower. There is a floor dedicated to children's clothing. There are also shops with consumer electronics, china, bedding, and so on. This market is within walking distance of several hotels, including the Great Wall Sheraton. There is a fairly safe food court on the top floor. There are several bespoke tailors for men here; they will custom-make suits in less than 24 hours at prices that will turn your head. You pick the fabric and style, they measure you, you come back for a trial fitting, and then you pick up the suits the next day.
  • For the more technologically-oriented tourist, Zhong Guan Cun (中关村)is a must. Located a couple miles from Tsinghua University, this area is dubbed the "Silicon Valley of China." There are a number of large electronics malls that sell everything from phones to computer parts. The largest and most well-known include HaiLong (海龙大厦) and Dinghao (鼎好大厦). Pirated software and DVDs are not hard to find here. Many of the shady characters outside the malls shouting 'DVD!' also sell pornography (illegal in China).
  • Sanfo is the leading outdoor gear stores in China and their stores in Beijing are located at Building 4, Entrance 5, Nancun, Madian (Metro 2 to Zhishuitan, bus 315, 344 or 345 to Madian, store is located southside of Bei Sanhuan, west of Madian intersection) and at Jinzhiqiao Dasha, Guomen, Chaoyang District (west entrance of China International Trade Center, continue west along northside of street to east side of second block of buildings).

Antiques and Specialty Items

  • Pan Jia Yuan (潘家园), also called the "dirt market" or the "weekend market," this is China's largest and possibly its most entertaining flea market. It operates from Sunday to Saturday, most people visit there on the weekend, and it is located near Pan Jia Yuan bridge, on the eastern third ring road. It begins early, around 7am in summer and 8am in winter (4:00 am in weekend). The flea market includes antiques (plenty of both genuine and fake varieties) and large sections selling modern porcelain, jade, carved stone and wood, paintings, furniture, and other decorative items, used books, maps, Cultural Revolution relatives (some are copies made in recent years). There are also sections selling Tibetan goods (mostly of low quality, especially the paintings). Ethnic textiles from Yunnan and Guizhou provinces are amongst the more interesting buys at the moment. Well worth a visit, unless you are allergic to crowds. Remember to haggle, try offer 1/3 to 1/10 of the original price, and don't expect too much to find some genuine antiques there (even they got such stuffs, they will prefer sell them to their familiar customers). It also,provides shipping service for large items to main ports around the world.
  • Liulichang (琉璃厂, stove of colored glaze) there are no stoves any more but all antique stores, selling Chinese painting, handicrafts, used books and other stuff. This place was the most popular and fantastic place in old Peking, but was closed in the 1960s. Though it was re-opened in the mid 1980s, the original fantastic stores are state-owned, no longer attractive for local people. You can still find interesting things here. In Chinese new year, there's a 15-day folk fair here. Liulichang is not far from subway's Heping Men Station.
  • Gu Wan Cheng (古玩城) on the 3rd ring road, just beyond Pan Jia Yuan, this four story white building houses the more upmarket variety of Chinese antiques, with prices to match. The management have been making determined efforts to stamp out fakes and low quality items in recent years and to some extent they have succeeded but the rule that applies to all antique shopping in China still remains in force: let the buyer beware.
  • Hong Qiao not far from the Temple of Heaven, worth visiting for the state-run silk market but more especially for the pearl market in the building opposite. The top two floors of this market are filled with jewelry, and this may be the best place in China to buy pearls, coral, turquoise, amber and other semi-precious stones. The presence of a large number of stalls keeps the prices fairly keen, but shop around, keep a smile on your face and bargain hard.
  • Hotel shops and Department stores not the most characterful shopping in China, but worth a look and generally less likely but not immune from selling complete duds. The old style of Chinese retailing is gradually being transformed by shops with better design sense and souvenir items are getting better each year. Silk clothing, table settings and so on such as those sold by Emperor at Kempinski Hotel and other spots around town, are worth a look as are porcelain, specialty tea and other traditional items.
  • Carpet stores the carpet business is strong in Beijing and you will find all manner of stores selling silk carpets and other varieties. For Tibetan carpets try Torana Gallery at the Kempinski Hotel, one of the few places selling carpets that are actually made in Tibet.
  • There are also companies, including Chic Antique ([31]) that cater to tourists interested in buying antique Chinese furniture during their visit to Beijing. They can organize one day visits to warehouses located in the outskirts of the city, as well as organizing needed restoration work, export documents, packing and door to door shipping.

Eat

The best way to eat good and cheap in Beijing is to enter one of the ubiquitous restaurants where the locals are eating and pick a few different dishes from the menu. Truth be told, anyone familiar with Western currency and prices will find Beijing a very inexpensive city for food, especially considering that tipping is not practiced in China.

Some of the cheapest and delicious meals can be had on the streets. Jiānbĭng guŏzi (煎饼果子) is one of the most popular street snacks, eaten from morning till night. This delicious pancake is cooked with an egg on a griddle, a fried dough crisp is added, and the whole thing is drizzled in scallions and a savory sauce. Hot sauce is optional. Diehard fans often go on a quest for the "best" jiānbĭng cart in the city. This ubiquitous treat only costs ¥2, with an extra egg ¥2.50.

Lamb kebabs (羊肉串 yángròu chuàn ) and other kebabs are grilled on makeshift stands all around Beijing, from the late afternoon to late at night. Wangfujing has a "snack street" selling such mundane fare like lamb, chicken, and beef as well as multiple styles of noodle dishes, such as Sichuan style rice noodles, but the brave can also sample silkworm, scorpion, and various organs all skewered on a stick and grilled to order.

A winter specialty, candied haw berries (冰糖葫芦 bīngtáng húlu) are dipped in sugar and sold on a stick. You can also find variations with oranges, grapes, strawberries, and bananas, or dipped in crumbled peanuts as well as sugar. This sweet snack can also sometimes be found in the spring and the summer, but the haw berries are often from last season's crop.

Beijing Roast Duck

This famous Beijing specialty is served at many restaurants, but there are quite a few restaurants dedicated to the art of roasting the perfect duck. Expect to pay around ¥40 per whole duck at budget-range establishments, and ¥160-¥190 at high-end restaurants. Beijing duck (北京烤鸭 bĕijīng kăoyā) is served with thin pancakes, plum sauce (甜面酱 tiánmiàn jiàng),and slivers of scallions and cucumbers. You dip the duck in the sauce and roll it up in the pancake with a few slivers of scallions and/or cucumbers. The end result is a mouthwatering combination of the cool crunchiness of the cucumber, the sharpness of the scallions, and the rich flavors of the duck.

  • Quánjùdé (全聚德), 32 Qianmen Dajie (前门大街32号), 6510 9608, [32]. Daily 11:30am-2:30pm and 4:30-8pm. The oldest and most venerable of the roast duck restaurants, Quanjude is slipping these days, but its fame still brings many customers, mostly tourists eager for the "classic" experience. Ducks cost ¥199 each and ¥99 for half a duck; quality varies by location. Subway: Line 2 to Qianmen. Bus: 2, 120, 726, 826, 803 to Qianmen. The most reputable of Quanjude's 14 branches is the listed Qianmen location. Other branches are at Hepingmen (south of the subway stop), the east side of Tian'anmen Square, and Qinghua Science Park near Wudaokou.
  • Guōlín Restaurant (郭林家常菜). This well-kept secret among Chinese people has some of the tastiest and most inexpensive ducks in all of Beijing. Half a duck is just ¥28. And all its other delicious, innovative dishes keep customers coming back: be prepared for a bustling, noisy atmosphere, though the interior is often quite nice. Locations all over Beijing—look for a sign with two little pigs—including at Fangzhuang, Zhongguancun, Wudaokou, Xuanwu, and more.
  • Dàdŏng (大董烤鸭店), Chaoyang District, Tuanjiehu Beikou Bldg. 3, East 3rd Rind Road (团结湖北口3号楼,东三环长虹桥西南角), 6582 2892. Daily 11am-10pm. Considered by some to be the best Beijing duck in the city, this upscale restaurant also delivers on a nice atmosphere. Reservations suggested. Also at Dongsi Shitiao 22A, Bldg. 1-2 of the Nanxin Cang International Tower (东四十条甲22号南新仓国际大厦1-2楼).
  • Biànyìfăng (便宜坊), Chongwen District 36 Xingfu Dajie (崇文区幸福大街36号), 6711 6545, [33]. Other locations at 73 Tiantan Dong Lu (天坛东路) and 2A Chongwenmen Wai Dajie (崇文门外大街甲2号).

Hot Pot

Beijing is also known for its lamb hotpot (涮羊肉 shuàn yáng ròu), which originally came from the Manchu people and emphasizes lamb over other meats. Like variations of hotpot (general name 火锅 huŏ guō) from elsewhere in China and Japan, lamb hotpot is a cook-it-yourself affair in a steaming pot in the center of the table. Unlike Sichuan hotpot, lamb hotpot features a savory, non-spicy broth. If that's not exciting enough for you, you can also request a spicy broth (be aware that this is flaming red, filled with peppers, and not for the weak!). To play it safe and satisfy everyone, you can request yuānyáng for a pot divided down the middle, with spicy broth on one side and regular broth on the other.

Raw ingredients are purchased by the plate. In addition to lamb, beef, and seafood, this also includes a wide variety of vegetables, mushrooms, noodles, and tofu, so it's also perfectly possible to have vegetarian hotpot. A dipping sauce, usually sesame, is served as well; you can add chilis, garlic, cilantro, etc, to customize your own sauce. While "raw" sounds dangerous, boiling the meat yourself is the best way to ensure that more risky meats like pork are fully cooked and free of germs. In the city center, hotpot can run as much as ¥40-¥50 per person, but on the outskirts it can be found for as little as ¥10-¥25.

  • Dōng Lái Shùn (东来顺), Dongcheng District, 198 Wangfujing Dajie (东城区王府井大街198号), 6513-9661. Daily 11am-2pm and 5-9pm. This king of Beijing hotpot has been around since the 19th century. Founded by the Hui (ethnic Muslims), Donglaishun serves halal cuts of top-quality lamb and beef. Also serves cooked-by-chef dishes, including traditional Beijing sweets. Subway: Line 1 to Wangfujing. Other locations on the 5th floor of Sun Dong'an (New Oriental Sun) Shopping Plaza, at Tian'anmen, and in Haidian (25 Yiheyuan Lu, 颐和园路25号).

Other Chinese cuisines

Beijing provides an ideal opportunity to sample food from all over the country. Some of Beijing's best restaurants serve food from Sichuan, Hunan, Canton, Tibet, Yunnan, Xinjiang, and more. Many, such as Makye Ame (11A Xiushui Nanjie Jianguomenwai Beijing Tel: +86 (10) 6506 9616) and Dai Nationality Restaurant feature live dancing and performance, and are not to be missed.

Ghost Street
  • Ghost Street Red lanterns, traditional courtyards, hundreds of restaurants along the street ......This is Guijie Street, Beijing's famous eating street, known to locals as 'Ghost Street'. Eating on Ghost Street is about more than food and drink, it's a way of life for many Beijingers.
  • Gesangmedo (格桑梅朵), Chaoyang District, Xindong Lu, Xingfu Ercun Shangye Building, 2nd fl. (朝阳区新东路幸福二村商业楼二层), 6417-9269. Daily 11am-11pm. Tibetan food in a beautifully decorated interior, complete with a shrine in one corner. Attentive staff. Nightly live performance begins at 9pm. Subway: Line 2 to Dongzhimen and walk east on Dongzhimen Wai Dajie. Bus: 110, 117, 120, 813, 815, or 823 to Xìngfú Sān Cūn (幸福三村).
  • Red Rose Xingjiang Restaurant (红玫瑰餐厅), Chaoyang District, Gongti Beilu Xingfu Yicun 7 Xiang (朝阳区工体北路幸福一村7巷), 6415 5741. Daily 10am-midnight. This local and tourist favorite promises the full Xinjiang experience, from kebabs, lamb dishes, and delicious naan bread to a bellydancing show with real Uighur musicians. Not the place to go for quiet conversations.
  • Yuxin Sichuan Restaurant (渝信川菜), Chaoyang District, A5 Xingfu Yicun Xili (朝阳区幸福一村西里甲5号), 6415 8108. M-F 10am-10pm, Sa-Su 11am-10pm. One of the contenders in the ongoing competition for Beijing's best Sichuanese, Yuxin delivers on authenticity, flavor, and service. It's always busy, and always good. Try their location in the Chang'an Grand Theatre for a calmer setting decorated in a traditional style, with alcoves divided by bamboo screens (7 Jiangguomen Nei Dajie, 长安大剧院,建国门内大街7号); take the subway Lines 1 or 2 to Jianguomen, take Exit A, and walk west. Y15-30 per person.
  • The Middle 8th Restaurant Located near the Silingtian bar district. Awesome Yunnan cuisine. Extremely fresh food. Lots of dishes in the 20-30RMB range.

For vegetarians, Beijing's first pure vegetarian buffet restaurant is located on the Confucius Temple on Guo zi jian street, west of the famous Lama Temple. No English menu so far, but one can just ask for the buffet, which contains a large variety of delicious vegetarian dishes, as well as a vegetarian hotpot, and a large selection of dessert.

International cuisines

  • Shintori, Chaoyang District, 18 Jianguomen Wai Dajie (玄吧朝阳区建国门外大街18号), 6515-8585. 11.30am-2.30pm, 5.30pm-11pm. Shintori is an exquisite Japanese restaurant which is almost impossible to find. Once you do find your way in, one can't help but be WOW'ed when entering the main dining area. The food at Shintori is unquestionably good, but be prepared to pay a little more here. Y300 per person.
  • McDonald's has over 100 restaurants in Beijing, followed closely by KFC. As a rule of thumb, whenever there is a McDonalds, a KFC is no further than 100m away. There are also a fair number of Pizza Huts. However, visitors to Pizza Hut should be prepared to take a number and wait in line if they dine around 12:00-13:00 and again from 18:30-19:30 (peak hours), as the restaurant is very popular with young Chinese. You will pay on average ¥60-¥120.
  • Origus has numerous locations throughout Beijing, and offers an all-you-can-eat pizza/pasta buffet for ¥39, including soft drinks and dessert bar.
  • Mirch Masala Indian Cuisine (60-2 Nanluogu Xiang) Located on the still-quiet tourist street of Nanluoguxian, Mirch Masala serves delicious North-Indian dishes.
  • Courtyard (95 Donghuamen Dajie) Phone 6526 8882 The Courtyard overlooks the moat surrounding the south-east corner of the wall of the Forbidden City. At night, the wall and tower are illuminated which gives a sense of being in old Peking. The cuisine is modern international fusion food and is as good as that in any other capital city in the world. The service and decor are excellent. This is a great place if you need a respite from Chinese food!

If you're in the mood for American fare, head for the Tim's Texas BBQ near the Jianguomen subway station. They'll happily provide you with your favourite American food and drink. Tony Roma's has a location in Wangfujing (in the big big shopping mall near the bookstore).

Korean restaurants are also very common in Beijing. A frequent meal is the grill-it-yourself barbeque, including beef, chicken, and seafood items as well as some vegetables including greens and potatoes.

Splurge

All luxury hotels have at least one restaurant, which can be of any cuisine they believe their guests will enjoy. You will find French, Italian, American, and Chinese restaurants in most hotels. Of course, restaurants that serve abalone/sharkfin are considered the most expensive restaurants in the city. Expect to pay upwards of ¥800 for a "cheap" meal at one of these restaurants, much more if splurging.

Drink

Tea, tea, and more tea! Some are in malls, but first ask the price before ordering or else brace yourself for the most expensive egg-sized cup of tea in the world. You can experience different ceremonies of tea at tea houses especially in the Qianman area south of Tiananmen. These can range in price, and some tea houses are really tourist traps whose main goal is to milk you of your money, so be careful. You can get a free tea demonstration at most Tenrenfu tea houses which are located throughout the city and at some malls.

Warning: be aware of the Beijing teahouse scam, in which young Chinese people posing as students of English will try to lure foreigners into a tea-house for a demonstration of tea ceremony, leaving the foreigner with a bill running to hundreds of US dollars. Be sure to ask for prices for the tea and facilities up front before agreeing to any kind of tea ceremony.

Good coffee is hard to find in most parts of China, although addicts have a place to retreat now that Starbucks has made huge inroads with the emerging middle class. They have at least 50 Starbucks in the capital, most situated around shopping malls and in commercial districts of the city.

The coffee and bread are awesome at EIFE. The place is owned by an Italian man, Renzo, who's very friendly. They serve incredible pastries starting around 5RMB. Fresh-squeezed juices served at this cafe. There's a Starbucks next door which helps as the wireless Internet functionality slips through the walls to EIFE. Located next to the Friendship Store (shares the same store as Baskin Robbins Ice Cream) on Jianguomen Wai Dajie, 17. Tel. 13911521574.

Chinese beer can be quite good. The most preferred beer in China is Tsing Tao (青岛, pronounced 'ching dow', ¥10-20, 2-3 if you buy it from a street vendor) which can also be found in the States. Try Yanjing beer (燕京, ¥10-15 at restaurants, ¥2 on the street), which is main beer brand of Beijing. It comes in very large bottles and has 4% alcohol content. (Yanjing is an antiquated name for Beijing.). Both Yanjing and Qingdao now come in "standard" (putong - 普通) and "pure" (chunsheng - 纯生) varieties. You'll also find Beijing beer in some establishments and is only served on draught. It's brewed by the Japanese beer company Asahi which probably explains why you don't see it in many places.

Great Wall is the most popular local brand of wine. Wine made in China does not have a great reputation, though this is changing. Giving wine as a gift is not a common custom in most places in China and most people will not be accustomed to wine etiquette or appreciation. Foreign red wines are usually of a better quality, such as those from the US, Germany, Italy, Australia, and Chile, and you will find them at most upscale restaurants.

The most common hard liquor is Bai jiu (白酒, white liquor), made from distilled rice wine. It comes in a large variety everywhere for very cheap prices (8 yuan for a bottle) and should be avoided if you want to have a clear mind for your travels on the next day. The most famous local liquor is called "Er Guotou" (二锅头 Distilled Twice), which has 54% alcohol content. Mao Tai (茅台酒) is one of the more famous brands, and costs about as much as an imported bottle of whiskey. A large selection of imported liquor can be found at all bars ranging from tequila to whiskey.

Places to drink

  • Sanlitun (三里屯) this is the center of nightlife in Beijing, located beside the embassy area in Chaoyang district, it comprises a main "bar street" divided into north and south sections, a side street with more casual (and cheaper) bars, and several large clubs/discotheque at the north gate of the worker's stadium near by. Sanlitun has near legendary status amongst travelers, but you are just as likely to be irritated by pushy bar-owners or DVD sellers as you are to be charmed by its bars.
  • The Tree, 43 Bei Sanlitun Nan, [34]. Wood Fired Pizza Oven and over 40 Belgian Beers. It is an independent western fun restaurant/bar that you can eat and drink at. The place is visited by lots of savvy tourists, but also locals can be found there.
  • Hou Hai (后海) is a man-made lake surrounded with trendy restaurants and bars in the central part of Beijing. A great place for a beer, and also to watch local Beijingers (of all ages) enjoying themselves.
  • Wudaokou (五道口) where most of the foreign and local University students hang out. There are a number of bars and restaurants which serve a great variety of wine, beer and liquor for cheap. This area is also well known for its huge Korean population and a good place to find Korean food.
  • Dashanzi (大山子) Beijing's new trendy art zone, out North of the Lido hotel, this old warehouse and factory district has been taken over by art galleries, art shops and bars. Well worth the trip to experience the cutting edge of the Beijing art scene. Also known as Factory 798.
  • Nurenjie (女人街) literally "lady's street", and the streets around. This area is situated off Liang Ma Qiao Lu (亮马桥路), a short distance north of the Kempinski Hotel and embassies of Israel, Japan, ROK and USA. By day it has some fashion shops, as its name suggests, but it is also home to some interesting new bars, restaurants and clubs
  • Face Bar attracts a mature, well-heeled, beautiful-people crowd to the Gongti area. Tastefully decorated with antiques from around Southeast Asia, including opium beds for reclining in the bar area. This is the place where you'll meet Beijing's expats (26 Dongcaoyuan, 工体南路东草园26号, tel. 6551-6788, [35]). Open 12am-2am.
  • Yugong Yishan (愚公移山), 东城区,张自忠路3-2号 (2 min walk west along Zhang Zizhong Road from Zhangzizhonglu subway station, after the entrance to the former site of the Ding Qurai government), +86 1064042711, [36]. Shows usually start at 10pm. The cream of Beijing's nascent rock scene can be enjoyed at this modern and tastefully presented venue. ¥20 and up for drinks, shows are between ¥30 and ¥80.

Sleep

Foreign visitors often are "restricted" to staying in high-priced official hotels, that restriction being less and less obvious as a great majority of accommodation now takes place in the form of low-cost hotels and hostels. Zhaodaisuos (招待所) are more difficult, and may be fully inaccessible altogether to the foreign community.

Budget

Red Lantern House hostel
  • Red Lantern House, No.5 Zhengjue Hutong, Xinjie Kou, Xicheng District, +8610 66115771/66169477 (), [37]. Absolutely adorable hostel with a genuine Chinese feeling. The courtyard in the middle is a great place to hang out, talk to new friends or just sit by yourself and read. Its location in a classical Hutong adds to the feel of experiencing the real China. They offer airport pickup for ¥160 Dorm beds from ¥45, singles from ¥130, doubles from ¥140.
  • Beijing Join Inn, No. 14 Qinmao Hutong, Zhaodengyu rd, Xicheng District. Tel. 86-10-66135481, 13552794897. Contact Johnny. This place is located within the popular Xinjiekou district close to the city centre. Located in one of Beijing's hutongs, the hostel is close to key bus and subway services, making sightseeing relatively simple. From Jishuitan subway station, Take the C exit and turn left, walk about 500 meters along the XIN JIE KOU BEI street until you reach a McDonalds restaurant, intersecting with XI ZHI MEN NEI street. Walk along XI ZHI MEN street to the first set of traffic lights (about 120M). Turn left here to walk along ZHAO DENG YU LU. You should be able to see the hostel's sign in the third alleyway (QINMAO Hutong) on your left. The hostel appears to give the best value for money with ¥30 for a dormitory bed, ~¥180 for a triple room and ¥160 for a double room (the price depends on the season). The place has a great family/chilled out vibe.
  • Qiao Yuan Fandian. Located not far west from Beijing South train station. About ¥20 from Beijing Zhan (Beijing Train station) by taxi, or take buses 744 or 20; best from Qianmen near Tiananmen Square. There's a whopping ¥200 deposit but 4 bed dorms with a/c are reasonably priced at ¥31 or ¥260/360 for standard suites, the more expensive option in the building in the back (newer). Level 6 has a laundry, kitchen, and travel agency. Internet access is located towards the train station (look for the fish net character (网) on the signs, or ask for 'wang ba') or a few blocks away to the west near KFC, McDonalds and a supermarket. Plenty of eating is nearby, and also don't miss the Art Deco interior of a hotel/restaurant when its lit up at night (head towards KFC).
  • Beijing City Central Youth Hostel, Located directly across from Beijing Zhan (Beijing train station), [38]. Beijing City Central Hostel is located at the corner of Beijingzhanjie and Beijingzhan Xijie, right across from the Central Railway Station. Bus terminal, airport shuttle bus stop and taxi stands are next to the railway station, and Beijingzhan subway station is just outside the door. This is the largest hostel in Beijing, with central air conditioning and individual controls in each of the 200 rooms. It offers a computer/internet room, billiards, bar, and karaoke with jukebox. On the 1st and 2nd levels are a 24-hour supermarket, breakfast bar, coffee lounge, ATM, IC/IP phones, express film processing, mobile phone shop, and post office. The guest rooms on the 3rd to 6th floors include ensuites, doubles, singles, and 4 and 8 bunk dormitories. It has a very good location: When we were there we could easily reach the nearby Henderson Center (were fast foods are and department stores, fashion boutiques, jewelry shops, hair stylists and beauty salon, and men's fashion and sports wear shops). In the vicinity are also medical clinics, dental care, massage salons, pharmacies, eyeglass shops, bookstores, and souvenir shops. The hostel is next to the central business district that contains many gourmet kitchens serving diverse national and ethnic delicacies. ATM facilities can be found in the many nearby banks along Jianguomennei Dajie. Tian'anmen, Forbidden City, Tiantan, Observatory Museum, Nanhai, Zhongshan Park, and Wangfujing Dajie shopping street are all located a short ride from the hostel. Dorms ¥60 (4-8 beds). Doubles with shared bathrooms ¥160.
  • Beijing Saga International Youth Hostel, No. 9 Shijia Hutong, Dongcheng District. Tel. 86-10-65272773, 65249098, [39]. This place is about a 15 minute walk from the Beijing Main Railway Station. From the station, follow the road North past the Beijing International Hotel. After about a ten minute walk look for the hostel sign with an arrow pointing down one of the hutongs on the left side. The hostel is very popular with backpackers. They charge ¥180 for a triple room, ¥160 for a double room and ¥40-50 for a bed in a dormitory (the price depends on how many beds are in the room). There's a restaurant on the top floor. The staff speaks some English.
  • New Dragon Youth Hostel, just along from Saga (above) in Shijia Hutong, Dongcheng District, sometimes used for their overflow. Fairly dirty and unpleasant inside despite the nice facade. The dorm rooms are in the basement and the place has almost none of the facilities it advertises. Best to avoid.
  • Beijing Far East Youth Hostel , 90 Tie Shu Xie Jie, Xuan Wu District. Tel. 86-10-51958811, [40]. It's in a traditional Chinese courtyard, about 10 minutes walking from Tiananmen Square. The Far East Youth Hostel has become very famous after having been added to major travel guides. During summer time you should book one week in advance.
  • Leo's Hostel, Tel: (10) 63031595 or (10) 63033318, [41]. A good alternative to the Far East and is just around the corner. Leo's Hostel is in the same road as the Far East, has a Playstation 2, an Internet bar, free wi-fi in the lobby and bar, Pool, lockers, maps, guides, magazines etc. It is well known for its friendly staff that are very knowledgeable and English-speaking, and lively bar atmosphere. One down side is the noise level of the bar late at night. It has a beautiful courtyard, with dorm rooms (¥45-70) as well as private rooms (¥160-200).
  • Changgong Hotel, Tel: (10) 63015088 or (10) 63032665. One of the cheapest places in the Qianmen Hutong. It has an traditional arichitecture and is just next door from Far East and Leo's. Don't try to find any of the narrow roads on the map. Navigation is only possible by asking or in a rickshaw. Dormbeds are ¥35, a triple room is ¥210.
  • Eastern Morning Youth Hostel, Tel: (10) 65284347. A great budget option if price is your primary concern. The hostel is located in the basement of the Oriental Plaza shopping/office/residential complex next to Wangfujing. Private rooms cost about ¥90 per night - book in advance. The staff does not speak much English but are friendly. Internet access is available at ¥10 per hour. The hostel is located on Dongdan Santiao (which runs behind Oriental Plaza). It is a 5 minute walk to the Dongdan or Wangfujing subway stations and about a 15 minute walk to the International Hotel airport shuttle stop.
  • Jing Yi Shi Hotel, located between Leo hostel and Far East Y/H, Tel: 86-10-63043822, [42]. The hotel is traditional siheyuan and has beautiful courtyard. The staff does not speak much English but are very friendly. There are two PCs available, Internet access costs ¥10 per hour. Twin room costs ¥150, 180, 220.
File:Jingyishi hotel.jpg
Jing Yi Shi Hotel
  • Houhai Youth Hostel, Tel: 0086-10-66128458, mobile: 0086-13439801676, [43]. One of the most mysterious and charming old-Beijing style courtyard inns, which is located in Sanbulao Hutong in Houhai. Its only 5 minutes by foot to the Houhai Lake. They provide free services such as a map of Beijing, tour of HuTong(traditional courtyard house), tea, Internet access, satellite TV & DVD access, usage of kitchen, baggage deposit. The staff speak English, and there is parking as well. Each single rooms cost $15 and up. Dorm beds cost $6 and up.

Mid-range

A number of mid-range hotels are located east of the Dongzhimen subway station. From the subway stop, walk around 800m eastwards to the next big intersection. On the northern side of the street, half a dozen large hotels can be found. A double costs ¥150-250 a night depending on the season. It's worth haggling and comparing with the other hotels around before you book. Although its already placed at the outer ring road, the subway provides for a convenient and quick access to the inner city. Right next to the subway station there is a McDonalds, and - more interestingly - a large shopping center with a food court hidden in the lowest floor.

  • Kaifeng hotel, telephone 64651177, ranging between ¥180-320 per day per double.
  • Xinxing Hotel Moderately priced. About $50 per night. Free Internet access, but you need to ask for a room with it (you should also ask in advance too). The staff are friendly, but their English is just acceptable. Mostly Chinese internal tourists and businessmen stay here. Chinese breakfast is served on Floor 2 in the morning until 9 a.m. There is a swimming pool in a separate building. Staff will clean your room twice per day. Hotel is a several block walk from the Gongzhufen subway station (Line 1) which is on the West side of town. Mind the traffic when crossing the street. Address: No.17 the 3rd Ring Road Middle West, Beijing. Telephone: 86-10-68166688
  • Bamboo Garden Hotel (Zhu Yuan Binguan), 86-10-640 322 29, [44]. A stone's throw from the lake district, it is one of the most interesting hotels in Beijing. It located in a large complex of courtyards, was residence of Sheng Xuanhuai, a Qing Mandarin, later residence of Kang Sheng, head of secret police of communist China.
  • Days Inn Forbidden City 86-10-651 277 88, on Nanheyan Street. Good in room internet access and close half way between Forbidden city and Wangfujing St.
  • Grand Mercure Xidan Hotel. Previously called the Marco Polo Hotel, this 4 star hotel is new, modern and located in the Xidan shopping district, just a few blocks from Tiananmen Square and Forbidden City and 5 minutes walk from Xidan Subway Station. Details

Apartments

"Beijing Sweet Home" [45]. Providers of furnished short-term apartments in Beijing City. All apartments are carefully selected regarding its location, quality, reliabillity, safety, etc.

Splurge

Some 'expensive' hotels are in the city centre and on the eastern 3rd Ring Road, however by western standards these hotels are very cheap. These include:

  • Asia Hotel Beijing [46]. This five-star luxury hotel is situated in Beijing's Dongcheng District, an ideal location for tourists who want to be close to some historical sights, shopping districts, and entertainment venues. The Asia Hotel Beijing offers 293 rooms of different types, and has a separate Meeting and Recreation Building for business functions and events.
  • * Kempinski Hotel Beijing Lufthansa Center, No.50 Liangmaqiao Road, Chaoyang District, +86 10 6465 3388 (, fax: +86 10 6465 3366), [47]. checkin: 14:00; checkout: 12:00. located in the centre of Lufthansa District. A great choice for business and leisure travelers alike as the Kempinski hotel provides a mixture of luxury and convenience. It distinguishes itself by its location and its high level of service and comfort. The newly renovated lobby and the adjacent You Yi department store contain good shopping opportunities. In addition, a supermarket with a variety of local and imported food and beverages including a very good wine selection is located in the basement of the department store. The hotel boasts 7 international restaurants and especially the Paulaner Brauhaus is well frequented by guests as well as locals.
  • Grand Hyatt Beijing [48]. Privately-owned, exquisite, and expensive. This is a 5 star hotel. Rooms can go for $150 per night. There is an enormous swimming pool in the basement that is decorated in very tropical manner, but the deepest part is only 1.5 meters. The jacuzzi and wet sauna are excellent, but the steam room is hot enough to cook a lobster. Great hotel and great location, if you can afford it.
  • Beijing Hotel [49]. State-owned (and thus presumably less expensive). Located near the Forbidden City, there is a view of Tiananmen Square from the hotel.
  • Great Wall Sheraton Hotel [50]. Less expensive, comfortable, with rotating restaurants. Located on the eastern 3rd Ring Road, it is only 45 minutes from the Beijing Capital Airport by taxi. Hard Rock Cafe Beijing is located between the Sheraton and the Kempinski hotels. Exemplary service all around, especially from the concierge desk. Rooms can go for $130 a night.
  • China World Hotel. Very nice hotel run by the Shangri-la hotel group. Has restaurant, bar, club, swim pool and many other amenities. Many business travellers stay here.
  • Sino-Swiss Hotel [51]. The Sino-Swiss Hotel is located very close to the airport, well away from downtown. It is presently the only major hotel in Beijing that allows pets. Features a very elaborate indoor and outdoor pool, as well as playground for the kids. Choose this hotel for its location if you must be close to the airport or if you have pets. Around US$120 per night.
  • The Peninsula Beijing [52]. The Peninsula Beijing is located within walking distance from Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, and is within easy access of Beijing Railway Station.
  • Xinhai Jin Jiang Hotel Conveniently located in the bustling commercial district of Wangfuging, this hotel has 231 elegantly furnished rooms which pamper guests with lavish comfort. It has excellent business and leisure facilities which include the sprawling International Confererence Center. Address: 61 Jinbao Street, Dongcheng District, Beijing, China. Email: tprsvns@hubs1.net

In the outlying areas, especially out by the Great Wall, are some country club type resorts as well as some unique, one-of-a-kind, hotels.

  • Commune by the Great Wall Kempinski Beijing [53]. 11 villas designed by top Asian architects and design firms, all of which have butlers. Definitely an Ultrasplurge!
  • Jing Ding Hang, [54]. This is a real estate company that's renovating several ancient houses in the legendary hutongs around Houhai Lake (just behind the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square), and renting them out during the Olympics. They cost between 500 and 1000 US dollars per day.

Contact

  • Police: 110
  • Fire alarm: 119
  • Medical care: 120

Stay safe

Beijing is a very safe city. However, tourists are often preyed upon by cheats and touts. Be especially cautious in the inner city, around Tiananmen Square, and on the tourist-crowded routes to the Great Wall.

  • For tours to the Great Wall, be wary: the driver might just stop and set you off before your destination. Only pay afterwards if you are absolutely sure you are at the destination. Do not go for organized tours to the Great Wall in the ¥100-150 range that are advertised by people handing out flyers around the Forbidden City (or in the latest scam, masquerading as the real bus service to the Great Wall which only costs ¥20, but is guaranteed to waste your entire day). Conveniently you are picked up from your hotel (so they know where to get back at you, in case you will not pay), you end up on a shopping tour through many many Chinese art, China, Chinese medicine, etc. shops and afterwards you have to pay upfront to get back to the city. Of course, there are exceptions, and people showing letters of recommendation from their previous travels and pictures are usually ok, as are people offering trips to the wilder parts of the Great Wall (ie. not Badaling or Juyong). Shopping tours are also advertised from certain hotels, ask in advance for a tour withouh shopping to be sure.
  • Do not follow any "students" wanting to show you something. They are most likely scammers or semi-scammers. Examples include "art students" who bring you to their "school exhibition" and pressure you to buy art at insanely inflated prices. Tea sampling is another scam. It is free to sample tea for locals, but for tourists...you should ask. Always get prices in advance and keep the menu if you are concerned. In one incident, after sampling 5 types of tea with two "students", a group of tourists were confronted with a bill for ¥1260! They even produced an English Menu with the extortionate prices for sampling. Young attractive female "students" also try to lure male tourists to shops, restaurants or night clubs. The prices at such places can be extremely high for basically nothing.
  • Be generally weary when people approach you. Often they are just interested or want to practise their english, but it's also common that they want something from you.

That all being said, fears of scams have led many foreigners to be overly dismissive of Chinese people who approach them. Many Chinese are genuinely curious about foreigners and may just want to practice their English and get a picture with you. Be friendly but don't feel pressured to go somewhere you hadn't planned on going in the first place.

  • Take care when offered a ride in a rickshaw. Make sure you know where you are going to be taken in advance, and agree a price in writing. you may well end up dropped off in a deserted alleyway and extorted for a large amount - ¥600 or more. If you do know your way out, just firmly drop ¥5 or ¥10 on the seat and walk off.

Be wary of fake money. You may observe Chinese people inspecting their money carefully, and with a reason: there are a lot of counterfeit bills in circulation. The most common are 100's and 50's. A few tips for identifying counterfeit bills:

  • Be very careful if someone wants to give back the largest currency bill (¥50 and ¥100) by the excuse of "no change". In an attempt to pass you a counterfeit bill they may tell you that they have lowered the price in your benefit. Or, they may ask you to contribute an additional sum in order to pass you the ¥100. If they give you back all the change money plus the coins on top (though coins are rare in Beijing) take your time to check each bill carefully.
  • Another version of the above trick is when a vendor refuses to accept your ¥100 bill claiming that it's fake. The truth is most likely that he took your genuine bill and discretely changed it for a fake one which he now is trying to give back to you. Hard to prove unless you saw the swap.
  • To check any ¥50 and ¥100 bill you get, do this: most importantly, check the paper. If its torn, thin or very slippery, ask for a different bill. Next, check the watermark, it should blur out softly. If there are hard visible corners in the watermark, reject the bill. Last, check the green "100" imprint on the lower left corner. It should be clearly painted on the bill so you can both feel and see a relief. If its missing or not feelable, reject the bill also. Rejecting bills is not considered impolite. It is perfectly acceptable to hand back a bill and ask for a different one. If the vendor gets upset, you should consider cancelling the purchase and moving on. If the colouring of a banknote is faded, it does not necessarily mean it is fake.

Driving is crazy in Beijing, and reckless driving is the norm. Be prepared for drivers to violate traffic laws even to the extent of going in reverse on highways to back up to a missed exit. Also expect occasional road debris (a piece of wood or torn out tire) to be laying in the roadway. Pedestrians should be very careful crossing the street — drivers will not stop for you and will anticipate the traffic light before it turns green. Be very careful when crossing any street. Take an overpass or underpass if possible. Otherwise, keep an eye on the locals and cross with them — there is strength in numbers. Cars will also often drive on sidewalks.

Free emergency telephone numbers:

  • Police: 110
  • Fire alarm: 119
  • Medical care: 120

Remember these three telephone numbers, and they are valid in almost entire mainland China.

Cope

Poor air day in Beijing.

Air pollution is a BIG problem. Car exhaust, coal burning, and dust storms from the Gobi desert combine to make some of the worst city air on the planet. You may want to bring extra Vitamin C and other antioxidants (grape seed extract, etc.). A white surgical face mask may help with the occasional dust storms...the dust is very fine. Don't be surprised if your throat and nose ache soon after arriving.

Drinking lots of the local green tea (hot) will help you resist sickness from the bad air. Green tea has antioxidants, some vitamin C, and the hot water helps to moisturize your throat. Winter is the worst time...cold air creates an inversion layer and traps the pollution in the city.

Diet tips. Bring fiber supplements (such as Metamucil). Beijing food can be constipating due to high meat/low vegetable content. Chinese don't usually eat salads, but boil their vegetables for sanitary and cultural reasons. Also, an Acidophilus (yogurt bacteria) supplemental capsule taken daily can prevent G.I. distress from the local bacteria. Bring the type that don't have to be refrigerated, or drink the local yogurt beverages (which must be drunk on the spot as you have to return the glass jars immediately afterwards). The local bacteria can cause vomiting or diarrhea (or both) if you don't take precautions beforehand. Remember the 3 P's for food: Peeled, par-boiled, or piping-hot. The good news is that the Chinese preference for fresh food, cooked in a wok at searing hot temperatures means that stomach problems are rare. If you are eating "local" you tip the odds in your favor if you stick to traditional, local food, since the chances are that the chef will know what he/she is doing with this type of food, which is not necessarily the case with (eg) a western-style salad. The water in Beijing is not safe to drink, and is generally not even consumed by the locals unless boiled. This is true even at hotels unless stated otherwise. Bottled water can be bought for ¥1-2 per bottle.

Bring a pack of your own tissues (or toilet paper) and small bar soap. Many public bathrooms do not have wiping paper, especially if you venture out to the countryside. Alternately, you may wish to purchase an alcohol-based hand sanitizer for quick clean-ups. Also, pre-packaged wet hand wipes are indispensable.

Try to use the bathroom before you leave for your destinations. Some establishments (even large grocery/department stores) will not have Western style toilets, and many a lady has been shocked and dismayed to find she doesn't know how to use non-elevated (sunken) toilets.

If you do have to use a squat toilet, you may want to remove your trousers or dress first to avoid accidentally defecating on your clothing. Wipe with tissues that you have brought with you and put them in the bin; do not flush the paper because it can clog the toilet. Some toilets are pay toilets.

In dryer months (especially winter), be sure to bring or purchase a heavy moisturizer. Although most hotels will offer some generic brand, the quality varies greatly and you would do well to supply your own. It is advisable to purchase and drink several bottles of purified water a day.

Postcard postage costs ¥4.5 (as of May 7th, 2005).

Bring a corkscrew for opening your wine, and a bottle opener for your beer. Swiss Army knives are a big help too (but remember to put them in your checked luggage).

Get out

Great Wall of China at Badaling
Great Wall of China at Badaling
  • Great Wall (长城 Chángchéng) about a 1.5 hour bus ride from the city, recommended but be aware of bus scams! Two or more sections nearer the city have been restored and are available for tourists to walk upon. One section even has a ski lift up and a toboggan (or ski lift) down. You may want to bring a jacket against the wind or cold in the chillier season - in the summer you will need lots of water, and it will be cheaper if you bring your own rather than rely on the vendors on the Wall. The Badaling section is the most famous, but also the most over-restored and crowded. Jinshanling, Huangshan and Simatai are more distant (several hours drive) but offer a better view of the wall in a less restored state with fewer crowds. Mutianyu has been restored, but far less crowded than Badaling. Crowds are a definite issue with the Great Wall: at popular sections at popular times, it becomes not the Great Wall of China, but rather the Great Wall of Tourists. It is possible to rent a taxi for a day to take you to these sites. Renting a taxi should cost ¥400-450. For this price the driver takes you wherever you want, and will wait for your return.
    • Badaling (八达岭 Bādálǐng): Give yourself about 2 hours to climb up the wall if you're a slow climber, an hour or less if you're speedier. The least expensive way of getting there is to take the Bus #919直快 from Déshèngmén (德胜门), just northeast of the Jishuitan Line 2 Subway stop. The journey lasts about one hour, and costs ¥12. But beware, there are more than one Bus #919. There is one that is #919 but doesn't go to Badaling. And there are tour buses that will put a cardboard sign on there dashboard/windshield saying #919 but charge ¥50 and don't even go to Badaling. There are also official tourist buses that leave from Dongzhimen, Qianmen, and Beijing Railway Station. Tour companies charge ¥150 and usually stop at a jade factory, and one or two other stops. They do provide an English speaking guide and lunch which can be advantage. Another, not especially convenient, option is the train: the 8:06AM Shāchéng (沙城) train leaves Beijing North Railway Station daily, and gets to Badaling at 10:49AM. Return trip leaves at 14:34. The final option would be to hire a taxi for the day. It's common to have a 4-hour package from a taxi running somewhere around 600-800RMB (the driver will pay the tolls). Be sure to get the driver's cell phone number in case it's needed. Best bet is to hire a driver using a trusted tour guide company, commonly found in hotels. Be sure to collect a receipt of your purchase as well. Near the entrance of the wall it feels like you've entered a ski town, with some gift shops and coffee to warm up to during the cold winter months. Tickets to climb the wall are around 40RMB, discounts for young kids and the disabled.




This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!

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