China (People's Republic of China)

Languages: Chinese

Currencies: CNY · Chinese yuan (¥)

Capitol: Beijing

Continents: Asia

Borders: Russia, Tajikistan, Laos, North Korea, Bhutan, India, Macau, Nepal, Hong Kong, Myanmar, Mongolia, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan

More useful information

Area: 9,706,961km2

Population: 1,402,112,000

Traffic/driving side: right

Landlocked country: No

Independent country: Yes

United Nations member: Yes

IDD Prefix: +86

Timezones: UTC+08:00

Last updated on June 11, 2024

Traveling to Beijing can be a little overwhelming given its size, modernity, ancient history and 22 million inhabitants! It’s best to do some planning ahead of the trip to have an idea of how many incredible attractions and landmarks are in Beijing and secure time to visit all the extraordinary sights. Some of them require pre-booking few days ahead. I have to say I struggled a bit myself on the beginning, given the internet limitations, Chinese language and extremely advanced technology. That’s why I created this Beijing travel guide with best tips and travel advice for China from the moment you arrive at the airport. 

Beijing travel guide - tips & advice for discovering real China

Beijing travel guide – tips & advice.

Before you start your Chinese journey there are few things you should know before traveling. In my Beijing travel guide you’ll find lots of useful information to help you plan and execute your adventure including: travel advice, how to visit top city sights, public transport usage, where to stay and of course where to taste local cuisine ;).

As you probably know you wont be able to access many websites like: Google maps, Instagram, Gmail or Twitter without pre-installed VPN.

Even though China has severe restrictions on VPN usage and blocks many VPN providers, it is used in China, especially among travelers who are looking for useful travel information online. 

Beijing travel guide - tips & advice for discovering real China - Forbidden city

VPN in China.

Most of us are used to crowded metropolis and public transport. However, one really disturbing thing is internet usage limitation. It actually shows you how much we are addicted to mobile internet. So most of the websites are blocked. Additionally not many people speak English (almost nobody) and this is when it gets a bit challenging. But it turns out even locals use VPN, so you’ll be abale to install one and use while traveling.

Trip to Beijing China.

Trip to Beijing China – one of the world’s great ancient capitals is a remarkable experience! However, it is not the easiest country to travel around for first timers – it’s useful to know few things before you go. 

  • Pre-install VPN – most websites are blocked in China
  • Install Alipay – the most commont payment service in China (most payments are digital -NO cash accepted)
  • Install WeChat – most popular messenger/Whatsapp is not available.
  • TRIP.COM is the best online service for Train and flight tickets – it is unbelievably handy, best connections, easy purchase and cancellations. 
  • Purchase your train tickets in advance – weekends and public holidays train tickets are completely sold out!

Getting around Beijing.

Beijing has very well developed transportation system including buses and underground.

SUBWAY & BUS: It is highly recomennded to buy Beijing Transportation Smart Card for subway, city buses and the airport express train payments. Passengers can get 80% discounts when paying for the city-bus fare by the card.

SUBWAY: extremely convenient way of traveling in Beijing. Subway network covers almost all city. Subway map is available at the station or you can easily download it from the internet.

Single Subway tickets only work on the day of the purchase.

BIKING: While subway can be very crowded during rush hours, a very convenient, popular and efficient solution is biking. Distances might be huge but if you want to stay more active cycling seems a perfect option (perhaps not in winter months!). 

TAXIS: Widely used and affordable, taxi apps are best option.

Beijing travel guide - tips & advice for discovering real China

Beijing travel information.

VISA: You need to apply for VISA well in advance.

FLIGHTS: Check for best last minute flight deals on Skyscanner.com.

CURRENCY: Yunan, 100$ ~ 621 Yunan (airport rate – lower value, year 2024).

ATM’s: available in Banks.

SAFETY: Beijing is considered very safe.

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At the PKX Daxing Airport.

Make sure you comply with all local regulations. It would be good to have at least 100$ cash which you can exchange at the airport to purchase SIM card of Train ticket. I didn’t find any ATM at the airport.

At PXK International Airport:

  • Currency Exchange is located at the 4th floor (international departures)
  • China Mobile is located on the 3rd floor if you want to buy a SIM card. 30GB data is available for 128 Yunan for 30 days.
  • Subway station – best way to get to the city.
  • Airport Transportation available with Round Trip airport transfer.

How to get from Beijing PKX Airport to the City Centre?

It’s very easy to get to the city centre from the Airport with Beijing travel guide. Follow direction for Subway (B1 Floor).

Ticket machines are available at the station (no card payment is available – cash or QR code with Alipay Chinese app).

Take BLACK LINE train (only 2 stops) to take you to Caoqiao station (which is connected to subway). Ticket from the airport to Caoqiao costs 35 Yunan. Subway single ticket costs 3-6 Yunan, depending on your final station.

Subway in Beijing.

Subway network in Beijing is fantastic, you’ll be able to reach almost all city attractions by subway (except the Great Wall of China tour, but I’ll explain later).

Take a photo of a subway map at the airport station. Subway tickets are available in machines located at all station, choose English and your final destination to verify ticket price, you can pay by cash or Alipay.

Where to stay in Beijing?

No matter how experienced traveller you are, I highly recommend to stay in the city centre for the first few days and accommodate yourself in Beijing Yue Xuan Courtyard Garden International Youth Hostel (in Dongsi Alley)– which is not only very good value for money but also extremely friendly and you will gain plenty of information in first place outside of my Beijing travel guide! 

If you don’t want to pay crazy money for an average standard, hostel is the right place. There are few reasons to choose backpackers place for the start of the trip – best people always stay in hostels 😉 It’s an irreplaceable source of information – both the reception and the guests. It’s fun, you can socialize, people share their opinions on visited places and sights and you may find out about places you haven’t seen on internet! Like I did!

Few other affordable recommended options in the city centre:

The International Youth Hostel is very close to the subway station (5 minutes to Dongsi station). Many restaurants, shops and banks are located on the main street 3-4 minutes walk from the hostel.

Additionally the guys from the reception will help you book all the entry tickets to main attractions, tours to the Great Wall or order taxi.

Payments in China.

There are two applications to download in China: Alipay and WeChat. You won’t be able to function without them. Only in some modern shops you can pay by card or cash. 

Link you card to Alipay and make payments in shops, service points, ticket machines. Digital payments are primary in China, cash is considered unnecessary.

Via Alipay app you can book flights, train tickets, book hotels, translate, check exchange rates and many more.

Best attractions to see in Beijing.

In my Beijing travel guide I have placed all the attractions and landmarks which are really worth visiting, along with a travel advice for each sight. Beijing, the capital of China, is a destination that really uncovers the allure of authentic Chinese culture. But the number of tourist attractions is huge and you would need weeks to discover all places. The one and most important is Great Wall tours from Beijing. It is possible to reach the Great Wall by a public transport, which at first was my plan. But after obtaining information on how to get there I decided to take a tour, which saves you huge amount of hassle and time. 

Great Wall tours from Beijing.

The Great Wall of China – an awe-inspiring man-made wonder is a must visit!

I’m sure the Great Wall is number one reason you came to China 😉 This one of the seventh wonders of the world stretches over 13 000 miles. It’s divided into several parts, so you would need to make a choice which section you want to explore.

If you go on the official website there is a detailed description of each section, given length, restoration level and popularity. You can reach each section by public bus, some sections can be reached in 1.5h, while others in 3h. Venturing to the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall allows travelers to appreciate its grandeur while avoiding the crowds often found at other sections. 

I can honestly say I love independent travel by local transportation but after talking to people the idea of reaching the Great Wall on your own seemed pointless.

There are plenty of Great Wall Tours from Beijing which priced at normal level and greatly organized. This also gives you more time to explore the wonder of the Great Wall without being rushed. I eventually booked the Mutianyu Great Wall Day Tour from Beijing, which was fantastically organized and wrapped in a dinner with other amazing travelers. Few very popular Great Wall of China tours from Beijing are:

The Forbidden City.

Take Subway LINE 1.

This is definitely all-day trip given the size of the city and number of indoor exhibitions and Treasure Gallery. But don’t go there just to tick the box – the majestic imperial palace complex is a magnificent place. Forbidden City is a step back in time and a beautiful journey showcasing traditional Chinese architecture, incredible history and an extensive collection of artifacts.

Most importantly: Purchase Beijing Palace Museum Ticket (The Forbidden City) in advance! There is no such thing as last minute ticket purchase given tens of thousand visitors each day, which 99% or maybe even 99.9% of them are locals. Alternatively you can go for a highly popular Forbidden City and Royal Treasure Museum Half Day Tour. Most people from my hostel did not get tickets for the Forbidden City and left without visiting this exceptional sight.

How to visit top 10 richest cities in the world without going broke - Beijin Forbiden City

Temple of Heaven.

It’s an exceptional place, some say it’s even much better than the Forbidden City. I would not agree but say it’s a completely different sight. You need to obtain Temple Heaven Admission Ticket before visiting.

I would highly recommend to visit also Lama Temple, located in the northeast corner of the inner city of Dongcheng District in Beijing.

Beijing travel guide - tips & advice for discovering real China - Temple of Heaven

798 Art District.

The city’s diverse arts scene is showcased in venues such as the 798 Art District. It’s a platform of Chinese creativity and expression. This is a plce where the artists would display their works. 

Summer Palace.

Exceptional place, located 15 kilometers away from central Beijing. The Summer Palace was used as a summer retreat by the Chinese royal family. You would need to obtain Summer Palace Admission Ticket before you go/at least during busy periods.

Beijing travel guide - tips & advice for discovering real China - Summer Palace

Beijing day trips.

In Beijing most attractions would equal a day trip ;))) I’m serious – the Great Wall of China tour from Beijing was all day, so was the Forbidden City. I would recommend the same for Temple of Heaven, this is one of the most amazing landmarks in China, so far the most complete preserved royal palace. You can spend a great day visiting the Palace and the gardens – the admission ticket ~ $6 can be booked here.

Beijing City Structures.

Two things not to miss: Leeza SOHO also known as Li Ze Tower – 207 m tall commercial skyscraper and CCTV Headquarters building (China Central Television) – both located in the business district. The CCTV Headquarters is a 51-floor impressive skyscraper. 

Best tours from Beijing.

A tour on the top of my list is Harbin Ice & Snow Festival! This is something remarkable – for a lifetime experience! 

Visited by over 20 million people a year!

Harbin Ice & Snow Festival usually last from: mid-December till February.

Ice City with temperatures reaching -35!!!

Although it’s 1300 kilometres from Beijing it is easily reachable with TRIP.com speed trains in 4-5h or 1 hour flights/often at the same price as speed train. Train/flight Price: $50-$100.

I stayed in a super organized and friendly Fuyihao International Youth Hostel (Central Street, Saint Sophia Cathedral)

Few top budget-friendly and super comfy accommodation picks:

Beijing travel guide - tips & advice for discovering real China - Harbin Ice Festival

Note: This post may contain affiliate links, which are at absolutely no cost to you – I can earn a small commission on sales generated through this website and thanks to that I can share travel guides and inspirations that may help you reach your dream destinations and discover our unique world. I only recommend sites I actually use and have traveled to. Thank you for your support!

Sassari Sardinia

Hey - I'm Eva!

Hiker, adventurous traveler and the author of this blog. My biggest joy is mountaineering and writing reportage travel stories here on this blog, to help you create a unique travel experience. Traveling is freedom, allows you seeing the world truly, meet communities, grow. Taste it!
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