I went to Beijing in the summer of 2019 and thought the city was awesome but I ran into a few difficulties that I wanted to share so you don’t have the same problems I did.
First off, I will say I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Beijing and any difficulties I had was because of my own lack of research and thinking I could just stroll on in and everything would be perfectly fine.
If you want to see this is in video form click here or inside the Forbidden City here! If you want to see what I did in Beijing you can here, what to do, my complete guide which includes where to stay, where to eat, if you want to see what I bring on my backpacking trips you can see that here
1. The City is Huge
Beijing is the capital of the People's Republic of China. It is the world's most populous capital city, with over 21 million residents.
Let’s put that into perspective, if Beijing was in the United States it would be tied with Florida as the third most populated state.
The city covers 6,336.1 sq mi (16,410.5 km) which is bigger than Connecticut which is only 5,543 or half the size of the country of Belgium which is 11,849 mi²
This means that even if something looks close on a map it is very likely going to be a 30 minutes walk minimum. I fell into this trap far too many times.
2. Can’t Use Your Favorite Apps
Currently the government in China is The government of the People's Republic of China which is under the exclusive political leadership of the Communist Party of China. With a communist country things are dealt with a little differently and this means you might not be able to use some of your favorite apps. In July 2009 Facebook was banned, On March 30, 2010, Google was banned. In 2014 Instagram was banned and in 2017 Whatsapp was banned.
For me this was quite the problem since I use google maps to navigate anytime I go to a new city. I was able to download a free VPN (Virtual Private Network) and trick my phone into think I was in the US at times but it didn’t always work.
3. They Have Different Apps
The first time I went to go buy something everyone was using their phones to pay. I didn’t know what they were using but knew I didn’t have it. It is common to use WeChat and AliPay to pay for things or use cash. I tried to create an account but wasn’t able to and was limited to only paying in cash which made things more of a challenge. Credit cards aren't always an option either.
4. Take A Food Tour To Easily Try Local Food
This is my own fault since I went in knowing no Madarin and was just hoping to be able to look at pictures and figure it out.
I had a couple experiences where I went in and there were no signs or pictures so I just pointed and used my fingers. I was only laughed at once and still got the food I was asking for so I was okay with it.
I did go to places like the Chaplin, nBeer and Quanjude and they was someone who spoke some english which was helpful. At Quanjuade one of the people went above and beyond and showed me how to eat the roasted duck properly!
5. Most Places You'll Need A Ticket
Whether you want to go to the Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, Beihai park, the Jingshan park lookout or elsewhere. Most places will require that you have a ticket to get in. This isn’t a negative but just make sure you’ll have enough cash to be able to pay.
6. Make Sure It's The Right Ticket!
While we are on the topic of tickets make sure you have the right one. I had difficulty communicating and didn’t get the right ticket to the Temple of Heaven and wasn't able to get all the way in.
When it came to the Forbidden City I had purchased a ticket ahead of time but something was wrong so I spent about 10 minutes communicating through a text translator on a phone before having to repay for one. I did get in though!
7. The Summer Palace Has Multiple Entrances
The Summer Palace is a large ensemble of lakes and gardens that was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in December 1998, They declared the Summer Palace "a masterpiece of Chinese landscape garden design and I couldn’t agree more!
The space covers 2.9 square kilometers (1.1 sq mi.) While at the palace you can go boating on Kunming Lake, walking the Long Corridor, watching a traditional Chinese performance in the ancient theater
8. Knowing The Time of Things
A lot of the attractions they close at 5pm so make sure you get there before then. I was unaware of this and missed my chance to go into the Lama Temple and the Confucius Temple.
Also, when you take a flight the gates close earlier than they do in the United States. They typically close 45 minutes to 1 hour before the flight because the crew that checks you in is the one working the flight. I didn’t know this and I spent the night in the Shanghai Airport because of it.
9. The Great Wall of China
The Great Wall is awesome but it is easier to take a tour. They limit the number of people or tours at a time so that it is not over crowded. You can either hike up to the wall or pay extra to get a lift up and I took the lift.
On my tour they tried to add extra things onto it. I think to make it feel more appealing, like stoping at a jade factory, getting lunch, the Ming Tombs and doing a tea tasting. I thought the tea tasting was cool and Ming tombs were alright but could have done without the rest. I would recommend trying to find a direct route to the wall and back.
10. Air Quality is a Real Thing
When I went it was 2019, before people were wearing masks normally but you still saw people on occasion wearing them in Beijing. After a few days I could feel it in my lungs whenever I took a deep breath.
As I mentioned at the beginning of the article all of this was just because I didn't look into this stuff ahead of time so hopefully it helps you!
What to Bring
See what I bring on all my trips here!
If you are interested in getting travel insurance I recommend TravelInsurance.com. They are considered one of best in the industry, you can easily compare coverages and get the right one for you.
**This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of my links, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you and allows me to keep the lights on around here. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
HELLO AND WELCOME!
I'm Jake, a dude interested in personal finance and travel creating the life I choose.
In 5 years I went from living in a basement with Craigslist roommates to paying off 90k of debt, backpacking 3 continents, getting a house for myself and 5 rental units.
Read my story in the about me section.
All photos on the blog are from my travels
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