Guide to Living in Beijing, China, Places

No visa transit visit in Beijing

When you go to Asia from Western countries, sometimes it seems to be smart to visit as many cities as possible. Beijing is the place you can easily visit. While you require visa for visiting China, there is also a way of visiting it on transit.

I had my family visiting me in Beijing for 2 days and also we had one day back in the days in 2012, so if I combine it all – it would be the same as 72-hour transit visit.

Transit Visa.

All you need for the transfer visa is to get the boarding pass of your arrival flight, visa and ticket to the next destination and your passport. 20-30 minutes after you submit it, you get your transit stamp, which allows you to stay in Beijing for 72 hours.

Hotel Booking.

The best way to book hotel in China is using Ctrip as it provides best offers for the region. However, watch out as Ctrip attractive offers usually do not include breakfast and taxes, which are quite sensible when you get your final bill.

Pay attention to the location in relation to the places that you want to visit. As if you are too far you will spend quite a bit on transportation. Therefore, it might make sense to take an accommodation that might be a little more expensive but in a central location.

Trip Plan.
DAY 1.

Of course the main attraction is the Great Wall of China. You should consider that this will a take a day for sure. It is quite a walk around too. Make sure you plan it in advance. If you are in Beijing for a short time, especially if you are a group of people, you should take a taxi or a tour to the Great Wall to save time and energy.

There are three main places to visit in the Great Wall – Badaling, Jinshangling and Mutianyu. Visiting Badaling is the easiest option as it is the number one tourist destination – the closest and well-known. However, it is always overcrowded.  Jinshangling is the second closest part of the Great Wall, the stairs here are quite steep and not that convenient for a walk.

Finally, Mutianyu is the best part. It takes around 1.20 to get there from Dongzhimen area, however, you can either walk up the wall or take stairs. If you take a cable car, you save yourself around 40 minutes and also some energy as up on the wall you will require quite a bit of walking.  Additionally, you get to see a truly amazing view.

Back down there are three ways – cable car, walk and tobogganing.  As we were with a kid, the best way was to take a cable car. Walking around, taking pictures and imagining how it was built and used – surely worth a visit.

DAY 2.

Beijing Zoo and Summer Palace.

If you have a kid, Zoo is a must visit as it is one of not that many places where you can see panda (if you have time it is better to visit Chengdu). We went there only for pandas. There were two of them, that looked really cute and lazy.

We spent around 40 minutes watching them – all they did was changing the body position to and continued sleeping. But they are just as cute as on the pictures, so it becomes a must visit! I can’t wait until I can get a couple of days off to go to Chengdu and see more.

After walking around the zoo (which is extremely cheap – CNY 19), you can take a boat to go to the Purple Bamboo Garden and then to the Summer Palace.

Taking a boat to the Summer palace turned out to be challenging for us. We just couldn’t find it! Basically, the boat station turned out to be in the North of the zoo – just next to the Aquarium. The boat trip will cost you RMB 50 per person.

The trip itself consists of taking two boats – first to the Bamboo Garden and then from Garden to the Summer Palace. If you have enough time, you can first just take a walk around the Garden before boarding on the second boat.

As for the  timing – it is also quite difficult to find out. There is only one boat which travels on the hourly basis. It operates from 10am to 4pm, leaving hourly at five minutes past (eg. 10.05, 11.05 etc). Do not miss it as you will have to wait for an hour.

The trip itself is nice, but not too exciting, however, the arrival to the Summer Palace is quite nice. On arrival you need to get another ticket to get inside (RMB 30 per person).

Walking from the boat station to the Summer Palace is great as it is not too overcrowded and also the view is great. However, it might be a little bit tiring. Consider that these are the only teo places you’ll visit before you get exhausted.

DAY 3.

The Forbidden City, Jingshan Park and Houhai area.

The Forbidden City is another must visit in Beijing. It is a place that Chinese people treat in the most respect. Spare quite a bit of time for visiting this place.

Keep in mind that the taxi will not drive you all way there, it will probably drop you off at Beijing Hotel Nuo (previously Raffles) and you will need to walk up to the entrance.

To enter the Forbidden city, you will need to go through a security check, which will take around 10-15 mins.

When you finally manage to enter, make sure you go up to the main gates. We saw another gate with no people. A Chinese lady approached us and told us that it was the entrance to the Forbidden City but less crowded one. We believed her and went it. So turned out that it was her way to get us to go to her gallery and not the way into the main attraction. We spend about an hour walking around.

Finally, we got back to the main entrance, spent other 30 minutes to get tickets (CNY60 per person). Keep in mind, to visit the Forbidden City every visitor has to have a passport or an ID on you, otherwise, you cannot get in. Visiting the Forbidden City can take from 2 hours to 2 full days, depending on how much you would like to see.  We just went through, looking at the main view and main area for around 2 hours.

Optional for Day 3.

You went in through the South Gate and exit through the North Gate. The North Gate is very convenient for the Jingshan Park visitors. If you are there, I would highly recommend to go to Jingshan Park as you can see the nicest park in Beijing and get the best view over the Forbidden City.

Another option for the second part of the day can be visiting Beijing Lakes – Qianhai, Beihai and Houhai. Houhai is my favorite one. In the winter you can take some ice activities, while in summer you can rent a boat. Also, there are quite a bit of places for street food, eateries, souvenir shops and just nice walking areas.

From the Forbidden city you can easily get there by Rickshaw or a taxi (if you are lucky).

After all walking you might really want to consider going for a Chinese massage for a relaxation. On average expect to pay around CNY200 per person for a 90-minute traditional body massage.

We went for the one with fire and hot stones, which is so great. More about the fire massage is here.

Dining Plan.

In three days you need to try as much as you can to experience what the Chinese food is like. In order to not spend too much on searching, I would recommend my picks.

Din Tai Fung – can be a nice option for a lunch to eat Xiaolongbao, Mian – noodles, Hainan Rice Wine Chicken and Wok-fried French beans with garlic and beef (my personal favorite).

Haidilao Hot Pot – try non-spicy mushroom soup base and extra spicy chili if you like something exciting for Hot Pot. Make sure you order beef plus, shrimp balls and noodle show.

Peking Duck restaurants – depending on where you are staying you can choose, order Peking Duck, some wok-fried vegetables and spring onion pancake. Local Yanjing or Tsingdao beer goes well with it.

Street food – visit Wangfujing or Houhai in the evening to try some delish street food – deep fried squid and beef meatball are absolutely the best.

As for the breakfast or quick meals, Beijing is really amazing. You can get freshly cut fruits like pineapple or watermelon everywhere for a fair price.

Keep in mind!

Jet lag and tiredness – when you are planning your 72-hours you might want to avoid doing the Great Wall on the first day and do something else closer to the hotel. This is just in case you get really tired and will not be able to walk long.

Chinese food and kids – Chinese food is quite unusual for the kids, who grew up in Western culture, so be ready to have something for them. You can visit supermarkets like the Market Place and get snacks.

Travel distance – make sure you book a hotel in a convenient location. My advice would be to book it in Wangfujing/Dongdan/Dengshikou area as it is really central part, where everything is highly accessible. My family stayed in Liangmaqiao and I regretted it as the only convenience was the airport – everything else created us a trouble.

Expenses for 72  hours.

Per Day Total
Hotel* 500 1500
Breakfast* 50 150
Lunch* 60 180
Dinner* 90 270
Snack 20 60
Airport to Hotel 65 130
Daily Transport* 110 330
Great Wall Trip 600 600
Zoo Ticket 19 19
Boat Ticket 50 50
Summer Palace Ticket 30 30
Forbidden City ticket 60 60
Jingshan Park Ticket 20 20
Richshaw to Houhai 35 35
Massage 198 198
Shopping (misc) 90 270
Water 5 15
Ice cream 5 15
Coffee 28 84
Total 4016


*Room was in Hilton Hotel

*Breakfast cost is based on Starbucks or other Western coffee Shop.

*Lunch and dinner are average price – it is more expensive in some place and less in others.

*CNY 65 is taxi rate if you take Liangmaqiao area, otherwise it is around CNY 100. Express ticket to Dongzhimen would cost you CNY 25.

If you are traveling to Asia – Japan, Korea or any other country, you should really consider visiting Beijing. In three days with no visa, you really might be fortunate to see  main attractions. The cost that I have mentioned here is for a quite upscale stay in Beijing. It can go much lower in case you are on budget.

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