Everyone told me Beijing was ludicrously expensive and crowded, It wasn't.

Written by Mr. STEVENS May 13, 2019 23:02
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Before visiting China, download the app ‘Wechat'. It is essential to everything. 

First let me give you a little background. I am a teaching working in Harbin, China. Harbin is one of the lower tier cities so the cost of living is pretty low (so are the wages though). This is great for living there, however if you wish to travel somewhere else then it means that the price can be a little daunting. When I started talking to my students about wanting to travel to Beijing they began to tell me how outrageously expensive it is in Beijing. How a basic meal at a restaurant will cost 60-100 yuan. (for reference it's about 20 yuan in Harbin). And how I should say farewell to my savings if I want to have a good time in Beijing. 

Not only this, once they were done with their tirade about the price, then came the cascade of comments about the crowds of Beijing. I heard that if you want to see the great wall or tiananmen square, instead you will see the back of one million Chinese heads marching in an almost mechanically precise herd from famous site to famous site. While you could never be alone in Beijing; I managed to navigate through Beijing rather affordably and headache free through some careful planning that I will share with you.

First, know one thing. If you are foreign and you are unable to speak Chinese everyone will overcharge you. For this reason you should avoid places that suspiciously lack price tags. In many stores in China there is no listed price, so it becomes a contest of who can be the best negotiator. Without speaking Chinese you lose this contest and you overpay egregiously. However you can get around this by finding a Chinese person to be your guide. This may sound expensive, but I am not talking about a professional. There are many former  or current students in Beijing who are studying English and desperately want to practice. You can find them with apps like Hellotalk, or even wechat. These students will be more than willing to guide you around Beijing for a few days for a very reasonable price. Not only that, they will also prevent you from being ripped off. 

Hotels is where I expected to have to sell a kidney. On the contrary I spent about 150 yuan ($22) a night on my hotel. Why is that? I used wechat's hotel app. In the wechat pay section, scroll down and you'll find information on a number of things, including hotels.  The app will be in Chinese but don't worry about that. Just take a few screenshots and google translate them. The savings will be worth the hassle.

On the English hotel search, the hotels start at $117 a night.
On wechat in Chinese, the hotels start at 130 yuan ($13)

These won't be nice hotels by any means. They will be liveable, but basically the size of an average work cubicle in an office. With a bathroom on the side.  You're only going to be sleeping in your room anyway, do you really require that much space? 

If you're bringing your family, don't go for the cheap hotels. Though if you're only one or two people who don't have high standards, it's a great deal. 

Avoiding the crowds.

This may seem impossible. China is the world's most populous country, how on earth do I avoid crowds? Well this is advice straight from the mouth of a Chinese person.

“Travel when there is no holiday.”
China has a lot of Holidays. Especially compared to America. There seems to be 4-5 Chinese holidays for every American holiday.  When you are planning to travel it is absolutely essential that you DO NOT travel on any Chinese holiday. If you go to Beijing near for instance Spring festival (chinese new year) Expect 2-3 hour lines and massive crows and overall an unpleasant though authentic Chinese experience.

I went on december 14th. No Chinese holiday in sight, and (besides the subway) I experienced extremely small crowds. Even on places such as the great wall, or tiananmen square. Virtually empty. Room to take all the photos you want. 

Bring good shoes.

This is the part nobody will tell you, and I honestly don't know why.

There is lots of walking, if you're trying to save money you won't take taxis. Taxis (Especially if you're a foreigner) will nickel and dime you every 5 feet. Take the subway. The subway is a bit crowded, but it is extensive. There is nowhere in Beijing that you can't go to with the subway. I wish every city had a metro like Beijing's. Not only will you be walking to and from subway stations, you will also be walking in the famous places. Take for example Tiananmen square, see my attached video.  It's huge. It looks small on Tv, but that's a lie. From end to end it's about a fifteen minute walk. It might not sound like a lot, but I am only getting started. The attached forbidden city, under the big picture of Mao is an absolutely beautiful, long, interesting, long, and a fascinating, long city. It took me about 2 hours to get through this. It was worth it, though if you have any trouble walking for long periods, you may want to avoid the forbidden city.

The great wall should really be referred to as ‘The great work out'. The great wall is leg day personified. I am a healthy 25 year old male who goes to the gym 2-3 times a week. I expected that I would be able to walk up to one of the towers on the great wall with ease.
I was dead wrong.

By the time I finally got to one of the towers, (leaving my guide behind who knew better than to try and climb the great wall.) I felt like I was going to die. The great wall is essentially a great staircase. A staircase that never ends. If you are planning to go to the great wall, take your time to get to the top. And do not rush, your legs will thank you. The great wall should also be your only activity that day. The to/from trip takes about an hour and a half. And you should want to spend a few hours there. After visiting the great wall you won't have energy to do anything else, so don't agree to go walk through a very long garden with your guide like I did. 

Don't eat the roast duck.

Everyone and their mother in Beijing will tell you, you must try Beijing roast duck. Don't. It's not terrible by any means, but boy is it overpriced. Beijing roast duck is just average roasted meat. But some restaurants in Beijing charge up to $100 for a plate with a INSULTING SMALL AMOUNT of meat on it. See my photo of the plate. Don't make my mistake, Beijing roast duck is some kind of scam that everyone is in on.

Beijing is fun, I had a great time. But does it have to be as expensive and crowded as they all say?

 More Beijing Travel Reviews
1. Five Ways to Travel China on a Budget ANGEL2017 Aug 24, 2017 14:18
2. 1 Day Great Wall/Summer Palace JULIE THORPE from Australia Jul 21, 2017 03:59
3. 2 Day Tour of Beijing DEBC11 May 14, 2017 20:01
Comments (2)


Sep 11, 2023 05:58 Reply

Mr.MINHAAR from USA said:

Many thanks bro!


Jan 9, 2022 00:44 Reply

HAYNES778 said:

Wow Very Informative Article. Thanks To share with Us

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