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How to plan a trip to Beijing?

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Q: Why Visit Beijing?  A: Once in a Lifetime Journey

Beijing (北京) ,located in the northeast of the country, is the capital city of People’s Republic of China. The economic, politician, art and architecture centre of this fast growing country. This is a city has over 3000 years history, a city that has the most world’s heritage sites in the world, a city that is the world's third most populous city. Combining both modern and traditional architectures, Beijing is one of the oldest cities in the world and must-see place once in your ­­life time.

Imperial palaces and ancient Hutong mixed with cutting-edge modern architectures and super shopping malls are all well linked by densely charted metro system of this mega city. Furthermore, outside of this super city, there lays the world renewed wonder, the magnificent Great Wall.

From top-end restaurants to thousands of local street treats, Beijing has almost everything ready for a gourmet to have a taste of China. Wondering about having some night life in Beijing?  Take a look at Sanlitun bar street area, shining nights and “heart-attack” buzzing rhythm will satisfy your curiosity about what do the Beijingers do at night and what are the younger generation of the country up to nowadays.

This is a city that will never fail to surprise you. You could spend weeks here, but generally, if you just come to see the most iconic sights and get a taste of Beijing life, 3-5 days are good enough.

Q: What to Expect in Beijing?

great wall

Beijing is has 7 world heritage sites and several Chinese national culture sites and many of them are must-see places. The Best Things to do in Beijing can be listed as below:

  • The Forbidden City is the imperial palace of Ming and Qing dynasties. Numerous imperial treasures are collected here, one can have a better understanding of the richness and splendid 5000 years’ history of this ancient eastern empire through its luxury collections.
  • Tiananmen Square, in front of the Forbidden City, means heavenly peace in Chinese. Being the largest square in the world, this square is never short of tourists all the year round. There are also military patrol and the national flag rising/lowing ceremony at sunrise/sunset every day. Be prepared to have your bags checked here and after the ceremony the military will politely ask you to leave.
  • The Summer Palace is a palace built up for the imperial family to retreat and escape the heat of Beijing’ summer. It is big scale imperial palace, equipped with exquisitely decorated lakes, bridges, temples, pagodas and pavilions.
  • Temple of Heaven, a temple where Chinese emperors in ancient time delicate ceremonies for the heaven to pray for blessing for his country, a peace rule, good harvest year.
  • Wander around the amazing Hutongs. They are the channel alleys of the traditional style of Beijing residents’ house-- Hutong courtyard house. Some of the houses are used as an art shop or a site-seeing house for tourists visiting and further culture display and exchange activities.

Q: What to Prepare for Beijing Trip? A: Visa,Travel Insurance,etc

Do I need a visa to visit Beijing? -->Yes!

Yes, foreign citizens are required to obtain a visa for travelling in China. One can apply Chinese visa through embassies on websites or through visa or approved international travel agencies.

Good thing is that Beijing has several transit visa free policies. Generally speaking, if you are just transiting in Beijing and can provide flight ticket to a third country, you can apply for: 72 hours visa free in Beijing ,   144 hours visa free in Beijing. Learn more about China visa application knowledge and China Entry and Exit Tips.

Can I get visa on arrival in Beijing? -->Generally speaking, No!

Foreigners need to get visa before arrival at Beijing Capital International Airport. Only those who are invited by Chinese side for emergency matters can apply for visa on arrival. Such as invited by china for attend trade fair in a short notice or invited to install equipment or make rush repairs…etc. Learn more about Beijing Visa on Arrival.

Do I need to purchase travel insurance? --Yes!

Though any client choose to travel with us will be covered by our basic Travel Insurance from China Life Insurance Company and so does many other tourists go with other Chinese travel agencies, we would strongly recommend you to purchase a proper fully covered insurance in your own country before your Beijing trip.

Because the type of insurance is China Life Tourist Accident/Casualty Insurance, of which the policy only covers accidents that occur within China. According to our service experiences of all these years, it is always much easier and quicker for our clients to claim pension if they need to within their own country’s system. For further information about what is our basic insurance actually covering please click here.

temple of heaven

Do I need to buy some Chinese currency before arrive? --Not necessary.

This is one of those most asked questions. Am I getting a better rate buying yuan in China than USA or UK..etc. The answer is usually YES! Buying yuan in China is usually cheaper than dealing the procedure in North American or European country. You can buy yuan at airport ATM machine or at a Chinese bank even at your hotel front desk. Many ATMs in China, especially these entrance cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hong Kong, take international MasterCard or Visa cards, saving the hassle to go for a Chinese bank window.

Most tourists will take out some yuan on an ATM at the airport for they need money to pay taxi ride to hotel before they can find a better rate at their hotel or with their travel agencies.


  • All you need to do before embarking on your journey is to inform your bank that you will be taking money out of China in case they block the transaction.
  • But if you feel “unprepared” without some Chinese cash before you go, buy small amount  like 5000 yuan including hotel deposit or 2000 yuan (without hotel deposit) will be enough to survive Beijing for 2 days depending on your budget.
  • Be aware of that the ATM has a maximun limitation about how much cash it can withdraw each time.

Q: How much will it cost roughly for a trip to Beijing?  A: 250 to 3000 yuan / 36$ to 440 $/ 30€ to 385 €/ 28£ to 340 £ a day (Rates on 15th Aug,2018)

This is a question that could have thousands answers depending different budgets people have. Generally speaking, Beijing is not a cheap destination as you might think or as it once was.

  • Top-end everything: If you are staying in 5 stars hotels and eating top quality imported beef and wines in fancy restaurants with taxi rides to every place you go, you’re looking at 2000 to 3000 Yuan a day or more.
  • Economy: But for clean and economy 3 stars chain hotels near metro station and eat in local restaurants and you can get by on 500-700 Yuan a day.
  • Budget: Travellers on budge stay in hostels and eat basic food can survive on around 300 Yuan a day.

Q: Where can I Get Cheap Flights to China?

summer palace

You can get cheap flights on Expedia or any major airlines official website if you are lucky to find any seats on sale. Here in this article, we are also offering you some popular optional websites that Chinese are using when we travel domestically or abroad. You may find it surprisingly cheaper compared to the main western booking sites.

  • C-trip, is a popular booking website that Chinese youth are using frequently today. It will show you the list of flight ticket price from the lowest to the highest according to your requests and it has almost covered all the major and minor airlines’ plane schedules in China and some of the South East Asia’s as well.
  • Except the booking site, go for some of the main airlines’ official websites can also be very beneficial sometimes. Because those bigger companies are operating a certain fixed schedule flights all the year round to those hot tourist destinations. And sometimes, especially when it’s shoulder season and low season, seats booking rate is not so profitable; they will release some seat on sale to cover fuel cost.
  • The major airlines in China are : China Eastern Airlines,  China Southern Airlines,  Hainan Airlines,  Xiamen Airlines, ect.  


When you are booking a discounted flight ticket, please make sure to check that you have enough luggage allowance attached to your ticket. Sometimes, cheap tickets don’t come with any allowance at all. And if that is the case, you can always purchase some on their official website in advance, in case being charged three times more at the check-in counter at airport.

China Domestic Flights Luggage Allowance Details:Type, size, weight,etc.

China Domestic Flight Liquid Baggage Restrictions

Civil Aviation Flight Lithium Battery Regulation

Luggage Loss, Damage and Delay by Air

Domestic and International Departure Procedure in China

China Flight Luggage Restriction for Cash and Special Items

China Electricity Voltage

Q: How Difficult will it be to Travel Beijing on my own?  A: Manageable

If you love adventure and enjoy the fulfillment in doing a trip on your own, which is pretty cool either. For an international city like Beijing, it won’t be too difficult for tourist to handle it.

  • Beijing is used to its numerous tourists every year and is a very tourist-friendly city. The efficient metro system can take you to most sites you want and every station has English names en route and an English metro website--beijingsubway.
  • Local taxi drivers in Beijing often can manage some simple basic English knowing airports, railway stations, most frequently visited scenic sites and popular hotels among foreigners.
  • Try those Travel Translator apps on your smart phone or Baidu or Google, you will find them quite useful and smarter than you think.

Do I need to travel with a travel agency?

It is difficult to answer this question as it really depends on what kind of traveller you are. As a major Chinese online tour operator as we are—Top China Travel, we can save you a lot of time and hassle compared to drowning in the internet trying to searching bits of information on your own. We have discounted price offered by hotels and scenic sites, transportation system, and experienced local guides who can show you the first–hand Beijing in a most efficient way, it is a way to get a bigger deal by paying less in short.

Q: When to go to Beijing?  A: Avoiding nationally holidays is the key!

beijing summer palace

Beijing is a city that has a clearly four seasons. Spring can be still a bit chill from the icy winter affects though the trees are trying hard to wake up. So spring is not the best for time for travelling to Beijing but the advantage is less tourists everywhere.

Summer is a good time and it is also among the peak season as many Chinese parents will take their kids to travel during their summer vacation free from schools. But you will find during the hot months like late august it can be steaming hot humid and it is a struggle to do any challenge hiking on the Great Wall. And needless to say, there will be a bit crowd at those famous sites such as Forbidden City and Summer Palace.

Autumn is the best time for Beijing and peak season too, neither too hot nor too cold and there is great view of the Fragrance Hill for maple leaves. But as all the best times are, they bring up the accommodation cost and crowded tourists.

Winter is freezing cold and it is the time for the “Beijing smog” to appear sometimes, it is not as bad as it once was when the western media reported the worst situations years ago. Chinese government has been keep improving it for 5 years since it first appeared in 2013. Consequently winter is the cheapest time of the year.

So the best time for a Beijing trip will be around summer (June to August) and autumn (September to November). However there are some national public holidays or golden weeks as Chinese describe them which are best to be avoided and they are listed as below:

  • The Spring Festival , or call it Chinese new year, goes with the Chinese lunar calendar usually falls on the beginning of February, during which time the whole country switches onto a transportation mode, people eager to come back home to visit their parents and loved ones for the festival.
  • The National holiday, a seven-day holiday falls on 1st of October every year. As Chinese don’t have much long holidays, this is the main opportunity for Chinese to travel inbound or outbound as a vacation.
  • The May holiday---the Labor’s Day, a three-day holiday falls on 1st of May every year. Chinese often take a short domestic vacation around this period.|

Q: How Long to Stay in Beijing?  A: 3 to 5 Days is enough.

Usually for the first-time visitors, 3 to 5 days is good enough to see most of the “must-go sites” in Beijing. One can organize Tiananmen square+ forbidden city + national museum + temple of heaven +Jinshan park on day 1 and go for the great wall trip on day 2, don’t forget to drop by to see the national stadium -- bird nest and water cube when you come back to town in the evening when the architectures start to light up. On day 3, indulge yourself in a Hutong wandering and pay a visit to the summer palace before join in the Houhai bar street for an exciting night. Below is some well organized and highly suggested itineraries written by our experienced travel consultant for tourist who travels Beijing independently.

Independent One Day Tour in the Forbidden City

Independent One Day Tour in Badaling Great Wall

Independent Beijing Day Tour: Summer Palace, Hutong & Houhai

Independent Beijing Day Tour : Forbidden City, Jingshan Park & Beihai Park

Independent Beijing One Day Tour: Mutianyu Great Wall, Lama Temple & Sanlitun

Independent Beijing One Day Tour: Temple of Heaven, Panda House & Bell and Drum Tower

3 Days Beijing Visa Free Tour

3 Days Beijing Visa Free Tour

Summer Palace, Mutianyu Great Wall, Bird Nest, Water Cube, Tian'anmen Square, Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven

4 Days Best of Beijing Tour

4 Days Best of Beijing Tour

Tian'anmen Square, Forbidden City, Jingshan park, Temple of Heaven, Mutianyu Great Wall, Bird Nest, Water Cube, Hutong Rickshaw Tour, Summer Palace

5 Days Beijing Family Tour

5 Days Beijing Family Tour

Tian'anmen Square, the Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven (Fly a Kite), Mutianyu Great Wall, Bird Nest, Water Cube, Beijing Zoo (Panda House), Beijing Aquarium, Summer Palace, Beijing Hutong (Chinese Dumplings Making)

Q: Where to Stay in Beijing?  A: Wangfujing, Houhai, Qianmen Area.

Want to know where to stay in Beijing? The best locations to stay in Beijing for tourists are Wangfujing, Nanluoguxiang or Houhai, Qianmen and Xi'dan areas.

  • Wangfujing (王府井) area is the best place for its central location and walking distance to the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square.
  • Houhai (后海)and Nanluoguxiang(南锣鼓巷)area. Houhai area is where bars & clubs located and Nanluoguxiang is a famous walking street. This area boasts convenient public transportation channeled with traditional courtyards in Hutongs, you could even a courtyard hotel in this Beijing old residential area.
  • Chaoyang District(朝阳区) is best for business visitors to Beijing . It is Beijing's central business district and home to hundreds of skyscrapers, international venture buildings, most of the embassies and top-end hotels.

Q: Getting around in Beijing?  A: By Metro!

beijing metro/subway map (newest)

(Credit: The pic above comes from www.bisubway.com, click to enlarge)

For further detail info you can go for Beijing subway site (English Version), where you can buy tickets on line and search price of certain durations, they offer tourist very useful metro tips to hot tourist destinations as well.

Beside, you can purchase the Beijing "One Card Pass" if you intend to stay longer. Using "One Card Pass" in Beijing can save time for people to queue up to buy the tickets, such as the subway ticket, public bus tickets etc.

How to Get from Beijing Airport to Your Beijing Hotel?

How to Get to Jiankou Great Wall from Beijing Downtown

How to Get to Huanghuacheng Great Wall from Beijing

How to Get to Gubeikou Great Wall from Beijing Downtown

How to Get to Xiangshuihu Great Wall from Beijing Downtown

How to Get to Ming Tombs from Beijing Downtown

Basic Mandarin /Chinese you need in China

Pinyin English Chinese
Nǐ hǎo hello 你好
Zǎo shàng hǎo good morning 早上好
Wǎn shàng hǎo good evening 晚上好
Xiè xiè Thank you 谢谢
Duì bù qǐ sorry 对不起
Qǐng wèn/bù hǎo yì si Excuse me 请问
Qǐng wèn wèi Shēng jiān zài nǎ lǐ Excuse me, where is the washroom please? 请问卫生间在哪里?
Wǒ yào qù jī chǎng/huǒ chē zhàn/jǐu diàn… I want to go to airport/railway station/hotel… 我要去机场/火车站/酒店..
Wǒ xiǎng yào yì bei kā fēi I would like a cup of coffee 我想要一杯咖啡
Duō shǎo qián ? How much? 多少钱?
Bú yào là jiāo no spicy 不要辣椒

Greeting in Chinese

Survival Chinese

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