I interned in Beijing for 6 weeks a couple of years ago without knowing a single Mandarin phrase. I had a local contact who helped me settle but more or less I explored the streets and bylanes all by myself.
#1) Get a Subway card from any of the subway stations. The best way to travel across Beijing is to use it's very extensive and well-planned subway system. It also helps to pick up a map of the subway lines from there (There are more than 12 lines and a lot of them intersect) I used an IOS app which showed me the map of the entire system including which line I should use to reach a particular station.
#2) Go to all of the main attraction and tourist places and after go a little further. Most of Beijing's charm is the way modern era comfortably sits with the centuries-old past. Walk through narrow streets and lanes which will take you away from the crowd and into the heart of the city.
#3) Beijing has a lot of short one day trip worthy places including the great wall. Do check out the various places as they give a nice insight into Chinese culture.
#4) Eat at local shops by pointing to items you like on the menu. A lot of people miss out on really tasty food because they can't communicate with local shop owners (Mandarin is tough) but I have found that a lot of them are willing to understand you if you use gestures and point at photos. You might as well find something wonderful not in any guide book!
#5) Beijing is NOT a city for the people of the night. Most of the public transport closes down by 11 pm. Malls and shops too close by this time. Plan your day accordingly.
#6) A clear sky in Beijing is a sight to behold. Locals often crowd at scenic parks and picturesque spots to capture sunsets on such days
#7) Try out a community activity in your area. Beijing has a huge population of seniors who gather in community parks, squares and in open spaces during evening hours to dance, practice Tai Chi, and even Roller Skate!
#8) Beijing has 2 of china's best universities - Peking and Tsinghua, both of which have sprawling campuses and are a good choice to immerse yourself in Chinese culture. [Peking University is not usually open to outsiders, check once] 12 months ago
Visiting Beijing: if you enjoy tourist attractions go to Nan Lou Gu Xiang which has been refurbished to suit Western and Chinese touristy desires alike. Its very cute still if you manage to go on a day without the crowds, unless you like crowds, then go on a Saturday. If you want to get a better feel for the place and get off the beaten track, I highly recommend getting a bike from your hostel or hotel- not one of those horrid hard to ride ones that screams tourist or businessman biker for the day. Just your good average run of the mill bike. Keep a map on you. a physical one n have your hotel location star pointed out by one of the staff. Then prepare to enjoy yourself and... get lost. Go down the hutongs (narrow lanes), wave to the baoan (security guards) maybe take a photo w the friendly ones, get some of those bbq sticks you see and say "No la" if you dont like spices, go to Shijiahutong in Chaoyang area. Its very pleasent as of a year or so ago n quietish. AVOID Sunlitun at all costs. Its Satans sideline gig.
Pollution: wear masks only if every one and his dog is. Cos otherwise theres little point. they only last 20 mins or so according to my dentist. but get a mask w an furry animal on it if you want to fit in.
Get Wechat. Very important if you are staying longer than a couple of weeks.
If you decide to live there or want to read an overview on living, go here: https://www.kobo.com/nz/en/ebook/how-to-china
https://www.kobo.com/nz/en/ebook/how-to-china 12 months ago
There are so many things to see and do...and each person's interest can be quite different...but there are 2 things I highly recommend:
1) Hire a private car and go to the Great Wall before the sunrise. I know that sounds like and can be a big splurge - especially on a tight travel budget...but for most, it is a once in a lifetime opportunity. (Or team up with a few peeps and split the cost). You can arrange this through your hotel or hostel and make sure to negotiate...you will want to confirm the price for the entire day before agreeing to it. Then have your driver meet you at 3 or 4 am (suck it up...again this is once-in-a-lifetime)...they will drive you to either Badaling or Mutianyu are closest to Beijing proper...and plan to arrive by 6am...chances are you may get there earlier...and the entrances will likely still be closed...however, you will be there ready to go...and many times they will let single (or double travellers in a bit early - I've done this 3 times and each time been lucky)...worse case you are the first one up the wall at 7am...and you will have the place almost to yourself! You can get some amazing pictures WITHOUT THE CROWDS! You can watch the sunrise...it is magical...spiritual...beautiful...it is quiet and peaceful...for about an hour...sometimes more sometimes less...then you will be on top of the wall watching the hoards of people arriving bus after bus after bus and there won't be any chance of private photos after that. I highly recommend this.
2) Go to the summer palace...it is easily accessible via bus or other transport...you can walk along the water, over the famous bridge, and even take a boat ride out on the lake...despite crowds (usually early morning or late afternoon can be much less crowded).
As mentioned, there are tons of more well known things to do...see the Olympic grounds, Tianamen Square, Palace (wear comfy shoes), etc...
CHINA ADVICE - have your hotel/hostel/friend write down for you the address and phone number of where you are staying in Mandarin (Chinese characters)...so you can hand it to your driver or bus...to help you find your way back...almost everyone has a cell ph
Good luck and Happy travels! 12 months agoAnswered by Elizabeth FL USA via WorldNomads.com
I wish I had known about the car hire for the Great Wall because the crowds are ridiculous. On that note DO NOT go to any of the major attractions in Beijing on the weekend as the crowds of locals can be overwhelming. I have a dozen photos of a mass of humanity standing between me and what I came to see. And the locals don't have the same sense of personal space as North Americans so be prepared to stand your ground and use your elbows (yes, seriously).
I did both a private tour of Luoyang (the Longman Grotttoes and the Shaolin Temple) and a group tour of Beijing-Xian-Guilin and both were amazing experiences. The local guides are very useful/friendly and I learned from one of the people in my group that a lot of food vendors will let you sample food before you buy (she speaks Manadrin though). The same lady and I also discovered that good coffee is difficult to find in Beijing and some restaurants don't offer it. 12 months agoAnswered by Amanda via WorldNomads.com
Check out some of the lesser known places. My favorites are 798 Art District (a bit outside of town, but worth it; take a taxi if your'e not comfortable with the bus - there is no subway stop nearby) and the Russian district. Walk as much as possible, or rent bikes/scooters.
Go to the hutongs! These little alleys are pieces of old Beijing. Grab a road beer and walk around in the evening. There are lots of fun bars/cafes/restaurants, and the people watching is excellent.
If you can, Modernista is a cool bar that often has the Moonglow Burlesque shows (I used to dance with them - it's a really good show!)
How long are you there for? 12 months ago
Walk through Hutong areas.
Visit a good tea house. Or better yet to see the tea ceremony.
Go to see how they make silk and grow pearls.
Acrobatic show or Bejing Opera.
Go to eat Beijing duck for a recommended restaurant.
Walk through the centre's food allies and try something strange like scorpions.
Go to an old fashioned book store to see how beautiful Chinese books are.
Go in the morning to a park and join a Tai Chi lesson.
And then of course all the main attractions like Chinese wall etc
Have a great time - it's an amazing city with so many things to do and see... -Marjo- 12 months ago