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Know Before You Go
- Ask your hotel to write their name and address in Mandarin for you. It will be easier for your taxi driver to figure out where you want to go and prevent any confusion.
- When ordering food at a restaurant in Beijing, your starter dishes won't come out first. Your server will bring whichever dish is ready, so when it arrives start eating as it might be awhile before the next one shows up.
- If you are a vegetarian or vegan screenshot and save key phrases in Mandarin on your phone. Make sure you have the English translation, the Chinese characters and the Chinese word spelt out with English letters. It will make ordering your soy latte easier and communicating other dietary preferences.
- While at a restaurant, don't leave your chopsticks upright in your rice bowl. In Beijing, this symbolises that someone has died. Rather keep your sticks together on your plate or lying across the top of your bowl.
- Setup a virtual VPN before you enter China if you want to bypass the country's Internet censorship. Many websites like Google and most social media sites are blocked, making it difficult to check-in with loved ones or keeping an eye on your inbox.
Getting Around Beijing
- Beijing's subway system is the best way to get around the city. Rides will cost CNY 2 - 5 depending on your destination and all announcements, station names and signs are in English.
- Try your best to avoid rush hour (anytime before 9 am) as commuters make their way to work and again from 6 pm. Download Beijing' free metro system app to plan your route and make getting around the city even easier.
- Taxis in Beijing are an affordable way to get around the city. Fares start with a minimum charge of CNY 10 and include a CNY 2 surcharge for fuel.
- Catching the bus in Beijing can often be a more direct route between two destinations than the subway. While all the stop names and announcements are in English, it is a bit more of a challenge to navigate. Use the Beijing Public Transport to map out your route beforehand. Depending on how far you travel, fares should cost around CNY 1.40.
- Beijing is a massive city and shouldn't be attempted to tackle solely on foot. Rather use public transport to go to a specific neighbourhood and then spend time walking around as much you can.
- Renting a car in Beijing is more complicated than other cities in the world. Without a Chinese driver's license, you cannot drive a car on the roads. If you want the freedom of getting around, hire a car service for the day.
When is The Best Time to Visit Beijing?
If you can handle the city's heat in summer and below freezing temperatures winter, Beijing is a destination that can be visited all year around. But if you want to save money, plan your travels around the national public holidays to avoid the crowds and high room rates.
Temperatures are still quite warm during September and October, making it an ideal time of year to visit Beijing. You'll still need to bring some light layers to stay warm when it gets a bit colder, but it's worth it with hotel rates being lower during this shoulder season.
Beijing's winter months (November to February) are when the city is virtually empty from tourists. For budget travellers who can handle the freezing temperatures, you'll save on below average room rates and have no long lines at any of the popular tourist sites.
Springtime in Beijing (March to May) means a pleasant climate and colourful scenery. Hotel prices will begin to increase in anticipation for the summer crowds, so book early to secure a low price.
From June to August Beijing experiences it's peak travel season. From the sweltering heat, high hotel prices and long lines at attractions it's not the best time to visit the city for budget travellers. July and August are also Beijing's rainiest months, meaning some of your outdoor activities might get rescheduled.
Airports in Beijing
Beijing Capital International Airport
Beijing Capital is the main international airport serving the city. It's the main hub for Air China, the country's flag carrier, which flies to over 120 destinations around the world. The airport's third terminal is the second largest in the world and the sixth largest building in the world.
Getting to and from Beijing Capital International Airport
If you are arriving at Beijing Capital Airport at night, a taxi ride will be your only option. A taxi ride from the airport into the city centre will cost CNY 70 to CNY 120 and will take 30 minutes depending on the traffic. You'll also have to pay a CNY 10 toll for the airport expressway.
The easiest way to get to downtown Beijing from the airport is via the Airport Express train. There are stations at Terminal 2 and 3, with the journey taking 16 to 20 minutes. A one-way ticket will cost CNY 25 and trains run every 15 minutes from 6:20 am to 11:00 pm.
If you need to get to different locations throughout Beijing, an affordable option is the airport shuttle. Buses for each route leave every 10-30 minutes from the airport and will cost CNY 24 for a one-way trip.
The cheapest way to get to the city from the airport is with public bus no. 359 or no. 640. The only downside is that the buses are not fast or convenient and you will need to transfer to catch the subway into the city.
Beijing Nanyuan Airport
Located 13 km from Tiananmen Square, Beijing Nanyuan Airport serves as the city's secondary airport. Currently, China United Airlines is the only airline operating flights to more than 50 domestic destinations. If you want to go to other cities around China, prices at Nanyuan will be almost two-thirds cheaper than Beijing Capital.
Getting to and from Beijing Nanyuan Airport
If you go to the Xidan Civil Aviation Building, you can use your flight ticket to catch a free airport bus.
Otherwise, you can use a taxi or public bus no. 501 to get to and from Nanyuan. Keep in mind that you might need to negotiate a price with your driver, as it's not a popular route.