Beijing is one of the most popular cities in the world, renowned for its Great Wall, opulent palaces, temples, gardens, and tombs. It is a city for travel in all seasons.
There are hundreds of attractions in Beijing, and something for everyone. The most famous ones are the Forbidden City, Tian'anmen Square, the Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace, Great Wall, Ming Tombs, hutongs, and Olympic Park (Bird's Nest and Water Cube).
Of all these, going to the several Great Wall sections near Beijing is the #1 thing to see.
Three days are enough if you only want to see the essence of Beijing. A recommended itinerary is as follows:
If you want to discover more of Beijing, you will need one or two days more. China highlights' travel experts are glad to tailor-make a Beijing tour according to your special interests and requirements, or see our Beijing tours.
When to go largely depends on one's vacation time, weather preference, personal budget, and the tourist seasons in Beijing.
Best time to visit: the April–October high season
The low travel cost season: November–March is cold but cheaper.
Avoid the summer vacation crowds and heat: Skip the early mid June to late August period.
Least desirable travel periods: Spring Festival (around late January or early to mid February), Labor Day holiday (1–3 May) and National Day holiday (1–7 October). Millions of Chinese are on the move during the three holidays.
Beijing is a huge city in a dry plain area with mountains to the north. It has a temperate continental monsoon climate, and there are four distinct seasons. Dry spring weather with dust storms, high midsummer temperatures and heavy winter smog are the main weather extremes and environmental issues.
March–May: Spring is cool to warm, windy, and dry, but the temperature difference between day and night is large. If you want to go out at night dress warmly! There are also occasional sandstorms in spring. Bring long pants, one or two jackets and sweaters.
June–August: Beijing's summer is very hot with abundant rainfall. Bring light clothes such as T-shirts, shorts, and skirts. Take an umbrella. Hat, sunglasses, long-sleeve shirts, and sun cream may be needed to protect yourself from getting sunburned.
September–November: Autumn is the pleasantest season of the year and the most attractive season, when there is plenty of sunshine and cooler temperatures. The temperature is mild. Prepare long pants and jackets.
December–February: Beijing's winter is cold and dry with occasional snow. The average temperature is below freezing. Prepare wool sweaters, down jackets, thick pants, hat, gloves, and an umbrella. A mask might be needed to protect your nose on windy days.
Beijing Capital International Airport, 30 km northeast of Beijing city center, is China's busiest and most important international airport. There are plentiful flights to domestic and foreign cities.
Some also travel to Beijing by (bullet) train... More on Beijing Transportation>>
Usually foreigners need to apply for a visa before travel to China. The overseas Chinese visa authorities are Chinese embassies, consulates, and Visa Application Centers (VACs). You should apply in your own country, or ask your travel agency or visa agency for help.
If you want to fly in, Beijing has a visa free travel policy! As of 2016, it is one of about 16 Chinese cities that have adopted a 72 hour visa-free transit policy. The policy allows foreign tourists to travel around Beijing for up to 72 hours without a visa. See more about Beijing's Visa-Free Policy.
For individuals: A correctly filled out L visa form, passport (with at least 6 months validity and at least one blank visa page), and a 2 inch passport-style photo.
For tour groups: A visa notification form issued by authorized travel agencies in China, a name list of the members of the tour group, original passports of each group member, a photocopy of the information page of each passport, and a letter (including the total number of group members, contact person, and the itinerary of the tour) issued by the tour's travel agency.
If you want to extend your visa in Beijing, you should go to the Exit and Entry Administration of the Public Security Bureau.
In Beijing there is a huge range of accommodation options, suiting every budget, including hotels, hostels, traditional hutong courtyards, guesthouses, and boutiques. When choosing a hotel, you should consider the hotel's location, rating, and price. First choose the area where you want to stay, then compare the hotels specifications and prices for that area.
China Highlights offers a good hotel booking service. Below are some recommended hotels in Beijing.
The Opposite House Ranked #4 on Trip Advisor
Fairmont Hotel Beijing Ranked #5 on Trip Advisor
The Kerry Hotel Beijing Ranked #6 on Trip Advisor
Hilton Beijing Wangfujing Ranked #7 on Trip Advisor
Four Seasons Beijing Ranked #11 on Trip Advisor
Red Wall Garden Hotel Ranked #2 on Trip Advisor
Park Plaza Beijing Wangfujing Ranked #12 on Trip Advisor
Hotel G Beijing Ranked #45 on Trip Advisor
Hotel Kapok Ranked #77 on Trip Advisor
Beijing's home stay, located in well-developed Gaobeidian Village, offers you the opportunity to interact with local people and learn about locals' daily life. You will stay in a twin-bed bedroom. The host can prepare Chinese breakfast for you.
Book a tour with a China Highlights, and you will have the opportunity to stay with a local family.
For centuries Beijing has been the capital of China, Beijing has food from all over China as well as from many parts of the world. There are thousands of restaurants, including Chinese restaurants, Western restaurants, vegetarian restaurants, Muslim restaurants, and Asian restaurants. Below are some recommended restaurants in Beijing.
There are quite a few types of foods which are unique to Beijing, and one of the most famous specialties is roasted duck. It is said that there are two things that you must do when visiting Beijing: one is to enjoy the roast duck, and the other is to take a stroll on the Great wall. So while you are in Beijing you should try this famous dish.
More on Beijing Restaurants.
As a capital of China for centuries, Beijing has had a prosperous economy since ancient times. Every year there are many new shopping centers, plazas, malls, and shopping streets sprouting up in Beijing. Shopping in Beijing is becoming more and more convenient.
Wangfujing Street is about 15 minutes' walk east from Tian'anman Square
Xidan Commercial Street is about one hour's walk west from Tian'anmen Square
Qianmen Street is about 10 minutes' walk from Tian'anmen Square
Xiushui Street is close to Beijing CBD, Chaoyang District
Panjiayuan Antique Market is in Chaoyang District
Liulichang Culture Street is outside Hepingmen
More on Beijing Shopping
Beijing nightlife is very colorful, and it offers diverse options for people with different interests. There are cinemas, theaters, nightclubs, bars, song and dance halls, karaoke clubs, restaurants, Beijing opera, teahouses, kung fu, and acrobatics shows.
Watch Beijing Opera, acrobatic shows, and dramatic performances in a teahouse; taste some local snacks in a snack market, have a cup of coffee in a café, have a beer in a bar, or take a stroll along Chang'an Street to Tian'an men Square.
There are hundreds of bars in Beijing. The best bar streets in Beijing include Sanlitun Bar Street, Shichahai Bar Street, Super Bar Street, Nanluoguxiang Bar Street, Dashanzi Bar Street, and Solana Bar Street, which are popular among locals, expats, and tourists.
Beijing has fast and efficient public transportation. There are three main forms: buses, subways, and taxis.
Public buses are the most extensive, widely used, and affordable form of public transportation in urban and suburban areas. There are thousands of buses operating in Beijing with hundreds of bus routes. Most attractions can be reached by buses.
Operating hours: 5:30am–11pm (downtown), 5:30am–6pm (in suburban areas), 11pm–4:30am or 5am (for the night lines)
Fare: 1 yuan
The Beijing subway is a rapid transit rail network that serves the urban and suburban areas of Beijing. It has been extended over recent years. The subway system is an excellent option for getting around. The subway lines cover most of the famous attractions in Beijing.
It is fast and convenient with English signs and announcements, which direct tourists to exits near places that they are likely trying to find.
Fare: 2 yuan
Taking a taxi is the most convenient way for a newcomer to travel in Beijing. More than 67,000 taxis run to every corner of the city every day. Most drivers can not speak English. If you want to go to a hotel, just make sure you have the Chinese name and address of your hotel printed out in Chinese characters. Taxis in Beijing are metered, so just get in and pay the fare when you get out.
Traffic jams can be colossal and commonly happen in Beijing. We recommend visitors avoid taxis during the rush hours: 7–9 a.m. and 5–7 p.m.
Chinese government stipulates a five-day workweek from Monday to Friday with no more than 8 hours a day. The normal business hours are generally from 8am to 6pm, with a break from 12pm to 2pm. Hovever business hours may vary.
In mainland China tipping is not part of the culture. You have the choice, since tipping is a matter of personal preference. We suggest you tip as follows:
More on Tipping in China.
Toilets in China are normally of the squatting type. Now airport and most hotels have Western toilets, and many public toilets have Western style as well as squat style. Always carry toilet paper with you, because most public toilets don't provide toilet paper.
Electricity in China is 240 Volts 50 Hz. Electric devices may require a transformer, which can be bought in China. As the shape of a socket varies between countries, a portable plug adapter may also be necessary. Some hotels can provide adapters for guests, but we suggest visitors bring one or buy one in China.
Internet: Most hotel rooms will offer an Internet cable and Wi-Fi for your laptop. Beijing airport, Starbucks, SPR, and a number of cafes and restaurants also provide free Wi-Fi.
Telephone: China's country code is 86, and Beijing's code is 010.
When making a phone call from China to another country, first dial "00" (international prefix), then dial the country code, then the area code and local number. E.g. if you want to call 434-5678 in California (area code 760) in the USA (country code 1), you need to dial 00-1-760-434-5678.
Making long distance calls within China
Landline calls: First dial the area code, and then dial the local phone number. E.g. If you call 123-4567 in Guilin (area code 0773), you need to dial 0773-123-4567.
Cell calls: First dial 0 (national prefix), then the cell phone number
China Highlights offers Cell Phone Rental to help you keep in touch (and save money on local offers).
When in Beijing, it's quite interesting and practical to learn some useful Chinese phrases, since English is not widely spoken. More on learning Chinese .
Spitting: Spitting is really common. Don't be surprised to find the locals spitting every now and then even in crowded buses and trains. Even though there are threats of fines for those caught in the act of spitting in public, it still happens.
Smoking: Smoking in public is quite common in China, and Beijing is no exception. Although Beijing authorities have started to impose bans on smoking in some public places, it is still widespread. Most hotels provide no-smoking rooms, and more and more restaurants are becoming no-smoking.
Lines: The Chinese are learning to be patient and stand in line, but you will still find people jumping the queue sometimes. Politely let them know that you are waiting in line, and they will probably give way to save face.
See more on Dealing with Culture Shock in China.
Crossing the Road: For many foreigners, crossing the road in China is a big problem. Some even think it's a nightmare. We recommend crossing on a zebra crossing when the green light is on, because then drivers usually slow down or stop to avoid pedestrians. When there is no zebra crossing, be even more alert and aware of your surroundings. If you are not confident of crossing the road yourself, follow the locals as they cross. They know what to do. Try to wait until a large crowd of people is preparing to cross the road together.
Generally Chinese people are kind and friendly to foreign visitors. Most foreigners feel very safe when travel in Beijing. But that doesn't mean you are always safe from being cheated. Like other countries in the world, tourist traps and scams also exist in China. Knowing some typical tourist traps will help you to avoid them. Click here to see how to avoid tourist traps.
Travel Individually or Travel with a Travel Company?
Though public transport is efficient, you will still face some travel issues such as "How do I get the most out of a visit?" and "Where should I go after the Temple of Heaven?"
If you have a responsible tour company, they will take care of your trip, and you can explore in depth the local culture and go to some less-easy-to-get-to places. You will never feel lonely and helpless. We suggest that tourists travel with a travel agency, so that you can have a relaxing and comfortable tour.
China Highlights has been specializing in tailor-making China tour for over sixteen years. If you want to travel in Beijing, contact us and our travel experts will be glad to help you arrange your tour based on your requirements.
In Beijing there are some hospitals and clinics with modern medical facilities and English speaking staff. They can offer emergency medical services and a range of clinical services for foreigners. Below is information for some of these hospitals and clinics.
Bayley & Jackson Beijing Medical Center
Beijing United Family Hospital
Peking Union Medical Hospital
Beijing Visa Clinic
Global Doctor Beijing Clinic
International Medical Center
See more on Keeping Healthy in China>>
Police: 110, Fire: 119, Ambulance: 120, Weather: 121, Traffic Accident: 122.
Our Most Popular Beijing Tours
You can read our suggestions on How to Plan a First Trip to China.
Or we can tailor-make a Beijing tour for you according to your special requirements.