You are likely to have some problems traveling around Beijing if you have a disability that affects mobility. However, touring Beijing in a wheelchair is possible. Disabled facilities and wheelchair access routes at many attractions, together with considerate local service mean Beijing is increasingly accessible for disabled tourists.
Planning a Tour of Beijing
Gather as much information as possible regarding the accessibility of places you want to go to. Contact us if you need any help finding more information or deciding on where is best to go.
- When booking with us inform your travel advisor of your physical condition and what activities might present a challenge (e.g. negotiating steps), and any mobility aids (wheelchair, crutches, help carrying bags, etc.) that you need.
- If needed, book wheelchair accessible hotel rooms and transport.
- Allow extra time and don't make your schedule overloaded.
Other preparation tips are listed in Tips for Disabled Travelers to China.
Attractions in Beijing with Disabled Access/Facilities
Most of the main attractions in Beijing are equipped with barrier-free facilities for the convenience of disabled travelers, but touring Beijing in a wheelchair has many challenges. Many ancient/imperial sites and rural areas are only partially accessible or require assistance.
Priority access - no queuing: Disabled travelers are privileged to be able to enter some Beijing attractions through a 'green path' (a special entrance for disabled travelers only).
The Great Wall at Badaling
At the Great Wall at Badaling, you can ascend a ramp from the East Gate for around 300 meters, taking about 10 minutes to reach the first beacon tower. Also a lift with clear signage can be found near the main entrance, which takes about 5 minutes to reach the first beacon tower. Wheelchairs can be rented for a deposit of 1,000 yuan each. Identification cards/passports are required for verification purposes.
The Great Wall at Mutianyu
The Great Wall at Mutianyu is recommended for less mobile travelers as it has cableways to get to the top of the wall.
The following account is by Alan Ashford, one of our customers who visited Beijing in 2018. Here he describes how it is possible to access Tower 14 at Mutianyu in a wheelchair.
If you visit Beijing you'll want to visit the iconic Great Wall. Of the localities north of Beijing where tourists go, Badaling and Mutianyu are the most popular, with Badaling the "easiest" to access and Mutianyu giving more spectacular sights.
I read that Mutianyu is possible if you have a light wheelchair, an adventurous outlook and some assistance. Description of the 'view from the 14th Tower platform' had me hooked. I asked China Highlights to include Mutianyu for me. They told me they would have to make special arrangements including the cost of a hand-pulled rickshaw for a long uneven incline.
From Internet pictures, I thought that my new battery-powered assistive device would have been adequate, but I accepted their arrangements with some awkward feelings about the rickshaw and dignity.
It turned out to be quite an experience even before the 14th tower. Our private car driver had permission to drive further up beyond the car park to where shuttle buses unload and where the uneven incline starts because we were booked for lunch at a restaurant there.
Mr Chu was waiting with his very colourful rickshaw. I cannot stand and I could not position my wheelchair to transfer myself. So two people lifted me onto the rickshaw that has a cushioned seat and seat belt. Mr Chu used a harness that allowed him to push with his shoulder to ascend this hill. He demonstrated remarkable power and endurance setting a faster pace than walkers. Even though he stopped twice to 'catch his breath', we had to wait at the top for our group. At that point I decided it was not safe to come back down on my own later and agreed to an extra 150 RMB for Mr Chu's service. I cannot say if my assistive device would have taken me up the hill but it would be no help with the descent. I know it can manage a gradient of about 1 in 12 for short distances but the surface and distance (about 150m on a 1 in 8 slope) are unknown considerations for me.
We then used the cable car that travels 600 metres north and 200 metres up. The gondolas are small and fortunately the door was just wide enough and the gondola just wide enough that I could quickly wheel in and stay in the wheelchair (It is 590mm wide and 1100 long) between the seats and not hold up the process.
After the cable car is the steepest ramp that had me worried. It rises at 1 in 6 and is about 30 metres long. I tried the assistive device, but it just skidded and bucked around. The surface is appropriately grooved concrete. Two Chinese officials who were watching spoke to our guide and it was clear they were ready to help. So off we went at a pace that gave me confidence that we'd manage. But after that we turned 180 degrees to see another much longer ramp (80m) of similar difficulty. I soon realised these gentlemen often help out and knew what they were doing. They laughed it off when I offered them a tip for their efforts. They had helped give me one of those experiences to be treasured for life.
These ramps end at my goal that was a platform at the 14th tower. The view may be one on tour advertisements you've seen but no picture gives the same sense of awe that comes with being there to appreciate the ancient engineering and historical significance of the sight.
We say 'what goes up must come down'. I had been as concerned about going down these ramps as getting up. They took me down backwards and that seems to make sense. It certainly worked and again it was easy for me while others did the hard work. After another cable car ride and a short wait, Mr Chu and his rickshaw arrived.
And that's when the fun started. My wheelchair does not have a handbrake, but the rickshaw does. Downhill in a wheelchair can be dangerous but it was easy for Mr Chu with his rickshaw. He took me down backwards, but he faced forward, that is facing me. He chatted to passersby and even tried singing. He was enjoying his work and that amused me. My chuckling encouraged him, so he turned up the music in the rickshaw and produced a microphone. I had no idea what he was saying or singing in Chinese, but it amused everyone who understood and even other foreign tourist who didn't. Amused Chinese on their way up turned to say "Nǐ hǎo" to me as they went past. As we approached the end of his gig, a Chinese woman who I took to be his wife joined in on the act. They posed for pictures and I now realise there is symbolism in this whole rickshaw experience. It is decorated in yellow and red. For the posed pictures at the end, My Chu used a yellow fan to 'cool' me while his wife placed a large yellow headgear on me. From ancient times until the end of the Qing Dynasty (1912), yellow was strictly only for the Emperor. Now you can guess what Mr Chu was saying into the microphone.
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The Juyong Pass Great Wall Fort
The Great Wall Fortress at Juyongguan in the valley bottom is flat enough for wheelchair users to explore (with help) and appreciate the Ming architecture. However, the Great Wall up the valley sides may only be appreciated from below as there is no cableway or other wheelchair access.
The Forbidden City
The Forbidden City has a wheelchair accessible route east of the central axis. Even though there is no wheelchair access to the main halls, such as the Hall of Supreme Harmony, the Hall of Central Harmony, and the Hall of Preserving Harmony, wheelchair users can have a complete view of the external architecture of these halls. Wheelchair rental is provided for 300 yuan/person.
The Summer Palace
Tian'anmen SquareThe Summer Palace's main entrances are all wheelchair accessible, and most of the attractions inside are easily accessible by wheelchair too. However, the Pavilion of the Fragrance of Buddha, and other sights on the hill, are not. Wheelchairs are not allowed on the boats. The park provides wheelchairs for its visitors, and a deposit of 500 yuan/wheelchair applies.
Tian'anmen Square is fully accessible by wheelchair. There is also a wheelchair-accessible route to the Forbidden City at the northeast corner.
At Jingshan Park, barrier-free access can be found at all gates except the North Gate. The park is almost fully accessible by wheelchair; however the hill is inaccessible.
The Imperial Academy
Wheelchair access is available at the gates, but wheelchairs are not permitted in the main halls. Wheelchair users can take a look at the interior of the halls if they are able to leave their wheelchairs and ascend a few steps.
The Temple of Heaven
Most of the area around the Temple of Heaven is wheelchair accessible, but the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests is the only hall in the park that is accessible by wheelchair. Temple of Heaven Park provides wheelchairs for a deposit of 600 yuan/wheelchair.
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At Yonghegong, a wheelchair-accessible passageway is available from the South Gate. However wheelchairs are not permitted in the halls. Wheelchair users can take a look at the interior of the halls if they are able to leave their wheelchairs and ascend a few steps.
The Ming Tombs
Above-ground Ming Tombs tourist routes are accessible by wheelchair. Wheelchairs are provided for free.
At Beihai Park, wheelchair access can be found at all gates except the North Gate. The park is almost fully accessible by wheelchair, including the route along the circumference of the Beihai Lake, however the hill remains inaccessible.
Here Alan Ashford, one of our customers, mentioned above, relates the difficulties of visiting the hutongs and a hutong residence in a wheelchair.
I refused the peddle rickshaw to avoid being lifted and relied on the help of my assistive device and the guide (Nancy).
However, access into the hutong residence was really difficult and dangerous with steps up over a barrier and then down , before a door that was not wide enough for my wheelchair. I had to be carried. Normally it is something that I would refuse but the owners were so enthusiastic, willing and insistent that I allowed it. They had clearly done a lot of preparation for our meal and I am grateful. We are now keen to continue to make and eat the delicious dumplings.
The best way to tackle more than one step with a wheelchair is backwards-up and forward-down, both while balanced on the rear wheels. But when up and down steps are arranged so closely that is not really possible because it assumes an adequate platform top and bottom. In our case, the degree of difficulty was raised by a metal barrier across the entry and about 200mm high. Our guests lifted me wheelchair and all over this obstacle. While I admire their determination, it is dangerous for everyone and cannot be recommended.
I can see the function of the arrangement, but I do see other hutong residences that would be much more acceptable, with no metal barrier and a wider top platform where a wheelchair can be turned. This would allow a wheelchair through safely with just one assistant.
Sadly, it would be wrong for me to recommend this hutong house to others using wheelchairs without a warning about access, perhaps with reassurance that the residents want to help and have you as a guest.
For more on Alan's experiences in Beijing and China, see China Wheelchair Access/Facilities - First Hand Experience.
Best Time to Visit
Every season has its charm in Beijing, but autumn is usually considered the best time to visit, due to the moderate temperature and dryness. Beijing's freezing winters may be particularly uncomfortable for wheelchair users and the possibility of ice makes access more difficult.
See our Beijing Weather Information for more on seasonal variation, and useful tourism and clothing suggestions.
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- 1-Day Beijing Hutong Tour
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Beijing Capital Airport is very wheelchair accessible. The train stations and trains are less so. It is not appropriate for travelers in wheelchairs to take the subway or city buses. We suggest you take taxis, or a tour with us. China Highlights tours include easily accessible private transport, which will make your tour less stressful.
How We Can Help You in China
We can provide you a customized itinerary and your own driver and tour guide who will be prepared to help as required.
China Highlights cares about your requirements. We are experienced in customizing tours of Beijing for the less physically able. Contact us for any help you need. We will work hard to make it a quality and problem-free experience!
- Our Essence of Beijing Tour can be customized for you.