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Beijing is one of the largest cities in the world. It’s the country’s economic, cultural and political center. As the epicenter of the country, it’s full of excitement and places to be discovered for all types of travelers. More and more backpackers are adding Beijing as a stop-over on their way to other popular southeast Asia destinations, such as Thailand or Vietnam.
The capital city has become more accommodating to all types of travelers coming in for an adventure. With the new 72 Hour Transit Visa, more travelers are taking advantage of a stopover in Chinese cities, like Beijing, for a quick visit. If you are only in town for a short period, then you can’t leave without bargaining in the local Beijing markets. Pearl Market and Silk Alley are some of the most popular and will really put your bargaining skills to the test.
Getting Around Beijing
There are many options for transportation in Beijing to get around the city. Beijing has an effective public transport system with an extensive network of buses and subways. The subways are in English; however, buses not so much. Although there is no multi-day ticket or monthly transport passes, you can purchase a rechargeable IC card if you plan to travel frequently. The card is applicable for both buses and subways. You can get the card in any subway station and it just requires a small deposit.
Taxis in Beijing
Many people don’t own cars in Beijing, and therefore, taxi is a common and affordable mode of transportation. Note that traffic jams can really slow things down in Beijing. There is a form of Uber in Beijing called DiDi, but casual visitors may have a difficult time setting up an account because you may need to have a WeChat account and scan your passport.
For most visitors to Beijing, it may be more convenient just to hail a taxi and catch a lift. Make sure you have your destination pulled up on your phone and have it written in Chinese, because the majority of taxi drivers will not speak any English.
Bicycle is the quickest and most fun form of transport. Most roads in Beijing have bike lanes and renting a bike is cheap. Plus, it’s a nice way to enjoy the city and riding along some of the back alleys and traditional Hutongs is a cool experience. Check out this bike-sharing in Beijing post about what you need to be able to rent bikes in Beijing.
Rickshaws are a fun way to get around Beijing but they have their disadvantages. They don’t have meters, and you will likely be overcharged. If you want to test out your bargaining skills then you can negotiate a price for your rickshaw ride with the drivers, because there are no flat rates for these.
Beijing is enormous and can literally take you a couple hours to ride on the subway from one side of the city to the other. So it is important to know a bit about Beijing’s neighborhoods and the locations of what you want to see and do during your visit.
The CBD (central business district) is great for people who like dining and drinking in tall and flashy buildings. This district is not only the center of international trade but also has a rich history. I sometimes choose this area to stay in because the Silk Alley Market is just a few blocks from the main CBD area.
Qianmen is an ancient neighborhood that dates back more than 600 years. The neighborhood is convenient, central and easily walkable. You can visit the Temple of Heaven, the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square near this neighborhood.
This is the perfect place for those who enjoy nightlife. You can see standup comedy, listen to live music, have a traditional tea, or have a tower of beer. Houhai Lake is a really cool place to walk around and check out too, and there’s a lot of live music and night lounges throughout the area.
This neighborhood is the center of tech companies and international students. The Tsinghua and Peking Universities are found in this neighborhood, so the area has a bit of a younger vibe to it. This is where you can find popular international food like pizza, Mexican grub, Japanese food among others. You can also wander off to the nearby Old Summer Palace and take advantage of the multiple cheap bars in that area.
Other Popular Neighborhoods for Expats and Visitors to Beijing are Chaoyang, Lido and the 758.
Types of Stays in Beijing for Travelers
There are many accommodation options for travelers in Beijing. Here are a few different options you may consider for your trip.
Hostels in Beijing
There are many hostels in Beijing that are clean, affordable, and a bit funky too, but in a cool way. Just ensure that you are careful when choosing hostels. Check out the customer reviews to ensure that the hostel is worth your money. Sometimes things get lost in translation, so do your research and read reviews.
Airbnb in Beijing
Just like other places, Beijing has many AirBnBs even though the government has put pressure due to the registration process. The websites need to guarantee safety by disclosing information about tenants. The costs are fairly priced and even cheaper than in western countries. Search out some Beijing AirBnB options.
Extended Stay Apartments
Hotel stays can be expensive and tiring, and extended stay apartments can be a lifesaver if you want to settle into Beijing for a while. These apartments are available and cheaper than most hotels. They have kitchens and other facilities such as gyms, swimming pools and restaurants. Note that the prices can be negotiable, depending on the length of stay and season.
There are multiple chain hotels in the city, and you won’t miss one that suits your budget. The good thing about chain hotels is that the quality services are fairly standardized, although there are sure to be some differences due to the culture.
Where to Stay in Beijing
Here is a list of some top-rated to stay in Beijing, which have great reviews and are in really good locations for both transportation, sightseeing and to the markets for some great bargaining.
Peking Station Hostel
This hostel is fifteen minutes from Wangfujing Pedestrian Street and features a traditional courtyard of Hutong. It has free WiFi access and is only 350 meters from the Dongsan Subway Station. You can get dorm beds and individual bedrooms in the hostel. It has a safety deposit box and a designated smoking area. Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden city are 15 minutes taxi ride away. Or you can easily take the subway or bus. LINK
Puremind Loft Hotel
Free WiFi, a bar, garden and shared lounge are some of the amenities available at Puremind Loft Hotel. The hotel is a few miles from Shichahai and Houhai Lake entertainment areas. It features a 24-hour front desk, room service, organized tours and a shared kitchen. The rooms are equipped with flat TV screens, air conditioning, showers and desks. Nearest tourist sites include Nan Luo Gu Xiang and the Yonghegong Temple. LINK
The hotel is equipped with a gym, shared kitchen, shared meeting rooms and restaurant bars. It’s only 200 meters from Dengshikou Subway Station and 8-minute drive from Beijing Railway Station. The rooms have a private bathroom, flat-screen TV and a wardrobe. LINK
Park Plaza Wangjifung
Park Plaza is an only 15-minutes drive from the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square. It has a gym and free internet and is a few metres from Dengshikou Subway Station. The rooms have large windows overlooking the park and features wall to wall carpeting. Each room has coffee/tea making facilities and a satellite TV. LINK
Beijing Rong Courtyard Boutique Hotel
This hotel is fitted with traditional style furniture and has air conditioning in every room. You also get an electric kettle, private bathroom and a hairdryer in the room. LINK
Planning Your Stay in Beijing
Beijing is a really cool city to visit, and if you’ve never traveled to China, it’s bound to be one of the most unique and memorable places you have visited. Make sure you have your travel apps ready to go when you land because few people will speak good English, and the apps will really help. Also, don’t forget that you will need a VPN while in China in order to access popular Western social media apps (like Facebook, Instagram, etc.) and even Google.