There are plenty of reasons why you should add Beijing to your list when visiting the Land of Dragons on your backpacking in China adventure. It not only has a numerous historical monuments such as the Temple of Heaven or the Summer Palace, but it is also famous for its world’s greatest tourist sights, colourful nightlife, best traditional Beijing duck, well-preserved historic culture as well as charming farmers’ markets and convenient transportation. Besides, it’s the capital city of China so you must make it there anyway.
Is Beijing a budget-friendly city?
Yes and no. Yes, because China is in general an affordable country and Beijing itself offers a great variety of affordable restaurants, budget hostels and many things you can do for free. No, if you go for organised trips and tours offered at your hostel/ hotel you will end up spending much more than you think!
#1 See the Great Wall of China (RMB 100).
Definitely the best part of the Great Wall of China is Badaling Pass, situated approximately 55 miles from Beijing. To explore it on the cheap, you should take a bus 919 which costs RMB 8 and it takes 1,5 hour to get there. There are also trains going there from Beijing North Railway Station. A single ride costs RMB 15 and the first train leaves at 6:08 am. In total you should not spend more than RMB 100 a day for your transportation and snacks. In comparison to RMB 300 you pay for a tour, that’s a huge difference.
#2 Explore the Forbidden City (RMB 40-60).
The Forbidden City China’s largest and best-preserved collection of ancient buildings, and the largest palace complex in the world so you can’t afford to miss it. Instead of hiring a travel guide, you can follow your China Lonely Planet book to plan a few hours in the Forbidden City.
#3 Go for a night walk across the Tiananmen Square (free).
Tiananmen Square is extremely busy during the day, but if you visit it at night, it’s spacious and there are many shows and night performances there. It’s free of charge so you should definitely go there.
#4 Visit Jingshan Park (free).
If you feel like having a break from a busy city center or you just want to have a lunch, picnic with friends or mediate, don’t hesitate to go to Jingshan Park. It’s situated at the exit of the Forbidden City and it offers fantastic views back across the Forbidden. It’s a great place for yoga and daily workout lovers.
#5 Get to the Temple Of Heaven (RMB40).
This is an amazing complex, still in remarkable condition. A great insight into the life and times of the Emperors, their families and all the people involved in their lives.
#6 Watch the Kung Fu show (around RMB100).
If you are in Beijing city then do yourself a favour and go to see “The Legend of Kung Fu” – a vibrant and exciting story of the transformation of a little boy, who through practising Kung Fu and Zen reaches the state of enlightenment.
#7 Taste scorpions at Wangfujing Street (RMB10-RMB30).
Wangfujing Street looks stunning at night with thousands of red lanterns hanging above your head. You can try some grilled scorpions, frogs, bugs and worms and get delicious fresh fruit sticks with huge sweet strawberries. A dinner at Wangfujing should not cost you more than RMB30 a person.
Where and what to eat and drink
Beijing’s food stands offer a great variety of Chinese food – from spicy noodles, pork sticks, simple rice and tomato dishes to delicious Chinese dumplings called baozi and jiaozi. The street food is extremely affordable and you should not spend more than RMB1 for one baozi, RMB8 for a bowl of noodle soup or RMB2 for a grilled pork on stick. The food can be found almost anywhere, so you will not have a problem to find the food stand when in Beijing.
If you feel like going to a restaurant. Here are some good and affordable places I would strongly recommend to visit:
#1 Wuyi Shan (武夷山农家菜). It is open daily 11.30am-2.30pm, 5.30-9pm. Mobile 131 2669 6251. English address: Maliandao Hutong, Xuanwu district. Chinese address: 宣武区马连道胡同 – best baozi restaurant in the city.
#3 Dadong Roast Duck (Dongsi) restaurant located at 1-2 Nanxincang Guoji Dasha, 22A Dongsishitiao, Dongcheng district, Beijing 100007, China (Beijing Workers’ Sports Complex) – best Beijing duck on the cheap and amazingly hospitable staff.
Ways to get in and around
You can easily get to Beijing by train from any destination in China, for example it takes around 23 hours to reach the city from Hunan province and Chongqing and one way ticket costs around RMB250 (sitting), RMB100 (standing) or RMB600-800 (sleepers).
There is also Beijing-Shanghai high-speed bullet train available. By taking this train, you can get from Shanghai to Beijing in less than 4 hours. It costs around RMB 1750 per sightseeing seat and business seat, RMB 950 per first-class seat and RMB 555 per second-class seat.
Taxis – RMB 13 a minimum taxi fare for the first 3 kilometers (1.86 miles).
Local buses – RMB 1/2 per single ride.
Subway – RMB 2 per single ride. Presently there are 16 subway lines plus one airport express line in operation.
Bikes – The maximum daily rental is RMB 10.
I would strongly recommend staying at the Sanlitun Youth Hostel (Wangfujing hostel) when in Beijing. I paid around RMB 30 per night for a bed in 6 bed dorms (female or male rooms are available).
Great location (10 minutes from the subway station), Yashow market nearby, free and good quality Wi-Fi, library, luggage store and 24/7 hot shower.
The atmosphere of this place was amazing. There is a free dumpling party every Friday to get everyone together and have a nice time chatting and cooking!
Travellers and Local secrets:
#1 When you visit various temples in Beijing, you should definitely keep each of your visit short. Otherwise you may easily get bored and give up on seeing other things.
#2 There is a huge pollution in the city so if you go cycling, don’t forget to cover your face with a mask.
#3 Try to walk as much as possible. In this way you can discover small restaurants and street food vendors with some Chinese goodies on the cheap as well as meet locals and have a chat with them.
#4 The buses in Beijing are usually overcrowded, so let older people get in first.
#5 There is no need to book a tour to see the Great Wall of China so if you want to save some money, grab a map from your hostel and catch a local bus from the Central Station.
#6 If you order a Beijing duck, make sure you share it with at least 3 other people. The food portions are massive so you might struggle with eating everything on your own.
So that’s our overview on backpacking in Beijing – be sure to check out China’s capital when you’re there!