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Great Wall of China
Must-see: The Great Wall

Beijing Fast Facts

Money: Yuan (conversion)

Language: Cantonese & Mandarin. More on dialects.

Electricity: 220V

Area Code:010

Emergencies: Dial 110

Foreign Embassies List


With a permanent official population of 13,000,000 living in a sprawling expanse of 6,486 square miles, Beijing takes its place in the 21st century as one of the largest, most bustling cities in the world.

As home to such famous historical attractions as the Forbidden City and the Great Wall, China's major tourist hub currently attracts more than 10 million foreign visitors per year.

Find out more about this hot travel destination that is about to become hotter still with its growing acceptance of Western culture and international status as an Olympic host city ...

Beijing travel must-sees

The Great Wall - Once a symbol for China's desire to keep foreigners out, today the engineering and architectural wonder has become, ironically, a main symbol of Chinese tourism. Badaling was the first section of the Wall opened to tourists and is only part of the more than 4,000 miles of mountains & valleys it traverses throughout China. It's a thrilling spectacle even for seasoned travelers who want to say they have walked the Great Wall - at least once.

The Forbidden City - Also known as the Palace Museum, it was the official home of the emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties. Today, it is a major Beijing tourist attraction where visitors can walk the great halls and pavilions, marvel at the ornate courtyards and view one of the largest collections of Chinese art & jewels anywhere.

Watch for at least sections of the Palace Museum to be forbidden - once again - as restoration work continues for its 600th anniversary celebrated in 2020.

Tiananmen Square - Near the Forbidden City, the 440,000 square meter city square is the largest in the world, and for its size and scope alone is a must see on any visit to Beijing.

Be sure to visit the Tiananmen Tower, the massive granite Monument to the People's Heroes, and plan on seeing the national flag raising ceremony performed daily (but get up early!) at sunrise.

Beijing's main city square is where people have naturally gathered for centuries, and here is where Mao Zedong declared the People's Republic of China in 1949. 40 years later, a famous pro-democracy demonstration inside the square resulted in the deaths of hundreds of protesters. Although the protest went down in defeat, the government has since clearly undergone a social and economic revolution that is ongoing.

Getting to Beijing

Flying time from New York to Beijing is 20-24 hours (including a stopover on the West Coast); or from Chicago, approximately 17-20 hours. On a direct flight from California, count on 13 hours air time on a direct flight.

Beijing Capital Airport is 16 miles from the city center, and of late has been a chaotic scene as a growing tourist base outpaces the facility's capacity. A larger terminal was completed in time for the 2008 Summer Olympics period, however, which promises to ease some of the crush during peak periods.

Main airlines serving Beijing from the U.S. include United, while Canadians may depart either Vancouver or Toronto via Canadian Airlines. In the UK, British Airways offers flights to Beijing.

Also consider other major airlines departing for Beijing from their major hub cities including KLM via Amsterdam, Lufthansa via Frankfurt, or Finnair via Helsinki at considerable savings.

As with traveling anywhere else, much cheaper airfares to Beijing can be found by surfing the Net, booking tickets far in advance, staying over Saturday night, or flying mid-week or at less trafficked times.

Getting around Beijing

Beijing subway
Look for blue & white
Beijing subway signs.

- Beijing by subway -
Beijing underwent a multi-million dollar overhaul of its subway lines with four new routes and a special airport link completed in 2008. Beijing subways circle the city or bisect it in various directions. The subway runs daily from 5 AM to 10:30 PM. Fares are 2 yuan per ride. Signs and announcements are in Chinese and English - making this the easiest option for getting around for foreign visitors.

- Beijing by bus -
Although Beijing has added more buses to its city fleet at present the bus remains the less appealing option for getting around Beijing. Buses are usually packed during peak rush hours, and foreign visitors must have their destinations written down (in Chinese, please) to let conductors negotiate the fare rate.

- Beijing by car -
Although car rentals have been an unusual idea in Beijing, Hertz China has made inroads into the market with an office at the Jianguo Hotel, which rents cars from around US$50 per day. The rental usually comes with a driver and restricts travel outside city limits. Many more options are available via pre-arranged airport transfer or city tours by limousine.

- Beijing by bicycle -
If you're up for it, seeing Beijing from a bike can be THE way to see the city as a native. However, be prepared to join the masses of other bicyclists trekking through miles of designated bicycle lanes on major streets and avenues. As the bicycle is the major form of transportation throughout China, rental shops are cheap and plentiful throughout the Beijing.

More about Beijing travel around the Web:

Beijing Tourism

Beijing Travel Information - Lonely Planet

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