The contradictions of Beijing result in rip-roaring adventures for the first-time visitors. Swaying lanterns are off-set by flashing neon lights. While massive squares yawn over the labyrinthine alleyways known as hútòng. Car horns and catcalling from the market sellers provide a constant background noise.
In a city that is deafening and beguiling at the same time, it also becomes easy for first time visitors to become overwhelmed or even frazzled. By avoiding these all to common pitfalls, you can really make the most of your trip to Beijing.
Fail One: Creating A Massive Bucket List For Beijing
It makes sense that you will want to see as much as possible on your trip. But take advice from a seasoned traveler who just about collapsed into my hotpot after attempting to cram palaces and temples into a busy day of shopping, hutong crawling, drinking and eating. It may sound counterintuitive, but if you want to make the most from the capital of China, it will mean becoming selective.
With massive distances, maze-like subway transfers and endless security checks, Beijing easily erodes away hours, especially when visiting a city that is so unfamiliar. You will really test your sanity when you have planned to have lunch in a scenic spot which is far away from your planned sightseeing tours from the morning or you have left your most favorite museum to the very last day of your stay.
It is better to take on Beijing by neighborhood. Tian’anmen Square and The Forbidden City are a classical pair, while the Summer Palace will need at least a day if you want to truly get the most out of this experience. For a day trip, make sure the day starts as early as possible and make sure you are back in your hotel early to avoid Beijing rush-hour traffic.
Fail Two: Trying To Ignore The Fog
When visiting Beijing you need to be prepared for the surrounding air. The pollution levels in the city are significant and will play a larger role on your overall trip than you may expect. I unfortunately learnt this in the hardest way, with my eyes constantly streaming when exploring the Summer Palace, and constantly sneezing when viewing the elaborate gardens and boats.
The pollution in the air will affect your photos and view along with your energy levels. Planning activities around the quality of the air will ensure a much more enjoyable time. You can use the Airpocalypse App which will offer you with humorous information about the daily conditions. On days with the worst air-quality, consider visiting galleries and museums. On the better air-quality days visit palaces and temple grounds.
If you are unable to make changes to the itinerary, stop for some chill time when the conditions are the most polluted.
Fail Three: Don’t Be Shy At Crossings Or Queues
Once the 3rd or even 4th person has already pushed ahead of you in a bathroom queue, you will soon start to realize you need to be more assertive. With a city that boasts over 11 million people it comes as no surprise that people in Beijing move with a purpose. The city is full of urbanites that are going through the activities of daily life. Which makes a first-time visitor feel disorientated by the chaotic roads and queue-jumping.
Avoid taking offense to cars that hoot when you are at a crossing. Also resist the urge to glare or shout at people that are invading your space at ticket counters. Rather be assertive and be confident about where you are going. You will lose many of your queue battles, but don’t become fazed and rather ensure your body language is always showing that you are confident and assured.
Fail 4: Faltering At The Security Checks
Security checks form a part of daily life for most of the Chinese cities, but Beijing takes the cake. Your bags will be opened and examined in the train stations, X-rayed every time you enter a subway and you may even be frisked when you enter specific public spaces, such as Tian’anmen Square.
The pat-downs will often appear as cursory and in many cases the security guards that insist that you display your passport will hardly even look over it. The rules may seem infuriating, but you need to embrace these experiences as a part of the journey. Be prepared to swing your bags through X-rays when you enter a subway and be polite, it will make transit time a lot faster and avoid raising eyebrows from a pesky security guard.
Fail Five: Attempting To Walk Everywhere
It is the cliché of a travel writer to describe cites as compact and can be explored best while on foot. Well, when it comes to Beijing this city is not small and should never be attempted on foot. You should only use public transport or if you are brave hire your own wheels.
Exploring on your own terms should be done by bike. Bike-hire shops and hostels across the city offer bicycle rentals. All you need is cash to pay your deposit your passport, and make sure you examine your bicycle for any damages before your leave the rental shop.
If you use the subway the clear signposting in Roman lettering (pinyin) makes it easier for the foreign visitors. You will even notice English-language announcements while on board. It is advisable to invest in a top-up metro called the IC card for a deposit of ¥30, which are easy to recharge in the different machines, that you can also use on a public bus. The signs and English-language announcements disappear on the bus routes that extend beyond city limits, but the guards at the bus stations are friendly and will attempt to get you on the correct one.
A few English-language signposts may help you around the subway or supermarkets but remember that English is not a common language in this city. It is highly advisable to bring along a language app like Learn Chinese Pro which is filled with essential vocabulary or even a simple phrase book which will teach you to say thank-you (xièxie) or hello (nĭhăo) which help to ease interactions.
In a taxi a map or guidebook that features Chinese characters is essential to get you where you want to go. You should also take along a business card from a bar or your hotel to show the driver or ask a concierge at the hotel to write down the hotel using Chinese characters.
Never underestimate using a pen and notepad to try and communicate with someone. For example, to hire gear from Nanshan Ski Village, we drew pictures of boots and skis with our shoes sizes and heights next to the pictures.
Fail Seven: Fearing the Cuisine Etiquette
Many first-time visitors to Beijing are terrified that they will cause an offence when eating out, yet Beijing is mostly about casual affairs. If you are unable to use chopsticks you might want to practice before the trip. Other than that, slurping noodles, plucking the meat off bones, off grabbing your food with serving spoons or chopsticks is the best way to enjoy the diverse cuisine on offer.
Fail Eight: No Visa
A lot of people forget that they need to get a visa for a trip to China to gain entry into the nation. Without your visa and passport you don’t have the proper paperwork to gain entry. So, get it sorted before and use a business like https://www.travelvisapro.com/visa/china to do so.
All of these things will help ensure you don’t make these mistakes and don’t suffer the consequences.