Ever wanted to travel in Beijing but don't because you think you cannot afford it?
Well this blog post is for you. I'm going to show you how to stay in Beijing and see all the main sites in Beijing for less than $200 in US dollars.
Those sites are
-Temple of Heaven
To see these sites properly, you will need to be in Beijing for 3 nights. Depending on your arrival and departure times, this will give you 3 to 4 days in Beijing which will be plenty.
Preparation - Getting to Beijing and organizing your Hotel
Getting to Beijing
This will be your biggest expense and one I can't help you with. Fear not. There are many ways to get cheap air fares from your home city to Beijing. Have a quick check online and you will find many useful sites with plenty of information on getting cheap airfares.
After airfare, hotels will be your next biggest expense so this is where you can save plenty of money. Dorms are the cheapest beds and also the best way to meet fellow travellers and have fun. The prices for dorm beds start at around $8 a night. You use http://www.hostelworld.com to find cheap reasonable hotels. The key is to choose a hotel in the center of the city. This will help cut your cost down a lot.
My personal favorite is the Central Youth Hostel you can read about here Central Youth Hostel
Once you have booked your flight and know when you'll arrive, choose your hotel (remeber central location) and use an online service like Skype to call the hotel (call during China business hours) and book your beds. Cost of the call is $2 max.
Hotel budget for 3 nights – $24
Total so far – $26
Food & Transportation
Food & Transportation are normally your third largest expense and this is where you can kill your budget if you are not careful.
Assume you will be in Beijing for 4 days. That is 12 meals. Believe it ir not, you can eat well for around $2-$3 a meal. Lets be conservative and say $3 a meal. That gives you $36 total for meals while you are in Beijing.
How to eat well this cheaply? By visiting small out of the way restaurants that have no plush and decent food. Here are a couple of examples from my last trip to Beijing. A chilli tofu dish, a beef/vegie/egg dish and two servings of rice cost $5 and was plenty for my friend and I. Not convinced? During that same trip, the two of us had dinner in a hutong restaurant 15 minutes walk from the Forbidden City. We had two disheds of dumplings and were still a little hungry. Three dishes would have been plenty. Three dishes would cost $3. FOR TWO PEOPLE!!!
To stay within your budget, NEVER eat at the touristy places. They over charge tourist who unlike you, don't know better.
The golden rule with transport is never take taxis. Your hotel is in the center of the city so walking, the subway and buses are all you need. One subway ride is 2RMB which is not even 50 cents. Assume that each day you'll take 6 subway rides, the daily cost of travel will be 12RMB. Lets be conservative and say $2 a day. So 4 days, $8 in total.
From memory, the bus fare from the airport to the city center is $5. Budget $10 for both trips.
Total – $54
You arrived in Beijing the previous night. Checked into your dorm and had a great nights sleep.
Now to start seeing some absolutely awesome sights.
You are going to see Tiananmen square, the Forbidden City and the Summer Palace.
Tiananmen square – There is so much to see and do so start early. Catch the subway to Tiananmen East stop and get out. Tiananmen square will be directly in front of you. Security is intense but there is no charge (yet) to visit the square and surrounding structures. 30 minutes to an hour is plenty to wander around here enjoying the sights. If you are lucky, you may see split second protests by falun gong members or political activists before they are bundled into unmarked vans and whisked away
Forbidden City – Once you are done with the square, walk northward to the Forbidden City entrance. Entry fee should be no more than $8. Too really make the most of the Forbidden City and enjoy what it has to offer, you'll be there for at least 3-4 hours.
For detailed information of the Forbidden city, you can read up here Forbidden City
Temple of Heaven – The best way to reach the Temple of Heaven after leaving the Forbidden city is by foot tracing the same route the Emperors used hundreds of years ago. Using the Forbidden City's south exit, head south past Tiananmen square and the mausoleum of Mao Zedong until you reach Tianqiannan Street. This street starts at the southern end of the mausoleum and will go past the Temple of Heaven. Should take 40 minutes to walk and is a great walk.
There are different types of tickets so make sure you buy the combination ticket that will be $5 maximum. These ancient sites are the reason for being in Beijing so don't try to cut costs by buying cheaper tickets that will limit what you can see and experience. The Temple of Heaven will close at 5:0pm which will give you plenty of time.
For detailed information on the Temple of Heaven, you can read up here Temple of Heaven
That night – you have a number of choices that should all be within your budget such as hHanging out with other travellers from your dorm or seeing Beijing by night. If you have been under budget, you can reward yourself with an evening enjoying Beijing Opera which should cost $20 to $25. Your hotel should be able to arrange this for you.
Forbidden City ticket – $8
Temple of heaven ticket – $5
Beijing Opera – $25
Total – $38
Wake up bright and early, have breakfast and head out. You are going to see the Summer Palace during the day and visit the Silk Market in the afternoon/evening. You will be at the Summer Palace for most of the day so stop by at a local super market and buy food and and something to drink. Prices in the Summer Palace are much more expensive.
Summer Palace – The best way to get to the Summer Palace is to take the subway and exit at the Beigongmen subway station on subway line 4. The subway exit will be just across the street from the palace entrance. Like the Temple of Heaven, there will be different types of tickets. Buy the full ticket that will cost $8. The Summer Palace is more like a very large park full of temples and palace buildings. To really see everything properly, you will need to be there for at least 5 to 6 hours. The Summer Palace opens at 8:30am so I suggest you arrive early.
For detailed information of the Summer Palace, you can read up here Summer Palace
Silk Market – Catch the subway at the Beigongmen station to Yonganli on subway line one. Exit Yonganli station through exit A which will enter the basement of the Silk Market.
The Silk Market is a regular market so there are no fees BUT BE WARNED, buy nothing there. You will experience some of the most aggressive and persuasive sales people on the face of this earth who will do their best to make you spend everything you carry and more. Be strong, stick to the plan and buy nothing.
The silk market is open until 9pm so plenty of time to get there and explore the whole complex.
For detailed information on the Silk Market, you can read up here Silk Market
If you bought nothing at t he market, it is time to reward yourself with a dinner of Beijing Duck. On the 7th floor of the Silk Market is the Peking Duck restaurant that serves a very good duck at the cost ot $11 f or two people.
That night – Depending on when you arrive back at your hotel, you may have time to enjoy a stunning Kung Fu show for $18 to $24. If you plan in advance, your hotel can arrange tickets for you.
Summer Palace – $8
Beijing Duck – $11
Kung Fu show – $18
Total – $37
This is probably your last full day in Beijing so make the most of it. Wake up bright and early again, put on your hiking shoes and prepare yourself for a trek on the great wall of China.
Great Wall of China – To drive out to the wall, see it properly and drive back will take the whole day. You can make your own way to the wall but if this is your first time in Beijing, I suggest you arrange a trip to the wall through your hotel. Some tour companies are outrageous and charge over $100 per person. Ignore these vultures. Your hotel should find a tour to the wall that cost no more than $30. Make sure you go to the Mutianyu part of the wall and avoid tha Badaling section at all costs.
Pack food and drink because prices at the wall will be way too expensive.
That night – After a hard day on the wall, have an easy night and sleep early.
Great Wall tour – $30
Total – $30
Day Four – Goodbye Beijing
Time to pack your bags, exchange email addresses and facebook acount names with new friends, check out and say good bye to Beijing. Until next time.
Beijing is just the gate way to China and there is soooo much more to see. Ideally this will be just your first of many trips to China.
Hotel – $26
Day 1 expenses – $38
Day 2 expenses – $37
Day 3 expenses – $30
Total expenses – $185
How to See Beijing Links
Maps of Beijing – No need to get lost in Beijing
Wikipedia on Beijing – Lots of interesting info on Beijing