City tour in Beijing

Mar 5th, 2010, 01:42 PM
  #1  
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City tour in Beijing

Is it possible to take a city tour directly from the airport (we have a 17 hour layover)?
Elfer is offline  
Mar 5th, 2010, 05:56 PM
  #2  
 
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Check out responses to your previos version of this same question at:

http://www.fodors.com/community/asia...eed-advice.cfm
NoFlyZone is offline  
Mar 5th, 2010, 08:05 PM
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I'm confused. The link above merely seems to answer the question about whether the airport may be exited or not, and says nothing about organised tours directly from the airport.

Beijing really gets few transit passengers, and arrangements for dealing with them or selling them tours do not seem advanced. I cannot absolutely guarantee it, but I don't recall seeing any tour desk there at all. There are ones selling hotels (for excess prices--these should be avoided) and there's a limousine/van desk which might be asked to take you around town and back rather than simply to a hotel, but you really don't want anything to do with any of this anyway.

The swiftest route downtown is by the Airport Express metro line from right outside Terminals 2 and 3, which will get you there for all of ¥25. Change to the main metro system and make one further change and for a further ¥2 you're right outside the Tian'an Men (gate) at the north end of Tian'an Men Square, and beyond which lies the Wu Men main entrance to the Forbidden City.

You can also use the metro to reach the Temple of Heaven, the Lama Temple, and other key sights, and return to the airport again just as swiftly. Every metro journey, no matter how many changes of train you make costs ¥2.

Any form of English-language foreigner-targeting tour, even if there was one departing from the airport, would costs hundreds of yuan per person, move around a great deal more slowly due to Beijing's coagulated traffic, and not allow you to move at your own pace. Bored of the Forbidden City? Leave sooner. Entranced? Stay longer, and no need to worry what anyone else thinks.

In short, to make the best of your time, a tour is the last thing you need (without going in to it's other drawbacks, as can be found under many other threads). Metro maps, signs, and announcements on platforms and trains are all bi-lingual. Anyone can do this.

Peter N-H
PeterN_H is offline  
Mar 21st, 2010, 11:07 AM
  #4  
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Thank you Peter. We agree that we will be able to do this on our own. We appreciate your help.
Elfer is offline  
Mar 22nd, 2010, 09:59 PM
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Go to the Silk and Pearl Markets for some great bartering! All name brand luggage,purses,bags, wallets,MAC makeup, UGGS, Converse & Puma runners you will ever need for almost free...its so much fun having to barter for your stuff!DO NOT GO TO THE TRAIN STATION NO MATTER WHAT!
merritt09 is offline  
Mar 22nd, 2010, 10:45 PM
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> Go to the Silk and Pearl Markets for some great bartering!

These are tourist traps targeting foreign wallets with prices many multiples of what needs to be paid, and the last places you should actually think of shopping unless really money is not object. Many of the fake goods have now been cleared away anyway, although they can be discovered not far away in the markets of Chaoyang Men Wai.

> DO NOT GO TO THE TRAIN STATION NO MATTER WHAT!

Central Beijing has three major and two minor railway stations, so this advice is no more clear geographically than it is in any other way. Beijing Station has a nice period 1950s Soviet atmosphere; Beijing West is one of the single worst pieces of architecture on the planet--bad taste on a truly colossal scale; Beijing South is a brand-new Terry Farrell-designed project probably unrivalled by any station in any country anyone reading this may happen to live in. None of them has much to offer anyone not needing to buy a rail ticket or catch a train. All three are easily navigable by anyone who wants to do either.
PeterN_H is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2010, 11:48 AM
  #7  
 
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Peter- who do you work for? and why are you so negative about peoples replies? The Markets may be tourist traps sure but you do not pay top price- you BARTER for the lowest price and the fake goods have not been cleared away because its all fake for pete's sake! 110 of us just got home from a 14 day tour and I wouldn't suggest that anyone travel alone without a guide while there- anywhere!The train stations are infested with pickpockets/thieves/thousands of people and the lineups for a Bus is a block long!With a 17 hr. layover-pay for a Guide or stay near the Airport! and stop trying to pretty-it-up Peter..people need to use caution in a Foreign country!
merritt09 is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2010, 12:49 PM
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oooooo...you're in trouble now, merritt!
sylvia3 is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2010, 12:51 PM
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Please do not get personal, but stick to the facts of China travel.

> The Markets may be tourist traps sure but you do not pay top price- you BARTER for the lowest price and the fake goods have not been cleared away because its all fake for pete's sake!

But, of course, you are bargaining from a first asking price many multiples of that found in non-tourist-trap markets, and end up paying as much as several multiples of what you need to pay. Once again, shopping in Silk Street or the Hong Qiao Markets simply marks you out as ready for fleecing.

The variety and quantity of fakes is much reduced from what it was, although what was removed can be brought back at any time, and can anyway be found elsewhere, although to buy them can open you up to various problems.

> I wouldn't suggest that anyone travel alone without a guide while there- anywhere!

But tens of thousands of entirely independent travellers (with no Mandarin) do get themselves around China each year, as many have themselves described on this site, and anyone with a little common sense can quite easily get themselves around Beijing.

It's the guides, of course, who take you to places like Silk Street and Hong Qiao, because they get hefty kick-backs. These are the last people you want to involve in your travel decisions.

> The train stations are infested with pickpockets/thieves/thousands of people and the lineups for a Bus is a block long!

Are there pickpockets at railway stations? Naturally, as there are at major transport hubs from Heathrow to Grand Central the world over. If that is a sufficient condition for avoiding them then it's simply best to stay at home.

However the reality is that China isn't South America (for instance) and for anyone showing moderate intelligence and caution (especially at transport hubs) has a far smaller chance of having his or her pocket picked than at similar locations even in our own countries.

Naturally stations of populous nations can be busy, but the description given here is absurd, and the major Beijing termini can all be dealt with by independent travellers, as very many indeed do. Perhaps the (one?) Beijing station viewed was seen during the Chinese New Year travel rush? I spent time in four of Beijing's stations (only omitting Beijing East, which I dare say no one here has even heard of) in the build-up to the rush, and even then none remotely fitted the description here.

Block long line-ups for buses? An exaggeration, although they can be long at rush hours usually people at stops are waiting for any of multiple possible buses. But then no one has recommended taking a bus anyway so this really isn't to the point.

> With a 17 hr. layover-pay for a Guide or stay near the Airport! and stop trying to pretty-it-up Peter..people need to use caution in a Foreign country!

I expect many regular readers of this site will have had a good laugh at the thought that I might 'pretty China up', especially with the accusation is more often the other way. Again, please don't personalise this public conversation, but I don't think I can be accused of 'prettying-up' by describing the cons and corruption involved in shopping in the places mentioned.

Of course people need to use caution in a foreign country (yours is probably foreign to me) but they don't need to be terrorised into taking entirely unnecessary, over-priced, and counter-productive tours for a day in Beijing. The OP (unless he really much have a tour) should take the advice given.

I'm afraid that if your sole experience of China is on an organised tour, then, I'm sorry, but you really have no idea what is going on.

Peter N-H
PeterN_H is offline  
Mar 24th, 2010, 09:05 AM
  #10  
 
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You work for Tourism Beijing, I bet. I stick to what I said, and I'd like to add that I would never travel to China again wihtout being on a Guided Tour. For the most part, the Hotels were below standard, a lot of the Restaurants should be shut down for Health violations and tourist attractions are left to deteriorate which shocked us...the Panda Zoo for instance. We did see the ugly side, the old rundown parts of China where the real people live or try to anyways. It was shocking and scary to be in some the areas we were in and would never have wandered there on our own. Take off those rose colored glasses, there are line-ups, pickpockets and sketchy places that experienced travellers should stay away from.Get real.
merritt09 is offline  
Mar 24th, 2010, 10:22 AM
  #11  
 
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> You work for Tourism Beijing, I bet. I stick to what I said, and I'd like to add that I would never travel to China again wihtout being on a Guided Tour. For the most part, the Hotels were below standard, a lot of the Restaurants should be shut down for Health violations and tourist attractions are left to deteriorate which shocked us..

And this is an argument for being on a guided tour? That you get put in poor hotels and restaurants, and that some tourist sights are dilapidated?

If, however, you had actually escaped from the tour bus and looked around or travelled independently you would have found myriad perfectly clean and acceptable hotels and restaurants at all levels, being happily enjoyed by independent travellers, foreign residents, and the Chinese themselves.

Despite your unwillingness to accept that such people exist, or that they found good-value and comfortable lodgings, and fabulous food, a little use of the search box above will find very many postings from these mysterious people claiming that they did just that. They weren't on tours, of course.

Unfortunately although travelling independently they did find the tourists sights just as dilapidated as those on tours did, or sometimes overly restored to the point of Disneyfication. China has a very poor track record in this respect, and is constantly in breach of its obligations under UNESCO World Heritage arrangements, for instance.

But being on a guided tour designed to take you for every penny you have, while making the least possible outlay for your comfort, and having an itinerary entirely based on which hotel and restaurants (and lesser sights) provided the best kick-backs rather than on what was best for you won't have told you anything at all about the realities of independent travel in China, which, to be sure, is an impoverished, dirty place. This is hardly a well-kept secret, and it's hard to imagine how someone could travel to China expecting any different.

But dangerous for visitors (except for the air quality, the driving, occasional food issues, and the scams for the unwary--including those of organised tourism), China most certainly is not. Again spare us the absurd ad hominem remarks, but if I worked for Beijing Tourism I would be pushing you onto precisely the kind of organised tour you took, where I can take kick-backs galore, keep you to a few carefully managed destinations, and fill your ears with propaganda about China's history and culture.

Very little of this, however, is relevant to the OP, who has a few hours to kill in Beijing, and so will be able to follow the English-language signs straight to the brand new Canadian-built Airport Express line directly outside the front of a terminal that is the largest and most modern on the planet, later following English signs to change to other metro lines, some also brand new, all with English signs and announcements, to pop up after only a short time, directly outside the Tian'an Men, from where he will be able to walk into the Forbidden City without being herded about, and take his own time to explore all the little side turnings and smaller complexes of residences for retired empresses and concubines that the tour groups never see.

He'll spend much less, get around more quickly, and be able to do precisely as he chooses; stop when he likes, eat what he likes, and so on. And if he wants more specific recommendations I and many others here will be happy to provide them.

Peter N-H
PeterN_H is offline  
Mar 24th, 2010, 07:28 PM
  #12  
 
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I'm done. Have fun handing out your false information and trying to give Tourists a sense of safety. You are unbelievable.
merritt09 is offline  
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