Driving to Great Wall/Badaling

Jul 5th, 2005, 05:20 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jun 2005
Posts: 15
Driving to Great Wall/Badaling

Thanks to my friends here on Fodors and elsewhere, my trip to China is feeling less and less intimidating!

I have a car and tour guide organised to take me to the Wall on my (only) full day in Beijing. The car is "mine" for 8 hours. It's been suggested we meet at the hotel at 8:00am to drive to the Wall. How long is the drive? Is it on highways or rural...? After the Wall and Summer Palace will there be enough time to go anywhere else, and if so, where? (I realsie this would depend on how long I spend at each site.)
Thanks again.
LuckyGirl is offline  
Jul 5th, 2005, 05:38 AM
Join Date: Jul 2005
Posts: 8
I'd recommend that you talk to your driver before you make any firm decisions -- he's in the best position to know how long these drives will take. If it were me, I'd try to see Tiannamen Square and the Forbidden City rather than the Summer Palace since your time in Beijing is so limited. I assume you'll go onto the wall at Badaling, which is out in the country, close to the Ming Tombs. I've been to Badaling 3 times and remember each trip as taking about 1/2 day. If you're old enough to remember the student riots in T. Square, that would be a significant stop for you -- Forbidden City is also fantastic, but much was under scaffolding when I was there last November -- getting spruced up for the Olympics. Have a wonderful trip.
janedee is offline  
Jul 5th, 2005, 06:06 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,937
Do not stop to shop at the Friendship Store. Big, big rip-off place!! The food there ok, but do not do any serious shopping. The suggestions about T. Square and Forbidden Palace are right on. These are "must=sees"!!
Elainee is offline  
Jul 5th, 2005, 06:37 AM
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 585
I agree! Don't go to the Friendship Store! If you have time, go and do all your shopping at one of the "markets", like Silk Alley or Hong Qiao or one of the others. Great prices on souvenirs and other things.

I also agree that the Forbidden City is not to be missed. As far as time, it all depends. How long are you planning to stay at the Great Wall? How far as you planning to climb? Some people only spend a few minutes there! So it all depends on you. Also, if you do climb most of it, you might be too tired to do the Forbidden City because that also involves a LOT of walking. But again, you could also do the Forbidden City and the Square, and the Summer Palace in about an hour, depending on how fast you do it and how much time you decide to spend at each one. Conceivably, you could do it all in 1 day, depending on how long you decided to stay at each place.
BigJim is offline  
Jul 5th, 2005, 01:11 PM
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 23,074
Since LuckyGirl has a driver for a full day, then going to the Great Wall and then the Summer Palace absolutely makes sense.

Forbidden City and other sites can be visited on other parts of her stay, via taxi/subway/buses/whatever.
rkkwan is offline  
Jul 5th, 2005, 04:28 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jun 2005
Posts: 15
Thanks for the help.
What do you think about this itinerary?
Day 1:
Arrive midday-ish
Walk to T. Square and area
Day 2:
8am to Wall (aprox 1 hour drive?)
Summer Palace
Forbidden City??
Day 3:
Departing Beijing at 13:50.
Do I have time to do anything beforehand??

Now trying to figure out budget for Beijing, ie how much US$ to convert into RMB at Beijing airport. Is it possible to convert RMB back into USD before leaving Beijing at the hotel or at the airport? Maybe I should convert some money into Hong Kong dollars before?

In case you haven't guessed, I'm starting to freak out a little about trying to fit too much into too short a time and also dealing with money and language differences by myself.

LuckyGirl is offline  
Jul 5th, 2005, 05:22 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jun 2005
Posts: 15
Do the sites have information leaflets in English describing the history, etc? I've read Fodors and Frommers guides online and am wondering if I should print them out to take with me.
LuckyGirl is offline  
Jul 5th, 2005, 06:43 PM
Join Date: Sep 2004
Posts: 878
Your plan sounds very doable! We had a driver in Nov and did much the ame plan! We arrived late the first night and left the hotel about 7:15 the next morning(our only full day). We were at the Badaling Wall by 8:30, left by 10 and drove on to the Summer Palace, worth seeing. Had lunch near by about 12:30 and went on the the Forbidden City and T Square. It took us about 1 1/2 hours to walk through the Forbidden City.

We had the driver for 8 hours also. But we had him take us to Liu Lichang Street near T Square for an extra hour to do a little shopping-check it out your first afternoon-it is a neat shopping area-I liked it better than the markets-the vendors and wares were nicer and things were less expensive and more interesting!

Your last morning you have time to go to the Temple of Heaven. Go early and see the Chineses do their morning activities in the park and then enjoy the temple before all the tour buses arrive! It was our favorite site. We then went to the Pearl Market across the street. Waste of time, you will find the same things at the tourist sites. The vendors have figured out that we think that the market is a good thing and are very hard to bargin with! Plus the wares are very cheaply made! We left the hotel (across town on 2nd Ring Rd) at 7:30 and were back at the hotel by 11:30. We were leaving Beijing at 12:30.

Yes, print out a guide for the places you want to visit. There are guides in English available at some sites, but they are not as good as the ones I got off the internet. We read about each site on the way so it was fresh in our minds and we were better able to walk freely with out having our nose in a booklet the whole time.

Add up the addmissions for your sites and the fee for your driver plus about the same amount of $ you might use in a site seeing day for food and misc any where. We got some money before leaving the States for China then just exchanged what we didn't spend in China for HK$ when we got there. Plus our hotel had a very good rate so we got extra there as needed.

You are going to have a great time!
cwn is offline  
Jul 6th, 2005, 03:49 AM
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 1,482
cwn, How did you find your driver? Did he speak English?
CFW is offline  
Jul 6th, 2005, 05:53 PM
Join Date: Sep 2004
Posts: 878
I contacted the hotel about 2 months before the trip. I was looking for an English speaking driver/guide for the day and half we were there. Harrison Wang was the contact. We had a driver-non English speaking and a delightful English speaking female university student as the guide. She went through the S P, F C and T of H with us, but we explored the wall on our own.

You should be able to make arrangements through the hotel, just be SURE you state from the begining that you want NO shopping stops! Most will try to take you to some rip off place where the prices are high and the driver gets a cut! Actually after lunch the drive tried, but we just sat in the car, the driver wasn't happy, but my deal was no unwanted shopping stops. Actually the guide helped a little at this point. The two of them had a heated talk in the front seat and then we got the extra hour at no additional charge to shop where I wanted too.

We stayed at the Swissotel. The staff was most accommodating of our requests and made sure we were happy with the services we asked for.
cwn is offline  
Jul 7th, 2005, 12:07 PM
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 585
Yes, stay away from any shopping stops! But the only bad thing about going through your hotel is that they're more than likely going to set you up with a driver that WILL take you there. Someone told us to just talk to any cab driver and ask him if he'll be your driver for the day. Supposedly, most of them will agree, if the price is right. And then they'll take you wherever YOU want to go. Our cab driver offered to do it without us asking.
BigJim is offline  
Jul 7th, 2005, 12:39 PM
Join Date: Sep 2004
Posts: 878
This is very ture. We did pay alittle more for the hotel arrangememts, maybe $50 to $75 for the day and half. But on the other hand, we had a schedule in-hand for both days with other things I wanted if time allowed and a English speaking guide( worth every penny, she was delightful ) with our driver. The car was new, large, clean and comfortable. They were there as promised at 7 am both mornings and we didn't have to haggle over price.

I had spent some time in writen discussion as to what I was willing to pay for the service before booking. Though no money changed hands until the tour day was over with!

If we had had more than the 48hours we did, I might have waited to see what I could find after we got there. We would not have saved that much, and this was definitely a satisfactory deal for us as first time independant travellers to China.
cwn is offline  
Jul 9th, 2005, 01:55 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jun 2005
Posts: 15
Thanks for the advice and encouragment.

cwn - I'm saving your post to print with the rest of my info.

3 days till I go...
LuckyGirl is offline  
Jul 9th, 2005, 07:19 AM
Join Date: Sep 2004
Posts: 878
Good Luck! Have a great trip! Beijing is a neat city! Be sure to wander around acroos the main drag from T SQure your first afternoon -down some of the smaller streets and check out the little "art" shops. That is where I found two beautiful sandalwood handpainted fans for 16RMB each! Never saw any more like them.
cwn is offline  
Jul 9th, 2005, 09:26 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 426
About the money exchange - I wouldn't bring too much cash to exchange with you, and would instead rely on ATMs (depending on where you'll be - fewer ATMs the smaller the city you get to).

You can change anything back into USD when you leave, but ONLY IF YOU KEEP THE RECEIPT YOU WERE GIVEN when you exchanged the money in the first place, so don't lose it!

Good luck!
Andrea_expat is offline  

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