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bkboyd Jun 24th, 2003 06:10 PM

great wall hiking
Has anyone been hiking on the great wall section from Jinshanling to Simatai? Do I need a guide, or just a driver to get there and back?

Also, how much should this cost? I got a quote for about $180 US from a tour company in Beijing, including transport and guide.

PeterN_H Jun 25th, 2003 09:26 AM

Although that price isn't as excessive as many, it's still way over the top. Contacting Chinese tour companies from overseas is never a good idea, unless money (and value-for-money) is no object.

You can do this by taxi for Y500 ($60) even if you are very bad at bargaining. Y300 if you are good. You'll have to pay a little more in road tolls and parking fees. (It can also be done by public transport of course.) Guides are very unlikely to have done this walk before, and don't generally know very much accurate history about the Great Wall, so there's little point.

Once you mount the Wall at Jinshanling, just turn left. That's all the guiding you need, although usually some helpful soul has scrawled a chalk arrow to point you in the right direction where you might detour briefly up a spur to a dead end. You can't get lost--just stay on the Wall. There are occasional corners you can cut to avoid particularly steep sections, make obvious by the passage of many feet. There are also souvenir sellers who may dog your footsteps the entire way and simply refuse to leave you alone. These are far more numerous at the Simatai end, so starting at Jinshanling is certainly the better idea. But again, these people won't allow you to get lost--not that that's likely. Buying things from them just makes them dog you all the more--so don't.

Make a very early start, or leave it until mid-afternoon to do the walk--the light is spectacular, especially in the autumn. If you are doing this in the summer bring plenty of bottled water, and don't forget a picnic. There are plenty of spots to sit and take in the view.

Note that as you arrive at the Simatai end you may be asked to pay a second entrance fee.

Peter N-H

Mthomp77 Jun 25th, 2003 02:25 PM

Have also done this hike and agree 100% with Peter. It's easy to find a driver and, with the help of someone like your hotel folks, to set up a fun hike/picnic, etc. for much less than the tour companies charge.

bkboyd Jun 26th, 2003 05:44 PM

Is the 300/500 RMB for the round trip taxi, or each way?

Thanks for the other advice as well. I'm going to be in Beijing next month on a work trip, and thought this would be a fun way to spend one of my free days.

PeterN_H Jun 26th, 2003 06:58 PM

All day, half day--however long it takes you. The distance is more important than the time, and the calculation from the driver's point of view is about how much he'll earn versus how much he would cruising around town largely empty all day. A Y1.6 cab (the sort you should take--more comfortable, better engine, better aircon) will typically take Y300 in a day, probably much less over recent months. But you should agree the time beforehand, although not so rigidly that you might be five minutes late, as that will mean immediate attempts to renegotiate. Drivers will be happiest with an early start, and back mid-afternoon so they've time to make a bit more money before the end of their shift. In some cases they need to be back by a certain time to hand over the car to the night shift driver--these vehicles work 24 hours a day seven days a week. But in July you don't really want to be on the Wall completely exposed to the sun in the middle of the day. It will take about two hours to reach Jinshanling without using the new expressway, and you'll probably want about three hours to take the Wall at a gentle amble/scrabble, with pauses as you go (it can be done in a lot less than that).

Simatai is about 110km from Beijing, and Jinshanling a little further--say 250km round trip. With the meter on (and without the one-way button being pushed, which adds 50% per km after 15km) this would be a Y400 trip. So you really should bargain for well under that, and pick up the road tolls and parking fees. (It's usually a deal clincher if you buy the driver lunch, but the chances are you won't be together at lunch time.) Beware quoting an exact figure for distance, however, since if you come 1km over, renegotiations will begin. Drivers will be interested but most won't even know where Simatai and Jinshanling are (both on the road to Chengde via Gubeikou. Simatai is just before Gubeikou, and Jinshanling just after).

With the characters for Jinshanling, Simatai, and a pen and paper to write down prices and times (let him make the first bid), and a positive attitude, this can all add to the fun of the trip. Drivers rarely get out of town, and some really enjoy being a tourist themselves--I've had a few pleasant experiences this way, although the wrong sort of driver just tries to find every way possible to renegotiate the deal. If you do have a good day, hang on to the driver's mobile phone number (a bit of mime will get you this at the time you make the agreement for the trip to the Wall), and use him for your airport trip, etc.

Peter N-H

scigirl Jun 28th, 2003 06:32 AM

We did this hike a few years ago. We had a driver for the day (900Y)- but would have been fine with just a taxi arranged through the hotel. You do not need a guide. Once you are on the wall it is quite impossible to get lost. The hike was great and took us maybe 4 hours with significant dawdling. The Lonely Planet guidebook had a description of the hike that included some details of various towers, etc. that you see along the way. Carry lots of water with you - the hike was quite hot in the summer.

I have a trip report which I can email to you if you contact me at [email protected]

Calex Sep 12th, 2004 09:10 AM

I understand that its better to start at the Jinshanling side to avoid the souvenir sellers. But is there any other advantages?

Calex Sep 13th, 2004 12:28 PM


Casey0274 Sep 15th, 2004 12:59 PM


We want to do this hike in the beginning of November. How is the weather for this hike? Is it very windy? Someone said that there may be snow - is this true?


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