On my way back from my solo trip to Phuket I had a long layover, about 22 hours in Beijing, China and I thought this would be a good opportunity to explore a new country I have never traveled to before.
In this post, I share with you with you my experience transiting Beijing in under 24 hours with 5 tips to help you plan your layover.
Leaving the airport took longer than expected because the queue to get a temporary visa was extremely long. Plus trying to navigate myself around a huge airport while getting misdirected added to the time.
Passengers from 58 countries can get a free temporary visa upon arrival for up to 144 hours in a number of Chinese cities. Definitely check beforehand before planning your layover.
After getting my visa, I made my way to my airlines transfer service counter and my driver took me to my free transit hotel (Airport Lanwan Hotel) provided by my airline Air China.
Did you know that a lot of major airlines provide free hotel stay during your transit? Airlines don't really advertise this but if you meet the requirements, usually staying in a transit country for a number of hours then you qualify. My airline provided me with a hotel near the airport, including free breakfast and airport transfers.
After taking a well needed nap, I arranged for a driver at the hotel to take me to the popular sites Tienanmen square and the forbidden city. I was planning on using the local trains but another thing I forgot to prepare beforehand was for the weather. Beijing was colder than London, -6 degrees Celsius to be exact. I was really confused how I ended up in a country colder than the UK during winter season for once and was not dressed appropriately for the weather. Nonetheless, I didn't let that stop me from exploring Beijing.
The first stop was the forbidden city. I was greeted with a tour guide who was trying to get me do an English speaking tour of the spectacular site with him. With less than 15 mins to closing time of buying tickets and having no idea where to buy entry tickets, I agreed to let him give me a tour after haggling the price down and helped me to buy my ticket online. The forbidden city, also known as the palace Museum is the largest palace complex in the world. It's a beautiful site, with a lot of detail and rich in history. The entrance fee is 20 CNY (about £2) for students and 40 CNY. I just pretended to be a student for a day, a girl gotta save some coins.
After learning some interesting facts from my tour guide, we then walked past Tienanmen square and then proceeded into a tea shop in Jingshan Park and participated in a traditional tea ceremony. It was a good experience but my guide left the part where this is a paid experience costing 100 CNY. Later I walked up the steps towards the temple and saw amazing views overlooking the forbidden city.
After this, I was on the search to try some traditional Chinese food before heading back to the airport to catch my flight. Although I didn’t get to try this, Pecking duck is a must try Beijing dish.
Research on typical scams beforehand to avoid being scammed. I think I will call Beijing the king of scammers because I got scammed soo smoothly at least twice that it didn’t hit me until I reflected on my 11 hour flight journey back to London. I’m usually quite good at detecting scams. Well it took one day in Beijing to change that! My mistake is that I should have read up on common scams beforehand. The tea house scam and the 3 wheeled rickshaw ride was definitely used on me, sigh. It’s a shame this spoiled my experience because it’s a beautiful city with a unique culture.
However, I did have some nice encounters with some locals who gave me compliments or helped me with directions. Hopefully in the future I will have a more positive experience when I come back next time!
Have you travelled to Beijing, China before? Comment below what was your experience like.