The Great Wall of China is one of the most well-known structures in the world. Countless visitors have seen this magnificent engineer feat of the ancient world and now it is your turn to “be a man.” Here is everything you need to know about exploring the Great Wall of China. This guest post is provided by Miguel Roberg of Trip Bitten. Miguel has lived in China for almost 5 years and he has been to the wall many times. Here are his tips and advice for making your trip enjoyable.
The Great Wall is a must see if you plan on traveling in China, but there are many things to consider before signing up for a tour and wasting your afternoon in shopping malls. The first thing you need to decide is which part of the wall you would like to see. There are two main areas, Badaling and Mutianyu, each site has its advantages and disadvantages.
Badaling is probably the most famous section of the Great Wall and most travelers will end up exploring this section. The main reason visitors are attracted to this section is because it is fully restored, providing great opportunities for photos. The second reason travelers visit the Badaling section is because it is the closest section to Beijing. It is about an hour from Beijing and can be reached by bus or hired van.
The major drawbacks of visiting the Badaling section are the crowds, pollution, and vendors. Because the Badaling section is the closest to Beijing, many people will visit this section, which leads to large crowds on weekends and holidays. The large crowds have also attracted many vendors looking to sell overpriced souvenirs and snacks, which can distract from the experience. Finally, the Badaling section of the wall is close to Beijing, which means heavy pollution from Beijing and neighboring areas can ruin pictures and the overall experience.
The Mutianyu section of the Great Wall is becoming more popular with travelers due to the scarcity of vendors and tourists. The Mutianyu section is about 1.5 hours from Beijing and is mostly restored. There is about 2 km of restored wall at Mutianyu, which provides plenty of opportunities for great photos and quiet moments ‘alone’. It makes for a better overall experience because this section is less popular with tourist, vendors, and tour guides. This section also has a fun Toboggan ride down the side of the wall, which is better than walking all those steps.
The downside of visiting the Mutianyu section are tour prices are sometimes higher and it takes longer to reach. The reason tour prices are sometimes higher is because there are fewer shops and tourist trips for the guides to stop at and make commission off sells. They make up for this loss profit by charging more for the tour.
- Research online to find out which section is best for your budget, time, and travel style.
- Bring your own water and snacks, because the prices near the wall will be 3-4 times as much. Also, you can get all of the same souvenirs in Beijing for half the price, wait until you are back in Beijing to buy souvenirs (also remember to bargain).
There are two main ways to explore the Great Wall. The first is by taking a tour, which we will talk about later in this article, and the second is to take a bus or van. If you choose to take a tour, they will provide transportation to and from the Great Wall.
Taking a bus to the Great Wall can be convenient and cheap. Bus No. 877, which can be taken from the square north of De Sheng Men (De Sheng Gate, ?????), will take you to the Badaling section of the Great Wall. If you are interested in other sections of the wall, your best option is to take a tour or hire a van.
The buses leave before 12:00 p.m. and they leave when they are filled and take about one hour to get to the Great Wall. Guides on the buses will recommend you to take a cable car up to the Great Wall. The fee for the cable car is 100 RMB round trip, but it is not necessary.
The second option is to hire a van for the day. Vans can be rented at most hotels or hostels and cost around 500-600 RMB for the trip. This can be cost effective if you are traveling with a large group (5-6 persons). The driver will not provide a tour and may not talk much if you do not speak Mandarin, but you can save time by hiring a van. This will be cheaper than a tour but more expensive than a bus.
- There are some buses in De Sheng Men (?????) which have the same appearance as No. 877. Make sure you get on the right bus. Other buses leave from Qianmen, Beijing Train Station, East Bridge, and Xizhimen Gate.
- One-way fee for the bus is 12 RMB (4.8 RMB if you use an IC bus card). If you want to spend less money on transportation, you can buy an IC bus card in the ticket office or subway. Each card requires a guarantee deposit of 20 RMB, which is refunded when you return the card. The IC Transport Card is good for all transport in Beijing (subway and buses) and is highly recommended.
- There is also an option to take a train to Badaling.
The total cost for one traveler to visit the great wall can range from 100 RMB to 400 RMB. The transportation costs can be as low as 24 RMB for a bus or up to 500 RMB for a van (split between 5-6 persons equals about 100 RMB per person).
The entrance fee at both sections of the wall is 45 RMB per person. Food can be purchased at restaurants near the Great Wall, but prices will be higher. Subway sandwiches are available for around 35 RMB and a meal for about 50 RMB, but it is best to bring your own snacks and water.
Tours cost around 300-400 RMB, but everything is included: transportation, food, and the entrance ticket. Beware of any tours below 200 RMB, because they most likely will include shopping at jade or silk markets. These tour guides make commission off of items purchased, which is why the tour price is much lower than competitors. These tours usually allow for about 1-2 hours on the wall and 4-5 hours at different sites including the Ming Tombs (1-2 hour) and shopping malls (3-4 hours).
- 24 RMB for Transport (Bus) + 45 RMB for entrance fee + 40-50 RMB for food = 100 RMB
- 100 RMB for Transport (Van) + 45 RMB for entrance fee + 40-50 RMB for food = 180 – 200 RMB
- Tour all included 300-400 RMB
There are many tours offered throughout Beijing. Most hotels and hostels can help you arrange a tour to explore the Great Wall. Be aware of any tours that offer shopping or additional stops along the way. We at TripBitten recommend two tour companies because we have personally taken their tours. The first company is Bike Beijng. Yvonne from TripBitten recently went on a Great Wall bike tour and really enjoyed the experience. The other company is Beijing Hikers. Both these companies take guests to remote sections of the wall, which can be more authentic and better experience. These two companies charge more for their tours, but we believe that it is money well spent.
I hope this gives you a better idea of the different was to explore the Great Wall. If you have questions about the Great Wall, leave a comment or head over to TripBitten and we’ll be happy to answer your questions.