Beijing, the capital of China, is an interesting city with modern architecture alongside ancient sites. This exceptionally large city offers a number of attractions for tourists, like the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, Tiananmen Square, the Temple of Heaven, the Great Wall of China, the Ming Tombs, and Beihai Park, among others. Unless you’re planning a long vacation, you can’t possibly visit all the attractions in Beijing. This guide to spending 12 hours in Beijing will help you prioritize your itinerary so you don’t miss any important attractions.
If you’re visiting Beijing for the first time, familiarize yourself with the essential facts and important customs of this fascinating place. Know what to expect in advance to minimize unpleasant surprises and maximize the value of your trip to Beijing.
1. Don’t Rely on Google Maps
Image via Flickr by romanboed
The Google Maps app makes it easy to navigate places you aren’t familiar with. However, due to government censorship, you can’t access Google Maps in China. Even if you manage to access the app, the locations are often inaccurate. This means you can’t rely on Google Maps to get around the city. A better alternative is to hire a guide or hail a taxi for sightseeing in Beijing.
2. Avoid Visiting Tourist Attractions on Chinese Holidays
Many of the residents in Beijing are migrant workers who go sightseeing with their families on holidays. That means tourist attractions in Beijing are packed with people on national holidays. Some places get so crowded that you may have to stand in queues for long hours, and you may never actually get inside. Avoid visiting major attractions during the spring festival in May and during the National Day Golden Week in October, when local tourism reaches its peak.
3. Remove Your Shoes While Entering Homes and Temples
Beijing is home to several temples and religious sites, and you should always remember to remove your shoes while entering a temple. The Temple of Heaven, situated in the Chongwen District, is a great place to visit. You’ll get to see the locals drinking tea and practicing tai chi.
Locals also expect you to take off the shoes while entering their homes. If you aren’t sure, ask your host whether you can go inside without removing your shoes.
4. Tipping Can Be Offensive
Tipping is a common practice in the West. However, in China, it can be insulting. Employees don’t expect any extra money from customers. However, you can tip drivers and guides associated with tours, hotels, or restaurants that mostly cater to foreign visitors.
5. Public Toilets Are Different
The “drop toilet” is standard in China. It sits one step above ground level on a raised platform that’s about 1 square meter. It includes two porcelain footrests connected by an oval bowl, which usually has a hole with a 2-inch diameter. Most public bathrooms don’t have toilet paper, so carry some with you.
Summer, despite being hot and humid, is the peak season for visitors in Beijing. The winter season is normally freezing, but if you can manage extremely cold temperatures and icy winds, this might be the best time to visit. The autumn and spring seasons are also pleasant and can be great times to explore this beautiful city.