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12hours Transit time in Beijing, What places to visit?

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fstop

Hi Everyone,

I'm transiting at Beijing with a transit time of 12 hours. I've visited Shanghai and Guangzhou before but this is my first visit to Beijing. Please give me some advise on the places to visit around Beijing within that time. How's the safety in Beijing?

I've live in Taiwan for 2 years, more than 10 years ago and my Mandarin is still good enough for conversation. I'm not as good as before in reading Chinese characters and I'm more familiar with the traditional characters.

I plan to commute by bus. How do I take bus around Beijing?

Is it better to change money in Canada or in Beijing. If in Beijing, where is a good place to change money to RMB? Do I need US dollars or Canadian dollars will do?

Please give me any tips and advise for this less than 12 hours visit.

Thanks!

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anonymoose

I'm not very familiar with Beijing, so I'm sure someone else will give better advice, but I would say take the train from the airport into the city. A bus journey will probably take an hour each way, and possibly longer if the traffic is bad.

Money of course can be changed at the airport, and many banks in the city, so I wouldn't worry about that too much. Canadian cash should be fine.

And Beijing is fairly safe, but do take care of your valuables in public areas, as pickpocketing is rife in China.

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skylee

You might wish to check if you will need a visa to get into the city, and arrange accordingly. Just a thought.

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Brian US

I think the buses can be a bit confusing, so consider the great subway system in Beijing. What you plan to do would largely depend on your interests. Tiananmen and the Forbidden City would be a must see for tourists. You have time to make it to the Great Wall. You can also get a great bite to eat or pick up some cheap goods.

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xiaocai

Is Beijing's traffic getting better now? In 2004 It took me about 3 hours to get to the place I was to stay from Beijing International airport. You'd better check the time slot and plan it carefully to avoid traffic jam or the only place to visit is the most congested roads in the world if it is still like that.

As for money exchange, check out Bank of China, their rates are not bad. And the locations of the branches are easily found with google maps.

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adrianlondon

I think transit visas are for 24 hours and you're allowed to leave the airport.

For 12 hours you can either spend some time enjoying the whole Beijing experience, and take a bus to the town centre from the airport, or you can try and maximise your time and take a cab. Personally, I found the train (and then a metro once you arrive) not much quicker than the bus. However, with no fixed agenda you can take the train to its detination and, armed with a map, wander around into the centre.

I'd go to the Lama Temple (Yong He Gong, 雍和宮), Wudaoying Hutong (new-ish cafe area near the Yong He temple),Nanluoguxiang (an over-developed touristy hutong, but still fun for food and tea/coffee), Houhai (lakes - just walk around them all), the Drum and Bell Tower area (kid of between Houhai and Nanluoguxiang depending on how you walk around).

You'll notice I didn't mention Tiananmen Square or the Forbidden City. But that's just me - I didn't care for either. I know, I know, shocking. Ban me from ever getting a visa again.

If you want to chill, try the Beihai park (especially if your transit starts very early), or even the Summer Place if you didn't care for seeing city life.

EDIT: If you have the energy, hire a bike from near the airport express train station and do the whole lot by bike.

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jbradfor
I think transit visas are for 24 hours and you're allowed to leave the airport.

Not true in most cases.

From China's Embassy web site

1. Visas are not required of aliens who hold air tickets to the final destination and have booked seats on international airliners flying directly through China, and will stay in a transit city for less than 24 hours without leaving the airport.

2. Visas are not required of passport holders of the following countries, who transit through Pudong Airport or Hongqiao Airport of Shanghai, provided they hold valid passports, visas for the onward countries, final destination tickets and have booked seats, and stay in Shanghai for less than 48 hours : Republic of Korea, United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, France, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxemburg, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Austria, Greece, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Iceland.

Otherwise, you'll need to apply for a G visa.

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889

There are formal regulations which govern what can and can not be done. And the 外国人入境出境管理法实施细则 provides as follows:

"第八条 外国人持有联程客票并已定妥联程座位搭乘国际航班从中国直接过境,在过境城市停留不超过24小时,不出机场的,免办过境签证;要求离开机场的,须向边防检查站申请办理停留许可手续."

That is, the immigration authorities are authorized to issue a stop-over permit -- it's not a visa -- to transit passengers who wish to leave the airport.

http://www.mps.gov.cn/n16/n84147/n84181/398537.html

Note too that the IATA Visa Database, available on the Delta Airlines website, says this about transiting China:

"Visa required, except for those passengers continuing their journey within 24 hours (or within the same day at Guangzhou - CAN) to a third country by the same or first connecting aircraft, and holding documents and confirmed tickets for their onward journey. Leaving the airport transit area is allowed. Overnight facilities are available outside the airport."

http://www.delta.com/planning_reservations/plan_flight/international_travel_information/visa_passport_information/index.jsp

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fstop

Thanks for all the info. Very helpful!

Regarding the visa, my travel agent told me that I don't need a visa if I'm staying less than 24 hours in Beijing. I double check by going to the Consulate-General office of China and they told me that it depends on the port of entry and the passport you are using. For Beijing, you can stay for less than 24 hours and for Shanghai, 48 hours.

Is there a transit pass that I can buy? For example, day pass for unlimitted use for one day or a preloaded pass? If so, is the transit system centralized with just one type of card for buses and subways, or do I need separate cards?

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889

There is a pre-loaded card -- the 一通卡 -- that works on both buses and subways. I'm not sure buying one makes much sense for a 12-hour visit, though. Subway fare is a uniform 2RMB whether you use the card or not (except on the airport line). The normal one-stage bus fare of 1RMB drops to 0.4RMB if you use the card.

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Brian US

I personally feel that once you see one temple, then you've seen them all. Living in Taiwan I'm sure you made it to a Buddhist temple or two, so you can probably pass on it while in Beijing.

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roddy

Would be useful to know when these 12 hours are - a 6am to 6pm stay and a noon to midnight stay require different itineraries. And some idea on what kind of thing you actually want to do? Shopping vs temples, old stuff vs new stuff, etc. Do you want to see the Great Wall - you can, but that's at least half your day right there. Have a look through the Wikitravel or Lonely Planet pages for Beijing and see what you'd like to do - we can then advise on the practicalities.

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fstop

Thanks everyone! Roddy, I'll check on the sites you mentioned later. It's 11:30am to 11:30pm. Around mid January on a Saturday. Is the traffic better on Saturdays? What is a safe time to be back at the airport so that I won't miss the flight?

Since it's my first visit, I'm thinking of visiting some of the popular places like Tianamen Square, Forbidden City, etc. Optionally, the Great Wall, if I can spend less hours there. Is there an entrance fee in most of the places?

Thanks.

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889

I don't see a Great Wall in your future, not if your flight arrives at 11:30am.

You could probably do the Forbidden City, then duck across the street to Beihai/Jingshan Parks if you have time. And that would be it. It gets dark pretty early in Beijing in January. And even worse, it gets pretty cold, especially after dark. So see the palace and the nearby parks then settle yourself down for a big meal in a nice warm restaurant before heading back to the airport.

There's an entrance fee to the Forbidden City, but the entrance fees to Beihai/Jingshan are nominal.

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roddy

Great Wall might be possible, but it'd be a rush - unless this is a once-in-a-lifetime chance, I'd probably skip it. If you do want to go though, might be worth hiring a taxi at the airport to take you there, wait while you nip up and down on the cable car, and then take you back into town. You'd dodge a lot of traffic.

Otherwise, what 889 said.

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anonymoose

The great wall is doable, but in my opinion, it is rather overrated. I mean, anyone who's spending a reasonable length of time in Beijing should definitely do it, even if only for the bragging rights (or being a 好汉), but if you've only got 12 hours, and you're unlikely to be returning to Beijing in the future, then I think there are many better ways to spend your time. The great wall is after all just a wall (albeit amongst nice scenery).

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fstop

Thanks again for all the info! I don't really know when I would visit/pass by Beijing after this. I really like to see the Great Wall, partly due to bragging rights ;), as mentioned by anonymoose. But I hate to 走马看花, so I'm going for 889 idea! :P

By the way, my going to transit time is 3 hours and 30 minutes, 4:30pm to 8pm, I guess I will just stay at the Beijing airport and my returning back to Canada's transit time is the 12 hours, 11:30am to 11:30pm.

Please give me a more detailed info on how to get to the Forbidden City and to Beihai/Jingshan Parks. By bus or subway? Where to eat, preferably Chinese food.

Thanks!

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889

You can exit at either Tian An Men East or West Station, then walk to the Forbidden City.

You progress through the Forbidden City from South to North, and when you exit, Beihai/Jingshan will be on the other side of the street. Follow the crowds to the crossing.

Food in Beijing depends on what kind of cuisine you're looking for, though I'll let others make suggestions.

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roddy

Here's what I'd do. Jump on any airport bus that will take you to Line 1 - the lines to Xidan and Beijing Railway Station should do, maybe others as well. The airport express isn't actually all that fast, and if you're heading for Tiananmen you'd need to change twice, so I don't see the value here. You speak Chinese, so find a random restaurant for lunch , then get the subway to Tiananmen (don't plan to eat at Tiananmen or the Forbidden City). Quick look at the square, then into the Forbidden City. See that and come out of the north end to visit Jingshan and / or Beihai. Quick walk around Houhai, past Gulou, onto Gulou Dong Dajie. By now it's more or less dinner time, and there are loads of places to eat here. Once you've eaten you could have a bit of a wander through hutongs, or find a cafe to sit and people watch, until it's time for the airport - either jump in cab directly there, or head to Dongzhimen for the airport bus or train.

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fstop

roddy, are you presently at Beijing? correct me if I'm wrong but it looks like there are now two subway stations at the airport. So, that means I can take Line A, Line 2 and then Line 1. Do I go down at Tiananmen East or West Station? Do I need to pay again at the interchange stations?

Here's the link to the Beijing subway map: Beijing Subway Map

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