EP002: Beijing – Free 72 hrs VISA Free, Great Wall at No Cost, Common Scams

Explore Best of Beijing… as always: the easiest, cheapest, and safest way!

  • Co-Host/Producer: Charles Huang
  • Co-Host/Editor: Kai Mathias
  • Camera: Stan Trac

Welcome to Beijing, in this episode we cover:

  • How to get a 72 hour VISA for free access to China
  • Cheapest, Safest, Easiest Airport Transport
  • Beijing Metro and Buses, Hours and Fares
  • Money Exchange and Counterfeit Bills
  • Common Scams
    • Foreign Menu
    • Black Taxis
    • Tea House Scams
    • Ticket Scalpers
    • Pickpockets
  • The Free Jiankou Great Wall of China
  • Free and Inexpensive Attractions:
    • National Museum of China
    • Museum of Natural History
    • Olympic Park
    • Tienanmen Square
    • The Forbidden City
    • The Temple of Heaven
    • Qianmen Street
    • Hutong

 

 

Air China Flight CA966 from Frankfurt (FRA) to Beijing (PEK) on arrival tarmac

Free 72 Hours Chinese VISA (excluding Hong Kong and Macau):

 

It’s definitely a headache, but you will need it if you plan to visit China from most countries, except a few of the surrounding ones.  Depending on where you’re coming from, the cost for the visa ranges from $75 to $150 and it can take up to two weeks wait-time for you to receive your passport.

 

72 Hrs Visa Free Transit
72 Hrs Visa Free Transit
72 Hours Visa Free Express Line
72 Hours Visa Free Express Line

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

However, you can obtain a free 72 hour visa if you have a stopover in one of the major ports of entry including:

  • Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Chongqing, Dalian, Xian, Guilin, Shenyang, Kunming, Wuhan, Xiamen, Hangzhou

If you are passport holder from one of the following countries:

  • All 24 Schengen Agreement Countries: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Demark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland
  • 13 Other European Countries:  Russia, United Kingdom, Ireland, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia (FYROM), Albania
  • 6 American Countries: United States, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Chile
  • 2 Oceania Countries: Australia, New Zealand
  • 6 Asian Countries: Korea, Japan, Singapore, Brunei, United Arab Emirates, Qatar
72 Hours Visa Free Access to China Passport Stamp
72 Hour Visa Free Access to China Passport Stamp

 

Now, here is the catch: your connecting final destination must be in a third country, including Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau.  For example, in our video: we are flying from Vancouver to Bangkok with a stopover in Beijing.  What happens if your stopover is only a few hours?  Call your airlines and ask them to extend it, most airports will do it free or for a minimal fee ($30 with Aeroplan).

 

Secondly, 72 hours is actually a little misleading since the clock actually begins the midnight AFTER you arrival.  Which means it begins at the 00:01 the following day. 

  • Arrived: May 1 at 8 am
  • 72 Hours starts at May 2 at midnight 12:00 am / 00:01
  • Must leave: May 4 before 11:59 pm

 

In this example, because you landed at 8 am, you’re actually allowed to stay on whole day you arrived 16 hours plus 72 hours.  In theory, you can get at least a full 95 hours and 59 minutes if your flight lands exactly at midnight or if you decided to not exit customs until exactly at midnight.

 

Transfer from Airport and Beijing Metro:

The Beijing Airport Express Metro build by Bombardier
The Beijing Airport Express Metro build by Bombardier

 

It was nice to see how well foreign countries are doing in China.  The first thing I noticed was that the Beijing Airport Express Metro is actually built by Canadian transportation conglomerate Bombardier, which originally produced the first snowmobiles.

 

You can take the taxi, but it is very expensive and you can easily get stuck in traffic for hours.  So, the number one option is the Beijing Airport Express metro, which is operated by Beijing Subway.

 

Ticket for Airport Express operated by Beijing Subway
Ticket for Airport Express operated by Beijing Subway

Fare: $4 USD or ¥25 each way

Hours: 6:00 am to 11:30 pm, 7 days a week

Stations from Beijing Capital Airport: Terminal 2 – Terminal 3 – Sanyuanqiao – Dongzhimen

Beijing Metro Route Map
Beijing Metro Route Map

 

Beijing has excellent metro network and will connect you to most of the tourist attractions without a transfer.  We recommend you buy a Beijing Transportation Smart Card and load it with ¥100, which works on most forms of transportation including the buses, you can get a refund in Terminal 3 at Beijing Capital Airport.

 

Fare: ¥2 or $0.30 each way in 2014, currently, (Correction – in 2015, the current rate is ¥3 or $0.45)

 

Hours: 5:00 am to 11:00 pm

 

The buses are also affordable, but the fare is based on distance:

  • ¥2 or $0.30 for first 10 km
  • ¥1 for each additional 5 km

The normal bus route runs from 5:30 am to 11:00 pm, while the night routes run from 11:00 pm to 4:30 am.

Numbered 201 to 215—Night routes, only in operation after 23:00.
Numbered 300 to 810—Offering bus routes from downtown area to suburban Beijing.
Numbered 900 to 998—Running long distances, such as from downtown area to the Great Wall.

Hostel Accommodations

In Beijing, most hostels range from ¥25 to ¥50, about $4 to $8 per night.  There is no breakfast provided in most of them, but there is free wifi.  However, many popular websites and social networks such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are blocked.  Make sure your hostel is located near a Metro Station for more convenience

Money Exchanges/Counterfeited Money

 

Many scam artists like to prey on foreign tourists who are not familiar with Chinese currency, claiming to provide cheaper exchange with counterfeit bills.  Here is some advice on avoiding this:

 

  • Never exchange your money on the street or in small shops
  • Never exchange your money in the airport with ridiculous exchange rates and hidden fees
  • Withdrawal from your ATM to get the best exchange rate even though it will cost you approximately $5 in surcharges, but some banks offer premium accounts which refund you those fees.
Free ATM Withdrawal for Global ATM Alliance members at China Construction Bank
Free ATM Withdrawal for Global ATM Alliance members at China Construction Bank

If your bank is a member of the Global ATM Alliance, which include Bank of America, Barclays, BNP Paribas, Banca Nazionale del Lavoro, Deutsche Bank, Scotia Bank, Westpac and Absa, you can withdraw at any China Construction Bank ATM without surcharge or terminal fees.

Common Scams and Tourist Traps

Foreigner’s Menus

Look for English/Chinese Bilingual Menu
Look for English/Chinese Bilingual Menu

 

You’d be surprised how many places try to rip off tourists by providing a more expensive menu.  Foreigners can pay up to three times as much as locals for a meal.

 

 

Here are few signs you’ve been given a rip-off menu:

  • If are you given an English-only menu
  • If you are refused a Chinese-only menu
  • If the price on the menu seems strangely higher than most other establishments

In these cases, just walk away…

Avoid Black Taxis

Only use the official yellow taxis with license plate like this:

Example of Beijing Plate starts with 京
Example of Beijing Plate starts with 京
Official Yellow Taxi
Official Yellow Taxi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The unlicensed taxis or black taxis are not metered and always charge you 2 to 3 times the average cost.  There are many known incidents where they have stopped in middle of nowhere to demand payment in advance and will threaten the passengers if they don’t pay up.  Here are some examples:

 

Example of unlicensed, black taxis in Beijing
Example of unlicensed, black taxis in Beijing
Typical illegal taxi van "black taxi" in Beijing
Typical illegal taxi van “black taxi” in Beijing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tea House Scams

 

This is an age-old scam and people still fall for it.  It’s usually pretty obvious but many tourists, particularly men, fall into this trap.  You are approached by beautiful, friendly, young woman to start a conversation.  Then she suggests to go to a tea house.  After you order your tea, she suddenly disappears into the backroom, leaving you with a $100 USD bill!  Not cool!

 

Beijing Tea House Scams
Beijing Tea House Scams

Ticket Scalper

 

This is one scam that really makes my blood boil – you may encounter ticket scalpers who claim to have cheaper tickets.  Often these tickets are either bogus, or bought using certificates for the disabled and then sold for a much higher price than regular tickets.

 

The tickets offered by scalpers in Beijing are either faked or discounted bought using certificates for disabled.
The tickets offered by scalpers in Beijing are either faked or discounted bought using certificates for disabled.

 Pickpockets

 

Unfortunately, Beijing is known as one of the pickpocket capitals of the world.  We recommend you get a money belt for approximately $5 to $10.  The problem has gotten so bad that Beijing has a special hotline for pickpocket victims, 6401 1327.  Or you can even send an SMS to them at 13911991234.  Avoid crowded subways and buses during rush hours and always keep a low profile by not showing your valuables.

 

The Great Wall of China (Paid):

 

Obviously, this is a must-see tourist attraction in Beijing.  Due to its popularity, the tickets can be expensive, depending on which section of the Great Wall you visit.  We’ll feature the two most popular sections along with a free section below.

 

Comparison of the Great Wall Sections
Comparison of the Great Wall Sections

Badaling

 

This section is the best preserved and the most popular of all the sections. It commands fine views of the mountain scenery below and has been visited by over 300 world celebrities such as Richard Nixon and Margaret Thatcher.

 

Badaling Great Wall of China
Badaling Great Wall of China
Admission Fee:
CNY 45/$7.25 (Apr. 1 to Oct.31); CNY 40/$6.45 (Nov.1 to Mar.31)
Cable Car:
CNY 80/$12.90 (single trip); CNY 100/$16.10 (round trip)
Pulley: CNY 30/$4.85 (single trip); CNY 60/$9.65 (round trip)
Opening Hours:
06:30-19:00 (In summer); 07:00-18:00 (In winter)

Mutianyu

 

This section of the Great Wall winds 1.4 miles through the lofty mountains and high ridges.  Many sections of which are made of granite. This unique structure makes the wall almost indestructible.

 

Mutianyu Great Wall
Mutianyu Great Wall
Opening Hours March 16 to November 14: 07:00 – 18:00
November 15 to next March 15: 07:30 – 17:00
Admission Fee Adults: CNY45/$7.25;
Children: CNY25/$4.05
Cable Car Fee (Optional) Adults: CNY80/$12.90 for a single trip, CNY100/$16.10 for a round trip;
Children: CNY40/$6.45 for a single trip and CNY50/$8.10 for a round trip
Slideway Fee (Optional) Adults: CNY80/$12.90 for a single trip, CNY100/$16.10 for a round trip (Cable car up, slideway down);
Children: CNY60/$9.65 for a round trip (Cable car up, slideway down)
Notice: Children below 3.9 feet (1.2m) can visit or take cable car/slideway for free while children between 3.9 feet (1.2m) to 4.9 feet (1.5m) enjoy children ticket price.

Jiankou (Free)

 

This section of the Great Wall is a magnet for the photographers.  You will quickly find that most of the photos are taken from Jiankou Great Wall. Due to its unique style, steep mountains and beautiful scenery, Jiankou has become a photographic hotspot and also a hot travel destination these days. ‘Jiankou’, is translated as ‘Arrow Nock’ in English, because the shape of the mountain is like an arrow, with the collapsed ridge opening as its arrow rock.  And best of all its FREE!!!

 

Jiankou Great Wall
Jiankou Great Wall

However, before we show you how to get there, we’d like to warn you of few dangers — do it at your own risk:

  • Climbing this section is physically intense and takes approximately 2 hours, make sure you are physically capable
  • This section of the wall is in a state of disrepair and is the most dangerous section due to loose bricks and unwalled edges
  • Always go in a group, NEVER GO ALONE
  • The bus to this section only runs from 10 am to 3 pm
Jiankou is in disrepair and potentially dangerous
Jiankou is in disrepair and potentially dangerous

Step 1:
– From Dongzhimen Metro Station, take the bus No. 936
– Get off at Yanxi Huandao in Huairou District, across from Huairou First Hospital
– Bus Fare:  ¥2.00/$0.30 USD

Step 2:
– Transfer on to bus to Jiankou Great Wall Section
– Bus runs from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm
– Bus Fare:  ¥4.00/$0.60

Group Photos on the top of Jiankou Section of Great Wall
Group Photos on the top of Jiankou Section of Great Wall

Other Free and Inexpensive Attractions:

The National Museum of China
The National Museum of China
  • National Museum of China
    • Metro Station: Tiananmen East
    • Ticket Price: Free With Passport
    • 16 East Chang’an Avenue, Dongcheng, Beijing (East of Tiananmen Square)
    • Hours: Tuesday to Sunday  9:00 am to 5:00 pm (4:00 pm Last Admission)
Museum of Natural History
Museum of Natural History
  • Museum of Natural History
    • Metro Station: Tiantan Dongmen
    • Ticket Price: ¥10/$1.50
    • 26, Tian Qiao Nan Street, Dongcheng District, Beijing
    • Hours: Tuesday to Sunday  9:00 am to 5:00 pm (4:00 pm Last Admission)

 

Beijing Olympic Park - Bird's Nest
Beijing Olympic Park – Bird’s Nest
  • Beijing Olympic Park
    • Metro Station: Olympic Green

 

Bejing Panjiayuan Flea Market
Bejing Panjiayuan Flea Market
  • Panjiayuan Flea Market
    • Metro Station: Panjiayuan

 

The Forbidden City
The Forbidden City
  • The Forbidden City
    • Metro: Tiananmen West or Tiananmen East Station
    • 4 Jing Shan Qian Jie, Dongcheng, Beijing
    • Ticket: ¥60/$9.50 Summer / ¥40/$6.50 Winter
    • Hours: Summer 8:30 am to 5:00 pm / 8:30 am to 4:30 pm
Tiananmen Square
Tiananmen Square
  • Tiananmen Square
    • Metro: Tiananmen Dong or Tiananmen Xi Station
Beijing Temple of Heaven
Beijing Temple of Heaven
  • Temple of Heaven
    • Metro: Tiantandongmen
    • 1 Tiantan East Rd, Dongcheng, Beijing
    • Ticket: ¥10/$1.50
    • Hours:
      • March to June: 8:00 am to 5:30 pm
      • July to October: 8:00 am to 8:00 pm
      • November to February: 8:00 am to 5:00 pm

 

Qianmen Street Snack Shop
Qianmen Street Snack Shop
  • Qianmen Street
    • Metro: Qianmen Station
    • Famous for Traditional Beijing Snacks
Dongcheng Districts
Dongcheng Districts
  • Best preserved Hutongs
    • Dongcheng Districts
    • Xicheng District

One thought on “EP002: Beijing – Free 72 hrs VISA Free, Great Wall at No Cost, Common Scams

  1. What are my options if my final destination is Philippines? Coming from Los Angeles we have a 14 hour lay-over. Land at 8am and fly out at 10pm the same day. Would I have to pay for a visa and would I have to apply for it here in the U.S.? Our thoughts were to have a long lay-over in Beijing so we can see the city. My flight is in 9 days.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *