10 Things To Avoid When Traveling To Beijing

Beijing, like many other cities throughout the world, has plenty of hiccups that could put a damper on your trip. Give these a read to ensure you don’t waste any time while visiting Beijing.

1. Stick with Beer in a Bar Around Houhai

beer on a table

The bars in Houhai, much like in Sanlitun, are overpriced, and some are not very good. In fact, much of the alcohol on offer here is fake (for example the vodka), so beer is a safer bet if you do end up in one of these bars.

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If you are going to drink by the lake, it is best to steer off into a side street, find a local restaurant, and get a local Yangjing beer. For one-tenth of the price, you’ll get about three times the amount of beer.

2. Stay Away From Politically Sensitive Subjects

The best way to avoid trouble is to stay away from politically sensitive subjects. This is extremely important to remember when talking to the police or other government officials or when visiting controversial attractions like Tian’anmen Square. It is also recommended to stay off these topics at other high-security areas like train stations and airports. Avoid criticizing China in public, even with your local tour guides and everyday people you meet on the streets, as Beijingers are proud of the capital and their country.

3. Don’t Trust Your Weather App



The weather in Beijing can be surprisingly unpredictable. A shower can strike at any time, especially during the long and hot summers. These showers can turn into days of rain, and in parts of the city where the drainage system isn’t very good, can even cause flooding. It is wise to always carry an umbrella regardless of what your trusty weather app tells you. You never know, and you don’t want to be caught by surprise.

4. Beware of the Food on Wangfujing Snack Street



You’ve seen Andrew Zimmern and Anthony Bourdain do it, but while Wangfujing snack street is definitely worth the visit for the mandatory “look I’m eating an (insert weird insect) on a stick” photo, it is also a breeding ground for food poisoning and not-so-authentic Chinese snacks. Scorpions on a stick aren’t really what Chinese people eat unless they’re not from Beijing and on vacation here.

You’d be much better off trying genuine Beijing street snacks sold off carts by the side of the street throughout the entire city. You shouldn’t have to look too hard as they tend to be around all the tourist destinations.

5. Avoid the Subway During Rush Hour


Taking the subway during rush hour in one of the world’s largest cities is not fun at all so best to stay away from it. Far, far away. If you don’t need to ride the subway at this time, then why subject yourself to the unyielding crowds. If you’re not used to the minimal personal space, then the big exchange stations can be a huge uncomfortable gridlock.

6. Never Take an Illegal Taxi


Never, and I mean never, get into a taxi unless it is a real registered taxi with a meter. Illegal taxis will, at best case scenario, rip you off and even worse, because many illegal taxi drivers operate within gangs, they are very dangerous.

The same rules apply to train stations and the airport, even if you’re in the line for a real taxi. Sometimes the ground staff in these stations are in cahoots with the drivers and will try to persuade you to take a non-registered taxi. Be vigilant and don’t let them bully you and wait. It’s better to wait in line for a few more minutes for a genuine taxi to come along than to end up in an uncomfortable situation.

7. Carry Your Own Toilet Paper

This one may seem weird to some of you, but the fact is barely any bathrooms in Beijing supply toilet paper. There are a few high-end hotels and restaurants that cater to tourists that will have toilet paper, but generally, it’s better to be safe and carry toilet paper everywhere. It is no fun to get caught in the bathroom without toilet paper.

8. Stick to Chinese Food (unless you know where to go)


It is not easy to find a restaurant that serves up good Western food so stick to Chinese food when eating in Beijing. Ordering a pasta or pizza dish at the wrong restaurant can leave you with a bad case of food poisoning or best case scenario, just plain hungry. If you are randomly choosing while on the road, pick a restaurant that looks busy for the best results. Alternatively, check this list of the best Western restaurants in town, if your really craving for something from home.

9. Avoid Beijing Landmarks on National Holidays

great wall of china

The Badaling Great Wall is always full people during national holidays. Beijing tends to get overrun during national holidays, especially with tour groups coming from the countryside. Planning a visit to popular sights like the Forbidden City or Badaling during the holidays will be highly stressful and absolutely no fun at all. Best thing to do is to avoid national holidays when planning your trip.

10. Don’t Forget to Bargain

asian merchant

Lastly, don’t forget that when shopping at markets throughout the city, the quoted prices aren’t the final prices. So make sure you bargain. Sometimes you can get the price down to about a quarter of the quoted price!

Touring China for the First Time

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Lesley Daunt

Lesley Daunt is a travel writer that has written for numerous newspapers and magazines, including The Huffington Post, Examiner, Digital Journal and more.
Lesley Daunt