Beijing, the heart of China, is a historical and modern city that is the epitome of technology. The city is always changing, making it challenging for visitors to know what to expect when they visit the city. Even if you have visited Beijing before, you will always find many changes that took place while you were away. Modern skyscrapers spring up within no time, changing the whole outlook of the city. Generally, it is a city of constant changes and contrasts.
If you are a first-time visitor, it is easy to get overwhelmed once you arrive there with so much to take. The good part is that you can always learn about the basics before your Cathay Pacific plane lands in the big city. Luxury cars will be sharing the streets with you, so be prepared for the best experience. Beijing locals are friendly and welcoming, and I bet it will be easier for you to adjust. Here is what to expect once you get to Beijing.
There is superb public transport.
You need to know how to move around when you get to Beijing, and surprisingly it easy to move from one point to another since they have an excellent transport system. The subway system is the most popular and the busiest, with around 10million people using it every weekday. It is easy to use if you can handle the crowds, and ticket machines and station announcements are Chinese and English. There are various stops, including tourist areas such as Tiananmen Square and Summer Palace, and airport stops. It gets packed during rush hours, which is usually part of the experience of using it. Although not as much as a couple of years back, Beijing is also a cycling city, so you can rent a bike and feel the land as you beat the traffic.
Digital payment is everywhere.
You will quickly realize that digital payments ate the norm of the day in Beijing, so do not be surprised when your taxi driver refuses your yen note for lack of change. Digital payments are versatile, and cash payments have become rare around the city. The most popular digital payment methods are WeChat Pay and Alipay. Tourists use WeChat Pay. You download the app on your mobile phone and link the WeChat wallet to your bank account. You can also swipe your card at any facility since international credit and debit cards are highly accepted. Also, cash withdrawals are easy since ATMs are everywhere.
Beijing locals are friendly.
You will strike a conversation quickly with a local in Beijing, especially if you know a few Mandarin language phrases. Many of them have an outgoing and honest nature, and their love for conversation is always evident. They can be loud and proud given the city’s social standing in China, but when you strike a conversation with one of them, you will quickly learn about the city than you would ever learn from a guide. Beijing taxi drivers are knowledgeable about the different activities in the city, are curious and opinionated, and will willingly tell you everything you need to know about the city. By learning a few Chinese and mandarin words, you will quickly win their attention.
Take care of your health.
Air pollution is usually high in Beijing, but you may be lucky to visit during good weather when the levels have died down. Expect heavier breaths, stinging eyes, and smoky photos. You can avoid air pollution by wearing a mask, carrying your antihistamine medication or inhaler if you have any underlying lung condition. Besides that, in blue sky seasons, Beijing is one of the most beautiful cities globally.
Close standing and staring are usual.
In a queue, the person behind or next to you may stand so close, pressing up against you. That is normal in Beijing, and do not feel offended. You may feel weird, but it’s done, so you can only endure it. Plus, expect some stares here and there because they will know you are a tourist, but it is never harmless. Especially if you have outstanding features such as blonde hair, tallness, they will just be staring and talking, but it’s normal.
Don’t starve yourself waiting for all the food to arrive.
When you order a full course meal, do not expect it to arrive all at once. Once they are ready, the dishes come out, so you may not get all your food plates at once. But do not starve yourself waiting. Start eating what is there as you await the other dishes to get ready since it may take a while before showing up at your table.
Know a few mandarin words
Mandarin can be hard to speak for a foreigner, but you can always master some essential words to make your stay in the city exciting. Expect to get a big smile when you try to pronounce a word, but it will sure get things done. If you can’t pronounce, screenshot a few phrases on your phone and know the right word in English. When you encounter a local who doesn’t understand English, you will communicate with them.
Hutongs are the best place to be in
If you would be happy to experience the authentic feel of the city, visit the Hutongs. It is a place that defines the city and immerses you into the local life of the Chinese, and there are many rooms to rent for your stay. Do not miss the secluded Baochao Hutong, enjoy eating at the restaurants, sip tea at the tea houses, and explore several shops. There is a nearby Houhai lake where you can relax and grab some street food as you embark on your hotel room.
Carry your toilet paper
Public restrooms are available everywhere around Beijing. Some are even ranked four-star by the government following its ‘toilet revolution’ launch to provide clean and healthy public lavatories for people n the city. However, toilet paper is limited due to widespread use, so it would be best to carry your own—also, expect squat toilets in the public restrooms.
The final words
It is impossible to exhaust everything about Beijing in a single guide, but at least you have some tips on what to expect once you arrive in the big city.