Beijing/Great Wall- Port Guide
Where is the ship/how to get to the sights?
Winter Oct-Feb cold 5-10 degrees Celsius, with snow possible Nov-Feb. Spring: Mar-May 10-16 degrees. Summer: 16-30 degrees. Rain possible year round.
Sights & Sites
- The Great Wall of China – This is one of the seven wonders of the world, so large it can be seen from outer space, and has survived centuries of history, this is surely the most important sight to visit a part of while you are in the area.
- The Forbidden City (if you have the right visas) – This is the other big must-see attraction in Beijing. If you have the correct visas (and I recommend you get them if you can) to go into the city, then come here. The historic complex is where the royal rulers of China lived and led from. Extremely well preserved, you can feel like you really stepped back into the time of the Emperors.
- Tian anmen Square – While in Beijing, the best place to people watch and get a real feel for the city, is here, in the largest public square in the world. The Chinese flag is raised every day at sunrise, and at night the square is a buzz of activity.
- The drum tower – This tower which is over 750 years old give the visitor a great view of the city, and from where you can enjoy the daily drum performances. Open 9.30-4.45om.
- Temple of Heaven Park – Ming Dynasty architecture is at its finest in this complex of temples and halls.
- Lama Temple – The beautifully decorated structure was once the Imperial Palace, is now one of the finest Tibetan Buddhist Temples outside Tibet, and definitely worth a visit, whatever your religious persuasion is.
- The Back Lakes – The lanes surrounding the Back Lakes are made up of numerous tiny, winding streets are filled with tiny temples, hole in the wall noodle shops, courtyard houses.
- Terracotta Warriors – This is obviously one of the most incredible sights to see in China, but only if you have the time/means to take an overnight tour from the Beijing port to Xi’an to marvel at the tomb.
Going out in Beijing is very tricky. Going into the city on your own is tricky. I recommend you out if you:
- Have a lot of time
- Are on a tour with the cruise line or one you organized yourself with a reputable company (check Tripadvisor for reviews) that will pick you up from outside the terminal.
- Are on the crew tour to the Great Wall
- Or if you are on a guest tour escorting the guests to any of the tours here (of which there are a lot of interesting ones if you have time).
- Or, if you have someone who speaks some Mandarin with you to negotiate your way around
- I have heard the nightlife here is very interesting, if you are feeling brave! Be aware though, that many crew members got stuck trying to come back on the ship late at night, as the customs officers in the terminal stopped working from about 1am until 6am, so if you come back on in those times, you will have to nap in the terminal until they are back on duty. Just a heads up!
- I haven’t been out into Beijing itself, so I haven’t written about it here. However, I have included information below to help you get around Beijing, which include a supbway map or Beijing, a map of Greater Beijing, 2 maps of Beijing and info on Beijing’s top sights.
China is full of souvenirs. The fact that so many items are ‘made in China’ means there are a lot of things to buy everywhere. You can buy tourist souvenirs and trinkets, as well as art, crafts, and many different things. There are market stalls in most areas in most Chinese cities, so it is easy to find things to buy as presents or for you.
If you only have two hours
What is it known for?
Beijing is known for being one of China’s largest cities, and for being the ancient seat of power in China, housing the Forbidden City, which was forbidden as the commoners weren’t allowed to go in there. You can reach and see parts of the Great Wall of China from this area.
Food & Drink
Chinese food, (or simply ‘food’ here) is a plenty everywhere. Beijing has many large restaurants where you can get set menu lunches for reasonable prices, where you sample several different dishes and courses on a large table with lazy Susan. Food is usually shared family style in China, so eating with a group is always a good way to try multiple dishes in one meal. Xiang Long Bao, dumplings filled with soup and meat (most commonly pork, but chicken and beef are available too depending on the restaurant), are one of my favorites.
Wi-Fi is available in some bars and restaurants in the city. Remember in China, Facebook, Google, and quite a few popular websites are banned. It is possible to access them through the use of a VPN. This isn’t too technically tricky to do, but it depends on how many days you are in China, and how much you’d need these sites, if it is worth the effort or not. It is worth noting that the Internet on the ship itself will remain unaffected by China’s restrictions, as the servers used are international ones and not from China itself.
I recommend exchanging money on the ship, or before in another port or at home before joining the ship if possible. You can exchange money in banks in China, and there are money exchange places available in the more touristic areas of Beijing. However, be very wary of money exchange scams, as they are quite common, even in official currency exchange vendors. People being given counterfeit bank notes or not the correct amount is sadly quite common. You will need local currency for buying anything in any market, or small business. Only larger shops, restaurants, hotels or tour companies will accept credit cards. If you need to exchange the money when in China, go into a reputable bank or hotel lobby of an international hotel, and count your money in front of the person giving you it before leaving.
Karen’s Top Tip
In Beijing, take an organized tour, either from the ship or an independent one you organize yourself, or a crew tour. It will make your trip here (especially as you have very limited time going on a ship), much easier and smoother.
My experience here
I took the crew Great Wall of China! Take the crew tour is at all possible! I never went into the city of Beijing, as I didn’t have the correct visa to go outside the port city of Tian Jin (more on that in the next guide). The Great Wall is rightly one of the seven great wonders of the world and is really one of those “this is why I do this job” sorts of days, for anyone. Even though it might take a while to get out through immigration and customs, and the roads might be busy, it is totally worth going! We did the crew tour in October 2016, and it was really great! The tour ran on both days we were in Beijing so a lot of crew was able to go on the tour.
The tour takes 9-10 hours, when I did it; this was the information for trips on the 2 days we were there:
- Cost $69 per person
- Meet at crew mess at 10am
- Tour planned to leave outside on bus by 11.15am
- 2-3pm Spend time at the Great Wall
- 3-4pm – travel to Dule Temple
- 4-5pm spend time at Dule Temple
- Come back to ship, be back by 8pm
Slightly different timings:
- 15am Depart Pier
- 1-2pm Spend time at Great Wall
- 2-3pm travel to Dule Temple
- 3-4 Spend time at Dule Temple
- Come back to ship, be back by 7pm
My tips for this are, first of all, DO IT! If you can, it is really worth seeing.
When you buy your ticket; if you want to be with particular friends, buy your tickets at the same time. You will be assigned a bus number dependent on the number of ticket you have, as in, when you bought it. So if you want to be assigned the same bus as someone, buy your tickets at the same time. It will make things easier on the day, as there is a lot to organize for this trip for the crew office and HR already, so help them make it a little easier.
Also, on this note, please show up to the tour place and time when the ticket says, to help them get everyone organized as quickly as possible. Crewmembers are terrible at being late for tours! This is inconsiderate to the people organizing this special trip for us, so please heed the timings.
I’d recommend walking up The Wall as far as you’re comfortable doing so first of all when you get there so you have time to see the lovely views from higher up, and you have time to catch your breath on the way down and take more pictures. There won’t ever be enough time at this stop as it is so amazing, it would be very easy to spend a whole day at one wall checkpoint area, but time is very limited as it is so far from the port, so use your time there wisely and see whatever you’d most like to see first.
A packed lunch is provided; ours was Subway sandwiches, so not Chinese food, but it was fine. We had a sandwich, cookie and bottle of water. It is a long day, so I’d recommend taking more water, and snacks if you like. Also, bring something to cover yourself with on the bus if you want to sleep, like a sweater, or sarong or something. It isn’t cold, but there is air conditioning and it’ll make it more comfortable.
There are souvenirs to buy on the Great Wall itself, which is nice. The T-shirts aren’t always the best quality, they cost about $3 and you get what you pay for here; only a couple of wears and washes before they turn into toddler size shirts is commonplace. The magnets and trinkets never shrink though! The market by the car park has more things to choose from, including some very nice local nuts, dried fruit, as well as more t-shirts, prints of the Great Wall and trinkets. Save yourself 5-10 minutes for shopping here if you’d like to buy souvenirs from this trip.
My Most Memorable Moment
My most memorable moment in the port for Beijing, was being on the Great Wall of China at the farthest point I walked to, looking back on the part we walked along, and taking photos of the view. It was a liberating feeling being on the actual wall, and feeling the history of it.
Sorry we didn’t record a video to this place