Advance Planning

Three months before Check your vaccinations are up to date. Sort out your visa. Start learning some Mandarin phrases.

One month before Decide which neighbourhood to base yourself in. Scout around for hotel deals. Look into possible tours and courses.

One week before Book your accommodation, tours and courses. Consider possible day trips.

Resources

  • Beijinger (www.thebeijinger.com) Eating and entertainment listings, blog posts and forums.
  • Timeout Běijīng (www.timeoutbeijing.com) The best listings mag and a useful, well-designed website.
  • Sinica Podcast (http://popupchinese.com) Popular, uncensored current-affairs podcast based in Běijīng.
  • Air Pollution (http://aqicn.org/city/beijing) Real-time Air Quality Index (AQI) for Běijīng (and other cities).
  • Běijīng Cultural Heritage Protection Center (www.bjchp.org) Info on protecting Běijīng’s hútòng (alleyways).
  • Lonely Planet (www.lonelyplanet.com/china/beijing) Destination information, hotel bookings, traveller forum and more.

Top Tips

  • Learn as much Chinese (Mandarin) as you can before you come.
  • Rent a bike. Běijīng is as flat as a mah-jong table and a great city to explore on two wheels.
  • Have the name and address of wherever you're going each day written down in Chinese characters before you go out. And always bring your hotel business card with you, so you can find your way home.
  • Try as wide a variety of Chinese food as you can. Běijīng has every culinary base covered, from Peking duck to spicy Sìchuānese, so grab some chopsticks and tuck in. Oh, and don't listen to anyone who tells you to avoid the street food – terrible advice.

What to Take

  • Phrasebook and/or Chinese dictionary
  • Skin moisturiser (Běijīng can be incredibly dry)
  • Smog mask
  • Sun hat and sun cream in summer
  • Woollies in winter
  • Shoes with good grip for Great Wall hikes
  • Small rucksack for day trips

What to Wear

Jeans and shirt or T-shirt are fine for much of the year. Shorts are OK in summer. It gets very hot in midsummer, so don't forget a sun hat (as well as sun cream and mosquito repellent) and a lightweight raincoat for sudden downpours. Winter is a different ball game. Wear plenty of layers: thermal underwear, thick shirt, jumper, gloves, woollie hat and a decent jacket or coat – plus thick-soled shoes or boots. At any time of year, you'll need shoes with good grip for Great Wall hiking.

Pre-departure Checklist

  • Secure your visa
  • Make hotel bookings
  • Have the name and address of your hotel printed out in Chinese characters
  • Put your name down for any classes or courses
  • Check your mobile phone is unlocked, so that you can use a local SIM card
  • Tell your bank you'll be using your cards in China