Beijing 3 Day Tour {travel}

I initially had no Mandarin speaking skills, I’d never been to China & I was going solo. So I thought, why not book a tour and have someone guide me?! And there I did some research and sent out some emails, which then led me to decide on ‘Lead to China‘. The girl I dealt with, Alice was really helpful and organised an itinerary according to my needs based on the number of days I was staying in Beijing. It worked out to be approximately $500 AUD for 3 days which was alright. It’s actually a lot cheaper per person if you go in a group than solo. So to say, it’s more expensive when you go alone and if you choose the tour with no shops, it’s also more expensive. I just thought why not, 2 shops wouldn’t hurt. The cost didn’t really matter to me because this cost covered accommodation at the hotel for the duration of the tour, airport pickup, tour attractions entrance fees, lunch & my train ticket from Beijing to Xi’an. (I advised Alice that I was going to volunteer in Xi’an for 2 weeks so needed to be in Xi’an by the Sunday 4th May, hence why this train ticket was booked)

So my 3 day tour itinerary was as planned:

Day 01
– Pick up service by your tour guide and driver in the morning.
– First visit the Temple of Heaven, the largest building complex for worshiping the God of Heaven in the world. (90 minutes)
– Afterwards, visit the Forbidden City, the largest imperial palace complex in the world. (2 hours)
– Have lunch at local restaurant.
– After lunch, visit Summer Palace, the largest, most beautiful and exquisite imperial garden in the world. (90 minutes)
– 2 typical featured shopping stores included during today’s tour. (40 minutes for each one)
– When tour is over, you will be transferred back to your hotel by tour guide and driver, free on your own at the rest of the day.

Day 02
– Pick up service by your tour guide and driver in the morning.
– First visit Badaling Great Wall, which is the best preserved section of the Great Wall. Climb up the Great Wall, well-known for the longest defense wall in the world. What a great experience! You will become “a true man, heroes and heroines on the Great Wall” as the old Chinese saying goes. (Cable Car is optional). (2 hours)
– Have lunch at Jade Art Restaurant.
– After lunch, visit Ming Tombs – Changling, the mausoleum of Emperor Yongle who was the third emperor of the Ming Dynasty.  He was the most famous historical figure among the Ming Emperors. (1 hour)
– 2 typical featured shopping stores included during today’s tour. (40 minutes for each one)
– When tour is over, you will be transferred back to your hotel by tour guide and driver, free on your own at the rest of the day.

Day 03
– Pick up service by your tour guide and driver in the morning.
– Beijing Hutong Rickshaw Sightseeing. Sitting in a rickshaw, the means of transport in the Qing Dynasty, you can see the ancient Beijing lanes and quadrangle houses that have been preserved for 700 years. (90 minutes)
– After lunch, visit Yonhegong Tibetan Lama Temple, which has been active since it was converted to Buddhism temple from the residence of the crown price Yinzhen who later became Emperor Yong Zheng, the third emperor of the Qing Dynasty. (1 hour)
– Then go sightseeing for Panda Garden to see lovable pandas, the national treasure of China and the symbol of friendship in the beautiful garden. (30 minutes)
– 2 typical featured shopping stores included during today’s tour. (40 minutes for each one)
– When tour is over, you will be transferred to Beijing West Railway Station to take an overnight train to Xian. Stay overnight in soft sleeper train. (soft sleeper train Z19 with 4-berth in a private cabin)


So for my 1st & 3rd day, I had the same tour guide and on the 2nd I had a different one.

My tour guide for the 1st and 3rd day was a girl who was really friendly and nice. Her English to be honest wasn’t great and a lot of the times was hard to understand so when it came to listening on the history of the attraction site, it was rather difficult but I commend the tour guide for making a good effort. The tour guide on the 2nd day was just a disappointment and is probably one of the main reasons why I wouldn’t choose this tour again. To be honest, I’m really not a tour person because I like to take heaps of photos and enjoy the scenery, but obviously no tour can cater for such time spent on this interest! Now that I know Beijing isn’t hard to get around, I’ll definitely not go with a tour ever again.

So referring to the itinerary above for Day 2, we were meant to start off on Ming tombs, visit a shop, go have lunch, visit the Great Wall and then visit the last shop and then go back to our own hotels. Unfortunately, Lead to China forgot to consider the fact that that day was a public holiday- Labour Day. There was just so much traffic so we didn’t get to our first destination till about 11, and we left our hotels at about 8am! Traffic in Beijing is really terrible. Another tourist in the group and I were dead set on trekking the Great Wall but our tour guide was really persistent on getting us to take the Cable Car. But as tourists who have paid quite a bit for this tour, I didn’t give in. He wasn’t happy and made a fuss about all this crap that to enjoy the Great Wall, you would take the Cable Car to the top and then just walk a bit on the Wall. My only thought was like what really?! A bit of the Wall… alright. He even mentioned that it’s not an exercise to walk the Great Wall and I just didn’t understand why this guy was our tour guide. Another thing, he was really inconsiderate. It actually started to pour and so that made us decide we had to take the cable car but tickets were sold out. He was like, ok let me take you to entrance to walk. But we were thinking, how? It’s pouring! He just shrugged and said, ‘So? You don’t do it you can’t come back tomorrow you know’  I just told him how inconsiderate he was! Luckily the stores were selling ponchos so we wore those and started trekking. I was honestly praying so hard for the rain to stop. Luckily the sky cleared and it was great! Still windy but a lot clearer.

What I also realised was that the tour was really tight on schedule. I think the tour organisation really needs to try to plan the times more accordingly and use past experiences from the tour to determine how long it takes to visit each attraction. We felt really rushed and I also heard the tour company calling the tour guides and checking where we were at- making sure they were sticking to the schedules. Most of the time they didn’t, and that’s only because us tourists had to take our time and capture the whole attraction so it was difficult. Pretty much a lot of conflicting interests. I think the tour organisation needs to reevaluate what they do and what the itineraries should be like. And perhaps train their staff to improve in their English speaking skills and provide them with better working conditions so they can always be happy and look like they actually really enjoy their jobs!

Another note, the restaurants they take you to aren’t any great except for the local places. The Hutong is a really good example. In this district, we ate at a local house and the home made cooking was delicious and very authentic. I honestly have to say, restaurant food isn’t restaurant food at all!  One thing I learnt in China about food is that if the restaurant looks dodgy, it’s not bad food! It’ll be better than you expect.

If you start to feel hungry walking around the streets and seeing all the good food around you, feel free to try it. But only eat food where they cook it right in front of you rather than those left there. With water, drink plenty of bottled water- you could get huge 1.5L bottles for only 3 RMB (which is around 50cents AUD)!

As for accommodation, you can’t expect much. I stayed at Days Inn Joiest Beijing which is a 3 star but a 3 star in Beijing is like a 2 star in Australia. I’ve written about this hotel in my previous post but will mention again, it isn’t a great hotel. It’s stuffy and very humid in the room and the airconditioner didn’t work. A tip for you readers planning on booking a tour, choose your own hotel. Don’t go along with the accommodation the tour company books for you because it won’t be great.

Overall, I got to see the main attractions in Beijing thanks to this tour. But I can’t say I got to sit and enjoy the view so hopefully if I have the chance to visit again, I’ll enjoy myself without joining a tour. If you’re keen on doing Beijing alone without a tour, I’d say go for it! Just make sure you do have a Mandarin speaking guide- just in case!


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