What to do in Beijing?
November 16, 2010 5:41 PM   Subscribe

I have 8 hours in Beijing. What should I do?

In about a week and a half, I'll be heading out to Nepal for a short trip. During that trip, I have an 8 hour layover in Beijing. My flight arrives at 5:40am, and I leave at 1:45pm. That leaves a few hours in the mid to late morning range to do.....something. I'd rather not stay at the airport for that time. What would you do with this much time? Without knowing much, other than having a basic idea about my ability to spend a bit of time in Beijing as I am connecting through, I figured I might catch a taxi to Tiananmen Square, or something like that.

Thougths? Ideas? Suggestions? If you have experience on a similar trip, and can give me a sense of how long it will take me to exit the airport, and how long it will take me to get back in, that would be great. All hints and tips are welcome!

Thanks in advance....

posted by xorowo to Travel & Transportation around Beijing, China (10 answers total)
Peking Duck. So delicious!
posted by meta87 at 5:52 PM on November 16, 2010

Tiananmen and the Forbidden City are side by side, so it might make sense to do both of those. There's not all that much to Tiananmen, but you may want to say you've seen it.
posted by backwards guitar at 5:58 PM on November 16, 2010

Do you have a visa? If you're American I think you need a visa to enter China.
posted by ch1x0r at 6:10 PM on November 16, 2010

I (American) went to China in 2008 and needed an (expensive) visa to enter the country. According to this site it sounds like you would need to do the same even to leave the airport for a short time.

Obviously, if not American, you will have to see what China's rules are for your country.
posted by nakedmolerats at 6:24 PM on November 16, 2010

don't plan on taking a taxi anywhere in beijing without planning A LOT of extra time around the trip -- traffic there can be horrendous. you can definitely take the subway from the international airport into the more touristy areas of the city, but that also takes a long time (it took us AT LEAST an hour) you have to use a special line that requires a special ticket.

if you do decide to leave the airport and want to go somewhere close, one of the most interesting things i did in china was walk around a semi-slum area near the Sino-Swiss hotel (a fancy airport hotel). the hotel has a free shuttle back and forth from the airport (i think you could get on it if you aren't staying there). there area was definitely an interesting snapshot of how a lot of chinese people live.
posted by nanhey at 8:07 PM on November 16, 2010

Best answer: There's a new rail link direct from the airport to Dongzhimen downtown where it links with the subway system. Not actually taken it myself yet (tend to leave the country by train rather than plane these days) but seems first train is 6.00am so would suit your timing. If you made a dash for Tiananmen Square (would involve changing trains on the subway) you could make like a Chinese out-of-town visitor and watch the flag raising ceremony which they do every day at sunrise - just gone 7.00am at the moment, then have a wander about and look at the Meridian Gate or some of the museums. Time might be tight but the airport shuttle is fast so if you get one of the first trains might make it. Even if military pomp isn't your thing watching the crowd watching a symbol of their fast-changing nation is interesting.
posted by Abiezer at 8:57 PM on November 16, 2010

Seconding Abiezer on the shuttle -- but yes; make sure you have a visa, or else you're not going to be going anywhere. A transit visa doesn't (I think) entitle you to go out into the city, but check on that -- I could be wrong. If you do manage to get the right kind of visa, I'd say to allow about 30 minutes to 45 minutes (depending on how busy it is) to clear immigration and get your bags and all that, and then another 30 to 45 minutes to get to the Dongzhimen terminus of the airport line. If you want to take the subway to Tian'anmen Square, it'll be about 10 minutes (Dongzhimen to Jianguomen) and then another 10 minutes (Jianguomen to Tian'anmen East). Expect the second half of that journey to be very crowded -- Line 1 is jammers at basically all times.
posted by bokane at 11:17 PM on November 16, 2010

I suppose if you get into Dongzhimen early enough (say 7am or so) you could come up from the subway there and take a cab, as the traffic wouldn't be too bad at that time.
posted by Abiezer at 12:20 AM on November 17, 2010

First train from the Airport is 6:20am. It is 30m mins to Dongzhimen, and then about another 30 mins around to Tiananmen Square/ Forbidden City. The best metro map is here. You will not be popular at rush hour with a case, but that is the same all over the world.
posted by priorpark17 at 7:35 AM on November 17, 2010

Response by poster: As far as the visa goes, I am seeing a bit of mixed information. The most detailed was here. If this is accurate (and I have seen a few other places that this was mentioned), then I'll try this angle to get out for a few hours from the airport. If I am there and it is clear that this is not possible, I will wait patiently in the hotel.

I appreciate the information about the shuttle and the subway. That helps a ton!
posted by xorowo at 9:11 AM on November 17, 2010

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