Jurg Ott 8 February 2009
Beijing, China 100022
for Visitors of Beijing
Here I write down personal observations that may be
useful to visitors of Beijing as this information may not easily be
found in the many guidebooks.
- Of the 8370 restaurants
in Beijing (quoted on CCTV9, 14 June 2006), my favorites are as follows:
Hotel, restaurant on ground floor. Excellent service and food,
spacious and elegant hall, surprisingly low cost given the high
standards. The hotel is
located west of the Xidan subway station, on
the north side of Chang'an street (at that location, Chang'an street
has become Fuxingmennei street). Tel 6601 4466.
restaurant, good food from Guizhou province, rustic spacious place. I
particularly like their fish, a common type but prepared in an unusual
and most delicious manner. Tel 8454 5539, 8454 5538. The restaurant is
located close to the northern end station of bus no. 3, at no. 26
Tianze Road, northeast of the Kempinski hotel (Lufthansa shopping
center). See map in red.
- Peach Island
restaurant, located inside the shopping mall ("Oriental Plaza") at
Wangfujing subway station, delicious southern Chinese food, unusual
choices. See card below.
- A chain of five Mongolian restaurants that serve excellent
lamb. My favorite is the one on Xi Cui Lu (西翠路) west of Fuxingmen,
the last on the list below. In addition to tender meat they also serve
unusual dishes that I have not seen elsewhere.
- The Dadong Roast Duck restaurant (East Third Ring Road) serves
delicious Peking Duck and other means, also accepts American Express.
Reservations are highly recommended.
- There is no tipping
in China. If you do want to give a small amount, for example, to a
worker in a public toilet at an airport, don't be excessive. ¥5 to
¥10 is a good tip (¥7 = US$1).
quickest way to get around is by subway.
The fare is ¥2
per ride. All station names (and most street names) are in
Chinese and English. Each subway station lists the name of the station
coming up next in a given direction, so it is easy to recognize the
correct direction of the train. Be aware that subway trains tend to be
crowded, particularly at rush hour.
- Buses may be a little
more difficult to use because the conductor may ask you where
you want to go. The fare is low, around ¥0.4 and higher depending on
and there are many buses throughout the city but you have to know where
they go. It is easiest to carry an electronic bus/subway card --
generally no need to tell the bus conductor where you want to go. You
the card to the card reader. On some buses and in all subways, you need
to do this twice,
at the beginning and at the end of your trip because the fare depends
on distance travelled, but some bus lines (and the subway) have only
one fare irrespective of distance.
- Taxi drivers generally
don't speak English. It is best
to ask a Chinese
person to write on a card
in Chinese where you want to go. I carry various such cards, for
example, for the airport and my own home. At the end of the ride, you
pay the exact fare shown on the meter. Taxi drivers know that
foreigners are used to tipping, so they sometimes need to be reminded
to give you change. It is best to carry a sufficient amount of small
bills. Fares are low and start at ¥10. For
example, a taxi ride from Beijing center to Capital airport costs close
to ¥100. In my experience, taxi drivers usually are
honest and don't make unnecessary detours, although this has
clearly favors cars -- be very
careful when crossing the
street. A green light does not mean pedestrians have the right of way,
at least not in practice. Also, at the time of this writing (May 2006),
automobile accident insurance is not mandatory. Country-wide only
about 1/3 of automobiles carry insurance.
- At many markets and some stores, it is customary
to bargain for the best price.
A visitor may not be successful in this activity. To avoid excessive
prices at such places without bargaining, it is preferable to shop at
supermarkets and other stores, where there is no bargaining.
- Foreign credit
cards are accepted at major hotels
and in a few stores. Many stores, however, accept only credit cards
issued by a Chinese bank. When foreign credit cards are accepted, this
is a suitable way of paying for goods. For example, my MasterCard from
New York charges the official exchange rate plus 1% of the amount
spent, which appears reasonable.
- Beijing is a rather safe
city, at least in terms of
violent crime, but theft is not uncommon. Also, Western tourists are
targets for scams. For example, young people may start talking to you
saying they would like to practice their English. Sooner or later,
however, they may steer you to a place where you can buy art (and then
presumably get a certain percentage of the sales proceeds) or to an
innocent looking bar, where the unwary may order a small dish and be
hit with an outragious bill. Fortunately, for Western standards, the
sums involved are generally modest.
- In larger shopping areas such a Wangfujing (a stop
of the #1 subway line) you will find most things you are used to
abroad. However, dental floss
is difficult to find. So, stock up on it before coming to China.
- If you are planning on buying appliances such as a
TV set, printer, and so, you'll get some good quality Chinese items at
low prices. However, many of the instruction
manuals are available only in Chinese, which can be a major
problem. So, be aware of this and perhaps buy only those items that
come with an English manual or for which you can download a manual in
English, but various models are made only for the Chinese market, so an
online manual may not be available.