Touring the Great Wall is the high point of any tourist’s trip to Beijing. Prior to this, I made a lot of reading on the internet on how this can be done. First thing, I realized that there is not just one Great Wall, it’s so vast that you can go through as many six entrances – each with varying degrees of distance, restoration and photogenic factor.
It was tempting to just consider one of those Great Wall hiking companies with an online presence. Unfortunately, most of them quote a price depending on the group size. Since February is still winter in China and was considered off season, a group of five can get charged from $50 to $100 per person for a tour, and that’s pretty steep.
Soon you’ll find out that there’s no need to panic since there are a lot of companies offering competitive prices to tour the Great Wall. There are even people distributing flyers for the tours in major thoroughfares. Almost all Beijing hotels also offer the hiking tours, at prices lower than those offered in the internet.
In my case, I ended up doing it the DIY (do-it-yourself) way. The whole thing consisted of two subway rides and finally a private car ride to the Great Wall for our group of five persons. We tried riding Bus 919 (upon alighting at the Jishuitan metro station) but the bus wouldn’t go if we weren’t a group of 45 people!
Rather than wait the whole morning for the bus fill up, we took the bait of one who offered a car to take us to Great Wall Badaling entrance for 200 RMB one way (about $31). This driver waited for us until we got back from the hike two and a half hours later.
Badaling is considered the most “touristy” entrance among the parts of the Great Wall, but I didn’t mind. It was a good enough Great Wall introduction for a beginner. What I did mind though the chilly weather! The sun was out, but the freezing temperatures made me climb less. After a little more than one hour, I was back sipping hot coffee at the main station to shoo the cold away.
Pared down to the basics, my DIY Great Wall tour only cost me 152 RMB (about $20). However, this doesn’t include the cost for buying gloves and ear muffs (it was simply too cold out there), plus souvenirs. I only bought the souvenirs (Mao caps) because I didn’t know any better. You’re really better off buying it in Beijing city where the goods are cheap.
The background is missing here, but you know what I mean? “I climbed the Great Wall!!!” 😀