Why is the journey from Beijing to the Great Wall such a Great Haul for Beijing cabbies? They don’t want to touch you, they don’t want to smell you, and they don’t even want to speak to you. But they do want your money.
Beijing Capital International Airport is the site of many a stopover for tourists heading out of the country later the same day or the following morning. Now that China has relaxed its visa laws (most nationalities can now get 72 hours visa-free in most large cities, including Beijing), you will probably want to leave Terminal 3 (or worse, Terminal 2!) and head for the nearest section of the Great Wall of China, which is at Badaling. From the airport, you can hire a taxi for around 300 Yuan (one way) to get you to Badaling, but remember that taxi drivers in Beijing generally don’t use their meter for “out of town” tourist spots like the Great Wall (or the Summer Palace), so you need to negotiate a price before you get in the taxi. Incidentally, from the airport to downtown Beijing (Tiananmen Square or Wangfujing), it should cost around 200 Yuan by the meter. By my reckoning, this is nearly twice as expensive as a similar journey in Singapore or Kuala Lumpur, so why do we get charged so much in Beijing?
In addition to the taxis, tour buses to the Badaling section of the wall from downtown Beijing (40 miles distance) can cost anything from $70USD to $100USD per person, which may sound like a lot, but for a return journey from Beijing in a comfortable bus, no hassle in finding your own transport, and safety and security in mind, then it is actually a good deal. Your hotel may even offer tours to the Great Wall (Badaling) for cheaper, so it’s best to enquire when you check in. Private cars, with driver who will wait for you until you’re finished at the Wall, can cost around $80 (500 Yuan), so it’s is almost the same as the bus but with a bit more privacy included with your own car. I have come to the conclusion that Beijing cabbies know that people who are using taxis in their city are quite affluent and well-off, so why not just charge them extortionate prices anyway? It’s not like they can’t afford it!
Just like a gigantic dragon, the Great Wall of China winds its way up and down across desert, grasslands, mountains, and plateaus, stretching approximately 13,000 miles from east to west. With a history of more than 2,000 years, to some people it is still one of the most appealing attractions in the world owing to its architectural grandeur and historical significance. There are many sections of the Great Wall worth visiting, including the closest to Beijing, Badaling, as well as Mutianyu, Juyongguan, Simatai, and Jinshanling – just be prepared to share the Wall with thousands of other tourists!
For a first time visitor, and for a daytripper from the airport, Badaling will satisfy all of your needs, despite the inevitable crowds. Just make sure you don’t get ripped off by the taxi drivers on the journey!