14 Things You Should Know Before Visiting the Great Wall of China

Visiting the Great Wall for the First Time? Here Are Some Tips You Must Know!

Great Wall sunset
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What do you need to know before you visit the Great Wall? Well… a lot! Before you set out on your fantasy trip, read this quick and handy guide to ensure you have the best Great Wall trip! And keep these 14 tips in mind to make your Great Wall tour easier when you get there!

1. Visit The Great Wall On A Weekday To Avoid Crowds

On the weekends, tourists and locals alike understandably flood the Great Wall for a retreat so try to go on a weekday to have the Wall as uncrowded as possible. Also, avoid traveling during any Chinese public holidays if at all possible, especially Labor Day (May 1), National Day (October 1), and Chinese New Year (January or February).

2. Your Passport Isn’t Necessary To Enter The Great Wall

It isn’t necessary to show your passport when buying tickets to visit the Great Wall. Generally, as a tourist, you are not checked in the tourist attractions in the city. One of the exceptions to this is that if you’re planning to visit the Forbidden City, it will require you to present a passport before issuing a ticket.

There are other attractions also require visitors to show passports for entry. These include the Military Museum, the Capitol Museum, the National Museum, the Great Hall of the People, and the Mao mausoleum. A word to the wise: it is best to carry your passport with you in the city if you’re asked for it. But it is not necessary for the sole purpose of visiting the Great Wall.

3. Expect Long Travel Times To The Great Wall

Be prepared for lots of long hours spent in transportation, due to possible traffic in the city.

Jinshanling Great Wall
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4. Three Ways To Travel To The Great Wall: By Train, By Bus, Or Pre-book A Car.

Several trains are available for going to Badaling daily from Beijing Huangtudian Railway Station. It takes approx. 1.5 hours to travel to Badaling by train.

Bus numbers 877 and 978 also go to Badaling, and they’ll get you there in less than 2 hours. Take exit A from Jishuitan subway station; Deshengmen Arrow Tower will be on your left. Both buses (877 or 879 left exactly behind the tower.

To get to Mutianyu, you can take bus line 916 Express from Dongzhimen Bus Station and get off at Huairou North Avenue (Huairou Beidajie) Station. There, transfer to bus lines h23, h24, h35, or h36 to Mutianyu Roundabout. Finally, walk about 500 meters to the ticket office in the scenic area.

It’s very easy to pre-book a car and driver to take you to the Wall. Usually, it takes about 1.5 hours to reach Badaling or Mutianyu from downtown. This is a hassle-free and convenient way to see the Wall without crowds. The one challenge is that drivers speak little English, so make sure that you and the driver both understand the pickup time and the place before you leave.

5. Public Transportation Is More Difficult Than You Might Think

Public transport is an excellent choice for budget travelers. Going this way would add to the sense of adventure (subway plus bus). If it works out for them, it can be, but the reality is that it’s much more difficult than you might think. You need to change stations and find bus stops, go over, read the signs, and take a couple of minutes to digest where you are. Usually, getting a private driver or tour is far easier.

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6. It’s Worth Getting There Early – Just Be Prepared To Walk

Leave your hotel at around 7:30 am, and you will get to the Wall by 9 am. This is the prime time to get a serene feel for the site. By 10 am, Badaling will be crowded; you can hardly walk through some places. Getting to Mutianyu early in the morning, you will enjoy the best walk, with the perfect opportunity to ride a cable car or chairlift for the shortest trip up the Wall.

7. Badaling Is Very Crowded

Because this is one of the most popular tourist areas, about 3/4 of all visitors to the Wall are here. You might consider Mutianyu or Jinshanling. Mutianyu is much quieter and easier to walk in than Badaling. You’re likely to find these areas more relaxing and have fewer tourists.

8. Some Parts Of The Wall Are Very Steep

There are parts of the Wall that are nearly vertical. It’s essential to plan your trip to the Wall and to understand how able and willing you are to hike. The easiest area to walk is Mutianyu because it is fully restored. However, the area between towers 19 and 20 of Mutianyu is steep and has approx. 450 steps. If you find climbing steep steps exciting, you will enjoy this part of the Wall.

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9. Wear Comfortable Shoes

Most important is a good pair of hiking boots or walking shoes. Tennis shoes are an option and can be worn for hiking the Great Wall; however, they may not be your most effective and safe choice due to the vertical steps, rugged terrain, or broken towers on the Wall.

10. Hiking The Great Wall Is Not Tough

Hiking Jinshanling or Jiankou to Mutianyu is not challenging. The difficulty of the hike is moderate, with some elevation changes. This hike is suitable for all age groups with average fitness. Children under ten to senior citizens have successfully hiked from Jinshanling or Jiankou towards Mutianyu.

Jinshanling remains wild, ruined, and preserved—offering a moderate-challenging hike. Jiankou is much more wild and isolated compared with Jinshanling. Depending on your fitness level, it would help if you were comfortable walking for 3 -5 hours on the Wall.

11. There Are No Restrooms Beyond The Main Entrance

You’ll find restrooms just outside the gate before you get on the Wall. Be sure to use it before you enter or wait until you’re on your way out.

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12. Not A Hiker? No Problem, You Can Visit Mutianyu Instead

Mutianyu is good alternative for Badaling. Mutianyu attracts visitors because it has convenient facilities, including cable cars, chairlifts, and toboggan. With the easier walking conditions and fewer crowds, Mutianyu is much more enjoyable to walk in than Badaling.

13. Many Options For Day-Trip

From private car trips to group bus tours, guided hiking tours, and self-guided hikes, there are many day-trip options to choose from, depending on your interests, the amount of time at your disposal, budget, and preferred mode of transport.

Booking a car is easy and convenient but a little bit more expensive than a bus, which is thrifty but more complicated.

14. Simatai Is The Good Option To Enjoy Night View

At night Simatai is well lit, and the view is breathtaking. You can enjoy the walk from tower 1 to tower ten and return. This walk takes approximately 2 to 3 hours. There are lots of photo opportunities along the path.

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