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

great wall sunrise
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Conquer the Great Wall: 14 Essential Tips for Your Adventure!

Are you planning a trip to the Great Wall?

Before you embark on this unforgettable adventure, there are several important factors to consider to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.

From choosing the right section to visit to understanding local customs, preparation is key for making the most of your journey.

Here are some essential tips to keep in mind:

1. Beat the Crowds: Visit the Great Wall on a Weekday

Weekends can be especially crowded at the Great Wall, as both tourists and locals flock to this popular attraction for a getaway.

To avoid the crowds, it’s best to plan your visit on a weekday.

Weekdays are typically less busy, so you’ll have more space to explore and enjoy the breathtaking views of this iconic structure.

Additionally, it’s important to be aware of Chinese public holidays, as these can also bring large crowds to the Great Wall.

In particular, Labor Day (May 1), National Day (October 1), and Chinese New Year (which falls in January or February) are peak travel periods, and the Great Wall can get incredibly crowded during these times.

If possible, it’s best to avoid traveling during these holidays and choose a less busy time of year to visit the Great Wall.

2. No Passport Needed: Enter the Great Wall Hassle-Free

When buying tickets to visit the Great Wall, you do not need to present your passport.

Generally, tourists are not required to show their passport at most tourist attractions in the city.

However, there are some exceptions. For example, if you plan to visit the Forbidden City, you will need to present your passport before purchasing a ticket.

Due to high demand, obtaining tickets for the Forbidden City has become increasingly challenging.

Forbidden City tickets are released at 8 pm each night (local time), but there is no fixed number made available.

To avoid disappointment, we strongly recommend booking Forbidden City tickets online at least 7 days in advance through third party platforms like Klook or Viator once they become accessible.

For more information on how to obtain Forbidden City tickets, please refer to the post: The Ultimate Guide to Booking Forbidden City Tickets Online.

In addition to the Forbidden City, there are other attractions that require visitors to show their passport for entry.

These include the Military Museum, the Capitol Museum, the National Museum, the Great Hall of the People, and the Mao Mausoleum.

While it is not necessary to carry your passport with you for the sole purpose of visiting the Great Wall, it’s a good idea to carry it with you in the city in case you’re asked for it at other attractions.

This way, you can ensure a hassle-free experience and avoid any potential inconvenience.

Great Wall sunset
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3. Long Travel Times: Getting to the Great Wall

Getting to the Great Wall can be a lengthy process, and it’s important to plan accordingly to avoid any potential delays or frustrations.

One of the main factors that can contribute to long travel times is traffic in the city, which can be especially heavy during peak travel seasons.

To make the most of your visit to the Great Wall, here are some tips to help you do just that:

  1. Arrive early in the morning, around 8:30-9:00am, to beat the crowds and enjoy a quieter, more peaceful experience. This can be especially important during peak travel seasons.
  2. Alternatively, consider arriving in the early afternoon, around 1:00pm, as this is when many of the crowds start to leave. This can be a good option if you prefer to sleep in or take your time in the morning.
  3. To further minimize travel time and avoid potential delays, consider booking a private tour or hiring a private driver. This can be more cost-effective if you have a group of 3-4 people, and it can save you time and hassle.

It’s also a good idea to bring some entertainment or snacks to help pass the time during your journey.

Additionally, be sure to check the weather forecast and dress accordingly, as weather conditions can affect travel times and overall comfort.

By planning ahead and taking these steps, you can ensure a smoother and more enjoyable journey to the Great Wall.

Jinshanling Great Wall
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4. Transportation Options: Train, Bus, or Pre-booked Car to the Great Wall

There are several ways to reach the Great Wall from Beijing, including trains, buses, and pre-booked cars. Here’s what you need to know about each option:

  1. Train: Several trains are available daily from Beijing Huangtudian Railway Station to Badaling, and the journey takes approximately 1.5 hours.
  2. Bus to Badaling: Bus numbers 877 and 978 also go to Badaling, and they can get you there in less than 2 hours. To reach the buses, take exit A from Jishuitan subway station and head left towards the Deshengmen Arrow Tower.
  3. Bus to Mutianyu: To reach Mutianyu, take bus line 916 Express from Dongzhimen Bus Station and get off at Huairou North Avenue (Huairou Beidajie) Station. From there, transfer to bus lines h23, h24, h35, or h36 to Mutianyu Roundabout, and then walk about 500 meters to the ticket office in the scenic area.
  4. Pre-booked car: It’s easy to pre-book a car and driver to take you to the Great Wall, which takes about 1.5 hours to reach from downtown. This is a hassle-free and convenient way to see the Wall without crowds. However, be aware that drivers may speak little English, so it’s important to confirm the pickup time and location with the driver before you leave.

5. Public Transport to Great Wall: More Challenging Than Expected

While public transportation can be a budget-friendly option for travelers visiting the Great Wall, it’s important to be aware of the potential challenges.

While taking the subway and bus may add to the sense of adventure, the reality is that it can be much more difficult than you might expect.

One of the main challenges is navigating the subway system and finding the correct bus stop.

You may need to change stations and read signs carefully to ensure that you’re on the right track.

This can be time-consuming and potentially stressful, especially if you’re not familiar with the language or the area.

In contrast, booking a private driver or tour can be a far easier and more convenient option.

While it may be more expensive than public transportation, it can save you time and hassle, and allow you to focus on enjoying your visit to the Great Wall.

Ultimately, the choice between public transportation and a private driver/tour depends on your preferences and budget.

If you’re up for an adventure and have plenty of time to spare, public transportation can be a great way to experience the local culture.

However, if you prefer a more convenient and stress-free option, a private driver or tour may be the way to go.

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6. Arrive Early and Walk: Worth It!

Arriving early to the Great Wall can make a significant difference in your experience, allowing you to enjoy the site without the crowds.

Leaving your hotel at around 7:30 am can get you to the Wall by 9 am, which is the prime time to appreciate the serenity of the site.

By 10 am, Badaling can be quite crowded, making it difficult to walk through some areas.

However, arriving early can give you the chance to explore the Wall at your own pace and take in the views without feeling rushed.

Similarly, getting to Mutianyu early in the morning can offer you the best walking experience, with the perfect opportunity to ride a cable car or chairlift for the shortest trip up the Wall.

This can be especially helpful if you’re traveling with young children or elderly individuals who may have difficulty with the steep ascent.

By planning to arrive early and being prepared to walk, you can enjoy a more peaceful and enjoyable experience at the Great Wall.

Don’t forget to bring comfortable walking shoes, sunscreen, and water to stay hydrated during your visit.

7. Badaling: Crowded and Busy

Badaling is one of the most popular sections of the Great Wall and can be incredibly crowded, with about 3/4 of all visitors to the Wall here.

If you’re looking for a more peaceful and relaxing experience, it’s worth considering other sections of the Wall such as Mutianyu or Jinshanling.

Mutianyu is known for being quieter and easier to walk than Badaling, with fewer tourists and more natural surroundings.

Similarly, Jinshanling offers stunning views and fewer crowds, making it a great option for those who want to escape the hustle and bustle of the more popular sections.

By choosing to visit a less popular section of the Wall, you can enjoy a more serene and enjoyable experience, with the chance to take in the stunning views and appreciate the history and culture of this iconic site.

8. Steep Parts of the Wall: Be Prepared

While the Great Wall is an incredible feat of engineering and a stunning sight to behold, some sections can be quite steep and challenging to navigate.

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 Great Wall of China because it is fully restored, with smooth steps and handrails to assist visitors.

However, even in Mutianyu, there are steep sections, such as the area between towers 19 and 20, which has approximately 450 steps.

If you find climbing steep steps exciting, you will enjoy this part of the Wall.

Other sections of the Wall, such as Jinshanling, can be even more challenging, with steep inclines and uneven steps.

It’s important to wear appropriate footwear and clothing and to bring water and snacks to stay hydrated and energized during your hike.

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9. Wear Comfortable Shoes

When hiking the Great Wall, it’s essential to wear appropriate footwear to ensure your safety and comfort.

While tennis shoes may be an option, they may not be the most effective choice for navigating the vertical steps, rugged terrain, or broken towers on the Wall.

A good pair of hiking boots or walking shoes with sturdy soles and ankle support can provide the traction and stability you need to navigate the Wall’s steep inclines and uneven steps.

They can also help prevent blisters and sore feet, allowing you to enjoy your hike without discomfort.

It’s also important to consider the weather conditions and the length of your hike when choosing footwear.

If you plan to hike for several hours or in wet or slippery conditions, waterproof or moisture-wicking shoes can help keep your feet dry and comfortable.

10. Hiking The Great Wall Is Not Tough

While some sections of the Great Wall can be steep and challenging, there are also many options for hikers of all fitness levels.

Hiking Jinshanling or Jiankou to Mutianyu, for example, is a moderate hike with some elevation changes but suitable for all age groups with average fitness.

Jinshanling offers a moderate to challenging hike, with some sections of the Wall wild and preserved.

Jiankou is even more wild and isolated compared to Jinshanling, with stunning views but more challenging terrain.

Depending on your fitness level, you should be comfortable walking for 3-5 hours on the Wall.

By choosing a trail that matches your fitness level and interests, you can enjoy a safe and enjoyable hike on the Great Wall.

11. No Restrooms Beyond Main Entrance

When visiting the Great Wall, it’s important to be aware that there are no restrooms available beyond the main entrance.

To avoid discomfort during your hike, be sure to use the restrooms located just outside the gate before you start your ascent.

If you find that you need to use the restroom while on the Wall, you’ll need to make your way back to the entrance before you can access one.

To avoid this inconvenience, it’s best to plan ahead and use the restroom before beginning your hike.

By staying hydrated and taking breaks as needed, you can enjoy a safe and comfortable experience on the Great Wall.

Don’t forget to bring tissues or toilet paper in case the restrooms are not adequately stocked.

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

If you’re not an experienced hiker or prefer to avoid the crowds at Badaling, Mutianyu can be an excellent alternative.

Mutianyu is a popular section of the Great Wall that attracts visitors for its convenient facilities, including cable cars, chairlifts, and toboggan rides.

With its easier walking conditions and fewer crowds, Mutianyu can be a much more enjoyable experience than Badaling for those who prefer a more leisurely visit to the Wall.

The restored section of the Wall is suitable for all ages and fitness levels, with stunning views and plenty of opportunities for photos.

By taking advantage of the convenient facilities and planning ahead for a comfortable visit, you can enjoy a safe and memorable experience on the Great Wall at Mutianyu.

13. Many Options For Day-Trip

When planning a day trip to the Great Wall, there are many options to consider, depending on your interests, budget, and preferred mode of transport.

From private car trips to group bus tours, guided hiking tours, and self-guided hikes, there is something for everyone.

Booking a private car is easy and convenient, but it can be more expensive than taking a bus.

Bus tours can be a more budget-friendly opion, but they may also be more complicated and time-consuming.

Guided hiking tours can be an excellent way to experience the Wall with the help of an experienced guide, who can provide valuable insights into the history and culture of this iconic landmark.

Self-guided hikes can also be rewarding, allowing you to explore the Wall at your own pace and on your own schedule.

By choosing the option that best fits your interests and budget, you can enjoy a safe and memorable day trip to the Great Wall.

14. Simatai for Night View

If you’re looking to experience the Great Wall in a unique and unforgettable way, consider visiting Simatai at night.

The section of the Wall is well-lit, providing a breathtaking view of the Wall snaking through the rugged landscape.

One of the most popular activities at Simatai is the night walk from Tower 1 to Tower 10 and back, which takes approximately 2 to 3 hours.

Along the way, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to take stunning photos and enjoy the quiet and peaceful surroundings.

Whether you’re traveling alone, with a group of friends, or as a family, Simatai can be an excellent option for a nighttime visit to the Great Wall.

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Final Words

In conclusion, visiting the Great Wall of China can be an unforgettable experience, but it’s essential to plan ahead and be prepared for the challenges that come with it.

By following these 14 tips and suggestions, you can make the most of your visit and create memories that will last a lifetime.

Remember to wear comfortable clothing and shoes, bring plenty of water and snacks, and be respectful of the Wall’s history and cultural significance.

With a little bit of preparation and a spirit of adventure, you’re sure to have an amazing time exploring one of the world’s most iconic landmarks.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. How much time should I allocate to visiting the Great Wall?

The time you should allocate for visiting the Great Wall depends on the section you choose and your desired level of exploration.

Generally, it takes 2-4 hours for a comfortable visit. If you’re planning to hike longer stretches or explore multiple sections, you may need a full day or more.

2. Is the Great Wall visible from space?

The popular belief that the Great Wall of China is visible from space is a myth.

While astronauts have reported being able to see the wall under specific conditions, it is not easily visible without the aid of telescopic lenses.

3. Can I fly a drone at the Great Wall?

Flying a drone at the Great Wall is generally prohibited, as it can interfere with the visitor experience and pose risks to the ancient structure.

Some sections of the Great Wall might have specific rules or designated areas for drone usage, but it’s always best to check with local authorities before attempting to fly a drone.

4. Are pets allowed at the Great Wall?

Pets are typically not allowed at most sections of the Great Wall, primarily due to concerns for the safety of both visitors and the pets themselves.

Additionally, pets could damage the historical site or disturb local wildlife. It’s best to arrange for pet care while you explore the Great Wall.

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2 Responses to “14 Things You Should Know Before Visiting the Great Wall of China”

  1. Hi, Hope you are well. I will be travelling to Tokyo in March for the Marathon. I was wondering if March if a good month to visit the great wall?

    • Ricky

      Hi there! I’m doing well, thank you for asking. How exciting that you will be travelling to Tokyo for the marathon!

      Unfortunately, March may not be the best time to visit the Great Wall of China. While the weather in Beijing during this time is mild, it is still quite cold and there is a chance of snow on the Great Wall.

      Additionally, the Great Wall can be quite busy during peak travel season, which includes the months of March through May.

      If you are set on visiting the Great Wall during your trip to Asia, you may want to consider planning your visit for the autumn months instead, as the weather is cooler and the crowds are smaller.

      Alternatively, there are many other incredible sites to visit in and around Beijing, such as the Forbidden City and the Temple of Heaven, that may be more enjoyable to explore during the month of March.

      Let me know if you have any other questions or if there’s anything else I can help you with!

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