One of the most visited sights in the world, and the icon of China. The Great Wall is absolutely unmissable if you’re in China. You have to have your wits about you when you’re organizing your trip to the Great Wall though, there are probably more scammers here than at any other tourist site in the world.
From Beijing there are two sections that most people visit as a day trip. – Badaling or Mutianyu. Generally speaking, the hostel you are staying in will offer day trips to the wall for around 250RMB ($40), including transport, tickets and lunch. These are all legitimate tours, although they’re quite expensive.
You’ll get offered cheaper tours still from touts around the Forbidden City and Tiananmen square, for as little as 140RMB ($22), but I’d stay clear of those guys. They have bad reputations for buses breaking down, not leaving on time, only having 90 minutes at the wall etc.
My advice? Do it yourself. Take a bus from Beijing to the Great Wall (about 14RMB/$2), and pay the entrance 40RMB/$6, much cheaper and much more freedom.
Here’s how to take the bus from Beijing to The Great Wall:
Only 61km from city, the closest section of the Great Wall to Beijing, and therefore the most crowded.
From the Southwest corner of Tiananmen Square, take the number 5 bus (1 RMB public bus) to the last stop. Or even easier, get off at Jishuitan subway station line 2 and walk east on the north side of the road to the bus station. Take bus number 919 (12 RMB one way) to Badaling. The last bus from Beijing to Badaling leaves at around 12:00, the last bus from Badaling to Beijing at around 16:00. For the ride back, better arrive half an hour early if you want to sit down during the 1-hour drive! NOTE: be wary of scammers telling you it’s the wrong bus etc, it’s not!
Also you can take the train. Go to Beijing North station and buy a ticket at the upstairs ticket office. Beijing North station is at Xizhimen subway stop on lines 2 & 4.
When you get to Badaling station, leave the station and turn left and walk up the hill, following everyone else. The Great Wall ticket office is about 800m away on the right, you can’t miss it.
A little further than Badaling, less touristic, and it has a cable car and (horrible inappropriately but ridiculously fun) toboggan to get you down at the end.
It’s a bit trickier to get the bus here, but here goes: The only direct bus to the Mutinyu Great Wall section is the 867 that departs at 7 and 8:30 AM (early start guys!) from the Dongzhimen outer bus station which you can get to by turning left out of the main bus station (arrive at Donzhimen subway, take “H” exit) and going for a 10 minute walk round the other side until you see a parking lot full of buses on your left (don’t cross the street), It costs ¥16 ($2.50) each way and takes around 2 and a half hours.
The entrance fee is ¥45, ¥25 for students only with ID. Besides that, the cable car to the wall costs more than the wall entrance: ¥65 for adults! Ouch!
I went to the Mutianyu section, and loved it. In the summer it gets hot as hell, and in the winter it’s freezing, much colder than Beijing so dress accordingly. Happy travels!