When you first visit Beijing and walk around its many tourist sites one thing you will notice is the number of street vendors trying to sell you a day trip to The Great Wall of China.
Travel in China is relatively cheap so the day trips of offer are actually pretty affordable for tourists, but the downturn is that a visit to the Badaling section of the Great Wall is often part of an overall trip to two or three tourism attractions. Because of this you may only get an hour or two to visit the Great Wall, and in my opinion this is not enough.
What we wanted to do was make a day trip to the Great Wall and to take our time walking the Badaling section. We did not want to rush it so we decided to make an independent trip to Badaling from Beijing via train.
The best way to get from the Chinese capital to Badaling is by taking a train from Beijing North Railway Station. Not only will this give you time to explore at your leisure but it’s also very, very cheap. It cost only CNY6 for the train ticket (that’s £0.60p or US$0.95!)
To travel to Beijing North Railway Station by subway you need to get to Xizhimen station which is on lines 2, 4 and 13. From the exit Beijing North Railway Station is within walking distance.
Once you get to Beijing North you will need to buy your tickets to Badaling – which we did in person from the ticket office on the entrance of the front-right of the building which will be facing you when walking from Xizhimen.
One word of warning there are no English signs or information available, at least there wasn’t when we made the journey in September 2011. You just have to go for it and buy your tickets! If there’s a long queue stick with it and be patient, for the price it’s worth it.
There are 1-2 trains every hour from Beijing North Railway Station to Badaling and the trip takes about 1hr 20mins on average. The first departure from Beijing North-Badaling is at 06.12am and the last return train from Badaling-Beijing North is at 9.51pm.
The train itself was fantastic for the price that we paid for the ticket to Badaling. Plenty of leg space, room for bags and unreserved seating so you can choose where you want.
Badaling Station is about a 15-minute walk up the hill to the entrance of the Badaling section of the Great Wall of China. From station building there are plenty of signs showing you the directions, so there is no problem getting lost, But if you don’t see the signs just follow the other tourists.
The general entrance fee to the Badaling section was CNY45 (£4.50 or US$7), as we were visiting between the months of April and October. The prices decrease by CNY5 if you visit between November and March. There is also an extra charge if you plan to use the cable car or pulley system.
The Great Wall of China at Badaling is the most preserved section and also the busiest, but the day we went the weather was overcast and wet. Luckily for us this meant there were not that many other tourists on the Wall and we able to relax and take our time walking the many, many steps and hills.
I’m not going to rattle on about the Great Wall itself as there are so many websites and blogs where you can find reviews. But what I will say though is that when I looked out at the amazing scenery from the Badaling Great Wall I felt that this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and one of the best moments I have ever had on my travels.
It was fantastic – a trip to the Great Wall is something every visitor to China should experience.
Information: The Great Wall of China Badaling section
Entrance costs: CNY45 from April 1 to October 31. CNY40 from November 1 to March 31
Opening hours: 6.30am-7pm in summer; 7am-6pm in winter
For a map of Beijing’s subway system see explorebj.com/subway