Beijing’s broad-stroke overview
When I first came to China, I had no idea what to expect. After having lived in China for a year I wasn’t entirely prepared. Also if you’ve traveled overseas before but never been to China, it can be a completely different experience. Even within China, Beijing and Shanghai are their own types of cities.
Here I’ll go over in some broad strokes what you should know if you’re planning on taking a trip or taking the dive for the long haul, and moving to Beijing.
Before you arrive, there are some things I suggest you prepare. Download WeChat! You may or may not have heard of WeChat, but it is most used app in China. You can literally use it for everything, and it’s super useful to have. Until you have a Chinese bank account, you won’t be able to link a payment method, but once you have it, WeChat is the most used method of payment in China. I can’t stress this enough. You rarely ask for someone’s number, only their WeChat.
Also, you can alert your bank that you’ll be in China and prepare your debit card with funds. Lots of people think they should bring cash to exchange, but that is one of the worst things you can do! Instead, withdraw money from an ATM. This will save you higher exchange fees and will ensure you don’t exchange too much.
Beijing is filled with cultural things to see! Unfortunately, as a foreigner, you’ll often have to pay the full price, even with a student ID card. If you have one, it can be worth trying, but often they’ll charge you full price regardless. Sights like the Forbidden City and Summer Palace are worth seeing for sure, as well as a bus ride for a day-trip you to see the Great Wall. There are also excellent hiking tours to the Great Wall and nearby locations. While these sights are great, Beijing has many smaller places to see and visit that might be off the beaten path. If you have friends in Beijing, foreigners or Chinese, you can ask them about the areas they hang out at.
There are many more things I could say about Beijing, and this only serves as a brief overview of what significant things you should know if you’ve never been to the city. Beijing is a city I truly believe everyone should visit at some point. It is very unique and has a lot to offer for those who are curious!