I think it would be safe to say that 99.9% of tourists visiting China’s capital city of Beijing will be there to visit the Great Wall of China. In fact, I’m yet to meet a traveler who says the wall isn’t on their bucketlist.
From Beijing, there are many options for getting to the great wall to fit within anyone’s budget and a popular way for those on a tight budget, will be to get there by public transport.
The closest section of the wall to the city – and the most popular with Chinese tourists – is Badaling. Its popularity could be due to its easy accessibility to public transport options.
If your travel plans allow, I would highly recommend opting for a day trip with a tour company and visiting the quieter section of Mityuni. It is beautifully resorted and a lot less crowded (especially if you go when it’s raining – take it from me).
Badaling’s wall restoration may be almost on par with that of Mityuni’s but the volumes of people that come through this spot every day make it less than authentic.
Getting to Badaling by public transport – North Beijing
There were two main options I found whilst searching online to get to this New Wonder of the World, the S2 train or the 877 or 919 bus from Deshengmen bus station which were both in the north of Beijing.
The S2 train has a very mixed schedule departing at different times on different days but can be a very quick option with travel time ranging from 1 hour and ten minutes to an hour and a half. The train departs from Huangtudian Railway Station, which can be over an hour from your accommodation in Beijing if you are located further south in Beijing.
Cost: 12 Yuan each way plus metro cost (4-6 Yuan)
Time: 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours depending on location in Beijing
Bus – Deshengmen Terminal
There are a number of bus services departing from this bus stop located next to the Deshengmen Arrow Tower. Make sure to take bus 877, as it is the most direct route, whereas the 919 will stop a few times on the way.
The bus operates from 6am – 12pm from Deshengmen to Badaling and from 10:30 – 5pm back. They are comfortable coach buses and depart every 10-15 minutes or whenever a bus is full.
This would be a great option for anyone staying in the area but as I was staying quite far south of the city, it was going to take me almost an hour on the metro and then the bus was said to take an hour and a half.
Cost: 12 Yuan each way plus metro cost (4-6 Yuan)
Time: 1 1/2 hours to 2 1/2 hours depending on location in Beijing
Getting to Badaling by public transport – South Beijing
Tourism Bus 1
For anyone staying South or close to Tiananmen Square, there is a much easier way then making your way north to either of the above options.
When searching online I could not find much information about this option at all so going to the bus stop I was a bit curious as to what to expect. The bus departed from the Qianmen bus terminal just opposite the southern end of Tiananmen Square.
It was hard to find with no English signs, but I had the Chinese bus name from Yahoo Maps which was two characters, the number 1 and then another Chinese character. When clicking the option in Yahoo it translated as ‘Tourism Bus 1’.
There were several men standing about near the door to the bus and I just pointed at the name on my phone and they ushered me in. No one spoke any English but I just took my seat and paid the 20 Yuan when the attendant came around the bus.
The attendant even did a few talks along the way and I have no idea what about but I’m sure it was very informative for the rest of the people on the bus. I was the only non-Chinese for both bus trips, so maybe it’s a secret us tourists are yet to catch onto?
It took less than 1 hour and 45 minutes to get there even though Yahoo maps said it would take almost double that. On the way back I was back in an hour and 15 minutes.It stopped once at the North end of Tiananmen Square but was direct to Badaling from there onwards. If you are staying closer to this area, this may also be a good option for you but as they pretty much fill the bus at Qianmen there may be more limited spaces available.
The bus runs from 6am – 12pm to the wall and 8am – 4pm back (extended hours over summer). There was no timetable as such they just had lines of buses and as soon as one was full they would leave. I never waited long though, just 7 minutes for the first bus and 13 minutes for the second and I was one of the first people on the bus.
Cost: 20 Yuan each way
Time: 1/2 hours – 2 hours
Tips to visiting to Badaling
Go early! Go on the first bus if you can as even by 9am there are people everywhere and it gets very crowded. No crowds = better photos too.
You can opt for the cable car when you get there which will take you to the highest point of the wall and then you can walk back down to save time.
Give yourself a half day minimum to see the wall. I did it in just a few hours as a half day trip as I flew out in the evening and it was definitely do-able but I wish I had more time to walk the parts I missed.
It is very steep in some parts and some steps aren’t fully restored. Whilst there are rails, if it’s crowded you may not be close to one, so wear sensible shoes.
I definitely encourage all visitors to Beijing to leave two days for exploring the wall. You can hike some of the unrestored parts with tour groups, visit Huanghuacheng section which is situated next to a lake or the Simatai section which is open for night tours. There’s so many ways you can take in this Chinese marvel.
What are your tips to visiting the wall?