China

How Not to See The Great Wall of China

When I made a trip to see the Great Wall of China back in the Winter of 2014, I wasn’t quite as savvy a traveller as I am now. My pal Laura and I booked our flights extremely last minute and decided just to show up and wing it! Excited at the prospect of actually visiting the infamous China, we forgot to prepare ourselves for all the things that China is infamous for. And although the trip will always be one of my fondest memories of my time in Asia, there are a few things I would do differently if I went again today.

So do as I say, and not as I do. Here’s how NOT to see The Great Wall of China.

 

Show Up With NO PLAN!

10502491_10153058745837317_2536441820020577869_nedit

Did I mention that my trip to Beijing was shockingly last minute? So last minute that we literally had to run to the travel agents after booking our flights so that we could get our visas on time! While we were busy planning all the amazing Instagram pictures we could take at The Great Wall of China, we forgot about the not so great wall of China– the great firewall. We also didn’t realise that even the nicest hotels and coffee shops in Beijing wouldn’t have wifi. What can I say, we are spoiled in Korea!

That romantic notion of jumping on a plane with no guidebook and no plan is all fine and well most of the time- but don’t do it in China.

Just Book a Tour Through the Hotel Reception

How NOT To See the Great Wall of China

They’re going to chuck you on a bus with shitloads of people, charge you shitloads of money and take you to shit loads of boring jade museums. Don’t do it. Find out how to get there yourself and save some money. Or, even better, hire a driver to take you there and save time. It will probably cost about the same amount as a private tour would, and you’ll be able to plan your own itinerary.

Don’t Worry About the Day’s Itinerary

How NOT To See the Great Wall of China

Sorry pal, but I’m here for the wall!

When you book your tour make sure you cover all the important details. Where will you be going through the day? When will you be picked up and dropped off? What time will you arrive at the Great Wall? This is very important! We voluntarily went on a tour with a 5am pick up (ouch!) only to get on the bus and realise we were making numerous stops at random tombs and silk factories first. If that floats your boat, fine. If not- don’t put yourself through that boredom!

Turn Up at Lunchtime

10906225_10153058760792317_2695124176089928001_n (1)edit

I think this is an obvious point to be made when visiting any major tourist attraction. It’s always better to get there early and see it without the crowds of tourists and selfie sticks. One of the main gutters about getting dragged around all those tombs and museums wasn’t just that they were extremely boring. The worst thing about it was that it meant we didn’t actually arrive at the Great Wall of China until midday, despite our 4am wake up.

Head to the Most Touristy Part of the Wall

How Not to See The Great Wall of China

This is Badaling, the most popular part of The Great Wall of China.

Most tour groups go to Badaling- steer clear of that place unless you want to be packed up like a battery hen between herds of Chinese tourists. We visited Mutianyu, which is still a pretty touristy and well-preserved part of the wall- but not quite as bad as Badaling. Although I really liked Mutianyu, if I could visit again I’d probably go to one of the “wilder” parts further east for a more authentic experience.

Feed the Bears!

10891707_10153058713712317_2557362057578314781_nedit

Yes, there are bears at The Great Wall. And camels. And horses. It’s all a bit strange, but as you probably know, animal welfare isn’t quite up to scratch in China. Don’t feed the bears. And if you do (like we did) and don’t want to pay (like we didn’t) you will get chased up the wall by a tiny, scary, old Chinese lady. SO don’t do it!!! Not only is it encouraging animal tourism but you don’t need that drama in your life!

What Did We Do Right?

Of course, it wasn’t all riots and mishaps. These are the few things that we did do right…

Visited in Winter

Guards dressed for the cold at Tiannamen Square

Guards dressed for the cold at Tiannamen Square

We visited The Great Wall of China over our Christmas holidays and I felt this was perfect for a few reasons.

First, smog is nowhere near as bad in winter as it is in the summer months, so the visibility was decent.

There were also much fewer tourists to barge past since peak season is between May and August. 

And, for some strange reason, winter means blue skies in Northern Asia. And blue skies are always lovely.

Of course, winter can be harsh in China. I just happened to visit in a particularly mild year. Chances are you could visit on the same day next year to snow storms and heavy smog. It all comes down to chance.

Went to Muitanyu

How NOT to See The Great Wall of China

Getting our tobbogan on!

Ok, I’m backtracking a bit now but bare with me! Earlier I said that I would rather visit a wilder part of the wall but actually, I’m glad I went to Mutianyu for one reason- you can take a toboggan to The Great Wall of China!

Yes. You read that right. An actual toboggan. Even if Mutianyu was a bit less authentic, it’s not every day that you get to take a toboggan to one of the seven wonders of the world!


I hope these tips can help anyone planning to visit The Great Wall of China to not make the same mistakes I did! In all honesty, I wouldn’t actually change a thing about my trip because it was such a good laugh. Things are never perfect and being able to take things with a pinch of salt is really important when you’re travelling! This trip would only have sucked if we let those things get to us.

So, if you do get dragged around a jade museum, sit outside and take selfies. Make pals with the other mugs on the hotel tour bus. And just keep running when maniac bear whisperers are chasing you!

I’d love it if you could share this with your friends on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest (see the pin below) and warn them how NOT to see The Great Wall of China!

Planning a trip? Don’t miss my penny saving posts!

 

How not to see the great wall of China

Also on Pinterest 🙂

Leave me a comment and let me know if you’ve visited The Great Wall of China! Did it live up to your expectations? Did you have any mishaps?

 

Related Post

29 Comments

  • Reply
    Stephanie
    7th July 2016 at 11:51 am

    Great tips. It’s on my bucket list, but definitely makes sense to use a private driver and avoid the crowds. I love the idea of a toboggan!
    Stephanie recently posted…Pools of the Crane ResortMy Profile

    • Reply
      Nicole Louise
      8th July 2016 at 12:15 pm

      Thanks Stephanie- the toboggan is definitely a unique way to see The Great Wall. I was gobsmacked when the tour guide told us about it!

  • Reply
    Rob Taylor
    7th July 2016 at 12:42 pm

    …but you don’t need that drama in your life… This is the most accurate statement about falling victim to an ad-hoc experience at any tourist attraction… but getting chased is always a good story.

    • Reply
      Nicole Louise
      8th July 2016 at 12:16 pm

      Hahaha definitely!

  • Reply
    jess
    7th July 2016 at 1:31 pm

    hahahahah!!!! that’s hilarious that you got chased after feeding bears. On the other hand, how was it to feed bears. Are they tame and you hand them food, or do you throw it over a fence? I’m just trying to imagine…

    • Reply
      Nicole Louise
      8th July 2016 at 12:16 pm

      Lol defos a story to tell the grandkittens! We had to throw it over a fence and there was a no sign that we would need to pay lol. Rip off merchants!

  • Reply
    Lia
    7th July 2016 at 3:25 pm

    OMG I’m cracking up imagining you getting chased by a little old lady all over the great wall. Hilarious!! Sometimes I think we learn the most from our travel mishaps!

    • Reply
      Nicole Louise
      8th July 2016 at 12:17 pm

      Haha it was pretty funny… in hindsight lol.

  • Reply
    Mridul Pareek
    7th July 2016 at 4:49 pm

    Haha nice way of writing the article. 🙂

    • Reply
      Nicole Louise
      8th July 2016 at 12:14 pm

      Thanks Mridul! 🙂

  • Reply
    Danni Lawson
    7th July 2016 at 6:31 pm

    Haha you make great points! I took the local unguided and super cheap bus when I visited- but half way there an officila got on and ordered foreigners to get off! He said the road was blocked but the bus drove off with all the local passengers, so I guess I’ll never know what that was about. This meant I was stranded somewhere in rural China and had to shell out for a private driver- so not to be recommended either 🙂

    • Reply
      Nicole Louise
      8th July 2016 at 12:12 pm

      Oh my god Danni, this made me laugh! I can just imagine that sort of thing happening in China- I guess everything as a gamble when you’re in Beijing lol.

  • Reply
    Simona
    7th July 2016 at 6:39 pm

    I was at the great wall in 2012, almost as last minute and unprepared like you, and also in winter :)).
    This article reminded me so much about my trip back then but I also think that China is sometimes a little bit more complicated than other countries.

    • Reply
      Nicole Louise
      8th July 2016 at 12:12 pm

      I agree, it’s definitely not a simple place to visit!

  • Reply
    Bianca
    7th July 2016 at 6:44 pm

    Great advice. I was lucky enough to head there with hardly any tourists but I have seen those pictures where it is so overcrowded. Hopefully people can use this article to make their visit a wonderful one.

    • Reply
      Nicole Louise
      8th July 2016 at 12:12 pm

      Thanks Bianca! Lucky you, that must have been amazing!

  • Reply
    Sydney Fashion Hunter
    7th July 2016 at 8:01 pm

    Sounds like quite the adventure! I haven’t make it to China yet but I’ll keep this is mind for when I do.

    • Reply
      Nicole Louise
      8th July 2016 at 12:14 pm

      It definitely was- I hope you get the chance to visit one day!

  • Reply
    Alexis Rae
    8th July 2016 at 1:07 am

    Haha this is great and honest! I refuse to do the big tourist bus things. Take me on a trek without all the people. You get a more real life idea of a place anyway. Good to know about the lack of wifi in Beijing too!

    • Reply
      Nicole Louise
      8th July 2016 at 12:14 pm

      Thanks Alexis! I totally agree- nothing worse than a tour bus.

  • Reply
    Lottie Reeves
    8th July 2016 at 3:13 am

    Haha, this is great! Turning up with no plan is totally something I would do. When I eventually make it the the Great Wall I will refer back to this to make sure I don’t do what you did 🙂
    Lottie Reeves recently posted…Teach Overseas And Travel The World, Part 5; Different Types of TeachingMy Profile

    • Reply
      Nicole Louise
      8th July 2016 at 12:11 pm

      Haha Lottie, I’m so anal these days with spreadsheets and everything. Such a geek lol! Defos do the opposite of what I did if you ever visit!

  • Reply
    Nikita
    8th July 2016 at 12:35 pm

    Haha love this! At least your misadventures will help others have a more successful visit!
    Nikita recently posted…When I Think of VilcabambaMy Profile

    • Reply
      Nicole Louise
      11th July 2016 at 9:21 am

      Thanks Nikita, I hope so 🙂

  • Reply
    Melai
    8th July 2016 at 3:02 pm

    Such a funny post but all true!! I’ve never been to Great Wall but the points you’ve written here happens to other places of interest too. So I prefer to always go on our own than take tours. Research is important.

    • Reply
      Nicole Louise
      11th July 2016 at 9:20 am

      Thanks Melai! Independent travel is always the best way to go 🙂

  • Reply
    Sue Anne Reyes
    12th July 2016 at 12:26 pm

    Research is important. Even in the Philippines, going by yourself means a lot for travellers. Thanks for sharing.
    Sue Anne Reyes recently posted…Hors D’ouevres For Your WeddingMy Profile

    • Reply
      Nicole Louise
      12th July 2016 at 2:15 pm

      Thanks Sue, I agree!

  • Reply
    How Not to See The Great Wall of China – Wee Gypsy Girl – Travels
    14th July 2016 at 10:31 am

    […] more About How Not to See The Great Wall of China – Wee Gypsy Girl […]

  • Leave a Reply

    CommentLuv badge

    Show Buttons
    Hide Buttons