Beijing Life and Visitor Travel Tips

(Beijing, China)

Picture of the Meridian Gate (Wumen) in the Forbidden CityWhen arriving in Beijing, it can feel a little overwhelming, since this is a big and busy city that rarely stops. However, you will soon find that central Beijing is relatively easy to find your way around and contains plenty of handy services available for visiting tourists, such as foreign currency exchange, shopping centres and cashpoints, which are located outside of most banks and usually accept foreign credit cards.

For tourist advice, brochures and general information, Beijing's selection of tourist offices has improved in recent years, boasting a chain of centres, which are known as 'Service Stations'. These are scattered all over the city centre and can be easily spotted by their turquoise exteriors. Here are some travel tips about life in Beijing.

Picture of the Forbidden City

Useful Contact Information

The facilities available to tourists visiting Beijing are good and including various post offices, which can be found at the CITIC building and at the China World Trade Centre, amongst other locations. Alternatively you will be able to post your letters and postcards via your actually hotel reception area.

The local Service Stations are a good place to obtain a free map of the city and leaflets. Although the staff's English skills are fairly limited, the Chaoyang branch, on the western side of the Clothing Market, is used to dealing with foreigners. Here are some helpful contact details:

International Post Office
Address: Guóji Yóudiànjuú, Jiangoumen Beidajie, Beijing, China, CN
Open hours: Monday to Saturday - 08:00 to 19:00

Beijing Tourism Hotline - Beijing, China, CN
Tel: +86 010 6513 0828 (English language service)

Beijing Tourist Information Centres

Language and Dialect

The official language spoken in the People's Republic of China is the actual dialect that is spoken in Beijing. Known to the western world as 'Mandarin' and simply 'Chinese', while local Chinese refer to their language as 'Putonghua'. In total there are eight main dialect groups in China, with many regions speaking their own sub-dialects and versions. To aid communication with the locals, don't forget to bring your Chinese Phrasebook.

What is the address? - Dizhi zai nar?
Could you show me (on the map)? - Ni neng buneng (zai ditu shang) zhi gei wo kan?
Where is a cheap hotel? - Nar you pianyi de luguan?
Do you have a room available? - Nimen you fangjian ma?

Further photo of the Forbidden City

Passport and Visa Information

Visas are a necessity for a visit to the People's Republic of China, although not currently required for Westerners planning to visit either Macau or Hong Kong. The relevant visa can be obtained at your local Chinese Embassy, Consulate or even at your local travel agency. The Beijing Public Security Bureau (PSB) is the place to visit if you require an extension to your visa, a passport problem, or any other similar issues.

Public Security Bureau (PSB)
Address: Gonganjú, 2 Andingmen Dongdajie, Beijing, China, CN
Tel: +86 010 8402 0101
Open hours: Monday to Saturday - 08:30 to 16:30

Drinking Tap Water

When visiting Beijing, be sure not to drink any tap water, which can cause diarrhoea and varying degrees of sickness. It is far the safest to stick to bottled water and only drink tap water here if it has been boiled. Also avoid drinks and uncooked food where tap water may be present, e.g. drinks with ice cubes, salads and fresh fruit juices, which are often watered down.