There’s various different ways to get to the great wall, you can either go by bus, train, taxi or organised tour.
We used the train to get there and got the bus back – the train was quicker but there’s not very many of them and you can’t buy tickets in advance. When the tickets for one journey sell out, you have to wait for the next one.
To get the train tickets, take a subway that links up with Beijing North station, wait in a queue and hope that the train hasn’t sold out by the time you get to the front of it.
It had sold out by the time we got there so we had a long wait for the next train- about 1.5 – 2 hours if I remember correctly.
While in the queue, you will have people approaching you who offer private tours to the wall. We both read a lot of reviews from these types of tours which said you usually end up going to various shops and factories before you get there and waste a lot of time.
If you do decide to do a tour, haggle with the price. One guy had a printed card which showed the price as 600 RMB (£60) per person, we said no, he then showed us 500 RMB (£50) per person. We said no again and he turned the card over to show a price of 100RMB (£10) per person.
Regardless of that, we fancied going by train so that’s what we did – got the train, which cost 6 RMB (60p) per person.
The bus back was 12RMB (£1.20) each, it took a bit longer but there’s a bus running every 30 minutes and that was much better than having a 2 hour wait for the train at Badaling to take us back to Beijing.
The train from Beijing was busy and as the departure time approaches, more and more people will try to push by you to get nearer to the front of the queue. You can either join in with the pushing or stand with your elbows out so that they are just banging into your elbows and will eventually hurt themselves.
When the staff at the station opened the barrier, pretty much everyone ran towards the train, it was like ‘home time’ at school so adults, children, old and young people all run full pelt along the platform – a wee different from that great British tradition of queuing in an orderly manner that we’re used to.
We were one of the lucky ones though as we managed to get a seat on the train which was handy because the journey took about 80 minutes.
When you get off the train, there’s buses that take you to the start of the walking route or to where the cable car departs from.
If you’ve not got comfy shoes or at least shoes with a decent grip, I’d use the cable car for both getting to the top and for coming back down. The price was quite steep (yes, that was an intended pun), it was 80RMB (£8) per person for a 1 way ticket and either 100RMB (£10) or 120 RMB (£12) per peron if you wanted to get the cable car back down.
Most of the reviews reccommend taking water / juices with you. It was a pretty hot day when we went so make sure you take something with you. Also taking something to eat would be a good idea. I made the mistake of thinking the hot dogs looked ok – they weren’t. They were hot but that’s the only positive thing I can say about them.
I’m sure there were local animals that would have refused to eat them.
Parts of the wall are really busy and very steep but it’s well worth going to see. The views are spectacular and pictures don’t do it justice, however, we took plenty of pictures and will be sure to bore everyone with them when we get back home.