Smart tips for solo female travel in Beijing | China

by Vanessa

With many people keen to travel more, especially to explore unique countries and cultures, there is a rise in independent travellers setting out on their own adventures. China is a destination growing in popularity for solo female travellers. The country has 23 different provinces, a rich and varied landscape, a population of 1.3 billion people and some of the biggest and most exciting urban cities in the world. The capital of China, Beijing, is one of the most popular places to visit, and it is definitely not to be missed.

Solo travel, especially if you are a female, can seem daunting. However, if you choose China and Beijing, I’ve got you covered to ensure you have the best experience visiting this exciting city. Let’s explore the best tips for solo female travel in Beijing!

SIGHT-SEEING HIGHLIGHTS IN BEIJING


Beijing has some of the most astounding cultural and natural spectacles to see throughout the whole of the country. No visit would be complete without seeing some of the world-famous landmarks, including The Great Wall of China – over 8,000km of walls stretching across the country and dating back to the 14th century Ming dynasty. If you want to visit the Great Wall when you’re in Beijing, the easiest section to visit is Badaling, but if you fancy somewhere a little quieter, try Mutianyu and Jiankou.

Jiankou to Mutianyu Wild Wall of China - Female Solo Travel in Beijing

Jiankou to Mutianyu Wild Wall of China

Beijing also has the stunning Summer Palace, a beautiful and tranquil place with many famous sections, including the Kunming Lake and the Seventeen Arch Bridge, both renowned for their romanticism. You should also explore the Forbidden City, the ancient heart of Beijing and its most iconic sight. Home to emperors for over 500 years. The Forbidden City is a majestic example of Chinese culture, history and art – definitely a must-see on your visit to Beijing.

FOOD AND DRINK IN BEIJING

Packed with many flavours and playing a huge role in the culture of China, if you don’t seek out some authentic Chinese food when you visit, you really can’t say you’ve experienced China fully. Luckily, Beijing has some of the best examples of authentic cooking you really need to tantalise your taste buds with.

Beijing is well-known for Peking roast duck; served with smoky hoisin or sweet bean sauce, paper-thin pancakes, and cucumber. If you only try one signature dish in Beijing, make sure it’s this one. For a sweet treat, look out for lvadagun. These delicious swirls are made from flour dough or sticky rice, stuffed with red soybean paste and rolled in sesame seeds. While they might sound savoury, these are anything but! Sticky, sweet and filled with the unique taste of red soybean, you’ll be in heaven when you taste them!

Peking Duck in Huas Restaurant in Beijing

Peking Duck in Huas Restaurant in Beijing

 


SMART TIPS FOR SOLO FEMALE TRAVEL IN BEIJING

Don’t forget your visa when you visit – most visitors are required to have one. Check with your Chinese embassy to find out about any legal requirements for visiting.

You’re ready to visit China now! We hope you have an amazing time  in this wonderful country, let’s plan our solo travel in Beijing.


WATCH OUT FOR THE TOURIST SCAMS

Many women find travelling alone in China to be a safe and rewarding experience, but there are still a few things to be aware of, especially visiting a capital city like Beijing. Pickpockets and tourist scams can easily catch you out, so be careful and keep personal belongings and valuables like cash concealed. 


The infamous tea-house scam!

I’d watched YouTube videos on this scam where students or Chinese with a grasp of the English language will start making conversation and befriend you. They take you to a tea house to continue the chat, they slope off and an astronomical bill is served. 


Beware of fake taxis

On arrival I asked a couple for directions but they looked at me blankly. A man stepped in to offer me a taxi, it was clear he was not a registered taxi man, why would he be hanging around the streets? I kindly declined but he then sent me in the opposite direction to my hotel. So only take licensed taxis – better yet, choose the subway or bus. 


Only use the taxi meters

Even with licensed cabs, I had an issue. I got in the car and he told me a price which was 5x that of my journey from my hotel. I refused and pointed at the meter. He ushered me out the car, think he was looking for the next sucker to come along. 


WORKING OUT BEIJING’S TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM


Airport shuttle is simple

The high speed shuttle train to get you into the centre of Beijing is easy to work out. The train stops at Terminal 3, Terminal 2, Sanyuanqiao Subway (Line 10) and Dongzhimen Subway (Line 2 & 13).

You purchase your ticket from the machine costing 25 Yuan or apply for the Beijing Transportation Smart Card which you can top up for your stay to make getting around hassle-free.


Get to know the subway

Getting the subway in Beijing probably feels like a bit of a facing but it’s super easy, signs are written in English. If you’ve taken the London Tube before, you can figure out the Beijing subway. There’s a station every few blocks and it really will give you more freedom around the city. Get a subway map from your hotel to carry round with you.


Give up with hailing taxis

I found getting taxis only works well when you call from your hotel.  I tried 3 times to hail a cab and each time their price was about 5 times as much as it was on the way there. Get the subway or use Didi, the Chinese version of Uber.

The Beijing Subway is super easy to use. Solo Female Travel in Beijing, it is a must.

The Beijing Subway


STAYING CONNECTED IN BEIJING


Getting a local SIM

Worth checking that your phone is unlocked before you arrive, it makes getting a local SIM a whole lot easier. You can get a Prepaid SIM Card before to arrive in China. Alternatively, get a local SIM before leaving the airport and get them to test it. I had a few failed attempts and then it was near impossible in Beijing with the language barrier. 


Download a VPN before you go

The majority of Western social media networks are blocked such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, Twitter, and more. China has its own local social sites, the most popular is WeChat. To check your social media and other banned pages in Beijing, you need to sign up for a VPN that works in China. This is difficult to do whilst in the country so do this before you depart. Whilst using data roaming, I found I could get around on Google Maps no problem.


Connecting to WiFi

WiFi can sometimes be a little slow but, most of the time, it was fine in the hotels. Some public WiFi requires you to enter a Chinese phone number where a code can be texted to connect you, big problemo without a local SIM!

Working with Wifi at Peking Station Hostel. Perfect stay for solo female travellers.

Working with Wifi at Peking Station Hostel


OVERCOMING THE LANGUAGE BARRIER 


Get a translation app

Not all locals in Beijing speak English and, even at the customer services desk in the airport I had to converse with the help of a translation app in order to deal with my issue.


Choose a hotel with English speaking staff

I stayed in a hotel and a hostel where both people on the reception desk spoke very good English, however, other tourists I spoke to said some big international hotels did not have English speaking staff which made their stay a little harder.


Get the name of your hotel in Mandarin

It’s always handy to make sure you can navigate your way to you bed at night so ensure you can show a taxi driver the name of the hostel or hotel in Chinese. If possible, get the name of the hotel written down before arriving in Beijing in case you get a taxi from the airport.


Select your tour guides wisely

Always useful to check out TripAdvisor to see the reviews of other foreign tourists to make your tours a positive experience. 


Consider a sociable hostel

I’m not going to lie, I was delighted to get to a hostel where there were English-speaking people who were up for a bit of banter in the communal area. After two days jumping around the city unable to ask anyone for information apart from in the hotel, it was a revelation! Making friends as a solo traveller in hostels is a game-changer and you can also pick up some top travel tips too.


STAYING HEALTHY IN BEIJING


Let’s talk about toilets

It’s a good idea to pack your own toilet tissue as most restaurants and public services do not provide it. Squat toilets are standard stuff here apart from your hotels as they are considered more hygienic than Western-style toilets. (I must say my memory of the toilets at the entrance of the Summer Palace say different, enough said.


Finding Western remedies

Outside of international hospitals, Western-style pharmacies can be hard to find in Beijing. Traditional Chinese medicine pharmacies and apothecaries are the norm and may sell some basic Western remedies. There are many Chinese remedies that will address minor aches, pains and coughs but I’d recommend taking a Chinese speaker to help you get the right thing.


Tampons are rare in Beijing

There is a general feeling in China that tampons are not good for women. Some say it may break your hymen but basically there is a lack of education and how to use them. If you’re expecting your period, take the sanitary products that make you feel comfortable to help you enjoy your trip! 

What about the water

The water in Beijing is not good for drinking. The water is hard too so if you’re staying for some considerable time, expect to see this in your skin and hair. I stuck to bottled water but, unfortunately, there were no refilling stations at the hotels or hostels to save plastic.


FAMILIARISE YOURSELF WITH CULTURAL DIFFERENCES


Expect lung hacking (as I call it)

It’s extremely common for the locals of Beijing to make an almighty crack of their lungs and spit on the floor. I also noticed clearing of the nostrils to the pavement, not the most pleasant habit in Western culture and generally made me a feel a little nauseous.


People in Beijing can be pretty stern in appearance

I’m used to smiling to show warmth to the place I am visiting but this was regularly unreciprocated, mainly by the older generation. Bear with though, on a one-to-one basis the Beijing people can be pretty friendly.


Cash is still KING

China is still a largely cash-based economy and depending on where you go using a credit or debit card may not be widely accepted and present some challenges. Cards will be OK for high-end shops and restaurants catering to tourists in Beijing, but if you are going off the beaten path having cash at hand is the way to go. If you are using your cards be aware that credit card fraud is rising in China so exercise the same levels of caution you would back home. Check your bank and credit card statements carefully after your trip and raise any charges you don’t recognise immediately with your card issuer.


The etiquette of tipping in Beijing

Tipping is not part of the culture in China, however, it is now accepted in certain circumstances. Tour Guides rely on the tips, some restaurants will refuse but high end establishments may add to the bill. The bellboy in the hotel will accept crossing his palm with Yuan and taxi drivers do not expect a tip either.


What to wear as a female traveller

Beijing’s climate can also be very varied, so pack a wardrobe that’s prepared for any weather. Be mindful that Chinese women tend to dress more conservatively than Westerners, so play it safe when it comes to exposed skin.


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40 comments

GGeorgina 24th August 2019 - 7:00 pm

Excellent read and suggest a must for female solo travellers. I think your smart travel tips and the need to use wifi are areas often not given much attention to when we prepare for travelling. Especially the need for wifi – I had first hand experience when travelling in Japan, therefore I resonate with its importance.

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Vanessa 26th August 2019 - 8:30 pm

It sure means you need to plan before your trip to ensure you can stay connected in Beijing

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Joanna 24th August 2019 - 9:04 pm

I traveled to Beijing alone almost 10 years ago and loved it. Back then there weren’t a lot of solo tourists there. The food was the best, I remember eating breakfast, lunch and dinner, just because everything was so delicious. The transport system was quite easy to navigate, I used exclusively the subway and walked a lot too.

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Vanessa 26th August 2019 - 8:31 pm

It must have been very different 10 years ago… and yes, the food is super tasty in Beijing!

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Randy Baker 24th August 2019 - 9:46 pm

I’m not a solo female traveler, but I do enjoy solo travel. There are some great tips here. China has been moving up on my list of potential destinations, so this is some good information if choose Beijing. Oh, and that horking and nose clearing thing? I’ve seen it in other places and, yeah, it’s not the sort of thing I’ve ever gotten used to.

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Vanessa 26th August 2019 - 8:32 pm

Glad you found the article useful whether you are travelling solo or not. And yes, the lung clearance made me slightly glad to leave, LOL!

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Moon Ray 24th August 2019 - 10:30 pm

I liked your narrative especially on practical stuffs. The information is really helpful and to the point.

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Vanessa 26th August 2019 - 8:35 pm

Happy you enjoyed the blog on solo female travel in Beijing and found it useful!

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Elizabeth 25th August 2019 - 12:32 am

Wow- I guess I didn’t realize you need a VPN to access your social media accounts. That is often how we stay connected with family when we travel so this would have caught me off guard- thanks for the great info!

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Vanessa 26th August 2019 - 8:36 pm

You really do need to be prepared before visiting Beijing if you want to stay connected to family!

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Laurence 25th August 2019 - 2:53 am

Great tips, I want to visit Beijing for the Great Wall of China. These are really helpful, especially getting the name of the hotel in Chinese. We’ll be careful with taxis, whenever we visit.

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Vanessa 26th August 2019 - 8:37 pm

The Great Wall was an amazing moment, loved every minute! Having the name of the hotel in Chinese in Beijing was a blessing one night for sure!

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Pauline 25th August 2019 - 11:06 am

This is such a great and detailed article! I’ve never been to China but if I do, these tips will come in handy, especially the toilet paper one haha! It’s always nice to find somewhere with people who talk English, language barrier can be a bit hard when solo travelling.

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Vanessa 26th August 2019 - 8:39 pm

Solo travel in Beijing was more difficult with the language barrier, I was super happy to meet some people in the hostel to have some banter with.

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Paul Healy 25th August 2019 - 12:13 pm

Lots of great tips about visiting Beijing. I admit I got suckered into the scam where some people started talking to me in very good English and being very friendly, then I got hit with a huge bill and lots of intimidation tactics. Still, a great city though.

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Vanessa 26th August 2019 - 8:40 pm

Oh noooo you didn’t get caught with the scam, that must’ve been scary. I watched a YouTube video with a guy trying to expose them so I was ready for this one!

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Larch Gauld 25th August 2019 - 8:51 pm

I really enjoyed your tips. China is pencilled in for 2021, but may be with my partner and not solo. Even so the tips are really useful.

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Vanessa 26th August 2019 - 8:41 pm

The tips are useful whether you are travelling solo or with a partner, at least you will have someone to chat to. Enjoy your trip planning!

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Louise 25th August 2019 - 10:10 pm

These are some great tips for solo female travellers in China. I’ve yet to visit China but I’m planning a visit hopefully next year so these tips will come in very handy! I defo need to remember the VPN!

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Vanessa 26th August 2019 - 8:42 pm

Glad you found some helpful tips for visiting China… please don’t forget the VPN!

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Cath - Passports and Adventures 26th August 2019 - 12:00 am

They’re brilliant tips for anyone heading to China, particularly solo female travellers. My hubby has been recently with work for the first time and even found certain countries on vpn were blocked so he had to try a few. I hope we get to visit as a family in the future.

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Vanessa 26th August 2019 - 8:43 pm

I hope you get to visit Beijing with your family too, your husband should have some tips too!

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Anna 26th August 2019 - 8:54 am

Hi Vanessa, a lot of good advice and so many important reminders. I went to Beijing on an organized tour and I still found it challenging to navigate through all the areas. Thank you for sharing!
Anna

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Vanessa 26th August 2019 - 8:45 pm

Must have been easier going on an organised tour. glad you got to experience the wonderful city of Beijing!

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Yukti Agrawal 26th August 2019 - 4:52 pm

Very useful tips for solo female traveling in Beijing. Good to know about taking VPN before as I too faced that China does not allow Google or other social media channels. Even hailing taxi tip was very useful. I too downloaded translation app during my China and it is really very helpful as not many people know English.

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Vanessa 26th August 2019 - 8:46 pm

You’ve experienced the difficulties of travelling in China. I think as long as you are prepared it will make your trip much easier!

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Jiwesh 26th August 2019 - 6:34 pm

Amazing post and it will definitely help solo female travelers. Information about using VPN can be really helpful for travelers visit china for the first time. Information you conveyed is really helpful. Thank you.

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Vanessa 26th August 2019 - 8:47 pm

Happy you found the post helpful, hope it comes in handy when you head to China on your travels one day!

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Bernie Jackson 26th August 2019 - 7:44 pm

That’s a great mixture of practical advice and your helpful experiences. I like what you say about stern looks not meaning that people are unfriendly; that’s one of the cultural differences I’d not heard articulated before, and is very helpful to know. I shall remember your advice on getting the SIM sorted at the airport too.

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Vanessa 26th August 2019 - 8:49 pm

Preparation is key when visiting Beijing. With regards to some of the stern looks, it was mainly the older generation, the younger ones seemed much more approachable even if they couldn’t speak my language.

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Renata - www.byemyself.com 26th August 2019 - 10:50 pm

Great tips – many of them not only important for solo female travellers but certainly helpful for everyone. I’m going to Japan next weekend and hope that I won’t encounter too many difficulties – I’m having very positive prejudices 😉 However, I’ll remember some of your tips no matter what.

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Vanessa 26th August 2019 - 11:06 pm

That sounds like an exciting trip, as long as you’re prepared for your visit!

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Mirela | The Travel Bunny 26th August 2019 - 11:17 pm

This is such a thorough guide for solo travel in Beijing! I love that you’re sharing the most common scams to beware once we reach the destination. And also the cultural differences we should keep in mind.

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Vanessa 1st September 2019 - 3:00 pm

Thank you, glad you found it useful. There are a few scams to keep in mind!

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Su Bha Sun 27th August 2019 - 9:37 am

I never travel solo but your post is of great help for those who love to travel solo. There are great tips for making your trip amazing as well as safe while traveling alone.

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Vanessa 1st September 2019 - 3:02 pm

There’s many useful tips everyone too, I took this trips solo so there was extra things to watch out for.

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TIna 27th August 2019 - 10:28 am

Sounds like you had a great time in China! So many useful tips, especially the one with getting a VPN before entering the country. A little Social Media break wouldn’t hurt, but I would still like to have the option hehe. Thanks for sharing!

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Vanessa 1st September 2019 - 3:03 pm

I really enjoyed my trip to Beijing. Delighted that you found some of the tips useful.

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The Spicy Travel Girl 15th May 2020 - 3:19 pm

Great guide! As a foreign student in China, I’m sad to see how many female solo travelers skip mainland China during their Asia trips because it has a bit of a “difficult” reputation. However, I rarely feel as safe anywhere as in China and the country has so much to offer. Thanks for this thorough and accurate guide!
However the “Cash Is King” part is just a liiittle bit debatable. Of course cash is more accepted than international(!) credit cards but in many places people have gotten so used to Wechat and Alipay that they frown upon me giving cash. I even had a friend who tried to pay a taxi driver in cash but he got so angry that he yelled at her.
I know that it’s very difficult for foreign tourists to implement We chat Pay or Alipay because you need a Chinese bank account but LUCKILY Alipay has this program where foreigners can connect their foreign credit card to a Shanghai Bank account so that they can use Alipay to a limited extent during their travels 🙂

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Vanessa 24th May 2020 - 6:49 am

Thank you so much for this useful information, however, I was only there for a few days so it wasn’t an option to use Alipay for such a short period. It is a fabulous option if I was travelling for longer and something I will consider when I do a longer trip. I agree that female travellers should consider travelling solo in this wonderful and diverse country.

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