Please come visit us!
It's much easier than you think to visit us in Beijing. Read on for info about flights, accommodations, and trip planning.
Inexpensive direct flights
You can fly to Beijing from San Francisco on a non-stop, 12-hour flight. Most people think Beijing is much further away than it really is, but let's compare: SFO - Paris is 11 hours, and SFO-Milan is almost 14 hours! So before you conclude that Beijing is "too far," please think again!
The cheapest non-stop fares we've found are on Air China, which has new planes with a lot more legroom than the US carriers offer. The food is only slightly worse than you'll get on United. :) Non-stop fares are about $700. We've also found one-stop fares on Japanese airlines, which pass through Tokyo, as low as $603.
We've found that Travelocity has the best "fare checker," which you can use by searching for flights between your home city and Beijing (PEK) while indicating that your "dates are flexible." Once you find a flight you like, then use Expedia to book it, which seems to have the best inventory of available flights.
Free, friendly place to stay
We have rented a 4-bedroom duplex apartment right in the downtown area, in a small friendly apartment complex where we already know some of our neighbors. It's next door to the school our girls will attend; it's also across the street from a fabulous park with trampolines, rock-climbing walls, and folks practicing martial arts. Our apartment is less than 2 miles from Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, and an easy walk to the Friendship Store, Silk Alley, and the Kerry Center. It makes for a great central location to explore Beijing.
The apartment has a private guest bedroom with double bed and attached private bathroom with shower, a huge closet, and wireless broadband. Kids can stay upstairs with the girls, who will be taking over a large bedroom/playroom with plenty of room and extra beds for sleep-overs. Reserve now since we know we'll have lots of guests!
Hotel Choices Nearby
If you'd rather stay in a nearby hotel, you have many choices, at different price ranges. Our top-three recommendations (with July 2004 prices), some of which are walk-able to our place:
There are MANY other hotels nearby, the most interesting and inexpensive of which are the Chinese four- and five-star places that cost about $60 - 70 per night. These places typically provide a very nice room with great hotel facilities (pool, health club, etc). They are scrupulously clean. What you don't get are great Western restaurants (more like weird ersatz copies) nor employees who speak much English. We stay at these places since we speak Chinese. They are certainly manageable without Chinese, but you'll need to be patient and tolerant of cultural differences! None of the ones we recommend are within walking distance. We'd be happy to give you more details if you're interested, or you can surf CTrip.com for ideas (they are the leading Chinese travel site; the exchange rate is about 8 RMB to 1 USD). We've booked half a dozen Chinese hotels on Ctrip sight unseen and all have been excellent in value.
Finally, there are plenty of options at the $50 and less price range, though all of them will be in Chinese hotels, and none of them will be nearby. If you want to travel like a student, then these might be for you. Otherwise, it's worth paying the premium for the choices above.
When to come
Like most places in the world, the weather is best in the fall (Sept and Oct) and the spring (April and May). The winter is cold (it snows!) and the summer is very hot. Beijing is always dry (it's on the edge of the Gobi desert. Occasional sandstorms blow in during the spring and fall.
We plan to stay for at least a year. We're also hoping to travel extensively throughout China and the rest of Asia during the kids' school breaks (exact dates are still TBD). These breaks are NOT good times to find us at home in Beijing:
If your visit overlaps with one of these breaks, you're certainly welcome to use our apartment, and we hope to see you for part of your trip.
Planning your trip
Beijing is the capital of the largest country in the world with the oldest civilization. It's the home of the government, all multi-national headquarters, Chinese TV and film, and all of the top Chinese universities. It's kind of like New York + Boston + LA + Washington DC. Lots of culture, sights, interesting people, and shopping. About 14 million people live there, and it takes more than 90 minutes to drive from one end to the other with NO traffic.
The biggest question when planning your trip is how much time you have, and where you want to go.
What you choose to do in Beijing depends a lot on what interests you. We think the best guidebook right now is Frommer's Beijing. For planning purposes, here is our suggested must-do list of things to do within a four-day visit:
Of course, the itinerary depends A LOT on who you are. Our choices for kids would be different, as would the plan for someone really into Chinese history.
Wireless broadband is widely available.
Email Tom with any questions, as he's the travel coordinator of the family.
Please come visit!
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