Singapore’s annual haze has nothing on Beijing’s perennial smog. But if you can brave the air pollution, Beijing is an incredible treasure trove of history and culture. The scale of monumental sights like the Great Wall and the Forbidden City is just crazy, while the traditional hutongs are retro at its finest.
Best of all, while Beijing is one of China’s most expensive cities to visit, it’s still cheap by Singaporean standards. Here’s how to do a week in Beijing on a budget.
While budget airline Air Asia flies to Beijing, it’s often cheaper to fly with a full service airline. A quick search on Kayak should get you the cheapest flights.
Right now, the cheapest return flights in November range from 249 SGD to 374 SGD. Malaysia Airline flights to Beijing have been very cheap ever since that unfortunate incident. If you book at the last minute, you should still be able to fly for about 400 SGD to 500 SGD.
Cost: 400 SGD
If you book on Airbnb, you should have no trouble getting accommodation for two for 25 SGD to 30 SGD per night. One advantage of staying on Airbnb as opposed to hotels is that you can pick a residence set in a traditional hutong area, which is a lot better than a characterless budget hotel room.
This entire apartment complete with kitchen accommodates two people and costs just 25 SGD per night. This room in a traditional house is in a hutong area complete with old-school courtyard, accommodates two and costs 31 SGD a night. And a room in this very cool young person’s apartment costs just 27 SGD per night.
If you’re going to stay in a hotel, run a search on Agoda. You should have no trouble finding hotel rooms on sale for 25 SGD to 30 SGD a night.
If you’re travelling solo and have nobody to share a room with, a hostel dorm will set you back about 10 SGD to 20 SGD per night.
Cost: 15 SGD per night / 90 SGD for a week
While the peak hour crowds on Beijing’s subway system will make even the most seasoned MRT commuter’s eyes pop out, it’s pleasant during off peak hours. Fares are distanced based, and a ride of 6km and under costs 3 RMB (0.61 SGD). A 40km trip costs 7 RMB (1.42 SGD).
To get from the airport to the city centre, your cheapest option is to take an airport shuttle bus to your desired area for 16 RMB (3.26 SGD).
There’s also an airport express train which gets you to Dongzhimen Station in 20 to 30 minutes for 25 RMB (5.09 SGD).
And finally, a taxi from the airport costs about 70 RMB (14.25 SGD) to 120 RMB (24.43 SGD), and can be worthwhile if you’re travelling in a group and can split the cost—just make sure you know how to avoid getting scammed and avoid illegal taxis like the plague.
Cost: 20 RMB per day / 140 RMB (28.50 SGD) for a week
There are enough historical and cultural sights to keep you busy for weeks, but for the sake of a week-long trip, we’ve rounded up some of the most important sites and how much it costs to visit them.
- Forbidden City – 40 RMB (8.14 SGD) from Nov to Mar, 60 RMB (12.21 SGD) from Apr to Oct
- Great Wall – Day tours cost about 335 RMB (68.20 SGD) to 500 RMB (101.79 SGD); entrance fees without tours are about 20 RMB (4.07 SGD) to 65 RMB (13.23 SGD) depending on the section
- Temple of Heaven – 10 RMB (2.04 SGD) from Nov to Mar, 15 RMB (3.05 SGD) from Apr to Oct; combination ticket including entry to Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests 30 RMB (6.11 SGD) from Nov to Mar, 35 RMB (7.12 SGD) from Apr to Oct
- Tiananmen Square – Free, 15 RMB (3.05 SGD) for Tiananmen Tower
- Summer Palace – 30 RMB (6.11 SGD) from Apr to Oct, 20 RMB (4.07 SGD) from Nov to Mar; 60 RMB (12.21 SGD)from Apr to Oct for combination ticket including sites like Dehe Garden, 50 RMB (10.18 SGD) for combination ticket from Nov to Mar
- Ming Tombs – 150 RMB (30.54 SGD) for all three sections from Apr to Oct 31, 105 RMB (21.37 SGD) for all sections from Nov to Mar
- Beijing National Stadium – 50 RMB (10.18 SGD)
- National Museum of China – Free
Cost: 650 RMB (134 SGD) to keep yourself occupied for a week
Food is cheap in Beijing and actually very good, so have fun stuffing your face. A basic meal at an inexpensive Chinese restaurant could cost maybe 30 RMB (6.11 SGD) to 50 RMB (10.18 SGD). Meals at Western-style restaurants cost more—budget about 50 RMB (10.18 SGD) to 100 RMB (20.36 SGD) per meal if you want pasta and pizza.
But you can get away with paying a lot less for food, especially given the abundance of small local cafes, street food stalls and small “cai png” type eateries, where you can have a full meal for just 10 RMB (2.04 SGD) to 20 RMB (4.08 SGD).
Cost: 100 RMB per day / 700 RMB (142.50 SGD) for a week
Total cost of a week-long holiday in Beijing: 795 SGD
Have you ever been to Beijing? Share your recommendations in the comments!
Image Credits: Colin Capelle