LANGUAGE: Mandarin is the official language of China.  In our travel experience, few people outside of the hospitality industry speak English.  Download a translation app to help with communication while you travel especially if you are traveling outside major metropolitan areas.

CURRENCY: Yuan is the national currency.  Credit cards were widely accepted.

WHEN TO GO:  Best time to visit China is during the spring (March to May) or fall (September to October).   During the summer months, tourism is going to be at its peak making most tourist spots overwhelmingly crowded not to mention hot.

POLLUTION: Pollution is a huge problem in China especially air pollution. An air quality report is issued every day to advise if the air is acceptable to breathe.  You will often see people wearing face masks in public due to the poor air quality.

VISA: A visa is required to travel to China and it is a multi-step process. Check out our full Guide to China for more details.

RESTAURANTS:  Picture menus are common in restaurants as a “translation” option.  You find a meal that looks appealing in the picture and point to order.

BATHROOMS:  Most public bathrooms are squatty pottys, basically a hole in the floor with no toilet.  Toilet paper is not available and it would be wise to carry a pack of tissues with you.  (I did find some of the handicap stalls to have actual toilets.)

TOURIST ATTRACTION: You may end up being the tourist attraction.  There were several instances where we were asked to be in a picture with local tourists.

GOVERNMENT: The communist government runs everything including the tourist industry.  For more on how this will impact your trip, check out our full Guide to China. 

CROWDS: China is crowded! Beijing has a population of over 21 million people and Shanghai over 26 million people.  To compare, New York City has a population of just 8 million.  Expect public places to be crowded, sometimes overwhelmingly so. People are not afraid to push or shove to get where they need to go.

POINTS OF INTEREST: Great Wall of China, Summer Palace, Temple of Heaven, Forbidden City


Beijing is a bustling metropolis and the capitol of China.  Our guide to 48 Hours in Beijing will recommend how to allocate and spend time in the city to see and experience the top attractions.


Start your first day in Tianammin Square and the Forbidden City. The Forbidden City, now a world heritage site, was the former imperial palace to the Ming and Qing Dynasties as well as the political center of the Chinese government.

Entering the Forbidden City through the Meridian Gate under the very large picture of Mao, you will start your exploration of the over the 980 buildings and 72 acres of the complex.  (We were very thankful for our tour guide to help in navigating the city!)

The Hall of Supreme Harmony, featured in this picture, is the largest hall within the Forbidden City which served as the location for enthronement and wedding ceremonies. 

After touring the Forbidden City, head to the Temple of Heaven.  An impressive architectural building, the temple served as a place of prayer for emperors to worship the god of heaven, often praying for good harvests.  The Prayer Hall (pictured below) is the most main complex building.

After a full day of sightseeing, explore the night markets and the endless assortment of food on a stick. Scorpion? Check. Cockroach? Check. Cricket? Check. Octopus? Check. Things we were not going to eat. Check, check, check. 

The night markets are great to explore and photograph, but our tour guide warned not to eat the food.  Even if you found scorpion tempting to eat, the cooking oil is dirty.  There are minimal sanitation measures taken and you could end up very sick to your stomach.  (Make sure to offer a tip to the vendors if you are photographing the market and not eating!)


The Great Wall of China, the country’s most iconic attraction, is where we would recommend starting your second day in Beijing. Located around an hour outside of Beijing, it was an easy drive.  Badaling and Mutianyu are the closest and most well preserved sections of the Great Wall to visit from Beijing.  (We visited the Badaling section of the wall and found the views to be stunning! But for those looking for a thrill, Mutianyu has a toboggan slide to take you down to the exit from the top of the wall!)

The wall can be incredibly crowded during peak tourist season with crowds forming a sea of people along the wall’s walkways.  We would recommend visiting during an off season to avoid large crowds.  For more ways to experience the Great Wall of China check out our full Guide to China.

Return to Beijing for an afternoon rickshaw tour of the Hutongs.  Hutong, meaning alleyways, are a traditional style neighborhood with winding narrow streets lined with single story dwellings. Visiting the Hutongs gives a glimpse into Beijing’s past as these neighborhoods are quickly dwindling and only a few remain.

For dinner this evening, attend a Peking Duck Banquet dinner.   A multi course feast, the dinner centers around a roasted whole duck which is wheeled table side to be carved in front of you. 

This recommended 48 hour itinerary is a great start to getting to know Beijing.  If you have extra time in the city consider adding the Summer Palace or a visit to the Olympic Village to your sightseeing list.

Welcome to Mullen it Over!

Hi, we’re Amanda & Kai!

An every day couple trying to see the world and cross off our ever expanding bucket list.