Even though going to the Great Wall of China was on the top of my list for my time in Beijing, it somehow got pushed to my very last day in the city. I wanted to get an early start and spend the whole day hiking the wall, but I ended up being there for less than two hours. I intended for it to be a contemplative solo experience, but it ended up being a wildly fun and raucous day featuring 14 Tunisians.
Although my day at the Great Wall was in no way what I expected, it was just as amazing as I had anticipated. Before my trip, every travel blog I read described the experience as ‘indescribable’ and I was annoyed out of my mind…but I’m about to do the same thing. Instead of trying to tell you how the Wall will make you feel, I’ll try to impart some wisdom for getting yourself to the wall on the cheap! I would definitely recommend Mutianyu, since it has a chairlift, toboggan ride, and great restoration without a ton of crowds.
- The easiest way to get to the Great Wall at Mutianyu is to hire a driver for the day, but if you’re on a budget and alone (like me) this isn’t really an option.
- The first bus option most of the guidebooks give is taking bus 867. This departs from Dongzhimen Wai bus stand and costs 16RMB for a direct 2.5 hour ride. The catch is it only leaves at 7AM and 8:30AM and comes back at 2PM and 4PM, so it’s very time-sensitive. I didn’t opt for this plan, but I prefer my option anyway.
- The other most popular route starts from Dongzhimen Transport Hub. To get here, get off the subway at Dongzhimen and follow the exit signs toward “Dongzhimen Public Transport”. Go INSIDE the building, don’t just wait for a bus where it seems normal to wait – you have to get on inside. I have no idea why. The bus is number 916, and they come around every 20 minutes from 6:30AM to 7:30PM. It only costs 12RMB and takes just an hour!
You have to get off at Mingzhu Guangchang, and this is where we went wrong…people will try to convince you to get off a few stops beforehand, saying this is where you go to get to Mutianyu. They’re lying so they can rip you off! Be careful. If you get off at the right stop, there will be minivans that take you to the Wall for 15RMB per person, but even if you get off early you can probably find a similar service for 20-30RMB depending on your bargaining skills.
All in all, getting to the Great Wall at Mutianyu is honestly not as stressful as it seems. I’m glad I was with a group to make it easier to make decisions, although it also made it harder to find minivans for all of us. I would absolutely recommend taking the public transport route (and specifically bus 916) over hiring a driver! If you’re planning a trip to Beijing and are hoping to make it to Mutianyu, don’t hesitate to reach out and ask for clarification on anything I’ve written here.