The best way to get to Beijing is to fly into the Beijing Capital International Airport (BCIA).
As with most international airports, you have plenty of options for flights, and online services like Orbitz can help you easily book your travel if you simply enter your starting and ending destinations and dates for travel.
While actual airfares will vary depending on your exact dates of travel, you can expect to pay about $1,400 from the Twin Cities to Beijing.
Once you arrive in Beijing someone from your school will pick you up from the airport and take you to your accommodations.
Since Beijing remodeled the city for the 2008 Olympics, getting around in Beijing is easier than ever. There are plenty of public transportation options and great resources for tourists and expats.
Having a smart phone will make getting around Beijing significantly easier, especially if you ever get lost. You can purchase one for about 1,000 RMB. All plans in China are prepaid, and you can get one for about 50 RMB/month.
The most convenient form of transportation within the city, the metro costs only 2 RMB to ride anywhere in the city. Be warned, it can get very crowded, especially on national holidays.
You can get anywhere in Beijing through the subway as long as you look up your route in advance. It’s a good idea to look up your destination on Google Maps to figure out the nearest stop so you can plan your travel.
And you don’t have to worry about missing your stop. Though station names are in Chinese and Pinyin, an automated voice announces the name of the next station in English and cars feature a large LCD display that flashes the next stop in Pinyin and Chinese.
Beijing buses can be challenging for tourists and new visitors to the city, since there are many routes between two points and passengers often have to switch buses. The bus is also a lot slower than the metro and often more crowded.
If you do decide to take the bus, make sure you know your route. If you have a purse, keep it in front of you and keep an eye on it. Store wallets in your front pocket instead of your rear pocket.
While Beijing taxis are usually easy to get (unless it’s rush hour) they aren’t the most economical option. Cross-town taxis can cost over 50 RMB, and you need to make sure your driver turns the meter on so you don’t get overcharged.
You should carry a map in Chinese so you can show the driver where you need to go. Only a few drivers speak English, but most drivers can find an address if it is written down in Chinese. You can also use your camera phone to take a photo or screenshot of your destination in Google Maps to show your driver.
Be aware of black taxis! They look like normal cars and though they are everywhere, they are not legal, as they don’t usually have meters and drivers may overcharge.
Beware Rickshaw Motorcyles
Avoid taking rickshaw motorcycles, especially those that offer quick trips around famous areas of the city. Even if you arrange a price ahead of time, drivers may try to scam or even threaten you into paying more.
Don’t let this worry you, however. As in any big city, if you exercise common sense and stay aware of your surroundings, you’ll be fine. Just know what to be wary of – Beijing is full of tourist traps!