Visiting the Great Wall is, well, great. But it can be busy and expensive. And tours to the less busy places like Jinshanlin can be even more expensive. At my hostel a tour to Jinshanjing would set you back 345 Chinese RMB which is about £25-35, or $40-50. Which seems a bit much. Luckily there is way to get there independently, which is significantly cheaper, and fairly idiot proof. (Well I managed it at least…)
NOTE – RECENT COMMENTS CONFIRM THAT THE JINSHANLING GREAT WALL SECTION IS CLOSED AS OF 1 JUNE 2017. IT SEEMS IT IS NOT EXPECTED TO OPEN FOR CIRCA 6 MONTHS. I WILL LEAVE THIS GUIDE UP AS A FUTURE REFERENCE THAT MIGHT STILL BE VALID WHEN THE WALL REOPENS BUT IN THR SHORT TERM YOU WILL NEED TO LOOK FOR ALTERNATIVE SECTIONS OF WALL TO VISIT. FEEL FREE TO RECOMMEND ANY IN THE COMMENTS.
How to get to Jinshanling Great Wall by public transport…
First things first, get yourself a rechargable Beijing Metro Card. It will cost you 20RMB (as a deposit) plus whatever credit you want to put on it and its great for getting you around Beijing generally, saving queuing at Metro Stations and getting you small savings on bus tickets. You want to make sure you have at least 20RMB credit on it to get you to the wall at Jinshanling. Now take the metro from wherever your hostel is to Wangjing West Station, which is on Lines 13 and 15. This should cost you 2RMB (although there is talk of upping the cost of Metro journeys to 4RMB.) At Wangjing West Station, make sure to take Exit C (otherwise you will get lost, which is what I did…). As you exit from Exit C you will see opposite you on the other side of the road, a bus station. At this Bus Station, there only appears to be one bus that you can catch from the station itself. It doesn’t have a number but this is the one you want and will have 滦平written on it somewhere, which I think means Luaping, which is where the bus is going. Before you get the bus though you might want to pick up some snacks and drink for the wall and for breakfast. There is a “Fulltime CVS” minimart just to the left of the bus station as you look at it from the Metro exit. It does remarkably good pastries. UPDATE – the CVS is no more, in its place a store called OurHours.
With breakfast sorted, go to the bus station and wait for the bus. As I said, it’s going to Luaping, and this is also written on the bus stand (in English) so you should be fairly confident you are getting on the right bus! Feel free to check though, locals use this bus to get to the wall at Jinshanling as well so they should be able to point you in the right direction if you have somehow joined the wrong queue.
The bus apparently leaves every hour starting from 7am, however I managed to catch it at 07:30 having just missed the 7am one so it would seem that early in the morning at least they may run more often. Travellers in the comments section have also spoken about getting buses at 07.40 and at some times of year there is a special tourist bus. If anyone is able to photo an upto date timetable and post it in the comments section that would be great! It will cost you 13 RMB in cash which you will hand over to a bus station worker as you queue up to get on the bus, you then tap your card up against the reader when you actually board the bus which will cost you about 7RMB. If you don’t have a card they will charge you something like 32RMB in cash, so make sure you have the card!
The bus will then leave and you can relax and stare out of the window as you need the first bus stop, but the first stop wont be for about 80-90minutes! It will drop you off at the rest stop for the Jingshanglin Great Wall. From here, you can take a free shuttle bus to the site itself. Unfortunately I didn’t take this shuttle bus or make a note of the times so I can’t tell you when it leaves. Sorry about that. But I can tell you there is a timetable by the toilets. (Traveller feedback – whether this bus exists or not appears to change frequently – so for planning purposes its probably best to assume it doesn’t)
If there isn’t one leaving soon you will find people offering to drive you there for some amount of money (remember to negotiate!). They will tell you that it is very far to the entrance and a very long walk. They are sort of telling the truth. If you want to get to where the cable car will take you up to the wall its a good 5-6km walk to get there. However the Eastern entrance to the wall, is a much more manageable 2km walk although whether this is something you will want to do will be up to your judgement! The best combination is probably to note the times of the return shuttle bus from the Cable Car and then walk to the Eastern Entrance, go up the great wall, and then leave via the Cable Car exit (not necessarily taking the cable car, unless you are lazy) in time to pick up the free shuttle bus. Or you can just walk back as I did, it is manageable. Walking to the wall is straight forward. Head back the way the bus came, and follow the slip road leading off the left of the Rest Area and going underneath the main highway. You then take the turning to the right which is signposted as going to the Jinshanling Wall. Then simply follow the road. Ticket for the wall itself is 65RMB
Getting the bus back to Beijing feels less straight forward but it’s still manageable. Back where you were dropped off you will see a building apparently functioning as a tourist information centre, although it was offering no information when I was there. The bus back to Beijing will stop in front of this building. Just wait for it to turn up, tap your Travel Card against the reader and pay the driver the remaining 13RMB in cash. Note that it might be a rather busy bus on the way back. There was only one free seat when it picked me up. Luckily no one else got on so I got to nab the seat. About 90 minutes later you will find yourself back at Wangjing West from where you can get the metro back to your hostel. Because the metro beats Beijing traffic jams any day of the week the odds are you will get back to your hostel before the people who have taken the much more expensive tour. Silently allow yourself a moment to gloat when they finally do return, to find you are already busy drinking a beer…
(UPDATE – a good tip from Alex the comments section, if you are travelling on a busy day (weekend or public holiday) and want to try to avoid risks of queues for the public bus back, you could try approaching tour group leaders to see if for a small payment you can get a spot on their tour bus back to Beijing. This probably only really works if there is one or two of you, and obviously there are no guarantees there will be space or they will be accommodating, but its worth a try!)
Hopefully this post will give you the confidence that you can get to the Great Wall at Jinshanling both beating the crowds and saving money. (and here are some photos showing you why you should go!)
This information is confirmed from traveller feedback as still being accurate as of April 2017 – please use the comment section below to let me and you fellow travellers(!) know if you find the information to be accurate or if anything has changed!
And if this does save you money, maybe you should remember me in your will? Or alternatively just read more of my blog posts…