Navigating Beijing for Foreign Tourists

So Olympic tourists already have plenty of volunteer stations around Beijing. But foreign friends will need a lot more than that to get around. As NBC’s Alan Paul suggests on his blog, Destination Beijing, taxis are a good way to navigate Beijing for tourists. But, “even if you speak a fair amount of Chinese, there’s a decent chance that the driver won’t understand your horrible accent. Or, the Chinese name of the place you’re trying to go is completely different than the English name you know. Or, you manage to properly communicate your destination but neither of you have a clue how to get there.”

True, true. So that’s why hotels, big sponsors, and other foreign companies are out to help that non-Chinese-speaking tourist. I came across the Hilton Hotels Beijing Resource Centers website. A modest attempt with phone numbers and some basic Chinese translations.

But the best so far has been the Starbucks Experience Beijing printed-guide. There is nothing better than a map you can hold in your hand. It has loads of information in Chinese, pinyin (the romanization), and English to help navigate the city. More importantly, it concentrates on the subway system so you can self-navigate the city. Sites are clearly marked with graphics and names. Topping it off, it fits in your pocket. I use it as a subway guide because even the subway itself doesn’t have complete maps that area easy to find and read.

Chances are, though, tourists will break out a Lonely Planet. Just don’t bring (or buy) the entire country guide because it is over 800 pages long. The smaller Beijing guide will suffice.

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One thought on “Navigating Beijing for Foreign Tourists”

  1. And don’t miss the incredibly inconsistent pinyin job for the Common Mandarin Phrases sidebar of the Hilton site. They try to do it phonetically for some words and then some are just left in regular pinyin. The mix makes it indecipherable for anyone trying to pronounce the words.

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