Heading to Beijing 2008--where do I start?

My wife and I have often spoken of going to China (our Asia travel experience is limited to Japan and Thailand thus far), and we’ve also spoken of going to the Olympics one day, so the next Summer Games seems an ideal way to kill two birds with one stone.

The idea is to attend a couple of events as part of a larger China trip. Needless to say, this would involve some advance-planning and logistics-arranging above and beyond our usual travels.

I’ve looked at the IOC and other official websites, but there’s little practical information up so far. So, here are a few questions:

(1) Do the individual events (from arching to wrestling) follow the same schedule every games? Meaning, Day 5 always has this swimming final, day 10 always has this track & field preliminary, etc.

(2) Can anyone speak to what might be the best value in Olympic-viewing? T&F and Gymnastics are big ticket items, but they also involve many events/competitors going on simulataneously. I would think some sports might be more difficult to appreciate from the stands than others (we’re spoiled by the access TV coverage provides). Also, are any events even better live than you might imagine from the TV coverage (particularly if it’s a “marginal” sport–we think these might be the most fun)? Any pearls from experienced Olympic-attenders would be appreciated.

(3) How good is Beijing as a starting (or ending) point for excursions into the country (which, aside from The Wall, we admit to knowing very little about)? Is the train a good/efficient/safe way to travel there, or will we need to do some flying too? (In Thailand, we did both, but English is more common there)

(4) Any recommendations on booking lodging in China? I imagine this is one of the things we’ll need to do first. Any recommendations on booking lodging for the Olympics? How early do we need to do it?

(5) How good/easy/intuitive is public transportation in Beijing? We had few troubles navigating Tokyo–is it analagous, or much different/harder? Initial maps indicate that most of the events will be within the city limits, so this question may dictate the flexibility we’ll have in assessing our accomodation choices.

(6) Does anyone have any other advice/suggestions/recommendations about the Summer Games or China in general that we should keep in mind?

Thanks! :slight_smile:

In terms of TV vs live coverage, games that are a lot more “busy” benifit from actually being there. IE: games such as Volleyball, Basketball, Soccer etc when more than 1 thing is happening at once.

I’ve been planning (day dreaming) about doing this too. My main interest would be attending the games, with some small excursions into China either before or after the games.

My off the wall, WAG is that it will require about $12,000 per person for total expenses. I’ve got many questions similar to the OP’s, so somebody please comment!

  1. Don’t know.

  2. Don’t know

  3. My suggestion is that during the Olympics, you stay in Tianjin, a major city(third largest in China) that happens to be only an hour or so away from Beijing, by train. Things will be somewhat cheaper and a little less hectic. The soccer stadium is being built here(Tianjin) now and some other events will be played here. You can go visit a beautiful, but less crowded part of the Great Wall without leaving Tianjin. You can head into Beijing by train plenty of times during the day, and the train stations have a foreign desk where the worker speaks English(during the Olympics, there will probably be several).

Beijing has tons of things to see, from art museums to Tiananmen Square(along with the Forbidden City). I proposed to my wife over at the Temple of Heaven, which has a lovely park.

  1. I recommend staying at either the Sheraton in Tianjin or the Beijing International Hotel if you stay in Beijing. I don’t know if you can book now, but they both have English speaking people who work at the desk. Both normaly run around 450 RMB a night($55), but prices will be up during the Olympics. You can walk to the train stations from the Beijing hotel and will be able to take a Bullet Train to Tianjin’s train station when it’s finished(well before 2008).

  2. It’s easy to get around. You can get English/Chinese maps and point. They’ll have Olympic maps with the events on them in both languages. Taxis are dirt cheap, as is the subway in Beijing.

I recommend coming here, though I’ll be out of the country during the Olympics. I can’t imagine the crowds!

Wow, that sounds great Mahaloth. Thanks for the info–I’ll definitely look into that possibility. :slight_smile:

Anyone else (especially Olympic vets)?

I don’t know about Olympics, but World Cups (soccer) are similar in length of time and travel issues. I am a regular on a list for US soccer fans that go to World Cups and WC qualifiers.

Start saving now, like you would for Christmas or any other large, future expenditure. Put what you can afford into a savings account and let it sit until you need it.

Plan your spending for the time about 1 year out until actual travel date.

Get your passport and any visas in order far enough in advance to avoid the rush. Passports for most people are valid for 10 years (minors’ passports expire at five years).

See if you can find a similar organization to talk with others who are going and share plans, tips, tricks, excitement, etc. You might even want to book with someone who specializes in these kind of trips and can get you an all inclusive deal, but watch out for scams. Look for a company with a solid track record.

A lot of foreign nationals have preferred travel agents that get good discounts to a particular country because that’s what they always book. If you live in an area with a sizeable (or even noticeable) Chinese population you may be able to find a travel agent who specializes in China.

Consider spending some time living with a host Chinese family if this option is available. Maybe not for the whole trip, but it will save you some money and let you see a peek at the “real” China.

Learn a few simple phrases in Chinese (I think Mandarin is appropriate for the area?) Hello, thank you, please, etc. It goes a long way to show you make an effort.