Fodor's Beijing Paperback – Apr 19 2011
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Top Customer Reviews
However after my two week stay in Beijing, I'd say the book is not practical and I wouldn't recommend buying it. There are actually very few maps and a lot of repetition. The book is broken into separate sections for sightseeing, eating, shopping, staying and entertainment. Each section provides an introduction to the neighborhood (thus it seems like you are introduced to each neighborhood in 5 different ways) and each section uses the same map but lists what's relevant to the section (i.e. restaurants are shown on the eating map, hotels on the staying map, etc.). This is quite impractical if you are trying to find a restaurant and you identify a hotel landmark as you end up flipping between the staying section and eating section to figure out where you are (more detailed neighborhood maps with cross listings would be more useful).
Also, the neighborhood maps are not detailed enough to help you find your way around, nor is the information on making the most of visits to key sights other than the Forbidden Palace and Great Wall (great wall overview was well done). Other drawbacks were that the subway station names on the maps often differed from the route map on the inside back page, and the Chinese characters for key destinations were in a small font that made it difficult for taxi drivers to read - taxi drivers don't understand English so the characters are essential.
This was my first Fodor's guidebook purchase and it is much more of a book than a practical guidebook. Will try other publishers for my next trip. But definitely recommend visiting Beijing - it's an amazing place.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Fodor's Beijing has a nice mix of descriptions, photos (most small but in color), advice, and maps of the larger tourist areas such as The Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven Park, and The Summer Palace. Organized first by topic (exploring, dining, lodging, etc.) and then by district within the city, it makes it easy to plan a day. After all, as good as the Beijing subway is, it can still take upward of forty minutes to get from one end of the city to the other. This guide also has sections on the history, FAQs (such as getting there and money issues), what to do with kids, nightlife, and side trips outside of the city. Some of the advice is excellent, such as the suggestion to visit the Great Wall at Mutianyu instead of the more popular and touristy Badaling section. My husband and I ended up enjoying the Mutianyu expanse of the Great Wall with just a handful of people spread out around us while others in our party when to Badaling and complained about the crowds. The guide lists both the must-see destinations as well as some off-the-beaten path ones, such as the quirky (but difficult to get to) Art District 798.
As with all guidebooks, the one area that is less reliable is the dining guide since restaurants come and go, even the best of them. We were disappointed to discover that one restaurant we had chosen for a special dinner was no longer open.
If you get only one guidebook for Beijing, make it this one. In one week, it became dog-eared from constant use.
-- Debbie Lee Wesselmann
The one piece of advice I will give in addition to the book is that you should definitely get a personal guide. They are very inexpensive in Beijing - as of 10/2011 I paid $110/day for an experienced guide with car, or $40/day for a less experienced guide without car. Be careful to get a referral, and don't just pick a guide. As always, don't purchase souvenirs with a guide (they will get kickback and shop will not negotiate as much), and be careful about the tea-house scams.
I have 3 tips;
1- Stay away from the Silk or Yashow markets listed in the book as they mark up 10x value and you have to haggle. There is a great market in between the Jingshan Park and the Drum Tower....as a matter of fact, this entire area is great for shopping and eating and the (frozen) lake was neat.
2- Explore the small restaurants, they are everywhere and all were great. I didn't go to any in the book and while I understand why there arent a lot listed, it was still lacking a bit.
3- Stay in the Jingshan area and walk everywhere. It was 30f and we managed to cover a lot of ground in 4 days. This allows for a real experience.