Beijing, China, Don't Panic Travel Guides

Don’t Panic: How to do the Great Wall of China (Mutianyu) by Bus

Together, the three of us did the Great Wall of China at Mutianyu for 245 CNY (+150 CNY for the Slideway down).  Which means our entire trip to the Great Wall for three people cost us less than $60 USD.  We took the 936 bus out to this more scenic and ‘less’ touristy section of the Great Wall and added a ride down the slideway for only slightly more than it would have cost one person to take a tour to the Badaling section.

At first, Jade and I were excited to figure our own way to the Wall, and then it was just me, and now I would have to say, I don’t recommend this option.  Don’t get me wrong, The Mutianyu Great Wall was everything I had hoped the Great Wall to be, and I am infinitely glad we made it.  However, the manner in which we took the trip was super stressful and ultimately, like any tour we would have taken, we were a slave to timetables.  In case you do want to try taking the bus to Mutianyu Great Wall, here is the way we figured it out and some tips we had to learn the hard way.

You Will Need: Cash, a map with Mutianyu Great Wall translated in Chinese and English, and to ask for help

Difficulty: 7

1. The 936 Bus leaves from the outside of Dong Zhi Men Station. To get to the bus you must walk outside the station, head East on Dongzhimen Waida Street and then take a Left to head North on Dongzhimen Outer Byway; you won’t have to cross any street to make this walk, but you will be crossing over bus entrances and exits to the DingZhiMen Station. Continue down  Dongzhimen Outer Byway until the bus station comes up on your Left.  You will be able to tell it’s the bus station and not the bus park because there will probably be other plain clothed people lining up.  When we were there, there was a blue and white two-story building on one side of the bus park.

  • Arrive Early
  • Don’t listen to the people saying they’ll take you there.  If you’ve come this far then you don’t want their tour.

2. Make sure you’re on the right 936. The day we were there, it was the second 936 stanchion, but ask the bus driver and the attendant (blue shirts) to make sure.

  • To ask, have a map or something similar with the place name written in English and Chinese.
  • Prepare to be laughed at.
  • If you are at all hesitant to ask for help, turn back now.

3. The bus leaves on the Hour Probably.  There will be many other 936 buses, but they won’t take you to Mutianyu.

  • I also read that this bus only leaves at 0700, 0800, and 0900.  Luckily we didn’t have to find out if this was true, but better safe than sorry.

4. You will be buying your ticket on the bus, after the journey has started. One-way tickets areroughly 16 CYN, and they will probably give you two tickets for the one-way journey.

  • Bring Cash, in less than 100 CYN notes.

5. Grab as comfortable a seat as possible.

  • Aisle is better for long legs.
  • there was AC on our bus- both on the way there and on the return.

6. The ride is almost 2 hours, and your stop isn’t on the map. You are going to pass Hong Luo Si (the last stop on the bus’ map), though the bus will be stopping for roughly five minutes for a driver change at Hong Luo Si.  You might think you’re on the wrong bus or that you missed your stop, but if you asked the driver and the attendant, then you are on the right bus.  Calm down, nearly there.

  • It is no use looking out the window for the Great Wall, but it will be there at the end.
  • If you are panicked, look out the window for signs that read Mutianyu or for a symbol that looks like a house with a F sticking sideways out its left side with it’s forks towards the sky.

7. The bus will start going up hill and stop at the top. YAY! You arrived!

  • Though this is the less touristy part of the wall, there is still a street of vendors and a Subway Sandwich Shop (of ‘Jared’ and ‘$5 Footlong’ fame).

8. Buses leave to return to Beijing roughly on the hour, from the same drop off point.

  • There was no 1300 (1 o’clock) bus when we were there
  • Ask your driver when the bus will come back (he might understand you). Our driver stopped me and held up his fingers to tell me the bus return times (I had asked him if we were on the right bus many times, so he knew we had no idea what we were doing).
  • Remember- The last bus leaves at 1600 or 1700 (I’m not sure).  Don’t miss it.

9. The Great Wall lives up to what I expected. Once we got there, everything was very well laid out and easy to follow.  There are a handful of ways up and down; including sky buckets, slides, stairs, and paths.  Just make sure you buy your Great Wall of China ticket before heading up.

10. On the way back, I would grab an aisle seat and let others squeeze past you to sit by the window. More than likely there will be traffic on the return, and it will be a long ride.  As you smell of sweat and sunscreen, amid a sea of commuters, know that you did it.  You made it through a system that didn’t want to help, with all the odds stacked against you, and saw one of man’s greatest achievements.

Again, I would not recommend this way, but if you do try it, please send me a note with your experience as well as any tips you feel others might need.