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How to Make the Most of a 48-Hour Visa-Free Adventure in Beijing, China

Updated: Apr 6

By NJ Torres Jacobson


The Palace Museum: How to Make the Most of a 48-Hour Visa-Free Adventure in Beijing, China Temple of China
Visit The Palace Museum: How to Make the Most of a 48-Hour Visa-Free Adventure in Beijing, China

 Stepping off the plane into Beijing's bustling airport, I made a conscious decision to disconnect from the digital world for the next 48 hours. No social media, no Google searches, no WhatsApp messages, no scrolling through Twitter or Facebook, and certainly no Instagram updates. Everything is blocked while in Beijing. This was about immersing myself in the heart of China's capital city, relying solely on my instincts and interactions with the world around me. I was prepared. Or so I thought.

 

One of the perks of traveling to China is the convenience of entering the country visa-free for various purposes, for business, tourism, visiting relatives and friends, and transit for up to 15 days. Foreign nationals from 54 countries are currently eligible for the 72/144-hour transit visa-free, offering stays of 24, 48, or 144 hours without the need for a traditional visa. It's a hassle-free process upon arrival at the airport, allowing travelers to explore Beijing's wonders without the burden of paperwork. Holding a Philippine passport in hand while the rest of my family used Swiss passports, the process was indeed straightforward. However, be prepared for long and slow lines, especially during crowded travel periods. Ultimately, the immigration officer has the authority to decline your application, but having return tickets and a confirmed hotel booking made our approval swift. Just ensure your passport qualifies for this visa category before flying.


Visit Temple of Heaven: How to Make the Most of a 48-Hour Visa-Free Adventure in Beijing,China
Visit Temple of Heaven: How to Make the Most of a 48-Hour Visa-Free Adventure in Beijing, China

 

First things first, ensure you have enough Chinese Yuan withdrawn or exchanged before going anywhere. While major credit cards like VISA, Mastercard, and AMEX are generally accepted in China, some businesses will not accept them. Unfortunately for us, most of the places we visited didn't accept our cards, so we predominantly used cash. Foreign bank cards cannot be used in Chinese ATMs and other major establishments, including the Michelin-awarded restaurant we dined at, park entrances, and certain shopping outlets in the main town.

 

I strongly recommend planning your itinerary with a travel agency located just within the airport. They provide private tours and packages, covering everything from transportation to drivers and personalized recommendations for your itinerary. While they can't guarantee english-speaking drivers, they'll advise you to download Chinese dialect translator apps – many of which are free and downloadable without Wi-Fi.

 

With adrenaline pumping and no time to waste, we set out into the city, feeling liberated from our phones. Our first stop was the Beijing Zoo. Given the choice between the great giant pandas and the Great Wall, our daughter's preference was the priority. Observing the pandas in their outdoor habitat was captivating, a unique experience distinct from our encounter with them at Hong Kong Ocean Park, this time the pandas were fully raised outdoors in the cold winter weather, much to the delight of all visitors. And, of course, seeking out the best local eateries, from noodle shops to dumpling joints, was an integral part of the trip. Exploring the diverse array of Chinese cuisine, which remains our favorite after Filipino dishes, was an adventure in itself. Glamorous styled chopsticks, real authentic noodles and dumplings – each bite was a revelation.


Authentic Chinese Noodle Soup: How to Make the Most of a 48-Hour Visa-Free Adventure in Beijing,China
Authentic Chinese Noodle Soup: How to Make the Most of a 48-Hour Visa-Free Adventure in Beijing,China

Best, Authentic Chinese Salt and Pepper Shrimps: How to Make the Most of a 48-Hour Visa-Free Adventure in Beijing,China
Best, Authentic Chinese Salt and Pepper Shrimps: How to Make the Most of a 48-Hour Visa-Free Adventure in Beijing,China

 

Having a car at our beck and call saved us a lot of time navigating the city streets, although we still relied on the occasional help from our friendly driver. Truly maximized the 48-hour adventure. Language barriers were a real struggle at times, but we made it work. Sampling traditional Beijing cuisine, the wandering through vibrant markets, and marveling at breathtaking architecture around every corner. From the majestic Forbidden City to the awe-inspiring Temple of Heaven and Tiananmen Square, every step felt like a journey back in time. It’s important to share that the city’s remarkable cleanliness left an indelible impression. Not a single piece of trash anywhere. I thought Switzerland was clean, considered it truly the epitome of cleanliness but Beijing definitely surpassed that category.

 

I felt a sense of gratitude for this rare opportunity to disconnect and reconnect with the world on a deeper level. However, the 48 hours were just the perfect amount of time for a break – any longer than that in Beijing, and I might not have survived. Funny, but not exaggerating.


NJ Torres Jacobson in Beijing: How to Make the Most of a 48-Hour Visa-Free Adventure in Beijing,China
NJ Torres Jacobson in Beijing, China

Les Jacobsons in Beijing: How to Make the Most of a 48-Hour Visa-Free Adventure in Beijing,China
Les Jacobsons in Beijing: How to Make the Most of a 48-Hour Visa-Free Adventure in Beijing,China

Les Jacobsons in Beijing Zoo - Pandas in China: How to Make the Most of a 48-Hour Visa-Free Adventure in Beijing,China
Les Jacobsons in Beijing Zoo - Pandas in China: How to Make the Most of a 48-Hour Visa-Free Adventure in Beijing,China

China had welcomed me once again with open arms, reminiscent of my visit to Shanghai long years back. The two cities are incomparable, with Shanghai being far more open compared to Beijing. However, Beijing offered not only a glimpse into its rich history and culture but also a reminder of the importance of being present in the moment. Sometimes, the most meaningful experiences can't be found on a screen – they're waiting to be discovered in the uncharted territories of the offline world.

 

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