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Why go Solo:
Many of the tour operators in Beijing are scams. It's unfortunate, but it's part of the reality of traveling in China. You'll find they not only charge a great deal more than you'd pay to do the trip on your own, but they often have "affiliates" along the route where they force you to stop and shop. Fake jade factories are a common pit stop on the way to the Great Wall for scam tour operators. So, if you want to avoid the hassle of being taken for a ride, just plan the tour on your own. Beijing is a tourist-friendly city and all sites can be reached via public transportation for quite cheap and mostly hassle free.
When to Go:
Year-round these top spots are open, but you'll find that the summer months are sometimes unbearably hot and the sites are overcrowded. Additionally, July and August are monsoon season prime-time, so you'll get drenched at least once in any two week period. That makes spring and autumn the two prime seasons for visiting Beijing. You'll have more elbow room, hotel prices will be lower, and you'll avoid the humidity, monsoons and crowds.
Where to Go:
Beijing has a little bit of something for everyone. But regardless of why you are in Beijing you'll have to see the Great Wall and Forbidden City. No world-traveler's passport of coolness is complete without these two spots. But it isn't that simple, either. The Great Wall is several thousands of miles long. Where exactly should you go? We recommend Badaling for ease and proximity, though you'll be sacrificing a bit of authenticity. Mutianyu is more authentic and less touristy, but your ride out to the site will be a bit longer. Fortunately, the latter has fewer tourists to compete with for wall space and beautiful views. When it comes to the Forbidden City, don't skimp. Get a map or else an audio guide. Avoid the Chinese guides at the entrance who are ill-qualified and promise an informative tour. They will rush you through the sites and repeat what it written on the signage. The audio-guide, however, is quite interesting and informative.