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Beijing - Hotel and Arrival
Arrival at the Beijing Airport
International flights arrive at the international airport, which is about 26 km away from the city proper. Those traveling in a group or visiting a business partner will normally be met at the airport and will have no problems. Otherwise you can take a taxi, which for about 150 yuan will take you downtown.
Exchanging money at the airport
There are several banks right at the airport where you can change euro, dollars, or traveler's checks into Chinese currency (renminbi, also called yuan). Always hold on to receipts for these exchanges, because you will need it in order to exchange renminbi for foreign currency.
By taxi to downtown
Airport taxis are infamous in China for charging exorbitant prices to drive inexperienced western tourists into the city.
Hordes of drivers await in the airport itself to jockey tourists into their taxis. Anyone who wants to take a taxi ride should definitely not permit a driver to jockey them into an illegal taxi unless he can work out a satisfactory price (ca. 100 yuan, depending on bargaining skill) with the driver in advance.
The situation at the new airports in Beijing and Shanghai isn't as bad as it once was; but that could be a subjective impression, because with better Chinese skill one is less likely to be taken in. And after several visits, one learns simply to ignore the drivers who yell "taxi! taxi!" to attract tourists, and to press on through the throng to get to the taxi stand, where drivers wait with their cars.
Make sure the driver starts the meter at the beginning of the trip.
Beijing Airport bus
The airport bus into the city, which leaves at regular intervals, is a recommended alternative to taking a taxi. For 16 yuan, you'll ride in a modern bus via a few stops on various routes in the inner part of the city, ending at the main train station (which you can't miss). You can take a taxi from a stop near your final destination or from the main station. The journey lasts about 90 minutes in a modern coach.
Hotels in Beijing
There are hotels of almost every price class in Beijing, from the luxurious Sheraton to low budget hotels at about 200 yuan per night. In smaller cities, you can typically find a room without a reservation, whereas in Beijing, this is, not least because of the larger distances, more tedious. Definitely book a room for the first few nights; you can always find a cheaper one later.
A good guide book is Lonely Planet China, which lists hotels with addresses, phone numbers, and approximate prices, for Beijing and other Chinese cities.
The best time to travel
Beijing winters are extremely cold, the summers are too hot and dry, and in spring, sandstorms rage. The best time to travel, therefore, is autumn, which is a particularly worthwhile time to go for outings in parks or to the Xiangshan (Fragrant Mountain).