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“GUIDE LESS TOUR of FORBIDDEN CITY IS JUST FINE”

Forbidden City-The Palace Museum
Ranked #5 of 1,567 things to do in Beijing
Certificate of Excellence
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Attraction details
Fee: Yes
Recommended length of visit: 2-3 hours
Owner description: Consisting of more than 9,000 rooms and spread over 250 acres, this huge palace complex was built in the 15th century and later extensively renovated and restored during the Qing Dynasty in the 18th century.
Reviewed 4 August 2010

Wonder if you need a guide? Unless you feel compelled to know absolutely everything about the City and have a whole day or more, then take a taxi or the metro to the City, walk under the road to the Entrance and buy your ticket for Yuan 60 per person. (if you buy this ticket in Australia it will cost you approx A$248 and you will get to also see Temple Heaven included, which is another site you can get into for almost nothing by buying your ticket at the gate). It is absolutely easy, language no barrier at all.

Thank Myclare
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Reviewed 30 July 2010

While I thoroughly enjoyed my recent visit to the Forbidden City in Beijing, my experience afterward was aggravating to say the least. Let me tell my story, and let the traveler beware of the Beijing Tea House Scam.

I was traveling alone and exited the Forbidden City on the south side to Tianamen Square, when two young ladies walked up along side me and began chatting in a casual but friendly manner using very good English. They told me they were cousins, visiting from the city of Harbin, and asked if I was an American. I told them I was. "Oh, yes, we like Americans very much," they said. Things were going nicely, and I began to think I had quickly made some new Chinese friends. It was a hot day in July, and my new friends suggested we go get a beer or some tea and cool off. "What a great idea!" I said, "I've been wanting to experience a real Chinese tea house." I set myself up perfectly for what came next.

We walked around the corner and up a tree-lined street, when we came across a small tea house, seemingly at random. We went inside, and after a short wait were shown into a small salon where a table was prepared for tea tasting. There were ten different teas and some bowls of treats to go along with the tea. The tea ceremony was quite fun, and I was really enjoying myself. I even offered to pick up the tab as my treat, thinking it would only be a few RMB, why the hell not? My friends told me what a "gentleman" I was, laying on the flattery and compliments. The only odd thing was how quickly the young lady performing the service went through the different teas. I asked her to slow down, but she (apparently) did not understand English, and my friends didn't translate this request. At the end of the service, she asked which tea we liked best, and then made a small pot to enjoy, which we all did. Soon, she came back to ask if we wanted to buy tea to take with us. One of my "friends" chose a fairly large box and I chose the smallest tin of the tea we liked best.

Then, the bill came and I was in shock! I knew there had to be a mistake as the total was 3600 RMB, which is about $550 USD!! I went through the bill. We tried 10 teas, and each tasting was 49 RMB per person, etc. I turned red, but what could I do? There was only one exit, so I couldn't just run out. Plus, I had already offered to pay the tab as a gentleman. I was either going to lose face big time or pay a hefty credit card bill. I chose not to make a scene and pay the bill, which satisfied everyone except me. Since this was a business trip, I wondered how I could fit this onto the expense report?

After we left, my "friends" suggested we get a foot and body massage. I agreed, but told them they were going to have to pay for my massage, which they readily agreed. I enjoyed the massage and the company, but again the cost of the massage was far less than the tea house. At the time, I did not suspect my "friends" had a connection with the massive bill at the tea house. These women were that convincing.

It was only afterwards that I realized I had been duped. A little research on the internet shows this to be a common scam in China, not only in Beijing, but also in Shanghai, etc. My so called "friends" had expertly guided me to this particular tea house and presumably afterwards got paid a kickback on the sale. I felt like a dope. Of course, after I did some research, I now know I'm not the first and certainly won't be the last to fall victim to this scam. I'm just a human being after all, and look for the best in others, not the worst. Fortunately, I paid with American Express, and I have filed a dispute on the payment. So, read this tale and beware of the friendly stranger on Tianamen Square who would guide you to a nearby tea house for refreshments. Ask for the pricing beforehand and don't be afraid to get up and walk out.

30  Thank Bevo_TX
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 27 July 2010

A very interesting place!
Storage of the ming and ching's emperors living deeds!
Wish to spend more time there to explore the history
Only walk around the main axis of this grand palace.
Very impressive indeed!
Induce my interest to read up about the history of this grand palace!

Thank jchu88888
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 22 July 2010

We visited the Forbidden City in April with our children (aged 8, 10 and 17).

Be prepared for the huge scale of the complex as it involves a lot of walking. The kids got a little bored with the repetitive nature of the courtyards. You can buy a through ticket which covers a few extra areas - note that if you want to see the Nine Dragon Screen you will need to buy either a through ticket or purchase an additional 10RMB ticket.

The complex itself is huge and well worth a visit. You will need a map or guidebook to avoid getting lost. The first view of the Hall of Supreme Harmony is breath taking. The smaller private quarters are also interesting.

There are toilets at several locations throughout the complex but there are not a lot of food options - we did find one coffee shop that did sandwiches and light meals.

Check out the Palace Museum website before you go which has maps and other information. Allow about 3 hours for a quick through tour but longer if you want to explore all the areas of the palace.

3  Thank HKDave
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Reviewed 27 June 2010

Let's face it. If you are in Beijing, you will go to the Forbidden City. So, what wisdom can I impart upon you?

A lot of reviewers say to arrive early. I'm not sure that is so critical. The place will be packed from opening to closing so arriving early just means you get to spend all that time in line. We drove by in a taxi just before opening and were amazing at all of the people in line. An hour later, we were presented by virtually no line.

You can enter via both the south (much more crowded) or the north gate. There are advantages to both, but in the end I would recommend the north gate. The reason being you enter the less grandiose end of the palace, working your way through the private quarters and then end up with the enormous structures and spaces. In other words, you are building up to the good stuff. If you go from south to north, you might think, "so what's so special about this" by the end and will skip over it.

Regardless of which gate you enter, be sure to head to Jingshan Park at the north end. You will get a nice overview of the Forbidden City and gain an appreciation of how enormous it is.

Concerning the audio guide, yes this was pretty average. There are numerous signs in English by each building and audio guides go in a little bit more detail than those. An actual book would probably better serve you if you want to understand what you are seeing.

I saw two different kinds of audio guides. One that are fully automated and those that you have to enter a number. We had the latter and noticed that sometimes it would start up for you automatically. We also noticed that there is audio for some rooms that are not listed on the audio guide map. For example, on the map that they give you there might be 36, 37, 40, 41 ... but if you enter 38 you'll find out there is something. Using their map, you can guess where 38 is supposed to be. Silly, but true.

Concerning the extra attractions of the Clock Exhibition Hall and Hall of Jewelry. Both are well worth it. Supposedly you can buy a ticket for everything at the entrance, but we were told to buy them inside. Kind of lame but the lines were non-existent so it wasn't too bad.

Concerning food and drink. Options ARE limited, but they do exist. Better for quick bites than an actual meal.

Finally, how long can you expect stay. I guess people can cruise through in two hours. We, however, spent over five hours here. If you are really into this stuff, all day is not unlikely.

6  Thank GracyInVienna
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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