I should honestly sell these tips for hard cash but I’ll give them away for free here:
Say goodbye to coffee, chocolate, spicy food, Coke, Sprite, water cooler than pee temperature, lamb kebabs, apples, sweets, everything you once knew and loved. Beijing people take their Chinese medicine seriously and will not tolerate the sight of you sneaking a sip of coffee if they know you have a cold. Do what they say, or else they might bring out the horror of horrors:
The taste is unspeakably, gut-wrenchingly bad. Chinese medicine does work to a fair extent, though.
2. Don’t: Take a hotpot dump during rush hour
Don’t eat spicy hotpot (especially not Chongqing-style hotpot) for supper if you have to take the subway at rush hour (approx. 7am-9am) the next morning. As a foreigner, your body is not used to food that spicy, and you will need to head to the toilet for a spicy number 2 right between 7am and 9am when your intestines realise they’re under attack. Trust me.
The subway will be crowded. Your insides will feel uncomfortable. You’ll break out in cold sweat, and you’ll need to queue for the squat toilet, which you aren’t used to either. Don’t have toilet paper on you? Too bad, neither does the subway toilet. Sorry for the gross description, but you’ll thank me later. I’m pretty sure wiping your ass with RMB100 notes = destruction of state property.
3. Don’t: Spit on the ground just because you see some other people doing it
You wouldn’t wear a denim jacket with a confederate flag on it in central New York just because you saw a grizzly-looking biker wearing one. By the same token, people who spit on the street in Beijing are usually from the countryside and have rather rustic manners, or they’re not the most refined characters around. In both cases, you’ll get very strange looks from city residents.
4. Don’t: Get into fights
There is a beautiful Beijing proverb when it comes to fistfights: “往死里打！” Literal translation: Beat towards inside death! Beijingers fight one another as if the first one to pulverise the opponent’s frontal lobe wins a trip for two to Bali. Seriously, don’t get into fights. You’ll get beaten up and deported.
5. Don’t: Eat only Western food
Not eating local food is a crime, no matter where you go. Get out of Pizza Hut and McDonalds and try everything. Only by exploring will you know what you do and don’t like. Start off with entry level stuff like Peking duck, 炸酱面 (saucy noodles) and 口水鸡 (spicy chicken) and so on. Then you can move on to intermediate level: 驴肉火烧 (donkey meat sandwiches), stinky tofu, and 卤煮 (I don’t want to know what’s inside it but it’s delicious).
You’ll want to stay away from these two though, unless you’re advanced level:
Jiucai Baozi (don’t eat too many)
And good old Pidan/Century eggs:
Leave these to the big lads.
Don’t talk about the 3 T’s: Tiananmen 1989, Taiwan, or Tibet (You can ask about Tiananmen Square as in “which station do I get off at?”)
NEVER take unmetered taxi. If you’re staying for a while download didi, if not, just get your hotel to do it for you. The subways are ok to take, they may get crowded during rush hours, take them in the late morning and early afternoon if you can.
DON’T try to see all the sights in one day. Allot at least one full day to the Forbidden City, and rest after that, because you will be DONE for the day. Allot at least half a day to the Temple of Heaven. Get to Badaling great wall EARLY. Use a taxi from your hotel, you can skip the lame “enforced shopping tours” (unless you really want to), grab 3–4 laowai at the hotel who wish to go to the great wall (easy to find), get your hotel to call a taxi, and hire the taxi and go straight to the wall and straight back. No hassle.
DON’T forget to take it easy in the hot climate in summer. Drink a lot of water. Sit down and rest inside the Forbidden City or on the Great Wall.
Speaking foreign languages in public is generally ok, though I would use caution if speaking Japanese or Korean. English is almost always expected from caucasian tourists, so English is fine.
I hate to do this but you’ll likely have to bargain to get stuff at a fair price. It sucks and its annoying. Unless its already really cheap, then don’t bother and just buy the damn thing LOL
Despite the stereotypes, etc, I would not recommend foreigners to bike in Beijing. For foreigners not used to lax traffic rules, enormous crowds and epic traffic and pollution, its not worth it. Save your biking for somewhere more natural like Yangshuo or Qingdao
In in need, you can inquire online ahead of time about English tour guides. They’re not hard to find online. Just google/baidu them, lol. I understand that fumbling with tickets, maps and a phrasebook in a foreign land is exhausting. Why not help the local economy and hire a local English guide? Beijing being a major tourist city, they’re not hard to find.