Before I travelled to Beijing recently, I spent a lot of time on the internet searching for information about catching the train from Beijing North station to the Great Wall of China at Badaling. Unfortunately I found a lot of confusing and conflicting information including many people saying to catch a train that does not even exist anymore! I took many photos on the journey in order to try and make it much simpler for anyone else who wants to do the same journey. All of this information was correct as of March 2012 but could change at any time.
Before catching the train, go to the CNVOL website to find out the latest timetables to Badaling – you will need to enter “Beijing North” as the start point. I would also recommend if you are staying at a hotel asking the concierge to check if there have been any cancellations as the day I travelled, three trains had been cancelled which left us waiting at the station for three hours for the next service. No one at Beijing North station can speak English and most detailed signs are in Chinese which can prove interesting when it comes to communicating about cancelled trains. Should you find yourself with a bit of a wait, I managed to find a Costa Coffee hidden in the corner of the basement level of the station. They are also building a Starbucks at the moment too so hopefully there will be a lot more facilities in the future.
To catch the S2 train to Badaling, you will need to get to Beijing North station. You can either get the Metro to Xizhimen on Lines 2 and 4 or take a taxi. Bear in mind though that the station is just off one of the ring roads in Beijing so the traffic can be horrendous. It took me over an hour in a taxi from the Chaoyang District to get there – thankfully taxis are cheap so at least I wasn’t worried about the fare going up and up!
When you get to the station you will need to go to the upstairs ticket office which is on street level – the door to here is on the right hand side of the station if you are standing in front of it.
Contrary to information I read online, all ticket windows sell tickets for the S2 train however they only start selling tickets roughly an hour beforehand. The fare is 6 RMB per person and you are given a ticket which allows you to catch any train whose number starts with S2.
From here you will need to go back outside and re-enter the station through the front central doors and go through security to the waiting area. Trains start boarding roughly 15-20 minutes before departure. The departure boards in the lounge are in both Chinese and English. You will need to look for the next S2 train with Yanqing as the destination.
As no English announcements are made at the station, when you see all the locals stand up and walk to the queuing area for the platform, go and join the queue yourself. Your tickets are checked before entering the platform – keep them safe as you will need them when you get off the train at Badaling. You can then board the train and find yourself a seat. Even though the train has both hard and soft seat sections, you can sit anywhere on the train. The soft seats are at the front of the train with a 2-2 configuration whilst the hard seats are configured 2-3. If you want a good view of the Great Wall on the journey then take a seat on the left hand side of the train as you will see several sections of the Wall before arriving at Badaling.
Another nice to know is that before arriving at Badaling, the train will arrive into another station and stop for a few minutes before pulling out of the station backwards – don’t worry as you haven’t missed the stop. You will then hear the one and only English announcement on the train which is that Badaling is the next stop – only Chinese announcements are made for all other stops.
You will find that most of the passengers on the train disembark at Badaling. You will need to show your tickets to leave the platform before walking across the main road and turning left.
The entrance to the Great Wall is approximately 800m from the station and it takes about 10 minutes to walk there. There are plenty of signs along the way so you cannot get lost – everybody will be walking the same way anyway!