Frequently Asked Questions

Do you offer group tours? I am open to joining a tour with other people.

Stretch-a-leg only offers private, custom tours. Based on our collective 40 years of guiding, we have decided not to arrange group tours. We believe that private tours offer our clients a richer, deeper experience. China has a complex and long history that can take a lifetime to explore. In order to help our clients make the most of their limited travel time, we want to customize their tours as much as possible. For instance, one client might want to hike the Wild Wall at a slow pace with frequent stops in order to take photos along the route, while another might want to have a vigorous physical experience. With fully private tours, Stretch-a-leg can meet the expectations of both.
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Great Wall: What are the differences between the “Wild” and restored portions of the Great Wall?

The main differences between the Wild and restored portions of the Great Wall are the development at the site, the level of physical activity, the number of other visitors you will encounter.

Restored Wall (Mutianyu) Wild Wall
Facilities Bathrooms, food, souvenirs None
Level of Physical Excursion Low Moderate-High*
Amount of other visitors Moderate, depends on season Extremely few, if any
Condition of footpath Stable, restored brick Uneven, rocky
Ability to visit additional sites on the same tour day Yes No
*Dependent on seasonal weather

For visits to a restored portion of the Wall, Stretch-a-leg prefers to take our clients to Mutianyu based on the facilities available there as well as its relative proximity to the city. Mutianyu is relatively much quieter than Badaling.

Mutianyu is well suited to young children and guests with limited physical abilities. It has a cable car for ascent/descent, which minimizes the amount of walking required. There is also a toboggan down—of particular delight for children.

Nearly universally, we recommend the Wild Wall hike. It is an extraordinary, special way to experience the wall. The portion of the Wall to which Stretch-a-leg takes you is untouched by tourism and very well preserved. It does not have a commercial name, and you will not find it featured in any guidebook unlike sections such as Simatai, Jingshanling, or Jiankou.

As your tour is with an individual guide, s/he can adjust the pace to your comfort. With Stretch-a-leg, since you do not have to adhere to the time schedule of a group tour, you can stop as frequently as needed. Rest assured, we have had clients from ages 6 to 65 complete the Wild Wall hike with us.

There is no difference in price—for either the guide or transportation—between the restored and wild portions of the Great Wall.

Flexibility You can always book a Wild Wall hike and then change your travel to the restored Wall, even on the day of your tour. We do require 24-hour advance notice for change to the Wild Wall from the restored Wall.
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Can I visit both the Wild and a restored portion of the Great Wall?

There is not sufficient time to visit both the Wild and a restored portion of the Great Wall within one day. We do not think it is necessary to visit both.

If you are in relatively good fitness and health, we highly recommend visiting the Wild and undeveloped portion of the Great Wall. A hike on the Wild Wall is one of Stretch-a-leg’s signature excursions. An unforgettable hike along an original portion of the Wall, the Wild Wall trip affords amazing views in relative exclusion.
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Can we still hike the Wild Wall if there is bad weather (i.e. rain or snow)?

In the event of substantial rain or snow, we usually suspend trips to the Wild Wall for safety reasons. Generally, in these circumstances, we share a restored portion of the Wall with clients. We are able to accommodate last minute modifications.
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Can you provide restaurant recommendations?

With over 30 provinces and autonomous regions, each with its own cuisine, China has a lot of food for visitors to discover. We are happy to provide restaurant recommendations. We are a boutique company with a small staff. So that we might maintain our customer service standard, it is our policy to provide concierge type services only to clients with a booking that has been confirmed by downpayment.

Many of our guides are natives of the cities in which they are guiding you and the rest have lived there for years. During your tour, your guide would be delighted to offer detailed restaurant recommendations for all types of cuisines and requirements, from Peking duck to vegetarian options.
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Can you accommodate dietary restrictions? I/my spouse/my child has a severe food allergy/cannot tolerate gluten/only eats halal.

Stretch-a-leg’s custom tours allow us to accommodate food allergies, food intolerances, and other dietary restrictions. Beijing’s dining scene has developed considerably over the past decade, especially since the Olympics in 2008. There are restaurants serving food from all over the world. We will happily offer dining recommendations to cover nearly all dietary restrictions. We have had guests safely travel with us who have had severe peanut allergies, Celiac disease, and been Kosher. While your guide travels with you, s/he will take you to restaurants that accommodate your needs and ensure that wait and kitchen staff understand your food limitations.
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Do you offer tours or guides in other cities within China?

Yes! In order to offer our clients a seamless travel experience in China, Stretch-a-leg has partnered with local operators in major tourism cities and regions throughout the country to arrange tours for Stretch-a-leg clients. We have met personally with these operators and they are trained to our exceptional Stretch-a-leg customer service standard. Indicate your travel plans on your inquiry form to us, and we will let you know if we have a trusted operator located there. To check guide availability for locations outside of Beijing, please confirm your traveling dates and note any specific sites you would like to discover with us during your travels there.

I’m concerned about the cleanliness of the toilets as we travel. I’ve heard that there are squat toilets in most of China. Can you tell me more about the bathroom situation while touring with Stretch-a-leg.

“A small point but Jean also found great toilets as we walked around - something that comes in handy if you've ever been caught short in an Asian city.”

We appreciate that squat toilets can take some getting used to. Our guides can usually point you in the direction of a Western toilet. We know the best, cleanest, least crowded toilets at historical sites and throughout the city.
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Do you offer any discounts? I read about you in Luxe Guide/on Trip Advisor. You were recommended to me by a friend.

We very much appreciate the referrals and recommendations. As a small business, word of mouth and reviews are extremely important to us.

Our pricing is based on the expertise of our guides, our service standard, and our uniqueness.
We are exceptionally proud of the value we offer our clients. In order to recruit and retain the best caliber of guides, we compensate our guides fairly based on their work, not on commissions from tourist shops providing kickbacks. Read more about our policy of no commissions (link).

Based on our compensation model, we are unable to offer discounts on our quoted prices.
It is our policy and practice to use a standardized price schedule for all our clients.
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Getting around Beijing

Beijing is a vast city, nearly 1000 square miles (2500 km2) larger than the state of Connecticut and larger than half of the entire country of Belgium. There currently exist 6 concentric ring roads, with the Forbidden Palace at their center. The majority of the city’s most famous attractions—Temple of Heaven, Tiananmen Square, Llama Temple, Drum and Bell Towers, and hutongs, as well as the Forbidden Palace itself--are concentrated within 5-kilometer diameter of the 3rd Ring Road, however, even within this relatively compact area, travel times can be extremely long, due to Beijing’s traffic. Other popular visitor sites such as the Great Wall and Summer Palace lie even further afield. Travel from the center city can take between 1-2 hours one way to these sites.

Walking

Beijing has mega-blocks often almost 1/3 of a mile (1/2 km) long between major intersections. Outside of the intimate alleyways (hutongs) of the 2nd Ring Road, walking is a physically daunting and time-consuming proposition.

Public Transit

Due to its scale, Beijing has an extensive public transit network of buses and a rapidly expanding subway. Many popular sites—Tiananmen Square, Temple of Heaven, Llama Temple—are accessible by subway. Buses and subway can be good options to move around the city if:

  • You are traveling with three people or fewer. For larger groups, it can be difficult to navigate everyone through extremely crowded stations and buses.
  • You are traveling at times of day outside of rush hour traffic (roughly 7:30 – 9 AM and 3:30 – 6:30 PM, with larger time windows on Fridays).
  • Your hotel lies on a main subway line or within the 3rd Ring Road.

Your Stretch-a-leg guide can help orient you to the transit system and set you up with a convenient, rechargeable transit card. Bus signs are exclusively in Mandarin Chinese.

Taxi

Taxis can be a wonderful way to get around—if you can secure one. Taxis are extremely reasonable compared to other international cities. Intercity fares are rarely over $10. From the airport to the Forbidden City is around $20.

During morning (7:30 – 9 AM) and evening rush hours (3:30 – 6:30 PM), it can take over 30 minutes to secure a cab. By regulation, taxis can only accept four passengers, and remember that during a tour, your guide will be traveling with you. For groups over 3 people, we do not recommend traveling by taxi, as it can be logistically challenging to coordinate two separate taxis. Drivers generally do not speak English.

Private Driver

Many long-term foreign residents rely on driving services to navigate the city. Stretch-a-leg offers you the same flexibility. Private transport with a driver can be a very convenient option if:

  • any members of your group are young children or have health or mobility limitations. The distances between sites and transit stations or main roads for hailing a taxi can be relatively long.
  • your group is larger than three people. Due to the aforementioned regulations, more than one taxi will be required, which can slow down movement between sites.
  • you have limited time and want to see several sites spread throughout the city.
    When you book a private car with Stretch-a-leg, your guide is in contact with the driver, so your car is waiting for you upon your exit from a site, with minimal walking.

We can only offer private car service with tour booking.
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Can you book performance (i.e. opera/acrobat/kung fu) tickets?

We have a small in-office team that is focused on creating the best itinerary possible for you for your travel with Stretch-a-leg. Unfortunately, our company is not large enough to be able to book performance tickets. Likewise, we are unable to offer the type of expert, independent advice for any performances that is our standard when making client recommendations. We refer you to your hotel concierge’s expertise regarding performance tickets.
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Can you book my airfare, hotel, and/or train tickets?

Stretch-a-leg specializes in historical walking tours and excursions to off-the-beaten path sites. We are not a full service travel agency with an online booking system. Unfortunately, in most situations, we do not have the capacity or resources to book airfare, hotel, or train tickets.

For clients with bookings confirmed by downpayment, we are delighted to assist with transit coordination, such as time schedules. We will also happily provide our professional recommendation for hotels based on clients’ preferences and budget. For travel consulting (such as itinerary design) and concierge services prior to or without confirmed booking, we charge 250 RMB/hour for the service.
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Why does Stretch-A-Leg ask for your Passport Information to visit the Forbidden City?

Read More About the Forbidden City


The Forbidden City requires passport information for admission due to limitations on the number of visitors and for the purpose of this historic site's preservation. Stretch-A-Leg will purchase your tickets to the Forbidden City online in advance of your tour to avoid additional lines and hassle on the day of your tour.

Your full name and passport number are required if you would like to use Stretch-a-Leg Travel's service to reserve your ticket for you.

If providing passport information to us is something you are uncomfortable with, you can also purchase your own tickets, either from the Forbidden City official website or at the Forbidden City on the day of your tour with your passport. If you choose to take care of your own admission, Stretch-A-Leg cannot guarantee entrance into the Forbidden City on the date of your tour.

  • We specialize in historical walking tours in Beijing, exploring off-the-beaten path sights, and hiking at the wild Great Wall. Our private tours are completely tailored to each individual client.

    Founded by a native Beijinger, we are a Chinese-owned and operated team who will provide you with the uniquely authentic chance to experience China from the perspective of locals.
    Learn More