Pandas in Beijing Zoo – a flying visit guide!

Beijing Zoo Pandas

I’ve travelled through China more than once, but on my first trip I perhaps didn’t appreciate as much as I should, that most people outside of hotels and tourist spots don’t speak English there!

On my last day in Beijing before flying home, to my delight I found out that there were Pandas in the Beijing Zoo. I consulted with the hotel concierge, who advised me that there was not enough time for me to see them and still catch my flight that afternoon.

A quick glance at my travel guide seemed to confirm that the zoo was indeed within reach. I stubbornly decided that if I was quick, I could make it. What did the concierge know anyhow? I was travel-invincible!

With my trusty tour guide and mobile phone in one hand and some Chinese Yuan in the other, I told the concierge I wanted to do it anyway. A taxi was summoned, and instructed on where I wanted to go. Leaving my bags at the hotel, we set off with me politely urging the driver to hurry.

At this point I realised that he couldn’t understand a word of English!

Half an hour of Beijing traffic later, I broke into a cold sweat – time was running very short – how would I make it back in time?!

Giant pandas in Beijing Zoo official exhibit plaque

Finally, the taxi driver pulled over and pointed to what I hoped was the zoo entrance. I got out and begged him to wait for me. He handed me a business card and after making several wild gestures which seemed to mean he couldn’t park there, drove away. I watched him go, aghast, and with no time to lose ran up to the zoo entrance.

I paid the entrance fee and pointed to a Panda poster – I was then handed a map which showed a path directly to the Pandas – clearly, I wasn’t the only silly tourist to attempt this! I raced full-pelt through the zoo, dodging and weaving – then miraculously, there they were! Gorgeous, chubby, sleepy Pandas! I gave them ten wonderful minutes, bought a souvenir picture (still on my wall at home!) and then screamed back to the zoo’s main entrance, scanning the busy road with dread – the taxi was nowhere to be seen!

Beijing Zoo Pandas hanging out

I pulled the taxi driver’s business card from my pocket and dialled every number I could find on it, hoping he would realise it was me trying to get through to him.

It was at this point I realised I was in real trouble. I didn’t know if my taxi driver would come back for me. I didn’t even know the name of my hotel where my bags were! Mobile phones weren’t so smart back then…

Beijing Zoo

Thankfully, mere moments later my knight-in-shining armour (AKA the taxi driver) pulled up in front of me. I could have hugged him! The trip back to the hotel went without a hitch, and a rather incredulous concierge put me immediately onto an airport bus. I made it just in time to clear customs and board the plane home, my heart beating loudly in my ears!

I learnt a few things from this episode which I’ve always remembered: Plan ahead – listen to local advice – and always make sure you have a hotel business card on you!

This recount was of my first trip to Beijing ten years ago. Conditions for the Panda’s have hopefully improved in that time, as they wouldn’t be considered as ideal at the time. If you do plan to visit the Beijing Zoo to see the Panda Bears, you can read more about the zoo and how to organise a more leisurely visit at the official China website here.

Beijing Zoo Pandas - a comical flying visit to see the famous China Panda Bears



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About LetsGoMum

Hi, I'm Barbara, mum of the Let's Go Mum blog. We'd love to hear from you! You can contact me anytime with ideas on where you think we should go or what you think we should try...just drop me a line at!