Package deals: Airfare and hotel packages are an easy, economical way to visit Beijing. For example, Northwest Airlines World Vacations recently offered airfare and four nights accommodations for as little as $796 per person based on double occupancy. The package also included airport transfers, a half-day city sightseeing tour, a full-day Great Wall and Ming Tombs tour, full breakfast daily and 2,000 bonus frequent flyer miles.

Visit Web site (www.nwa.com) or call 1-800-800-1504 for more information.Getting around: Once in Beijing, taxis are a cheap way to get around. Make sure you have your destination and hotel written in Chinese characters because most drivers don't speak English. Most local trips range from about $2 to $10. Hotels catering to Western tourists are also helpful in setting up longer excursions. You will pay extra for an English-speaking driver and an air-conditioned car.

Food: Food varies from roasted pigeons sold by street vendors to a five-star Peking duck restaurant that former President George Bush visited. We played it safe and stuck to hotel restaurants, American fast-food joints and grocery stores. Bottled water is a necessity. Human and animal wastes are often used as fertilizer.

Sanitation: Bring your own toilet paper. Beijing's public toilets are often no more than a hole in the ground. A liquid antibacterial hand cleanser also is a good idea.

Information: China's official tourism Web site is (www.cnta.com). Passport Books publishes an excellent guidebook we carried with us everywhere called "Beijing: Imperial Capital."