So here's how I did it. Maybe you'll find some information that will be helpful to you:
Before I went, I asked people I knew who had been there and they said it's a good idea to get an early start in the morning and go to the section of the wall with the ski lifts and alpine slides. The alpine run is a refreshing way to get down the hill after you've toured the Wall. Based on their recommendation, I decided to go to the area called Mutianyu. It's a little farther away from Beijing than other sections but it's a lot less crowded and well worth the drive. I then located a driver (see card below) who would pick me up at my hotel and drop me off at the end. The key information here is to make sure you know what kind of vehicle your driver will be driving. With the Olympics in August, you can be sure that it will be nice and warm. So you'll want to be sure that your driver has a newer car with air conditioning. Next, you'll want to decide if you want a guided tour or if you just want to go it on your own. I chose to have the guided tour. We lucked out and got a nice van with a good driver and a knowledgeable guide who spoke English. There were 4 people total in our van and I think we each paid roughly $60 US for the tour. This did not include gratuity. Definitely make sure you get an early start. This section of the wall opens about 07:30 A.M. You'll want to be there just as the Wall opens. By leaving early you'll miss most of the morning traffic and get there during the cooler part of the day. Secondly, it tends to be clearer in the morning, thus you'll get better viewing and better/clearer pictures.
Here are a few links that you might find useful:
- Beijing Day Trips
- Great Wall at Mutianyu Reviews
- Great Wall of China Mutianyu Section
Our trip out to the wall took approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes. The return trip to the hotel took about 2 hours and a half. Don't be surprised if your driver/guide wants to stop at some kind of vendor (usually a friend/relative or someone who pays them a commission to bring people by) on the way home. Our driver offered to stop at a cloisonne vase factory. We agreed and it was worth the time.
Good luck and I hope you enjoy your trip. If you're not going, I hope you've enjoyed my pictures.