This Great Wall Guide is not flashy (read: no pictures). It is a thorough guide (read: many maps) on how to get into Beijing, see the great wall like a local, avoid the tourist traps, and do it as cheaply and efficiently as possible. Since I already wrote a review on the great wall, this is strictly a guide, and not an opinion or evaluation. I wrote the bulk of this article two years ago, using my own personal experience traveling with a Chinese person, and referencing many expats and locals. The biggest contribution came from the great wall forum, the single best resource for people who would like to see the wall without the crowds.
I) Before going to China (visas):
China is one of the few countries that require visas for everyone ahead of time as it is the most visited country in the world (believe it or not). This means that you must plan for China earlier than most other countries. Getting a visa is relatively simple, but not cheap if you’re American.
1) If you live in the US: You must go to the Chinese Embassy nearest you, and follow the instructions on this website: Chinese Embassy. [Cost: ~$150 for US citizens, otherwise ~$30] The prices continuously go up, so you might have to pay a little more than this. The prices quoted are for single entry visas.