Living in Beijing

Beijing Overview

ØBeijing is the capital of the People's Republic of China. It is the political center, cultural center, international communication center and scientific and technological innovation center of the country.

ØCovers an area of 16,410.54 square kilometers ( Nestled on the north of the North China Plain, it borders Tianjin Municipality on the east and Hebei Province in all other directions. 

ØWith a temperate, continental monsoonal climate, characterized by short spring and autumns, hot and rainy summers, and cold and dry winters. Its average annual temperature is 11 to 14 degrees Celsius. Around 75 percent of its

annual precipitation occurs in summer, with the heaviest rainfall in July and August.

ØLocated in Greenwich Mean Time Zone 8(GMT+8). It is eight hours earlier than London (GMT+0). The whole of China adopts "Beijing Time" as its standard time.

ØTotal 16 Districts and counties with Dongcheng, Xicheng, Chaoyang, Haidian, Fengtai and Shijingshan in the city, Fangshan, Mentougou, Changping, Tongzhou, Shunyi, Daxing, Huairou, Pinggu, Miyun and Yanqing in the suburbs.

ØThe official currency is RMB (renminbi). The basic unit used is yuan (¥ also known as kuai. Ten jiao/mao are equivalent to one yuan.) Currency values smaller than jiao are calculated in transactions, but not collected when you pay

cashFor instance, if a grocery bill totaled RMB10.66, the amount to be paid would only be RMB10.60, always rounding down.

ØThe official language spoken is Mandarin Chinese.

Preparing for Your Move

The vast majority of both apartments and villas are fully furnished, including all appliances, window treatments, furniture and floor coverings. Aside from those above, most serviced apartments have limited alterations and flexibility. Although non-serviced apartments and villas may offer more flexibility on furnishings, there will be a scarce selection of additional services.In regards to furnishing, it is possible to ship furniture from home country,  however most expatriates, who come here for a relatively short term (1-2yrs.) do not choose this option. Upon arrival, should some furniture be needed, good quality furnishings are available for purchase in Beijing, from IKEA as well as markets/stores and online shops, with various styles, quality levels and price ranges of furniture. Another option is buying Chinese “antiques” competently restored by talented Chinese craftsmen. High quality international brand appliances can also be purchased easily in Beijing. Again, it is not necessary to bring appliances from home countryespecially as the voltage and adapter size may be different compared to what is used in China. If you use any USA 110V items, a transformer (not a converter) will be needed.It is preferred to buy large transformers, as smaller ones cannot accommodate the voltage load and often destroy appliances.


If you wish to drive in China, you can get driver’s permit after passing an exam, organized by the traffic police department in the city you are in. You may find out more details in our website.

The majority of expatriates utilize either a company car or taxi. Beijing has a wide network of reliable public transportation options also available:


There are over 67,000 taxis running in every corner of the city. Some drivers speak a little English, while most do not. Since the city authorities improved drivers' English for the 2008 Olympics, more and more drivers can speak English. Make sure you have the address written in Chinese, and don't rely on a name like Hilton or Hyatt to get you to your hotel, the Chinese names for these establishments are quite different from their famous global labels, which very few drivers will recognize. If there is a phone contact at your destination, note that as well, a mobile phone is the most useful navigation tool in Beijing!

►Taxis Apps

Taxi Apps offer a full range of mobile tech-based mobility options for nearly 400 million users across more than 400 Chinese cities, including taxis hailing, private cars hailing, Hitch (social rid-sharing), Buses, Minibuses, Test Drive,  Car Rental and Enterprise Solutions.







You can find the mini app from Wechat.

You can find the mini app from Alipay.




Public Shared B ikes

Intended to solve "the last kilometre" issue in which commuters face the problem of being stuck a bit too far from their destination to walk, but too close to justify the cost or delay of finding a taxi. Similar to Call a Bike in Germany, every sharing bicycle comes with an internet-controlled electronic wheel lock that automatically unlocks but requires manual locking after use.

DiDi Bike


Hello Bike


You can find the mini app from Wechat.

You can find the mini app from Alipay.






Public scooter 

Public scooter comes with an internet-controlled electronic wheel lock that automatically unlocks but requires manual locking after use.

Liu Bike






►Subway (Metro) and Light Rail Networks

The subway system in Beijing is excellent and relatively user friendly. The Beijing Subway is a rapid transit rail network that serves the urban and suburban Districts of Beijing municipality. With 27 lines, over 783 km of tracks and 459 stations currently in operation and ridership averaging 7.78 million per day, the Beijing Subway is the busiest and the first longest in mainland China and in the world. However, the existing network cannot adequately meet the city's mass transit needs and it is undergoing rapid expansion. Existing plans call for 30 Lines and 1,177km of tracks in operation by 2025, which will account for 56% of public transport trips.

Beijing’s subway card — Yikatong (一卡通)can also be used on buses and even in some shops.

Beijing subway system launched a trial of its new smartphone travel card, allowing users to swipe their phones just like a travel card to take the subway.And all NFC-enabled smartphones,to simulate the “beep” associated with cards like the Yikatong, allowing users to replace all their physical cards with their phone.


Buses are not as popular of an option for most expatriates as the routes can be confusing without local knowledge or Chinese language ability. Although there are many air-conditioned buses which can be quite comfortable, they tend to be extremely crowded and confining during  rush-hour. Some routes, once known, can be very useful.

Setting up a Home

Domestic Help

95% of expatriates have domestic help. The “Ayi”, or Auntie, often becomes a friend if not a member of the family. The affordability of domestic help makes it an excellent option for single workers or entire family. The price and amount of time spent each week is negotiable. However, the vast majority of Ayis speak little or no English. Finding a suitable Ayi that has been previously trained by another expatriate family to understand foreign preferences is usually preferable. It is advisable to check with neighbors, friends or your compound’s property management company to find a reliable Ayi or get useful recommendations also. Upon request,Replus-Benchmark could assist you with this process. Average costs for live-in Ayi would be CNY5,000 to 8,000 per month. Hourly rate ranges from CNY 35 to 45+ depending on many factors such as working hours and job contents. Most families will provide holidays and Chinese New Year bonus (in general 1 month salary) to their Ayis.

►Television / Cable 

Satellite TV is available despite some government restrictions (there are an estimated more than a million illegal dishes in Beijing). Again, please note that the dishes installed by Individuals are illegal, furthermore the reception from these dishes is not always reliable. All developers catering to expatriates will offer satellite or cable TV covering a number of major channels such as CNN, National Geographic, Discovery Channel, ESPN, Star World, etc. Access to the Internet via any telephone line and broadband is also widely available.

►Telephone line and internet

Easy to get in Beijing which will be applied by either landlord or yourself but original ID or passport needed. Promotion package always available to save your cost. Current highest speed in Beijing is 1000MB. The internet speed of China Unicom is more stable and more people prefer it.

SIM Card 

There are three brands in China. The signal of China Mobile is the best, the internet speed of China Unicom is the best. You need take your original ID or passport when apply.

►Electricity voltage

China uses 220V – the same voltage used across Europe, whereas the United States and Japan use 110V and 100V, respectively. Adapters are easy enough to find, as are shavers, hairdryers, and other electrical appliances. It is also advisable to first check your new residence’s outlet configurations – two or three prongs.Many appliances sold in the US and Europe, regardless of voltage, are highly powered. Even though they can be plugged into an adaptor, you run the risk of them shorting out your electrical power. Transformers will be needed if you use any 110V appliances, and are available for purchase once you arrive. The larger transformers are better than the smaller versions.


Known as Weixin in China, is a popular free phone text and voice messaging communication service, available on mobile and now Windows PCs. Which is developed by Tencent. 




Types of Housing

Apartments, villas and Chinese courtyards are available i n the market.



1. Standards Apartments, belongs to private owners, foreigners can easily find a suitable apartment at price range 5,000-160,000/month. These apartments offer basic expats style conditions. Many of these buildings are equipped 

with sports facilities like gym and swimming pool, car parking, satellite TV channels, children playground and other facilities.

2. Serviced Apartments, all equipped with full furniture, electrical appliances and kitchen utensils/bed linens, and most offer housekeeping service, fitness center and 24 hours concierge service.


Typically located away from Beijing’s city center, luxury complexes equipped with more greenery, more outdoor spaces for children, fitness club and convenient stores. They are usually gated communities in family-oriented locations and closer to schools rather than to nightlife and entertainment.

Chinese Courtyards

Old traditional houses are usually located in Hutongs (alleyway) in Dongcheng and Xicheng District. According to historical records, a small-scale city first appeared in Beijing about 4,000 years ago, but most of the Hutongs which remain today, were formed in the Ming and Qing Dynasties. These houses are not easy to find as Beijing destroyed a lot to build very modern office or apartment towers. Popular among those foreigners who want to escape from the hustle of daily life, courtyards offer a lot of charm, they also require a great deal of maintenance because of a number of drawbacks such as low-level electrical supply and old plumbing and sewage systems, unless they have been upgraded and newly renovated. When you choose such kind of house, make sure that you have a very helpful landlord and responsible retailer.


Shopping for groceries can be accomplished in different types of shopping locations and the cost of buying goods varies.

ØThe cheapest way to shop for fruit and vegetables is at a “Fresh Market” - a market for the Chinese locals where they buy their own food to cook each day. No one in these markets can speak English, so you must know your Chinese 

money and be able to speak some basic words. No debit cards or credit cards of any kind are used. But We-chat or Alipay can. 

ØChinese grocery stores - most items do not have English label. So some knowledge of Chinese products is helpful. Local Chinese debit cards are frequently accepted, as well as We-chat and Alipay.

ØSupermarkets are common now around the country. Your eyes will be dazzled by the great variety of goods in different brands and you can have more choice. Commonly, food, commodities, clothes, books and electrical household 

appliances are all available in supermarkets and credit cards are welcome. Some well received supermarkets in Beijing: Carrefour/Wal-mart/Jenny Lou’s/Jenny Wang/Ole Supermarket/Jingkelong/BHG. There is also a large selection of 

groceries, including a small “Imported Foods” section. Be aware, though, that there is limited English assistance available. These chains will take Chinese debit card and major credit cards. We-chat and Alipay are accepted.

ØMarkets which cater mostly to expatriates and wealthy Chinese, international-style markets like China World Shopping Mall/Oriental Plaza/China Central Place/Lufthansa Shopping Center/Solana/SKP. These are the most expensive 

stores to buy groceries and other items, but they usually carry the largest selection of foreign products. Cash, major credit cards, local bank/debit cards, Wechat and Alipay are accepted.

ØChinese New Generation Supermarket

Most stores are fully powered by mobile. Cash and cards are not a must any more. Intelligence technology system helps you to order online. 49.4% people choose online shopping. You can experience to start with a download of the mobile app, which can be easily set up. And then the shopping begins. What if you are not satisfied with the things you bought? They accept return anytime with no condition. It doesn’t have to be 100% brand new or unopened.

The main retailers:

1. Taobao-Owned by Alibaba






2. Jingdong-Owned by Jingdong Group





We suggest retaining an account in your home country for employer deposits, even though getting money out of China is difficult, the RMB is still not a universally accepted currency like the Euro or the USD. Within Beijing, though, it is advisable not to always carry around RMB, as China is on the way to be no more a cash society. Payment through Wechat or Alipay and QR code is the main solution. Major credit cards from outside of China, still can be used at some locations, such as Carrefour. However, transaction fees can be quite expensive, every time you use them internationally. The major international banks in Beijing are Citibank, HSBC and Standard Chartered. At the same time, opening an account at a local Chinese bank is extremely useful especially if you use Wechat or Alipay to pay, most local shops and restaurants accept the local Chinese bank account debit cards. The process of opening an account is fairly easy and quick, all that needed are: passport, driving license, work permit, residence permit and phone number. English speaking tellers are not easy to find in local banks, therefore, difficult banking needs are best dealt with using the assistance of a local, such as a secretary or friend or real estate agent. Foreign transfers of money do take time, but mobile banking is easy and fast. Foreign currency exchange in general is a bit inconvenient in China because of the nature of the RMB on the world market. Wiring medium to large amounts of money out of China, while not impossible, involves some paperwork and reporting. The prime consideration always being that the money comes from a verifiable source and the relevant tax has been paid.


A diverse array of entertainment options available to the single expatriate or the entire family is available in Beijing. Such as Museums, Places of Interests, Theatres, Cinemas, Nightclubs, Grand Modern Architectures, Fun Places For Kids, Water Parks, Aquarium and Zoos Amusement Parks. By checking our website or other local apps or the Beijinger ( to be found at many cafes, restaurants and shops popular with expatriates, you can see what is currently going on, what is coming to Beijing, and where to get tickets.

The Expatriate Community

►Social Community

For a trailing spouse, creating a social network is crucial in the early stages of relocating to Beijing. There is a strong support network developed by other non-working spouses for the specific purpose of welcoming newly arrived expatriates. Getting involved in this networking process shortens the time of social integration and alleviates the feeling of isolation often felt by trailing spouses, dislocated from the kind of active lifestyle they may have enjoyed at home. This holds true even more so for spouses who used to be employed before relocating. Groups websites:






Organization Groups

1. InterNations

InterNations is the largest global network for expatriates, with communities in 390 cities around the world. Meet fellow global minds in your city of residence or get to know local expatriates before you’re moving or traveling abroad and never feel like a stranger. InterNations makes it easy for you to stay in touch with your expat friends, both online and offline, so you can grow your network of friends and contacts from all over the world. 


2. Peking Patengruppe

This German Community organizes events, day trips, they send out a monthly newsletter. Originally in cooperation with the German School this is a great source of information for anyone.

For adults or even if your children aren’t students of German Embassy School are welcome as well. 

For more information, please visit or contact via email directly.

3. INN Beijing

The International Newcomers’ Network (INN) is a resource for newcomers of all foreign nationalities to obtain information about living in Beijing. It offers a support network for those facing the challenges of getting settled in Beijing and provides an opportunity to meet new friends and connect with those who have similar interests.

INN also supports approved charity organizations, approved social groups, and non-profit sports clubs and groups.It only invites foreign passport holders in accordance with government regulations. 


4. Beijing Bumps 2 Babes & Beyond

English speaking mums-support group created by mums, they hold two weekly meetings, one for pregnant women and those with newborns, and another for mums with older kids. Both groups are free of charge. In their massive parents WeChat group, parents share experiences and ask questions. Easy to find answers and things to do for families.

Playgroup available to cater for pregnant mamas, babes and kids, by sending email to Gemma:

5. China Culture Center

China Culture Center (CCC) is a cultural education organization that has tasked ourselves to share (in English) with others the wonder and diversity of Chinese history and culture. It’s a privately owned and self-sustained organization.With their innovative travel and corporate products to fund our not-for-profit research and cultural education programs.A group of English-speaking cultural enthusiasts who want to introduce everything about China, from Confucius to calligraphy, Genghis Khan to green tea, martial arts to feng shui, for anyone looking for a way to explore China’s past, present, and future. 


6. Meetup

To put together many international groups of interests based in Beijing, which organize gatherings and events on a regular basis.


7. Nationality WeChat Groups

Once you met someone from your home country, they will invite you to join their WeChat group. Such as Latins in Beijing, Italian in Beijing, Spanish in Beijing and so on.In the group, they will share some daily life information that helps each other to get used to life in Beijing or some catch-up events. Meeting people from your home country always makes you feel that you never left your hometown.

8. The Hutong

Why not learn a culture by its’ cuisine? Hidden in an alley in the historical part of the city, the Hutong offers cooking classes of all kinds. The daily program can be found on their website. You can also book private classes for you or for a specific group. This is particularly nice when friends or family come and visit you. 


9. Business Associations

AmCham, BritCham, AustCham, EuroCham – the full range of national chambers of commerce established in Beijing offer assistance to their members. They are a useful tool and can provide interesting information, seminars and lectures on how to do business in China, as well as providing a lively arena for socializing and networking.