Living in Beijing / China
Beijing is a thriving metropolis, its ongoing rapid transformation means it’s full of contrasts and contradictions. Swift urbanization and modernization mean the city is not quite the exotic experience it was ten years ago – English is widely spoken now and settling in is fairly straightforward – but Beijing remains a very exciting place to live. There’s an active media community, from the foreign press and film and documentary makers to commercial ventures. Beijing is a uniquely exciting place to study multimedia journalism, with a melting pot of international, world-class multimedia journalists living in the city, many of whom guest lecture on the programme. The Foreign Correspondents Club always has a busy calendar of events and Beijing offers an abundant variety of happenings every week, including film, talks and lectures, creative meet-ups and music. On top of all that China offers a myriad of stories. It is home to some of the world’s biggest stories.
For details on living costs, view this cost of living guide. Also, do take a look at Britain’s Foreign Office travel advice for more information. We also offer more detailed guidance about accommodation, health, and money to successful applicants.
The Beijing winter can be long, starting around mid-November and ending mid-March. Average temperatures from December to February are generally around zero, but can dip as low as -10 or -15C. Spring and autumn are short and summer starts around mid-April and lasts through to September when the weather is consistently hot. During both winter and summer, the Beijing climate is dry. You can buy cheap clothes in China, but if you have a quality decent winter coat and boots it is worth bringing them. Pollution can be bad, so if you exercise outdoors we recommend you get a decent mask, you can get them in China, but if you want to buy ahead you need to purchase a type n95 which filters small particles. Air purifiers are also worth investing in and can be bought for around 300-800RMB.
Beijing is a big sprawling city and traffic is busy so it is worth living in a neighborhood you will enjoy hanging out in. We would suggest organising your own accommodation – while it is possible to stay on campus in the university dorms, you will be more in the heart of the city if you live off campus and more connected to the city and what it has to offer. Expect to pay 3500 to 4500 RMB per month for a room in a decent, shared place. Heating and water are usually included and electric is cheap so there aren’t any big bills on top. You typically only need to be on campus for two days each week, so commuting isn’t a huge deal. If you do decide to stay in the student dorms a basic bed in a three-person room is 25 RMB/night in Yihalo which is a good option for students on a low budget. There are other options with single rooms as well in Gujalo and Bailo buildings.
We would not advise you to rent an apartment before you arrive unless you already have friends or contacts here that can view the place. Beijing rentals are typically available for immediate move in. However, if you are simply looking for a room in an apartment you could find a room in advance and might try the classifieds in The Beijinger. First, choose your area and then find a room to rent via classifieds or agents. Alternatively, we could put you in touch with two or three other students moving to Beijing and find an apartment to rent together. We can offer more detailed information about locations and classifieds to successful applicants.
China’s official language is Mandarin Chinese. English is also spoken in certain segments of the population, especially younger or university educated students and professionals in Beijing. It is a good idea to get a little basic Chinese under your belt as it will help your studies and of course make your whole experience in China richer. There are many options available from serious study and courses to private tutors with sessions once or twice a week. It seems like an impossible task at the beginning but a year is actually a good chunk of time to get the basics under your belt. Detailed guidance can be sent to successful applicants.
- Subway – It’s a decent system, easy to navigate in English and 5RMB for pretty much any journey. BFSU is located close to Weigongcun on line 4. If you live near a subway line, it should be an easy commute. Rush-hour can be very crowded. The only real problem with the subway is that it closes early, around 10.30pm. Thankfully after that taxis are cheap.
- Bicycle – bikes are a great option for warmer weather, but in winter long distances are harsh. The city is flat and easy to ride around. You’ll need to get a pollution mask and you also need to be careful of traffic. Be on the lookout for vehicles driving the wrong way in your lane. Bikes can be bought very cheaply. Bring a decent lock from your home country as it will be harder to crack than a local one. Bike sharing is now popular and convenient.
- Bus – Beijing buses are cheap and cover the whole city. They are difficult to use if you don’t speak/read Chinese. But if you have a few standard routes, it’s easy to work them out.
- Taxi – taxis are really affordable starting fee at 12 RMB with additional 2 RMB per km after the first 3 km. During busy periods taxis can be tough to find and traffic jams commonly make it difficult to get to places on time.
- Train – China’s train system is excellent. The high-speed rail network has bloomed in recent years making once remote backwaters highly accessible. Trains are comfortable, reasonably priced and run on a regular schedule.
Entertainment – restaurants / nightlife
Restaurants are plentiful and diverse, from the cheap and cheerful to very classy. There is food from all over the world as well as all over China – from Iranian to Thai and western fare, to spicy Sichuanese cuisine or the very popular kebabs hailing from China’s western region, Xinjiang. Outdoor eating is popular in warmer months. Beijing entertainment can be enjoyed on any budget, and there is plenty of lectures, music art and film events. Beware of drinking spirits in student hangouts as fake alcohol is rife. Best to stick to local bottled beer.
Local and National Travel
You may well travel outside of Beijing for projects or fun. Flight prices have risen but there are still some reasonable deals around. Trains are cheap and range from slow to high speed; China’s rail system is increasingly well connected and comfortable. You can book domestic and internal air tickets at local travel agents or online at elong & ctrip.
Hotels: Hotels are generally easy to book as long as you travel outside the three main Chinese holidays. Book online without a deposit and pay at the desk when you arrive. Good sites to use are elong and ctrip.
When the weather is good there are hiking groups and plenty of outdoor activities to do outside of Beijing on the weekend.
- Glover and Howe have good deals for professional photographers insurance traveling outside the UK
- Insure and Go do good backpacking one-year deals
- STA have good student discounts
- World Nomads are good insurers for those who have been traveling a while and don’t qualify for home-based insurance.
- www.moneysupermarket.com compare travel insurance deals.
- www.safetrek.co.uk practical safety courses for travelers
Social Networks in Beijing