Searching for a place to live in Beijing can seem daunting at first, but affordable, and even cheap, housing is abundant. Some helpful sites for apartment hunting are The Beijinger, Wuwoo, and Cityweekend. When using a Chinese listing site, it is helpful to use a browser with an automatic built-in language translator (such as Google Chrome) to make life simpler if your Chinese is not fluent.
Rent is generally paid quarterly and you will likely have to put one additional month’s rent down as a deposit. Complete a thorough background check before you go through with any transacations and always err on the side of caution. Visit the apartment first or rent in the same building as a friend or reliable source to make sure everything’s acceptable.
Online descriptions are generally reliable but try to get reviews from several different sites on each place you consider moving into and compare them to ensure you know exactly what you are signing up for. Standards of quality vary widely in China. When moving abroad to Beijing it is best to find a roommate ahead of time through a personal connection or just live alone rather than risk a possible rooming disaster.
When choosing an area to move to, proximity to a subway station ensures easy transportation through the city and guarantees nearby grocery stores and shops. Most subway stations in Beijing actually connect to large shopping malls equipped with grocery stores, restaurants, and retail shops. 7/11 convenience stores are also abundant throughout the city and are open 24/7. Otherwise, most businesses operate on regular hours of 9 am to 10 pm.
Amenities: Typical amenities available in apartment buildings include internet via Ethernet cable or Wi-Fi, basic cable television, air-conditioning, and heating. Be advised that most of these amenities are available on the basis of an additional monthly fee not included in your rental fees. Apartments will often charge around $30.00 USD for a monthly internet package and a separate monthly bill for water and utility charges that will usually be no more than $50.00 USD per month per person.
Safety: Crime rates in Beijing are low but being a foreigner greatly increases your odds of being targeted for petty crimes, especially in crowded places. To ensure the safety of personal items, consider choosing an apartment with a doorman and increased security. Remain vigilant particularly if you plan on traveling with expensive electronics or valuables.
When traveling throughout the city always keep your personal belongings within eyesight. Keep your bags and pockets zippered and never wear a backpack on a crowded subway. Be careful not to openly display expensive items such as iPods, iPhones, smartphones, computers, or cameras. If your apartment has a cleaning service, ask what time your cleaning staff will arrive and make sure to be in your apartment at that time. Do not leave expensive items lying around in plain view. Avoid traveling alone at night and take the proper precautions that you would in any large city.