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Life in Beijing

Beijing is a fascinating, fun, massive, and, at times, challenging city to live in. But it is also the cultural and political center of China, offering many opportunities for academic enrichment, career development, and personal growth. IUP staff will share more advice and strategies for adjusting to Beijing during Orientation Week.

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Glitzy Skyscrapers to Traditional Temples

Beijing is a thriving city with twenty-one million residents. There is an undeniable energy in the city, as people go about their daily lives, new infrastructure and buildings are under construction, and the city’s history and traditions are constantly being reimagined. As the capital of China, Chinese from all over the country and hundreds of thousands of international residents are attracted to what the city has to offer. Depending on what you’re looking for, you can find cutting edge technology, glitzy new buildings, or traditional temples and cultural sites that have stood for centuries.

Dining

Beijing has a rich and constantly evolving restaurant scene. Residents can find traditional Beijing snacks like dumplings, jianbing, zhajiangmian, or Peking duck in both hole-in-the-wall spots and fine dining establishments. Every one of China’s regional cuisines are represented in Beijing, as are international foods from all over the world. In the Wudaokou neighborhood alone, IUP students can choose from Korean, Japanese, Italian, Pakistani, American, and many other types of food. Once students begin to explore the alleyways inside the Second Ring Road or the fancier dining options in Chaoyang District, there are more food and beverage options than one could possibly try over their stay in Beijing.

Entertainment

Beijing also offers many different entertainment options that naturally come with living in an international city. From early morning rounds of taijiquan in one of the city’s many parks, to Chinese chess in the hutongs, or the cycle of lively festivals and fairs throughout the city, interested students can experience the rhythms of traditional life in the city. Beijing is also the center of the contemporary Chinese art scene, with many galleries and workshops throughout the city. Similarly, the music scene has flourished in Beijing, with local Chinese bands as well as international acts playing nearly every weekend.

Cost of Living

Living expenses in Beijing have risen significantly over the last decade. Housing will be students’ largest living expense, with a bedroom in a shared apartment in the Wudaokou neighborhood costing between 3000 – 4500 RMB per month (roughly $450-$700 USD). Food and local transportation, however, can be very inexpensive. You can still find a delicious bowl of noodles for a couple of dollars, but you can also experience fine dining for much higher prices. Using the buses, subways, and shared bike rentals can also get you from one end of the city to the other for under $5 USD. Taxi cabs or ride hailing apps like Didi Chuxing, however, can cost well as much as major American cities.

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Local Transportation

Beijing is a large, spread out city. Most of Beijing is organized along the cardinal directions (i.e. North, South, East, and West). Taking some time to locate yourself in relation to these four directions will make getting around the city much easier.

Subway

The Beijing subway system is the best ways to move around the city, especially if one wants to travel a long distance in the shortest amount of time. You should purchase a rechargeable Yikatong (一卡通) Transportation Card , which works for subways and buses so you can simply swipe your card when entering and exiting the subway. Subway rides now cost between 3 and 7 RMB, depending on the distance one travels. In general, one can get anywhere in the city within 40 – 45 minutes once on the subway train. Subway entrance and trains can get extremely crowded during the morning and evening rush hours. Plan your trip accordingly!

Nearly all subway stations have Northeast, Southeast, Southwest, and Northwest exits. Figuring out which direction you’re facing when you come out of the subway goes a long way to orienting yourself in Beijing.

The closest subway stations to IUP are:

  • Wudaokou Station, Subway Line 13, 2 km southeast of IUP, 30 minute walk
  • Qinghua Donglu Xikou Station, Subway Line 15, 2.3 km east of IUP, 25 minute walk from IUP to the #3 East Gate of Tsinghua
  • Beijing Daxue Dongmen Station, Subway Line 4, 2.4 km southwest of IUP, 35 minute walk from IUP

Subway stations are very spread out in the city, so you should expect to spend almost as much time getting to and from the subway station as you will spend on the train.

Download Subway Map

Buses

Beijing has a highly developed network of public buses. It will take some time to learn the bus routes that are most useful for your daily life, but once you do, you can get around for a very low price. The Yikatong Transportation card works on city buses. Rides generally cost a few RMB.

Download Subway Map

Bicycles

Just as Beijing is a large city, Tsinghua has a very large, spread-out campus. For this reason, bicycles are more a necessity than a convenience. You should ride with caution and always wear a helmet.

  • Students can purchase new or used bicycles at shops in and around campus, or from IUP alumni when they finish their studies in the program. You should spend no more than a few hundred RMB to purchase a basic bicycle for getting around campus.
  • More and more Beijing residents are using bike-sharing apps like Mobike. You will need to sign up by entering your full name, phone number, taking a photo of your passport, and paying a deposit, but you can then enjoy short-term use of shared bicycles throughout the city. Please see the Useful Apps for Life in China below.
  • Some students also choose to purchase an electric scooter. They can cost between 2,000 – 10,000 RMB. Electric scooters are very convenient for traveling longer distances in the city but are faster and more dangerous than bicycles. Please ride defensively and always wear a helmet!
Download Subway Map

Taxis and Ride Hailing Apps

Beijing has tens of thousands of official taxis in the city, most of which are two-toned sedans with a golden color along the side of the car. In theory, you can stand on the side of the road and waive to an empty cab to be picked up.

Recently, however, most Beijing residents use a ride-hailing phone app, called Didi Chuxing, which allows for online reservation of nearby taxis and shared rides. You will need to register with your name, passport number, phone number, and will need to activate your preferred online payment method, like AliPay or WeChat Wallet.

Traffic in the city can be extreme, especially during the morning and evening rush hours, or around popular nightlife districts during the weekends. Plan accordingly.

Download Subway Map
Useful Apps
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  • All
  • All
  • Essential
  • Transportation / Travel
  • Payment
  • News
  • Shopping
  • Social Networking
  • Weather / Air Quality
  • Food & Entertainment
  • Language / Translation
  • Search / Information
  • Shared Bicycles
  • Maps / Navigation
Didi Chuxing
嘀嘀出行

(iOS, Android): Essential application for hailing a cab or a car.

WeChat
微信

(iOS, Android): Essential application for life in China, including messaging, digital payment, and social networking.

AliPay
支付宝

(iOS, Android): One of two online payment platforms in China.

Eleme
饿了么

(iOS, Android): Food delivery app.

Dazhong Dianping
大众点评

(iOS, Android): Restaurants, Reviews, Group Discounts, and Food Delivery.

CityWeekend

(iOS): App from one of Beijing’s expat magazines. Good information on events, restaurants, etc.

Pleco

(iOS, Android): Excellent dictionary and translation app.

Baidu Maps
百度地图

(iOS, Android): Baidu’s map app. Includes directions for driving, walking, biking, and public transportation. Essential for life in Beijing.

Taobao
淘宝

(iOS, Android): Online marketplace with almost anything you could think to purchase. Requires Alipay account for purchases.

Jing Dong
手机京东

(iOS, Android): Smartphone application for online shopping.

Baidu
百度

(iOS, Android): China’s dominant search engine. Essential for life in Beijing.

Mobike
摩拜

(iOS, Android): One of the two major shared bicycle rental applications. Essential for life in Beijing.

Sina Weibo
新浪微博

(iOS, Android): One of the leading social networks in China. Very useful for following interesting news, people, and organizations.

Very Zhun
飞常准

(iOS, Android): All the information you need about airline flights, including flight status, airport information, etc. Not an airfare purchasing app.

Touch China, Beijing
地铁通北京

(iOS, Android): Beijing’s subway map.

CTrip
携程

(iOS, Android): Handy app for airline travel, ticket purchase, and hotels.

Tianqi Tong
天气通

(iOS, Android): Useful weather app.

Air Matters
在意空气

(iOS, Android): Essential app for judging the air pollution levels in Beijing. Will tell you when you should wear your mask outside.

Airpocalypse

(iOS, Android): Air pollution app with sarcastic take on the issue.

The Paper
澎湃

(iOS, Android): Chinese media produced news, analysis, and long-form articles. Great source of articles to challenge your Chinese reading skills!

Xiami Music
虾米音乐

(iOS, Android): Music streaming app.

SUPChina

(iOS, Android): Daily China news roundup, long-form articles, and growing list of China-related podcasts, including Sinica.

NetEase Music
网易云音乐

(iOS, Android): Music streaming app.

WeChat Wallet
微信钱包

(iOS, Android): One of the two major mobile payment systems in China. Part of WeChat’s built-in functionality.

WeChat
微信

(iOs, Android): China’s dominant messenger and social networking app. Essential for life in Beijing.

Didi Chuxing
嘀嘀出行

(iOS, Android): Essential app ride hailing app.

Eleme
饿了么

(iOS, Android): Food delivery app.

Dazhong Dianping
大众点评

(iOS, Android): Restaurants, reviews, group discounts, and food delivery.

Pleco

(iOS, Android): Excellent dictionary and translation app.

Baidu
百度

(iOS, Android): China’s dominant search engine. Essential for life in Beijing.

Mobike
摩拜

(iOS, Android): One of the two major shared bicycle rental applications. Essential for life in Beijing.

Air Matters
在意空气

(iOS, Android): Essential app for judging the air pollution levels in Beijing. Will tell you when you should wear your mask outside.

Baidu Maps
百度地图

(iOS, Android): Baidu’s map app. Includes directions for driving, walking, biking, and public transportation. Essential for life in Beijing.

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