Tips and tricks for living in Beijing

Posted by on Jan 19, 2015 in Asia, China, Travel | 0 comments

Tips and tricks for living in Beijing

Here are the things that I find make living in Beijing easier.


Get an air filter for your apartment

Unfortunately this is absolutely essential in Beijing, once you see all the crap that your air filter collects that didn’t end up in your lungs you’ll understand why.  There are super fancy (read expensive) filters available, however we use Smart Air which are cheap and effective (basically fans with filters strapped on the front).

Smart Air is a small company started by a PhD student who didn’t understand why air filters were so expensive, so set about creating his own that were cheap and accessible.  Wayne loves them because they publish all of their testing methods and results so you know exactly what you’re getting.


Get a face mask

Another reality of living in Beijing, this is particularly important if you’re riding a bike around for long distances and on the roads.  There are a variety of masks available, but be warned some are cheap and completely ineffective.  You need one that has a filter, my favourite is Vogmask, they do cool designs and have been thoroughly tested.


Save time, money & the environment – ride a bike

With my bike from Carrefour, wearing my Vogmask, and the Smart Air on the floor behind me!

Riding a bike is so easy as Beijing is almost completely flat.  It’s also really convenient as you can park your bike at the door to pretty much anywhere, and relatively safe with bike lanes (although these are also used by motorbikes, scooters and other small vehicles).  There are always lots of cyclists about so drivers are used to watching out for them and /or expecting them to do whatever they want (the general consensus on the roads in Beijing).

There are specialist bike stores, if money is no issue head to Natooke to build a colourful and custom made bike.  If you’re on more of a budget your best bet is Carrefour or Decathlon with bikes starting at 300 RMB (about $60 AUD).  Be sure to buy a bell, bike light and most importantly a decent bike lock, always lock your bike or it will be gone in the blink of an eye!


Don’t miss out on your favourite foods from home

Jenny Lou’s and April Gourmet are two supermarket chains in Beijing that import food from several western countries.  This is where Aussies can buy Vegemite and Weet Bix when they get homesick, and they also stock a good collection of imported wines.  It’s somewhat expensive because they obviously have to import everything, but when you’re sick of Chinese food you’ll be grateful it’s there.


Get food delivered without speaking a word of Chinese

If you don’t want to leave the house and want your favourite restaurant delivered to your door simply use Sherpas or Jinshisong, easy to use English websites where you pay a small fee (usually between 15 – 30 RMB or $3 – $6 AUD) for them to be the middle man – they place you order, pick it up and deliver it to your house.  Many restaurants in Beijing will also deliver and most of the western ones will speak English (favourites with expats are Annie’s and Gung Ho!)


Download these 3 apps

  1. Explore Metro
    This app is really useful for using the subway and getting a good idea of where everywhere is in the city.  The app has handy features like being able to search for a specific subway station, or find the nearest subway station to where you are.
    Metro app
  2. Airpocalypse
    If you’re in Beijing you need an aqi (air quality index) app so you know when you need to wear your mask, or whether you even want to leave your apartment.  There are several apps available, this one is my favourite because it always has hilarious comments, like if the aqi is over 400 it will tell you to “pour yourself a drink”.
  3. Pleco
    This is a Chinese dictionary that will definitely come in handy.  You can put in a word in English and get the Chinese (pinyin and characters), or vice versa.



Toilet talk 

The toilets in Beijing cannot be relied upon to have toilet paper and / or soap available, so always carry tissues and hand santiser in your bag.  Also note that often the toilet paper is in a single dispenser and NOT in the individual cubicles (there’s nothing more disappointing than when your busting for the loo, run into the cubicle and then realise you forgot to get toilet paper..)

If possible leave your bag with someone rather than taking it with you as there’s not usually a hook for them, and the only thing harder than using a squat toilet is doing it while holding your bag (trust me, you don’t want to put it on the floor..!)


I’ve also listed my top places to eat here and where to get a drink here.

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