In a rapidly developing city with over 20 million residents it may come as no surprise that the hustle and bustle is like no other city in the world. It is a fast-paced yet slow moving city that offers so many cultural diversions and things to do in Beijing with young children.
The city’s urban planning was developed more for cars than for pedestrians so getting around with children can be more challenging for those without a car. Traffic in Beijing is heavy so choosing accommodation that is close to the office and to school is a critical factor for families when moving to the city. There are plenty of local parks situated around key residential areas where you can stroll on foot and children can run and bike freely. They can enjoy peddle boat rides and climbing walls and amusement park rides in most of the larger parks in the city. There are also a range of indoor activity and play centres for days when the weather is less than perfect.
Getting around the city is much easier these days with the on-going extension of subway lines that now cover a greater area of the city and an excellent bus system. Access for the physically challenged and those with toddlers and prams is not well provided for; be prepared to carry your little ones and prams. Once in the subway system the trains are modern and unless its rush hour you can usually find a seat. Taxis are generally a cheap and efficient way to get around Beijing. It is easy to flag one down on most busy streets, unless it is raining, or rush hour, in which case you can either call a taxi service to send you a car for an additional 4RMB, or head for the nearest subway stop. It is highly recommended to keep a bilingual name card (called a mingpian) of your home address as most taxi drivers do not speak or read English.
The Central Business District or CBD is the modern bustling financial centre of Beijing; characterised by glass buildings, high-rise apartments, hotels, office towers, and Embassies. Almost all the rental in the CBD is quite valuable and fitted out to an international standard so rents are generally higher than anywhere else in Beijing. Living in the CBD offers plenty of choice when it comes to accommodation and gives you a taste of the local experience. It’s convenient to bike or drive to heritage sites like Tiananmen Square, the Lama Temple and other popular tourist spots like Houhai lake and Nanluoguxiang for the best selection of old and modern curio shopping and tasty local restaurants. In between the CBD and Shunyi is another expatriate neighbourhood called Lido, named after the largest hotel, serviced apartment, and retail complex in the area. You will find it just off the Airport Expressway, half way between the airport and the Third Ring Road. Another popular residential area is Shunyi District, north of Beijing, 30 km from downtown and just 10 minutes from the Beijing Capital International Airport. It has a suburban feel commonly described as an expatriate bubble as the housing, international schools, restaurants, and grocery stores are tailored for the foreign population so one feels they could be almost anywhere in the world, except China.
A wide range of healthcare services are available in Beijing from hospitals and clinics tailored to the expatriate population of Beijing. The largest is Beijing United Family Hospital and Clinics with a full hospital in Lido, and also with a clinic in Shunyi. International SOS also has a hospital and clinic in the CBD. The newest full service hospital and clinic is Oasis International Hospital also in the Lido area. Smaller clinics and dentists with English speaking and internationally trained physicians are conveniently located across the city near expatriate housing. These hospitals draw expatriates from all over China for a range of medical services, one of the favourites being the birthing suites complete with hot tubs, flat screen TVs, and expatriate Doctors. With imported equipment, imported vaccines, and foreign doctors more families are choosing to stay in China to give birth. Local hospitals and clinics are available, some with foreign sections with very affordable pricing as long as you don’t mind the lack of privacy.
International education options in Beijing, similar to the clinics, are conveniently located in the CBD as well as in Shunyi. The British School of Beijing, Sanlitun has a sister school in Shunyi providing Early Years, Primary and Secondary education for children from the ages of 2-18.