Getting settled and connected with the community in Beijing does not take much time as there are plenty of resources available for newcomers to meet with people.
Arriving in Beijing is pretty straight-forward and much like any other city with English signposts readily available. If you are not being picked up at the airport, remember to bring the address of your hotel printed in English and Chinese characters to show the taxi driver. The ride from the Beijing Capital airport to any downtown CBD area can take around 45-60 minutes depending on the traffic. The cost should be approximately RMB 100. Upon arrival, you’ll need to register with the Public Security Bureau (PSB). Hotels, serviced apartments and some villa compounds will do this for you by taking your passport and registering you with the local police station. If not, ask your real estate agent or company representative to walk you through this the first time as you have to register within 24 hours. This is then repeated each time you re-enter China after an overseas trip, which differs from other cities in China where once a year is sufficient. You will be given an A5 size white or yellow paper once you are registered. This piece of paper is VERY IMPORTANT for later visa and residence permit procedures, so keep it in a safe place.
Temporary accommodation is the usual route that families take before finding more permanent accommodation. This gives you a chance to explore the city and get a feel for the different neighbourhoods most popular with other expats. There are really so many options to choose from these days, from high-rise apartment complexes overlooking the CBD, to traditional Chinese courtyard housing in the inner-city, to villas and houses in the suburbs of Shunyi. Tap water in China is not drinkable, so unless your landlord has installed water filters, run to the nearest convenience store to get some bottled water. Most expatriates have large water machines that hold 1.5 L bottles producing cold and boiling water. Check the brand and the registration number of the bottle to ensure it is safe. Once settled getting a water filter installed in the house is recommended. Restaurants are open at all hours of the day and night for local noodles and dumplings and most deliver free of charge. Supermarkets near expatriate housing carry local and imported goods. Be prepared to pay up to three times the price for imported toothpaste and cereals than you would at home. Eating out at local restaurants can actually be more cost effective. Local restaurants and McDonald’s will only accept cash, most international restaurants and supermarkets will accept international credit cards.
Getting a temporary mobile SIM card and top-up cards is easily done at most grocery and convenience stores. Internet should come standard in apartments and villas. If it is not included in your rental contract ask your real estate agent or company representative to accompany you to the phone bureau to set up internet, telephone and even mobile phone service. You will need your passport for these steps, a local address written in Chinese, and some cash for deposit. There are only two telephone companies in Beijing: China Unicom and China Mobile. Packages are available for monthly phone service and even a free phone. China Unicom is the only authorised iPhone provider. China Mobile SIM cards will work in iPhones, but they cannot provide an iPhone within a package. Beware of fakes if you decide to brave a big electronics mall to find a good deal on a handset.
Finally, expect a few days to recover from jet lag and get your bearings before venturing out to get the rest of the items you need for your home. While IKEA, Walmart, B&Q, Carrefour and local markets are great choices to pick up everything you need at reasonable prices, keep in mind they are very crowded, which combined with jet lag, will not help to ease your transition to China. It is recommended to go to one place a day, and be first in the door as soon as they open on a weekday morning. Getting to these places is relatively easy via taxis and subway. Getting back can be a bigger challenge particularly if you are carrying lots of newly procured goodies. Private cars are rented with the driver either by the day or the month.
Our Parents Liaison Officer can connect your family with other families with children of similar ages and interests to make the transition smoother. You can also get plenty of advice through work and colleagues that have been in the city for some time will also point you in the right direction when it comes to housing an entertainment options.