Living in Beijing

If you're looking for a place to eat or have a few drinks, click on the map and scroll down on its left menu to see the few restaurants and bars that we liked as well as areas with cool places to eat/drink. Click on the name of each restaurant on the left menu to see more info/notes. Mind you, there's a lot of Western food, in case you're tired of eating Chinese food everyday.
Of course there are lots of great food to eat in China, but when in doubt of what to order at a Chinese restaurant, try a few of our favorites : HóngShāoRòu [ 红烧肉 = braised fatty pork with soy sauce and sugar ] or ChǎoHéCài [ 炒合菜 = stir-fried eggs with chives, bean sprouts, and vermicelli, usually served with thin pancakes called bǐng = ]. If you feel like having something healthy, get DàBànCài [ 大拌菜 = Chinese salad items with a sweet vinegary dressing and peanuts ]. Almost every restaurant will have these dishes. Also, you usually can't go wrong with any potato dish.


Renting an apartment
Even though I hated living in Beijing, my apartment in Beijing was pretty awesome. Basically, I lived in a shopping complex where I could access Carrefour supermarket, shops, restaurants, an arcade, and a movie theater via B2 without even getting outside, which was perfect when it got to be -10℃ out during winter.

Through an agent named Jason who could kind of speak English but wasn't particularly helpful
( jason.jian​g@t-home01.​com ), we found a small apartment around 40 m² for 4000 RMB a month. The agent took me to a couple of other cheaper and some more expensive places, but they looked pretty awful so I opted for our modern apartment equipped with brand new furniture that's never been lived in before. People might pay 3000-5000 RMB for a one-bedroom apartment and around 10,000-12,000 RMB for a 3-bedroom apartment.
We had to sign a year's contract and pay rent in 3-month increments (via direct bank transfer to the landlord), which is standard practice unless you can negotiate something but it's unlikely. Upon signing the contract, we had to pay a 1-month rent worth deposit (we got that back when we left), the first 3 months of rent, Internet/water/gas/TV-cable fee for the year, and a month rent worth of agent fee to the agent (if your rent is higher than 5000 RMB, the landlord might pay this instead of you). Electricity is paid by pre-charging a card at the apartment management office — not too expensive.


Transport

Buses cost as low as 0.40 RMB and you can use your Beijing subway card. Make sure you allow time for traffic as you can get stuck in traffic for a long time. Subway charges a flat rate of 2 RMB regardless of where you go.

Taxi rides rarely cost over 100 RMB. I regularly paid around 36 RMB for a 20-minute / 12-km ride to work when I didn't feel like being squished and coughed on on the subway. Be prepared as quite often taxis will refuse to take you some places. Note that it's not possible to hail a taxi on Cháng'ānJiē [ 长安街 ] near Tiananmen Square as it's technically not allowed — get a taxi from one of the side streets instead.
During my year living in Beijing, I bought both a bicycle (300-600+ RMB) and a moped (1899 RMB). Even though there's quite often a bike lane, I found the traffic to be too crazy to ride my moped. There are just too many insane people seemingly trying to crash you to death. The moped took more than 10 hours to charge and the removable battery was super heavy. Plus, it doesn't go very fast, not to mention riding in the heavily polluted air. I ended up selling it on the Beijinger.


Money : during & after
Excluding the cost of accommodation, you can live pretty comfortably in Beijing for 3000-6000 RMB a month. You can eat meat over rice, sometimes with a side of vegetables, for just 9-12 RMB. Mall restaurants charge 20-60 RMB for most dishes. For Western food, dishes start at 40-80 RMB. Beer is 6-20+ RMB. A lot of restaurants, especially franchise chains, will deliver food to your door (usually for free) even if you only order only costs 10 RMB.
Before leaving, we tried changing money at the bank. However, with a passport, foreigners are only allowed to change the equivalent of 500 USD in any foreign currency each day. You can get a Chinese friend to change money for you as there is no such limit for locals with their Chinese ID. A bit after 3 months subsequent to leaving China, the Chinese pension taken off my pay cheques previously got refunded directly into my Chinese bank account.
With your Union Pay card, you will be able to take out money in most countries outside China with pretty good exchange rates. So far, it has worked for us in the UK, Japan, Malaysia, and Thailand without problems. There doesn't seem to be a limit. If you set up Internet banking in China, you could check your balance online outside the country.

Shopping

Although there are tons of malls and department stores around Beijing, young Beijingers tend to shop at Subway Line 1's Xidan [ map | 西单 = Xīdān ] or clothing wholesale centers by Subway Line 4's Beijing Zoo [ map | 北京动物园 = BěiJīngDòngWùYuán ]. Both areas offer cheaper prices and you can bargain.

Foreigners like to go to Sanlitun's Yashow Market [ map | 三里屯雅秀市场 ] or Silk Street [ map | 秀水街 ] but make sure you find out what other people pay and bargain since vendors might quote you ridiculous prices 10 times as high.


Birth Control Pills / Tampons
birth control pills china
↑ contains Levonorgestrel & Ethinylestradiol
Brand called Ange アンジュ in Japan
contains the same hormones/dosage

You can buy tampons at some import shops (more upscale supermarkets). Jenny Lou's carries Tampax (For Britishers, you can also get Marmite here, by the way). Normal supermarkets or drugstores might have o.b. tampons which are without applicators.

As for birth control pills, they are widely available without a prescription at extremely cheap prices in any pharmacy around town. Although the packaging is in Chinese, if you look at the back of the box, the hormones used and the amount might be written in English and you can compare that with the brand you use back home. The one pictured 左炔诺孕酮炔雌醇片 has a prescription brand called Alesse in Canada, also containing levonorgestrel & ethinyl estradiol.


Visa Transfer after getting a new job

Visa laws change frequently. Make sure you have enough pages in your passport for Chinese visa though. The Z Visa needed to transfer into a Residence Permit takes up an entire page in your passport. The Residence Permit itself is of course another whole page.

If you want to quit and get a new job, make sure you give enough notice and leave on good terms so you won't have trouble getting a new visa. I had to wait nearly a month in between jobs for my new employer to process my new Residence Permit, which takes another whole page.

If you want to quit early, you will need to wait another 2 weeks without work before you can leave the country in order for them to cancel your visa, which will take another whole page in your passport. With immigration stamps, Chinese visas took up 5 freaking pages of my passport!! You need at least 3 passport pages even if you don't change jobs or leave early.