Accommodation

So you’ve decided to give China a try and move here, but where are you going to live? While some schools may provide accommodation, this is rare – especially in the big cities which is where you’ll most likely want to live. Finding a place to stay can be quite a headache in China, but we’re here to help make it a bit easier. Here’s a comprehensive list of your options for where to stay in the Middle Kingdom:

Don't end up sleeping on a bench!
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Don’t end up sleeping on a bench!

Short-Term

We often recommend people to come here on a tourist visa at first to feel it out and see if they really want to stay for a full year. If you just want to check China out and see if it’s for you, you’ll obviously be looking for short-term accommodations. Here are your options:

Youth Hostels

Hostels are much nicer than you probably think!
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Hostels are much nicer than you probably think!

China has some of the best youth hostels we’ve ever stayed in, making them a great option for short-term visits. Oftentimes, you can work out a weekly or monthly rate with them to save you some money. If you’re coming here on your own, staying in a hostel is also a great way to meet people. Another big plus is that at least some of the staff usually speak English, which really helps when you’re a newbie equipped with nothing but an out of tone “Ni Hao!”

Air BNB

There are tons of places listed on Air BNB in China’s cities, ranging from a room for rent to an entire place. Some have nightly rates while others also have weekly and monthly. Another plus with using Air BNB is that you can pay for your stay with your foreign card, which will not be possible if and when you want to sign your own contract.

Couchsurfing

Hanging with fellow CSers and travel bloggers Lesh and Jazza of NOMADasaurus.
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Hanging with fellow CSers and travel bloggers Lesh and Jazza of NOMADasaurus.

There are tons of people actively involved in the Couchsurfing community in China, both locals and foreigners. If you’re planning on looking for your own place immediately, surfing with a local host for a few nights is a great way to save you some money and get an introduction to the city you’ll be living in.

Long-Term

If you’ve come to China with plans to stay for at least a year, you’ll obviously be looking for more long-term accommodations. Here are your three best bets for a longer stay:

Homestays

For those who really want to soak up the culture and improve their Chinese quickly, a homestay is probably the best option. There are homestay programs set up all over the country, with plenty of Chinese families eager to house a lao wai (foreigner). It’s possible to find a room where you pay your share of monthly rent and interact with the family as you please, or you can find one where you get a free room in exchange for giving English lessons/babysitting the kid.

Rent a Room

A room we rented in Beijing.
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A room we rented in Beijing.

China is a revolving door of drifters, backpackers, English teachers, and more, so there are always plenty of rooms for rent. If signing a year-long contract and putting down a big deposit isn’t what you’re looking for, consider just renting a room. Make sure you get to know your new potential roommates before moving in, though, because living with strangers can obviously have its fair share of downsides. On the plus side, it’s cheaper than getting your own spot and you can also split the bills.

Find Your Own Place

Find a place of your own!
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Find a place of your own!

Before reading on, you should prepare yourself for what exactly a Chinese apartment is like, as it’s sure to be quite different from home. Although it can be quite the frustrating process, finding your own apartment is your best bet for long-term stays, at least in our humble opinions. There are many ways to find an apartment in China, but we’d recommend avoiding real estate agents at all costs. They’re pushy, misleading, and they take at least a 1-month fee. It’s much better to check local websites (such as TheBeijinger.com or GoKunming.com) and see if you can find someone moving out who needs to find new tenants. This will save you a lot of headache and a good chunk of change.

For more, check out our guide to finding an apartment in China. If you want a better idea of what kind of place you might end up with and how much it might cost, read our description of the places we’ve lived throughout our years in China.

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