What should I do/know when I arrive at the airport?
There are two ways to get downtown from Beijing Capital Airport:
Option A - Airport Train, for 25rmb, connected to the subway system. It runs from Terminal 2 to Terminal 3 and then to the city center (Sanyanqiao and Dongzhimen). It takes 20 to 30minutes depending on where you are landing, and runs from about 6am to 11pm. Once arrived at one of these station, you can switch to the subway system. It doesn't require any mandarin skill. All is written in both english and chinese.
Option B - Taxi. Get in line and get a taxi downtown if you have a written/saved mandarin address of your hotel and destination. This is much easier than most think. Your hotel will most likely have this on their website and very useful websites such as thebeijinger.com, timeout Beijing and CityWeekend Beijing all have mandarin address of most places you want to go to. Taxis are really cheap in Beijing and its a great way to get around, except during rush time! Be patient- taxi drivers can be difficult.
Whatever you do, do NOT follow the people that asks if you need a taxi right at the arrivals- they are all scam and will charge you a fortune. A taxi to downtown should cost no more than 120RMB. Get cash at ariport ATMs- they do not accept credit cards.
If you are arriving at a Railway Station, from another chinese city, it is best to always takie the subway as it is very complicated to get taxis from there.
What's different from other countries/cities?
Beijing is the cultural nest of China, more traditional than fellow Shanghai, although also a super modern city.
It has a very fascinating old area, the hutongs, where you can wonder around and stop at cafes, meet old Beijingers and slow city activities like old people playng Majong on the streets.
Like in the rest of China, you will need a good VPN to surf to your favourite websites.
Cash is slowly disappearing amongst locals since everyone pays with mobile apps WeChat and AliPay (even the beggars accept Wechat!)- if you are staying long, get a local number and bank account and set up WeChat, Alipay and Didi (the chinese equivalent of Uber- a must amongst locals)
I need a SIM card
Short term: Go to any China Unicom store with your passport. They have a SIM card for 30 days and 20GB 300 mins for 99RMB. This SIM card will expire after 30 days.
Long term: China Unicom / China Mobile have many offer package for new numbers. Unlimited 4G (within the city) for about 99RMB/month with a yearly contract
Tips: Check if your oversea carrier (eg: Google Fi) include data roaming. You'll be able to bypass the internet restriction without VPN
Where can I book a hotel / apartment?
Select an area to live in and go to see a real estate agent. They'll take 1 month fee, but also 3 months upfront and one month deposit (so you'll need to pay 5 months cash upfront)
You can get an idea of the range price type of apartment on 58.com
Tip: you can request changes such as new mattress, fresh wall painting before signing the contract. It's up to the landlord to accept.
I need a bank account / debit card
You will need an apartment lease, passport (including resident permit), work permit and a local cell phone number to receive all the 2FA security text messages. If you have a tourist visa some banks might accept you, but some restriction has been implemented on tourists visa. ICBC or China Merchant Bank are great bank choices.
Tips: You can withdraw in almost every countries with UnionPay debit cards with really low fees (0.5%). With a limit of 100,000rmb/year and 10,000rmb/day
How to go from A to B?
Subway is always a very easy way to get around, but nothing can beat the luxury of cheap taxis in Beijing. The apple map app (which works without a vpn) also has bus routes- very convenient if destination is far from subway and easier than everyone thinks.
Coffee shops / Coworking to work from
Sanlitun: Cafe Groove and Maan cafe (various location),Wagas, Baker and Spice (in many other locations in town)- best coffee in Beijing and big, comfortable and anonimous spaces to work. TiensTiens has an amazing terrace for the summer, but a coffee would cost 30% more than in other places.
Gulou: Cafe Zarah and Cafe Alba, Silent coffee for terrace and quiet, DaXiao Coffee has the best coffee and location but small tables for working.
Zhongguancun: Innoway, dotcom space
Which hospital / doctor do you recommend?
Beijing United, Oasis, Sino-Japanese (international wing) are the best hospitals if you have international insurance. Clinics like Vista are fine if you have insurance and are doing something simple like a checkup or have a cold.
For Chinese hospitals, Xiehe, Sino-Japanese, and Chaoyang are all fine but not fun to visit. Registration process isn’t user friendly, long lines, questionable medical ethics and sanitation, and no medical privacy.
Unique things I can only do/buy here?
Best Souvenir for the hipster hearted: Feiyue shoes- incredibly cheap cool sneakers, they are becoming a status symbol.
Go for a walk in the amazing hutongs and stop at one of the many cafes- without expecting good coffee.
The must try restaurants?
Zhang Mama 张妈妈特色川味馆 in Andingmen (note: really spicy!) adventuresaroundasia.com/zhangmama-best-restaurant-beijing
Zhangji Roast Lamb Leg (张记烤羊腿), dianping.com/shop/3994648
Mr. Feng's Donkey Burgers : Wang Pangzi www.dianping.com/shop/585475
Maggies has the best egg tarts after Macau
Katchup Burgers (they're not donkey)
Where can I go for a weekend getaway?
Hike the great wall of China
Who should you thanks for those informations?
Camilla Tenn! Cheers me dears
Found some outdated informations? An other "FAQ" section is needed? Just add it in the crowdsourced Google Spreadsheet ❤️ docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1-Lut4zmeDw9z-ikRJPH1nrmXGqt6rYDWGraFYUGnPUk/edit#gid=1359493320