Nine Tips for Getting To Know Beijing Better
Jul 13, 2020

Annabelle Low, GMBA Class of 2018 (and many other members of the GMBA family)

We know that it can be overwhelming when you move from one place to another to start a new life! Never fear – current local and international students offer tips from their own experiences that may make getting to know Beijing a bit easier.

1.The SEM buddy program matches you with a local and international buddy.

Talk to your buddy, communicate your queries, and ask him/her more about Tsinghua and Beijing life. 

The more you learn, the more you know what to expect, and the easier it will be to get used to living here. 

——Chris Leixing Du, President, GMBA Class of 2018 (China)

2. Get a Yikatong bus card at any metro station and head out to explore the hutongs (胡同) – this will save you some money when traveling around Beijing.  

    —— Peren Xiao, GMBA Class of 2018 (United States of America)

    3. Download WeChat and follow some WeChat accounts to discover new activities. A couple of very worthwhile accounts are NetImpactTsinghua and TEDXTHU. Don’t hesitate to join locally organized groups to get to make new friends and get to know Beijing better.

   ——Niklas Friese, Class of 2018 (Germany)

4. Download Baidu maps. Beware – Beijing is larger than it looks in the app! Even one block on the map can end up being more than a 20-minute walk. I initially tried to get around by walking, but in the summer heat, I felt like I was sweating buckets. After a week, I bought an e-bike. It doesn’t rain much in Beijing, but when it does, every biker is in trouble. I highly recommend getting a raincoat. It may look super weird, but trust me, it will save your life on rainy days.

     ——Kevin Kim, Class of 2018 (South Korea)

5. Don’t let the haze stop you! Almost everything in Beijing can be delivered to your doorstep overnight, usually for free or a small delivery fee. From bubble tea to pastries, fresh fruit to laundry detergent, and even toothpaste to stationery, delivery will be your best friend. 

——Jiayi Leong, Class of 2018 (Singapore)

6. Beijing always has a lot of events going on, but if you are interested in tech and not keen on going far, keep a look out for tech-related activities, electives, courses offered by Tsinghua x-lab, and visiting guest speakers. Perks of the program! 

——Keith Lau, Class of 2017 (Malaysia)


7. Nobody uses cash anymore in China! Money is virtual, and you will rarely use notes and coins. Install Alipay and WeChat on your phone before you arrive. Even most street vendors accept WeChat Wallet or Alipay. Link your local bank account to them so payments can be directly debited, or use them as prepaid credit if you don’t want to link your bank card (this option is popular with exchange students and those who are not planning to stay long). It may take some time to get your bank account when you first arrive. You can “top-up” your wallet by asking a classmate to give you a WeChat “hongbao” in exchange for cash. International versions of WeChat may not come with the Wallet function, but don’t worry: the function will automatically appear the first time you receive virtual money via WeChat.

——Paolo Scroccu, Class of 2018 (Italy)

8. Download “DaZhongDianPing” (大众点评) for greater savings. The app is in Chinese, but that is okay; it’s actually really intuitive and easy to use. You can search for recommendations on where to eat, shop, get massages, etc. via this app, and you can also leave reviews. Restaurants, massage parlors, and shops commonly offer discounts, special prices and even rebates through this app – sometimes the savings can be quite significant! 

 ——Hiroki Tsutsumi, Class of 2018 (Japan)

9. Worried about how to get around? No problem. Beijing has easy and cheap options for every type of travel. For short distances: rental bikes are available on campus and in almost any corner of Beijing. Whether the label says “Mobike,” “ofo,” or something else, the procedure is almost always the same: locate a bike (you can even make it beep if you are within a few meters of it), scan the QR to unlock, ride where you want (be careful with Beijing’s traffic), lock it to end the rental –usually for RMB 0.5-1.0 per unit of time. For longer distances, rainy days, or going out, call a “Didi” taxi (essentially, Chinese Uber). It offers different types of cars, and for a small extra fee you can enjoy premium cars and services, such as chauffeur services (select “专车” in the app). Bonus tip: Trouble reading Chinese characters? Try Pleco! It's free-of-charge and free-of-ads, loaded with many incredibly useful features and the best dictionary currently, in my opinion. 

——Roman Schopphoff, 2016 Exchange Student (Germany)

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