At one time, China was an amazing bargain destination. With it's current economic success the price of living has raised, but the country remains affordable. Beijing is, of course, more costly than smaller cities, or rural areas. A daily backpacker budget should include local food, public transport and inexpensive budget hotels or hostels from RMB 100 to 200. To live conservatively as an expat, figure on a budget of about 6,500 RMB a month with the largest portion dedicated to housing.
Research, research, and introspection should define your pre-accommodation search. Familiarize yourself with the different areas of Beijing and find where you want to live. Read blogs from the area, find official resources, visit the different areas. Ask yourself questions like:
How big a place do you want? A studio? A three room flat?
Is it important that the place be traditional, or more towards Western standards?
Where do you want to live? Somewhere close to your work? Or close to the center?
What's your price range? What are you comfortable paying?
With answers to these important questions you can begin to think of a specific place.
Short-term accommodation can help you and your family get situated after the move without having to make any permanent decisions quite yet.
A flatshare can be an excellent way to save money on your accommodations. It also offers an opportunity to get to know a new city with a local. A room in center costs about 1,500 RMB per month..
However, an important trait in any roommate situation is having boundaries and a clear understanding of what each roommate requires. To protect yourself against potential problems should the worst happen, try to arrange it so that your roommates co-sign the lease. This makes all the roommates responsible for whatever happens to the property. If the worst was to happen, such as your roommate losing their job and not being able to pay rent, they will be held financially responsible- not you.
Hostels in China are very low-cost and frequented by a mainly foreign crowd. This means that many have Western toilets and meals. Hostels can often be booked on-line in advance online and may be booked full during high times. In Beijing, many hostels are located in Hutongs - traditional courtyard homes in the midst of a maze of traditional streets and architecture. Dongcheng District and Xuanwu District have many accommodations. The cheapest hostels cost around 30 RMB for dorms and around 200 RMB for doubles.
Dorm rooms are another option for inexpensive housing. Located on university campuses, they are usually available in the summer and during breaks. However, they may also offer rowdy roommates.