Chongqing is a huge city and, chances are, your job will dictate where you reside. However, if you're planning on coming and finding a place for yourself, the choice between city-centre and 'suburbia' can be daunting. This article can't offer solutions, but will give you a few pointers on what to consider when seeking accommodation in this sprawling conurbation.
There are three city centres most likely to have some appeal for their centrality and general convenience.
1) Jiefangbei 解放碑
This is the most upmarket of all Chongqing's city centres. It's here where you're most likely to find amenities for a foreign lifestyle - though beware; it's still not a patch on the likes of Shanghai or Beijing.
2) Jiangbei 江北
Jiangbei seems to be trying to compete with Jiefangbei of late, though it still has a long way to go. Still, with some of the best foreign food supermarkets now located here, it has its appeal.
3) Shapingba 沙坪坝
This is a lively and young area, situated near to several universities. Once again, amenities here are more foreigner-friendly than in the suburbs.
Of the other city centres, Nanping南坪and Yangjiaping杨家坪are beginning to catch up with the Big Three. Yubei渝北is not far behind, though situated on Chongqing's northern edge near the airport, it's not as convenient. There are another three city centres – Beibei北碚区, Dadukou 大渡口and Yudong渝东 – but these are relatively marginal locations.
City Centres – Pros and Cons
The benefits – or failings – of city-centre living are obvious. Access to nightlife, the best shopping and a vibrant atmosphere make them ideal for many; and, for much the same reasons, a terrible place for others. They can be hectic, packed with crowds who pour in from the suburbs, over-noisy from early in the morning until late at night with tannoy-amplified commercialism. For party-animals who never sleep, the city centres are ideal. For those who like to sleep occasionally, they leave much to be desired.
Accommodation tends to be limited to small apartments in high-rise blocks. Expect to pay up to 1,000 RMB for 30 to 40 square metres. The blocks tend to be well-guarded in the foyer with visitors checked in and out; but not always. Make sure you select one wary of visitors. However, with hundreds and hundreds of individuals and families stacked together, the chances of someone choosing your door to break into are minimal. Foyer guards can be useful in letting you know if any apartments are available in their particular block.
These blocks would be worthy of study for an acoustician. Almost magically, a pin dropped on the street twenty storeys below is magnified to a clang as it echoes between the buildings to reach you on the 20th floor. Still more so with the tannoys. For six months I suffered with If you're going to San Francisco be sure to wear some flowers in your hair – repeating endlessly from early morning to late evening, day-in, day-out in Shapingba. I highly recommend it as a means of torture.
Living in the Suburbs – Advantages and Disadvantages
Move out of the city centres and into what passes for 'suburbia' in the massive Chongqing conurbation and select from one of the many housing estates. There is other accommodation on offer, fairly cheap at that; but security is lax in the extreme. Moreover, foreigners may be identified as the source of rich pickings by some thieves. A friend of mine, before moving into more secure housing, was burgled three times in little over a year in two different apartments.
The estates tend to be guarded and offer varying degrees of security. Once again, it's best to be sure about this before selecting one of them. In these, you can get up to twice the living area for the same rent as in the city centres. Buildings are far less likely to be high-rise, though some estate accommodation has taken to towering of late. Surroundings tend to be more relaxed with greenery, perhaps even a water feature here and there, though these are usually turned off. They're certainly much less noisy. However, security doesn't come cheap; expect to pay 50-100 RMB in estate fees every month.
The guards at the gates will often be able to tell you if any apartments are available for rent and will sometimes show you around. They're bored most of the time and are happy for the distraction of playing tour guide to a foreigner.
The downside is access to facilities. Shops tend to be small and crammed with little of interest on offer. Nightlife seems to be restricted to KTV emporia. However, a few supermarket chains and entertainment entrepreneurs are starting to notice this glaring business opportunity and things are improving rapidly. Though you're still going to have to hit the city centres to stock up, you'll have to go there less and less often as things develop.
One location worthy of mention for its originality is Huangjiaoping – the arts' district, situated around the Sichuan Fine Arts Institute. Speckled with galleries large and small, and a lot of building space given over to artists' studios, this is an area with a strangely bohemian feel to it, out on its own in Chongqing. Many of the buildings sport murals and, even if you don't choose to live here, it's definitely worth checking out. Be wary, though; again, security is all-important, so make sure you know what you're renting into should you choose to live there.
One other factor to consider is pollution. The prevailing winds over Chongqing come predominantly from the northerly to easterly quadrant so living further away from the main path of air pollution is advised if you cherish your lungs. Living as I do in the suburbs between Jiangbei and Yubei in the north, I can see the difference in the sky the further south I go. Chongqing is a horrendously polluted city. Whatever the tour guides may tell you, that ain't all pretty mist up there.
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Keywords: Where to live Chongqing accommodation tips Chongqing tips for moving to Chongqing
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I have lived in both Jiefangbei and Jiangbei. I am presently in the USA, but I still have a home in Jiangbei overlooking the city center. I much prefer Jiangbei. Much more activity at night (that I can watch from my bedroom window) and much more shopping for a foreigner. Traffic to Jiefanbei is terrible, trying to get a taxi is daunting, but if you work in Jiefanbei, there is no reason to go anyplace else in CQ unless, of course, to sightsee. CQ is a wonderful city to live.
Sep 28, 2013 22:17 Report Abuse
YourMandarin is Chongqing's first Chinese language institute. We are dedicated to deliver courses ranging from four main themes, namely, Conversational Mandarin, Business Mandarin, HSK Preparation course and Chinese culture course. For expatriates who are working, studying or living in Chongqing, we also offer services including airport pickup, translation, seeking medical advice and tour guide, etc.
Oct 08, 2012 18:51 Report Abuse
I am not a Chongqing person, but I am extremely interested in working there. I hold a MSc degree in Science and have 25 years of working experience. Can you tell me if there is a need for somebody with my skill sets?
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Aug 05, 2012 12:05 Report Abuse