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Beijing Normal University - where to live?

Dan Bang

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I have been in Beijing since april - I have done a 12 weeks course at BLCU - and I plan to study at BNU next semester. I will leave China for 3 weeks around August the 1st, but I suppose that I have to find a place to live before that - since I will have no where to go when I return to Beijing, and I assume that the number of people interested in finding a place to live off-campus increases as the beginning of the next semester gets closer...

But back to the red thread: I wondered whether some one could give me a few words of advice that would be handy in the process of finding an apartment close to BNU. Like location, method, what is an acceptable price (for your own apartment and for renting a room), is there latitude for bargain, where to look and whom to contact... Perhaps it would be wise to specify that I'm both interested in having my own apartment and in renting a room/sharing an apartmant. I definitely prefer living outside campus compared to the claustrophobic and regulated dorms where you even have to pay a relatively high price for a shared squat toilet... And I like living close to the essential stuff - there is nothing more annoying than always being forced to walk at last 30 minutes to get anywhere... And my Chinese is, by the way, still at the beginner level where I have to respond to most with the classic "wo bu dong"-sentence :wall

Furthermore I have some questions linked to the above: how far is there roughly from BNU to the subway? I assume it would be best to live on that stretch... Do you - living in the area of BNU - feel detatched form the life around Wudaokou/Chaoyang and the like? Is it realistic to find a place to live with acces to internet, air-con and perhaps even heating? What about internetcafes and places to eat in general? And am I right when I estimate it to be best to look for a place to live before I leave China (which a kind of puts me under a time preasure)?

Thanks in advance!

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I think I've probably written all of this up in various places previously, but may as well bring it together here. I know we have a few BNU students on here, so hopefully they'll also chip in - and I'd listen to them, rather than me, as I moved into my place 2 years ago and so might not be as up to date as I should be.

Flat-finding methods

1) Agents. People will tell you to avoid agents. I'd recommend you avoid the bad ones, which means being wary of anyone who isn't up front about being an agent, doesn't have an office or a fixed phone line, etc. Go for the major agencies like 我爱我家, and take a Chinese friend along if you feel the need, and you should be ok - yes, it does work out more expensive, but you may feel it's worth it. Usual rate is one months rent, on lower-end accomodation to be paid by the renter, at the higher-end it is more likely to be paid by the landlord (who will, naturally, factor it into the rent). This figure is negotiable - if you take the first place you see, they do a lot less work than if you take the seventh, so there's room for negotiation.

If you walk south of BNU's east gate towards the subway, on the west side of the road, you'll pass two or three agencies, with plenty of cards in the window. I'd start there.

I wouldn't go near any agent that doesn't either have a) a streetfront office or B) a personal recommendation from someone I know.

2) Noticeboards and classifieds. I'm not sure of any BNU specific ones - there must be one inside the foreign student teaching and accomodation buildings there though. There's also a small noticeboard at Tube Station, the Subway-clone sandwich place north and opposite of BNUs East gate. This place sees a lot of foreign students in and out, and would be a good place to look for local flatshares.

The expat sites like Thatsbj.com have plenty of flat ads, but be aware they are mainly at the pricier end of the market, and are often agencies rather than landlords (almost always, I think). They also concentrate on Chaoyang. You can place an ad for free though, so it's worth a try.

3) Walking in and asking. 北京五月, for example (new 'hotel-style' apartment building about 10 minutes from BNU) has a management office which helps match up landlords and renters as part of the management service. I don't recommend this place as the 'apartments' are basically slightly enlarged hotel rooms, but if you identify a place you like just walk in and ask around.

Prices . . . I pay 1700Y for my place (pictures and more info here, and take a look through the rest of the accomodation section there as well, bearing in mind it hasn't been updated. I suspect I may pay one or two hundred a month more than I need to, but I like the place and love the location, and the landlords are easy to deal with. Beijing Wuyue was asking 2400-2600 for their tiny places (I didn't bother negotiating as I didn't want to sleep with my head in the kitchen and my feet in the living room). Not sure what anyone else is paying, but a look in those agents windows will give you some ballpark figures.

The BNU area is great for transport - the uni itself is a 10-15 minute walk from the subway, plus there are buses right outside campus that will take you up to Wudaokou, down to Xidan, across to Weigongcun, whereever. A 1.60 cab up to Wudaokou will cost you around 15-18Y. You may wind up feeling slightly distant from Chaoyang / Wudaokou, but you are actually in the middle of both - you can get to either fairly easily, whereas if you live in Sanlitun or by BLCU, you are miles away from the other. Plus you are a very pleasant lakeside / hutong walk from the bars of Houhai and Nanluoguxiang. There are supermarkets scattered around, and the 104 bus will take you to IKEA in one direction and Carrefour in the other. Plenty of decent restaurants all over as well. DVD / clothes shopping at Xinjiekou. Oh, and rumor has it there are two KFCs and a McD's nearby, but I know nothing of these things.

If the area falls down on anything, it's the lack of a 'cafe / bar' scene - apart from the afore mentioned Tube Station, and Twelve Oaks at the east gate of BNU, there really isn't anything that I've found. However, with Wudaokou, Sanlitun and the Houhai area all within easy reach, it's never bothered me much.

You should have no problem finding a place with air-con and heating (make sure you know how heating is paid for though, some places will include it, some will expect you to pay for it seperately). Broadband internet should also be no problem - anywhere with a phone line should be able to have it installed. I have all three.

I don't think you should worry too much about timing - sure, there might be a glut of foreign students turning up looking for accomodation, but a) the number of foreign students, in comparison to the housing market, is still too small to have any major impact and B) you are out of the Wudaokou area, which is where surely 90% of foreign students will be looking to live.

One thing that 北京五月 might be useful for is that they will do short-term rentals via the management office - this might be a decent alternative to a hotel while you are flat-hunting, and puts you right in the area you want to be living in. If you want to go in and ask around, turn west under the 牌楼 by the cinema on the road between the east gate and the subway and it's a few hundred meters in front of you.

Hope this helps.


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I don't think you should worry too much about timing - sure, there might be a glut of foreign students turning up looking for accomodation, but a) the number of foreign students, in comparison to the housing market, is still too small to have any major impact and B) you are out of the Wudaokou area, which is where surely 90% of foreign students will be looking to live.
True, and in fact this is the priciest time of year to be looking for a place to live, especially if you are going cheap - students from across the country who have just graduated are converging on Beijing, and they all need places to stay. So waiting until you come back might be better anyway.

BNU, as far as I know, has a two-week grace period at the beginning of each semester, during which students may swap dorms or even move off campus. You may want to give the foreign office a call and see what they say. If you can get a place in the cheapest dorm (when I was there it was the Education Administration Guest House), it'd only be 40 yuan a night for those two weeks.

Also, if you have a friend to help you with the Chinese, the classified ad paper 《手递手》 is sold at newsstands every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and lists tons of apartment ads from both individuals and reputable agencies (it's also a nice place to find used electronics and furniture).

I currently pay 750 for a really small single room in an apartment just south of BNU that I share with 2 other people I didn't know before. I found it through an online rental bbs (soufun.com, I think), but I also got scammed once using the bbs, so it's not the best way to do things.

One thing to add to Roddy's note about heating: there are two type of heating, a water-radiator that feeds the whole community (I don't pay additional for mine, incidentally), and an electric wall unit. If you have AC, you probably have the electric heater, too. The radiator is operational from late November to mid-March (I think), so you might feel like using electric heat if it's cold outside that period. And if you get a north-facing room in an older building, the nights can get pretty cold. Electric heat isn't cheap, though.

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I went to BNU last semester but I lived on campus. Right now I'm in the US so I haven't had any experience apartment hunting though I plan to go back to China next year. Many of my Korean classmates used a Korean agent in the Wudaokou area. They got pretty good results. One of them got a good apartment 10 minutes west of campus. I would have to ask him how much it was for though. There is a lot of good housing in the area and as Roddy said, transportation is very convenient. You won't feel isolated from Wudaokou/Chaoyang but there are few foreigners so you will get good practice in your Chinese daily. Maybe you can try contacting the foreign students office and see if they have any recommendations. They don't reply to emails but phone and fax work pretty well.

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  • 1 year later...

Just want to add the following from another thread - links to cheap hotels in the BNU vicinity that might be useful.

You might want to have a look at somewhere like this - never used it myself, but I think the 365inns are basically cheap and cheerful budget hotels. This one is just a short walk from BNU west gate - I think when they say 'Beijing Primary University' they actually mean BNU. - There's also this one - again, just happened to find it online.

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