Living in Chongqing, China as an Expat

Updated: Dec 26, 2020

It's always scary to move across the globe, especially when you don't know much about the city. Even if you've visited a place before, it's a lot different when you're living there. After living in Chongqing, China for a year I have a good idea of what life is like in this awesome city. Here's a little information to help you gain confidence about your move!


Cost of Living Averages

Rent

Studio/1 bedroom- 1800-2200 ¥ ($260-317 USD)

2 bedroom- 2200-3000 ¥ ($317-433 USD)


Utilities (per 3 months)

Electricity, water, gas- 250-400 ¥ ($36-57 USD)


Phone bill

99 ¥ ($14 USD) per month for unlimited data (includes wifi for your home)


Food/Drink

Chinese meal- 10-20 ¥ ($1.50-2.80 USD)

Basic Western meal (burger, sausages, pizza, etc.)- 30-80 ¥ ($4.30-11 USD)

Domestic Beer- 5 ¥ ($0.70 USD)


Transportation/Leisure

One-way ticket (depending on distance)- 1-6 ¥ ($0.15-0.87 USD)

1 month gym membership- 100-200 ¥ ($15-30 USD)

Movie ticket- 40 ¥ ($5 USD)


Expat Life

There are lots of expats living in Chongqing, and the number continues to grow every year. I'd say 99% of expats living in Chongqing are English teachers, and the last 1% is split between university students studying abroad or other jobs. I met one guy who was a basketball coach, but other than that all my friends were English teachers. (Watch my video about my experience teaching at EF in Chongqing) Regardless though, you shouldn't have a problem making friends and having a great social life. Here are some tips:


9th Street

This is the area with all the bars and clubs. You are GUARANTEED to meet so many foreigners on a night out- it's usually over 80% foreigners who are out. You can really go anywhere on 9th street, but the main hot spots are: Revolucion Cocktail, Space, Playhouse, & Mask.


WeChat Groups

You'll soon find out that WeChat is your life. Since Facebook is blocked in China, the best way to meet people is to join a WeChat Group about whatever you're interested in: going to watch movies, art shows, watching/playing sports, etc. It's a great way to meet people who have similar interests as you.


Entertainment

Chongqing may be a city that most people haven't heard of, but it really does offer all the entertainment you could want in the city you call home. There is a plethora of malls, bars, clubs, cinemas, bowling alleys, hikes, and so much more. There are also some tourist sites to see like:


Ciqikou

This is considered the "old town" of Chongqing, where are all the buildings are traditional Chinese style. It's a small bundle of buildings overlooking the Yangtze river filled with lots of shops selling local foods, goods, and clothes.


Hongyadong

A plethora of traditional Chinese style buildings stacked on top of one another overlooking the Yangtze river on the Yuzhong peninsula.


Times Square

This was created to imitate the one and only Times Square in NYC. It is a huge shopping mall area with high-end fashion stores, bright lights, and endless food. Great for a night out on the town!


Eling Park

This is a gorgeous park that gives you great views of the Chongqing skyline. You can walk around the park and find rope bridges, small ponds, and large grassy areas.


Hong'ensi Forest Park

This park is up in the mountain, but not hard to get to. It is a beautiful, free place to walk around and see lots of greenery, pagodas, and ancient structures. The main pagoda on the top of the hill can be seen from Chongqing city center!

For more information, read my Beginner's Guide to Chongqing.


Environment

Weather Averages

Chongqing is known for it's extremely hot and humid weather.

Jan-Feb: 50-60 degrees F

Mar-May: 70-80 degrees F

June-Aug: 85-95 degrees F

Sep-Oct: 70-80 degrees F

Nov-Dec: 50-60 degrees F


Landscape

Chongqing is nicknamed the "Mountain City" because it's surrounded by mountains. So you obviously have all the amenities of the city where you live, but you have nature all around you.


Pollution

The Air Quality Index (AQI) is typically Moderate, compared to bigger cities like Beijing which typically has an AQI of "Unhealthy." Can check for real-time updates here.


Challenges

Obviously moving to any foreign city presents itself with some challenges. These will differ for each person, but these were the biggest challenges for me:


Language Barrier

This is a problem pretty much all over China, but in Chongqing not very many people speak English. So you're really going to have to rely on your translator and local friends until you're able to pick up some basic Chinese.


Food

Chongqing is known as the spicy food capital of China. For most people who love spicy food, this is a positive. You'll enjoy dishes like hot pot, spicy noodles, dried chili peppers, and Sichuan peppercorn. But I hate spicy food. Combine my lack of spicy diet with Chongqing's unusual choice of ingredients like: monkey brains, duck blood squares, intestines, etc. and that shows you why this was one the hardest challenges of living in Chongqing for me.



Overall

At first I was a little worried about moving to a city I had never heard of. I was dead-set on moving to Shanghai, and that didn't work out. So I moved to Chongqing not knowing what I was getting in to. But, I loved my year living in Chongqing. Absolutely loved it. The friends I made there are still my closest friends to this day. The city is truly a hidden gem that I can't recommend enough.


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