Thinking about moving to Chengdu in 2023?
Here’s an up-to-date overview of living in Chengdu as an expat. Mighil, a long-term expat of Chengdu, Sichuan, is the author of this article. This QnA format blog post is an expanded guide based on my previous article, “Expat Life in Chengdu.”
As a person of color, my opinions may vary from those who’ve made videos and articles on Chengdu life as an expat.
Life in Chengdu
Moving to Chengdu or China, in general, can be both exciting and frustrating. I have been a Chengdu resident since 2015. I chose to live in Chengdu because of the quality of life here. Another reason is my wife, who’s a Chengdu local. Many people think Chengdu is a tourist city, but that’s not true.
Chengdu is considered a city with great economic vitality, a superb business city, the right tourist destination, and a national model city for environmental protection. It has won the UN-Habitat Award and the International Thiess River Award.
Furthermore, Chengdu is one of the booming cities in China regarding IT and development. The Chengdu government is continuously working on new schemes and plans for the town’s and its suburbs’ overall development.
Alright, let’s dive into the topic. Here are the frequently asked questions about life in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan.
What is living in Chengdu like?
Chengdu is a beautiful city compared to other big Chinese cities like Shanghai, Shenzhen, or Beijing. Quiet overnight, Chengdu is transforming itself into a huge modern city. New subway lines pop up almost every year. Most Chengdu expats and locals are fun-loving and relaxed. I usually spend my weekends in Qingchengshan Town, Dujiangyan, though.
You’ll find lots of places to hang out here. A handful of Western restaurants are in the city, and new ones are popping up left and right. Undoubtedly, Chengdu is a convenient place to live as an expat. If you like to chill a bit in the evening with friends, there are a handful of pubs and bars in Chengdu. The city has garnered a reputation for its LGBT scene also.
What is the realistic cost of living in Chengdu, including rent?
Many people who read my previous post added me on WeChat to clarify this. The truth is I can’t give you an exact answer. To be honest, the cost of living in Chengdu is often misunderstood. It entirely depends on your lifestyle.
However, most expatriates can earn much higher than that provided to the locals in Chengdu. I’ve heard English teachers are paid well if they choose to work at a reputed school in Chengdu. Since I am a minimalist and consultant inclined to the IT niche, I do not know much about the “life as an English teacher” scene in Chengdu.
Anyway, here’s a ballpark figure (2018):
- Shared apartments range from 1000 RMB to 4000 RMB.
- 15 RMB to 30 RMB for one inexpensive meal.
- 5 RMB for domestic beer.
- 1 RMB or 2 RMB for buses within the city limit.
- Electricity and water are prepaid. You can share this with your roommates, also. Together it may cost around 100 RMB maximum per month.
- The Internet fee is around 100 RMB per month.
Verdict: If you’re a bachelor, consider moving to Chengdu if your employer offers at least an 8,000 RMB net salary. I know it is a peanut of a salary. But I’ve just shared minima for your reference.
What is the best and easiest way to find a house for rent in Chengdu for a foreigner?
Trust me; it won’t be easy if you don’t speak Chinese. Check out the ChengduLiving.com forum (that I moderate) and GoChengdoo forum, where you can address your query and find expat roommates or English-speaking landlords.
Best Practices for finding an apartment in Chengdu
1. Be sure about what kind of apartment you need for rent.
Your choice varies according to who you are. I preferred not to live with students during my early days in Chengdu. So I had to refine my search for roommates and apartments based on that. Set your standard or ground rules before apartment hunting.
2. Talk to other expats.
Chengdu Living and GoChengdoo were the active expat forums here. There are many WeChat groups as well. Join an expat community on WeChat before moving to Chengdu. Get insights from long-term expats.
Undoubtedly, it is one of the top classified sites in China. If you speak Chinese, use this website to find new apartments. If you are on a PC, visit cd.58.com right away. Only seek help from agents and third parties when best practices aren’t working. I’ve encountered a few shady agents and landlords before (2016). Be careful.
What is the weather like in Chengdu?
Since ancient times, Chengdu has been known as “the Abundant Land” owing to its fertile soil, favorable climate, and the famous Dujiangyan Irrigation System.
But in reality, “Sichuan’s basin” Chengdu is quite cloudy. Winter can get very dark and cold. Summer can be annoyingly humid.
How is the Pollution in Chengdu?
Pollution in winter can get hazardous for the sensitive group. According to 2016 data, Chengdu barely edged out Beijing for the highest PM2.5. You should think twice before moving to Chengdu if you have a toddler. Take precautions like buying an air purifier, filters, etc. Always check the air quality index (AQI) and wear masks whenever necessary. Better safe than sorry.
What is the food in Chengdu like?
Chengdu food falls under the banner of Sichuan Cuisine, one of China’s Eight Regional Cuisines. One main thing I noticed is that many places serve oily food. So, I advise you to be careful if you suffer from GERD or quickly get gastroenteritis.
Other than that, Chengdu is famous for its cuisine. You should try hot pot when you’re here. A few Auchan, Carrefour, Walmart, and Ito Yokado outlets exist in Chengdu. Most of them sell imported items as well. So yeah, you can cook at the apartment if you’ve got time. It will save you money as well.
What is the music scene like in Chengdu?
Chengdu is home to several local and international artists, DJs, and performers. The music scene won’t be as majestic as in Shanghai, but it’s fantastic out here.
Chengdu is one of the cities that hosted STORM Electronic Music Festival 2017, China’s first and most prominent international electronic dance music festival.
The city is home to The Sichuan Conservatory of Music (Chinese: 四川音乐学院), founded in 1939, one of the leading music institutions in China, and is considered to be the largest conservatory in the world.
How do you open a bank account in Chengdu?
It is pretty straightforward if you speak Chinese. Otherwise, you might need help from a local friend or colleague. Different banks have different rules for signing up for an account. Do check with your employer and open a bank account according to that.
Once your application is accepted, in most cases, you have to make your first deposit in cash. It’s often up to 100 CNY at once. After that, you’ll need to set up a six-digit password / PIN for banking in China. After the whole process, they’ll give you a UnionPay ATM card.
Buying a SIM card in Chengdu
You must submit the passport info as identification for buying a SIM card in China. Ensure your phone is unlocked, and you will have no trouble using a new SIM. China Mobile, China Unicom, and China Telecom are the major telecom carriers in China.
You can buy SIM cards
from a retail store or by visiting any of the official stores of the carrier I listed above. The language barrier will be a problem, so take your Chinese friend when you buy a new sim card.
How about the traffic in Chengdu?
It’s pretty convenient if you ride a bike. Due to its centralized layout, Chengdu is notorious for bad traffic during rush hours. Subway lines are expanding now and then, which is a good sign. And yes, you can quickly grab a green taxi cab from downtown. DiDi is another option. I’ve heard DiDi has an English interface now.
How about Railway Stations in Chengdu?
There are three railway stations in Chengdu. Chengdu North Railway Station, Chengdu East Train Station, and Chengdu South Train Station. The city will build the fourth train station – Chengdu West Train Station. Booking a train ticket is pretty easy online. However, after booking online, foreigners must show their passports to collect physical tickets.
Update: Physical tickets aren’t necessary once you verify your passport with the Railway office.
Which VPN should I use in Chengdu?
I’d recommend ExpressVPN any time.
SocketPro is a budget alternative compared to ExpressVPN. I no longer recommend SocketPro since my readers have responded their customer support is pathetic. Feel free to try NordVPN, also.
Things to do before moving to Chengdu, China
Now that you’ve got a clear idea about life in Chengdu, look at the apps you need for living in China, and check the recommendations listed below.
Pro tip: Install and configure a VPN service before entering Sichuan.
- Bring the medication/prescribed drugs you need. Check with the customs and their rules also.
- Purchase a VPN service: Mainland China is not for the faint-hearted. Google and everything related to Google is blocked here. You won’t be able to use PlayStore or sync Google services without a VPN. Applicable to Facebook, Twitter, Medium, and more.
- (for Android users) Install Amap, aka AutoNavi: Forget Google Maps. Apple Map uses its special AutoNatvi API to power its services in China. Google Maps is poorly optimized for greater China (even with a VPN, it’s almost useless).
- Install maps.me: their offline content works here.
- Install WeChat: You need this multi-purpose application to survive in China. It’s more like Messenger + Facebook + Twitter + Paypal.
- Install Alipay: another online payment platform widely used in China.
- Install Pleco: an English & Chinese Dictionary application for iOS and Android devices.
- Install DeepL: Claims to be the world’s most accurate translator. It works in China as well.
How do you find jobs in Chengdu?
Finding teaching jobs in Chengdu is fairly easy. A quick Google search would direct you to several job ads. Just be careful online. Do a background check of the employer before you agree to their terms. Understand taxation and insurance, and ask everything else in detail, even before a verbal agreement.
Here’s a bonus link for the readers who’ve made it here. I’ve recently compiled a fresh list of teaching and non-teaching jobs in Chengdu. Give it a try if you’re interested. The list will be updated now and then.
Latest Jobs in Chengdu (Under Maintenance)
And if you’re thinking about moving to Chengdu or China in general, I highly encourage you to read my article on the “job search in China” topic. It contains guidelines, best practices, tips, and other insider information for finding non-teaching jobs in China.
Do you have more questions?
Do you have some general questions about life in Chengdu?
Do you want to join expat groups in Chengdu?
Feel free to email [email protected]. I’ll be engaged in digital projects, so please don’t expect a swift response. A friend of mine offers relocation consulting and assistance.
Get in touch with me if you’re interested. Feel free to add on WeChat @mighil only for business inquiries.
Please don’t add me to ask general Chengdu-related questions in WeChat.
If you need more info, consider joining the forums and groups listed below:
related to Chengdu
Please report the broken links by sending me an email.
Chengdu Places Directory Listing. RIP. Chengdu Places was a concise but detailed listing of the best places in the Sichuan capital city.
- Chengdu Living Blog & Forum. Archived. Helpful Chengdu-focused blog with a dedicated forum and podcast section. I moderate the website.
GoChengdoo. RIP. It was a helpful forum and blog.
- Chengdu Expats Facebook Group. I moderate the group.
- China Gaming Federation. Group of hobbyists and game industry professionals living and working here in Chengdu. I’m in the WeChat group.
- /r/Chengdu/. A subreddit for residents of the Sichuan capital.
- I’ve analyzed answers from a Chengdu-related thread on Quora.
- HQ photos from justcharlie.com. Charlie is a good friend of mine. He’s an American designer and DJ who lived in China for ten years.
- All images (except the cover image, FB group image, and WeChat QR code) as seen on justcharlie.com, seriouseats.com, and chengduplaces.com
Chengdu Relocation Assistance
I know someone who can help you with relocation and sort out all your inquiries and doubts regarding life in Chengdu. Besides that, I can:
- Help you find an apartment in Chengdu.
- Connect you with recruiters in Chengdu.
- Translate your CV from English to Chinese.
- Build a new website for your brand.
Contact me now for professional digital services in Chengdu.
Thank you for reading, and welcome to Chengdu!
Support if you’d like by sharing my profile with your peers.