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Moving to Guangzhou

A city built on China’s southern coast along the banks of the Pearl River, expats moving to Guangzhou will arrive in a growing modern metropolis with more than 2,800 years of history. The futuristic cityscape, shaped by tall skyscrapers and the striking Canton Tower reaching up 1,982 ft (604m) high, is reflected into the rivers that cut through it.

The capital and commercial centre of the wealthy Guangdong Province, Guangzhou is often overshadowed on the world stage by Beijing and Shanghai, but as South China’s largest seaport it is one of the most economically significant cities in the country.

One of the first free-trade zones in China, Guangzhou has developed sturdy, expanding business and manufacturing sectors, and a growing consumer culture. The job opportunities which come with a larger economy have lured waves of inland migrants and expats to its towering skyscrapers, contributing strains of international flair and cosmopolitan diversity to the city centre.

In some of Guangzhou’s lesser-travelled areas, historic temples, pagodas, churches and mansions are reminders of different times and resist the frenetic charge of city life. Residents also have access to enclaves of natural beauty in the form of botanical gardens, hiking trails, river cruises and attractions such as Yuexiu Park.

The city is also a cultural centre known especially for its arts, crafts and cuisine. While Guangdong embroidery and ceramics are well known, it is the food in Guangzhou that brings it international attention. Boasting the country’s largest number of restaurants per capita, the city offers Cantonese cooking at its best and has shaped the way the world perceives Chinese food.

Guangzhou is a good place to raise a family, offering a variety of education options in the form of quality private and international schools, a wide selection of real estate options and healthcare facilities of international standard.

There is, however, a significant adjustment that expats have to make in terms of language and cultural barriers. English is often not an option, even in the simplest situations. Activities such as hailing a cab, getting the bill at a restaurant and opening a bank account become far more challenging for Western expats.

These barriers affect the way expats work in Guangzhou as well. Creating business networks becomes a unique challenge and a foreign concept, while translators often don’t carry across the cultural nuances at play in interviews, interactions and meetings.

Expats who plan on living in Guangzhou will find themselves in a city where old meets new, and China meets the world. Those who adjust, overcome their culture shock and find financial stability rarely regret taking on the challenge.

Working in Guangzhou

Guangzhou is a thriving business hub, and a diverse environment. The city is one of China’s largest seaports and is well situated to be a key manufacturing and export centre. With a growing economy, more expats are working in Guangzhou than ever before.


Job market in Guangzhou

Manufacturing is especially known for attracting expats, but the automotive, petrochemical and electronics sectors are also key to Guangzhou's economy. High-tech assembly industries have drawn a great deal of foreign interest and lured a number of international companies to the city. Many of these companies, in turn, hire expats for their senior positions.

Guangzhou boasts a diverse job market, and there are opportunities in the trade and logistics sectors, as well as banking industries. Hospitality and tourism have also been sectors of growth, along with the always-popular post of teaching English as a foreign language. English-speaking expatriates may also find themselves working in communication, media and marketing fields.


FInding a job in Guangzhou

As China’s economy moves towards private ownership and away from state-owned businesses, more jobs are made accessible to expats. Some businesses have, however, started turning to expats from elsewhere in Asia who are willing to work for lower wages. Being able to speak Mandarin is increasingly important for foreigners wanting to get ahead of the competition.

Expats often find jobs in textiles, mining, oil, engineering, hospitality, construction, shipbuilding and IT industries. The country's substantial international trade has also meant that the demand for English teachers remains high.


Work culture in Guangzhou

Working in Guangzhou has its challenges. In particular, there are cultural differences to navigate. The Chinese business community is fairly insular and Chinese businesspeople tend to work with those they know. When meeting new business associates, it takes time and effort to build strong relationships, and meetings may be quite long due to this. The language barrier may be another obstacle for expats who don’t speak at least some Mandarin.

Expats working in Guangzhou may find themselves under a lot of pressure to perform, and while Chinese workweeks vary, they are usually long, between 40 and 60 hours each week. The working hours and workload tend to be more demanding than many expats are used to.

Accommodation in Guangzhou

There is a variety of options when it comes to finding accommodation in Guangzhou. At first, most newcomers rent an apartment in the city, usually for a one-year lease period.

Expats living in the city centre often have better access to their workplaces but have to put up with more pollution and noise. Those choosing to live in the surrounding suburbs might have cleaner air, but will have to navigate the heavy Guangzhou traffic and long public transport commutes.


Types of accommodation in Guangzhou

Each area of Guangzhou has its own types of accommodation, but most expats live in apartments. A quieter area such as Haizhu is popular for high-rise apartment blocks running parallel with the Pearl River. Tianhe has a wide variety of modern apartment buildings, luxury apartments and corporate housing.

Aside from standard unfurnished apartments, high-earning expats will have access to compounds and serviced apartments in various areas of the city. Serviced apartments are a form of furnished accommodation which allows for a more comfortable initial transition to living in Guangzhou.

Compounds typically consist of apartments and villas which have access to amenities such as playgrounds and garden spaces, as well as a gym and swimming pool in the upscale complexes. Apartment and villa compounds are popular among expat families.

Flatshares are an alternative for Guangzhou residents on a budget, particularly young expats and students.


Finding accommodation in Guangzhou

The easiest way to find accommodation in Guangzhou is through a real estate agency. Expats who want to take a more hands-on approach are able to search English-language media and online property portals, such as FlatInChina, as well as use social media and personal contacts to network.

The most important thing an expat house hunter needs to know going into their search is how they want to live – both in terms of the type of home and the area it is situated in. Many tenants try to live close to their workplace or to their children’s school, while others choose to live outside of the city but close to public transport.

This decision has to be weighed up against each individual's budget. While many people want to live in a cosmopolitan area with fine dining and outdoor activities, not everyone can afford it. Luckily, Guangzhou’s size means that expats will have a wide variety of accommodation options.


Renting accommodation in Guangzhou

The first step for many prospective tenants is to hire a real-estate agent. In expat-friendly areas, local agents often have experience in dealing with foreign clients, which makes the rental process a bit easier. Still, it may be necessary to get the help of a bilingual friend or colleague.

Expats should clearly communicate their requirements for an apartment as well as their budget. Properties in Guangzhou are taken up quickly as demand is high, and time wasted on unsuitable properties can be costly.

To avoid surprises later on, expats should ask their agent how much commission they will have to pay after the lease is signed. Expats should also ask about amenities such as air conditioning, the plumbing system and whether the landlord has ownership documents in their possession before signing the lease.

Leases

Leases in Guangzhou tend to cover rent for one year, though this may vary.

The tenant should provide the landlord and the agency a copy of their passport and visa, and they, in turn, should give the tenant a copy of their property ownership certificate.

As soon as they have moved in, expat tenants should go and register their address at the nearest Public Security Bureau.

Deposits

Tenants pay deposits of at least one month's rent and are often expected to pay two or three months' rent upfront.

Utilities

While it's not unusual for utilities to be included in the rent as a set fee, tenants are normally expected to pay utility bills, including water, electricity and gas directly. Often, there are prepaid electricity meters, while official individuals regularly visit to read meters for gas and water. Prospective tenants must ask the agent or landlord how utilities must be paid.

Areas and suburbs in Guangzhou

The best places to live in Guangzhou

Guangzhou is a sprawling port city with a host of areas and suburbs, each boasting its own business districts and tourist attractions. Guangzhou is also located close to the city of Shenzhen and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

Downtown neighbourhoods and suburbs to the north of the city are among the most built-up areas in Guangzhou. Expats in Guangzhou tend to live in areas with decent Western restaurants or good international schools. The city centre – including Liwan, Yuexiu and Tianhe – is the most cosmopolitan and bustling area, popular with tourists and city-living locals. Tianhe is particularly popular with expats.

Those looking for a quieter, suburban life should look to the Panyu and Baiyun districts, while surrounding areas also have something to offer expat families.


City living in Guangzhou

Lycheeart

Among the top central areas are Liwan, Yuexiu and Tianhe. Liwan and Yuexiu are the political and cultural centres of Guangzhou, with a number of historical and cultural attractions and popular shopping districts. Tianhe offers something for everyone, from wealthy executives and expat families to students.

Liwan District

Liwan is popular among expats and tourists, with sightseeing opportunities such as Liwan Lake Park and Shamian Island.

Liwan District is also home to Shangxiajiu Commercial Pedestrian Street, ideal for shopping and dining opportunities – and a plus is that accommodation here may prove more affordable than other central areas. 

Yuexiu District

Said to be the oldest district in Guangzhou, accommodation in Yuexiu may not be as modern as neighbouring central areas. That said, luxury apartment blocks are available on Ersha Island, where expats employed as top-level executives reside and international schools are within walking distance. As a central region, it is a transport hub, accessed by metro lines 1 and 2 with stations including Gongyuanqian station as well as Yuexiu Park station, which leads out to the area's main park and a historical five-storey pagoda (tiered tower) museum.

Tianhe District

Of the central districts, parts of Tianhe and a few areas nearby are the best choice for expats wanting to live and work in the city and avoid commuting to the outlying suburbs. In addition to Western-style restaurants, there are a few international schools in the area.

Tianhe District is probably the busiest area of the city. Trendy boutiques and art galleries are dotted among clusters of skyscrapers, making Tianhe District the perfect home for expats working in the city centre as well as those interested in art and design. Culture buffs also enjoy the Guangdong Museum while nature lovers looking for a break from the concrete jungle can spend their free time in the South China Botanical Garden.

Tianhe District includes several subdivisions, including Zhujiang New Town, Liede and the Wushan area. Zhujiang New Town is a trendy cosmopolitan area with skyscraper office buildings, bars and restaurants, while Liede has a number of foreign businesses, restaurants and supermarkets specialising in imported goods – a favourite among foreigners. Students are drawn to the area of Wushan given its proximity to universities, and accommodation here is often friendly on a typical student budget.


Suburbs in Guangzhou

Scarbor Siu

The districts of Haizhu, Panyu, Huadu and Baiyun spread out further from Guangzhou's city centre but remain well located and easily accessible via metro, bus and train links. Expat compounds abound in these suburbs.

Haizhu District

South of Tianhe, separated by the Pearl River, lies Haizhu District. An island area itself, this district composes several smaller islands and neighbourhoods. Wealthy locals and expats live in some of Guangzhou’s most expensive modern accommodation, well connected to cafés, supermarkets and public transport links.

Panyu District

Expats looking for a quieter suburban lifestyle should look to outlying suburbs such as Panyu. Panyu is a sprawling development to the south of downtown Guangzhou which has been steadily attracting investment, especially from the technology industry. Various theme parks, a mountain, parks and lakes make this an attractive area for those with children.

Panyu has good transport links to the city and is less smoggy than many other areas. It has tree-lined streets, good international schools, several hospitals and several large shopping malls.

Top expat compounds are located in Panyu District, including Star River and a community called Clifford Estates. Here, high-rise apartment buildings are set in tropical gardens around a man-made lake, and residents have 24-hour security, access to a gym, swimming pool, restaurants and a supermarket. Clifford International School, a hospital and nearby public transport links are also easily accessible.

Huadu and Baiyun Districts

Baiyun, spreading to the north of the city centre, is also a growing area with its own developing industrial centres. The area boasts semi-rural pockets on the outskirts, some parks and good international schools. Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport is on the outskirts of Huadu, making it a popular area for frequent travellers. Despite the distance from Guangzhou city centre, Baiyun is well linked by public transport, and even Huadu which is further out is reached by metro Line 3 and Line 9. 


Surrounding areas and cities to Guangzhou

Foshan by Aaron Kar

Expats who find work in a city or district near to but outside of Guangzhou need not be overly concerned with lack of access to schools or modern accommodation.

Zengcheng and Conghua Districts

Two regions to the northeast of the city centre – Zengcheng and Conghua – have been drawn into the greater Guangzhou metropolitan area. Despite their distance from the city, Zengcheng and Conghua Districts have no less on offer. Beautiful natural waterfalls flowing from mountain paths make for great day trips and hiking opportunities, while the hot springs allow some relaxation. The Utahloy International School in Zengcheng has a good reputation, which makes the area a viable choice for expat families who don’t mind the commute to the city centre.

Foshan

Foshan borders Guangzhou and is considered a prefecture-level city. Business opportunities here also stand strong, particularly in the biotechnology and chemicals processing industries as well as the automobile industry. Expats working in these sectors may prefer to search for accommodation in Foshan – which is also well connected to Guangzhou by public transport links. The lifestyle in Foshan, though distinct to Guangzhou, is also diverse with an array of facilities and amenities, from dining and shopping to outdoor activities.

Dongguan

Expats working for large multinationals in sectors such as electronics, IT, manufacturing and food processing may be transferred to the industrial city of Dongguan. Dongguan has no shortage of primary schools and preschools, which is important for expat families to consider, and there are a host of annual events that are celebrated here and bring the city to life.

Healthcare in Guangzhou

There are quality healthcare options in Guangzhou, including several hospitals that are up to international healthcare standards. These are generally in the private sector and expats tend to avoid the lower standard of care provided by public hospitals.

Doctors at private hospitals in Guangzhou often have overseas training. Most hospitals catering to expats require a registration fee for a patient to receive care. Health service fees can usually be paid over a limited period. Some hospitals have highly beneficial membership programmes.

Expats moving to Guangzhou are strongly encouraged to have insurance with a local or international insurance provider. Healthcare in China might cost less than private hospitals overseas, but it is still expensive.

It's important for account holders to confirm that their health insurance provider authorises their hospital of choice. Expats using local insurance should keep in mind that some hospitals in Guangzhou only recognise certain insurance companies. This means that to avoid the costs, expats should check whether the hospital recognises their insurance before receiving treatment.


Private hospitals in Guangzhou

Clifford Hospital

Website: www.cliffordhospital.com
Address: 3 Hongfu Road, Panyu

Eur Am International Medical Centre

Website: www.eurammedicalcenter.com
Address: 1st floor, Ocean Pearl Building, 15 Hua Li Lu, Zhu Jiang New Town

United Family Guangzhou Clinic

Website: www.guangzhou.ufh.com.cn
Address: No 31 Pazhou Avenue, Haizhu District

Education and Schools in Guangzhou

Guangzhou has many international schools and most expat parents prefer this option over public schools or Chinese private schools.

Chinese parents put a huge emphasis on education, and a 60-hour school week is common. This is before even allotting time for any extra-curricular activities. The Chinese approach to education entails hard work, long hours and plenty of learning by rote, and it may be quite an adjustment for expat children.


Public schools in Guangzhou

Foreigners who plan on staying in China long term and wish to integrate their children into the country, culture and language may opt for a state school or a private school that follows the Chinese curriculum. As this integration is easier for younger children, this option is more popular in kindergartens and nurseries, although preschool is not compulsory in China.

Primary school starts at age six and lasts six years, and secondary school lasts another six years. Students in senior secondary school can follow an academic or vocational education programme.

Expat children who are more accustomed to a less rigorous or a more balanced lifestyle may feel pressured in a Chinese public school. For this reason, as well as the difficulties that the language barrier creates, selected private and international schools are usually the best option for the children of expats in Guangzhou.


Private schools in Guangzhou

Some private schools in Guangzhou accept both expat and Chinese students, but parents should make sure that Chinese-run private schools are a good fit for their children.

Some schools provide bilingual education or offer an international curriculum, while others are less focused on international students and follow the Chinese approach to education, which is not always suitable for expat children.


International schools in Guangzhou

There are a number of international schools that allow children to continue studying the curriculum from their home country while living in China. Placement is tough; some companies that regularly relocate expats will reserve spots in top schools, and education should be discussed with an employer well before moving to and starting to work in Guangzhou. International schools can also be expensive, so expats should try to negotiate an allowance to cover the cost of their children's school fees before accepting a job in China.

Those who don't have a reserved spot at an international school in Guangzhou need to begin the application process as early as possible because waiting lists at some schools are incredibly long. It is best to check the entry requirements for each school and have the necessary documents readily available so the application process can be done as quickly as possible.


Homeschooling in Guangzhou

Homeschooling is essentially illegal in China, although the extent to which the law applies to foreign nationals is questionable. Expats continue to opt to homeschool their children in Guangzhou, especially parents on short-term employment contracts and those who find the school fees of international schools exorbitant.

Parents who are interested in homeschooling in Guangzhou must do their research extensively and make the decision cautiously.


Special needs education in Guangzhou

The level of support for special education needs in schools in Guangzhou is variable. There have been moves to increase admission of students with disabilities into mainstream schools and provide necessary assistance to them, but international schools are still more likely to provide holistic support.

While some schools in Guangzhou offer a range of facilities, support classes, assistant teachers, counsellors and assistive devices, other schools may only provide support for certain disabilities, and physical, psychological or behavioural disorders.

We recommend contacting schools directly and discussing all the support available and the particular needs of the child.


Tutors in Guangzhou

Tutoring has become increasingly popular in Guangzhou, among adults and children alike. Whether adult expats are looking for a tutor to gain language skills or parents would like their children to receive extra support during exam time, tutors are easy to find. Finding a tutor through word of mouth and by networking with other parents is a great option, as are online tutor portals and companies, such as Preply and Apprentus.

International Schools in Guangzhou

With a thriving expat population, there are plenty of international schools in Guangzhou for parents to choose from. These schools offer foreign curricula, such as that of the US, the UK or the International Baccalaureate (IB). Overall, parents can expect Guangzhou's international schools to be of an excellent standard with great facilities, small classes, strong extra-curricular programmes and highly competent teachers.

International schools allow expat children to continue with a familiar curriculum in their home language. While the mother-tongue language is maintained, Chinese is commonly incorporated into the curriculum as well, giving students vital communication skills. In addition, international schools attract students from all over the world, making for a truly multicultural experience.

Below is a list of some of Guangzhou's most prominent international schools.


International schools in Guangzhou

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Alcanta International College

Alcanta International College (AIC), part of the well-established Alcanta Education Organization, is an International Baccalaureate World School in Guangzhou. The school is housed in newly renovated facilities which are bright and spacious, outfitted with state-of-the-art equipment.

Both Chinese and expat students are welcome at AIC. As a result, the student body is diverse with students from all over the world attending this well-respected school. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate
Ages: 13 to 18 

American International School of Guangzhou

The American International School Guangzhou (AISG) is an independent, not-for-profit day school from pre-kindergarten up to Grade 12. Final-year students can graduate with an American High School Diploma, an International Baccalaureate Diploma, or both.

The school is spread over two campuses. Ersha Campus, for learners from Preschool to Grade 5, is located in Yuexiu District. Science Park Campus in Huangpu District hosts learners from Grades 6 to 12.

AISG has a good reputation among expat parents for its strong academics and its good facilities, highly trained staff and diverse extra-curricular programme. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: American and International Baccalaureate
Ages: 3 to 18 

British School of Guangzhou

Founded in 2005, the British School of Guangzhou (BSG) is a top-class international school with an excellent reputation. The school is part of Nord Anglia Education, a premium group of more than 50 schools around the world. As a Nord Anglia school, BSG has access to excellent resources through the Nord Anglia group's partnership with esteemed institutions around the world, including The Juilliard School, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and UNICEF. 

BSG is located on two campuses a short walk apart on the outskirts of the Baiyun District. Facilities are purpose-built to ensure that students have all the resources needed to excel. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: English National Curriculum, Cambridge IGCSE and A-levels
Ages: 1 to 18

Canadian International School of Guangzhou 

Canadian International School of Guangzhou (CIS) is the first Alberta-accredited Pre-K to Grade 12 international school in mainland China. Alberta’s world-class K12 education system has an excellent reputation and is recognised as one of the best in the English-speaking world. All teachers at CIS are Alberta-certified.

The varied curriculum at CIS encourages children to be independent thinkers and nurtures them as global citizens. With a wide selection of subjects available, CIS students are able to explore their interests. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: Canadian (Alberta)
Ages: 2 to 18

Clifford International School

Ideally located in the popular Clifford Estates residential complex in Panyu, Clifford International School (CIS) opened its doors in 2002. The school has over 600 students of more than 40 nationalities. CIS has both day and boarding facilities, with about 60 percent of students being boarders. CIS has adopted Western education philosophy and methodology and incorporated the best of both Western and Chinese education models. High school students graduate with a Manitoba High School diploma.  Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: Canadian (Manitoba)
Ages: 3 to 18 

Desheng School (International)

Desheng School (International), known as DSI for short, is a non-profit institution that aims to provide quality international education at an affordable rate to both international and Chinese students. Located in Shunde, DIS is just 20 minutes’ drive from Guangzhou. There are also boarding facilities to accommodate those attending from farther afield.

The school is home to a specialised department known as Career Opportunities Guidance (COG). COG provides services to guide older students, ranging from help with subject choice and career planning to facilitate university applications. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: Cambridge IGCSE and International Baccalaureate
Ages: 13 to 18

Guangzhou Nanfang International School

Easily accessible in the centre of the city, Guangzhou Nanfang International School (GNIS) offers a rich international curriculum including IGSCE qualifications and the IB Diploma as a school-leaving qualification. Excellent facilities are on offer, with on-campus resources such as dedicated art, music, science and technology rooms, classrooms with interactive whiteboards, various sport-specific courts and a senior study area with laptops.

With just 200 pupils, this is a small but diverse school offering a holistic and individualised education. Students are encouraged to engage in extra-curricular activities, including sport, cultural and community-service options. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate and Cambridge IGCSE
Ages: 2 to 18

ISA International School

Aiming to meet the needs of both Chinese and foreign families, ISA International School blends the best of Chinese and international educational practices and traditions to create a unique bilingual education. The school's aim is to produce students that are internationally-minded as well as grounded in their own unique cultural identity. Complete fluency between Chinese and English is cultivated. ISA also places emphasis on individual development within a safe and stimulating learning environment. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: English National Curriculum, IGCSE, International Baccalaureate and Chinese
Ages: 2 to 15

ISA Science City International School

Opening in September 2020, ISA Science City International School is the first purpose-built international school in Guangzhou for many years. With a capacity of up to 1,800, children from 2 to 18 years old will have access to outstanding learning opportunities at ISA Science City. The school will offer the full range of International Baccalaureate Organisation programmes including Primary Years, Middle Years and Diploma Programmes. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate
Ages: 2 to 18

L’École Française Internationale de Canton

This French-language, French-curriculum school in the heart of Guangzhou was established in 1997. From kindergarten onwards, Chinese and English are taken as additional languages. There is also a robust French as a Second Language (FLE) programme available for non-French speakers. The school is partnered with the French Ministry of Education and graduates receive the French Baccalauréat. 

As a non-profit institution run by a governing body of parents and teachers, those sending their children to L’École Française Internationale de Canton can rest easy knowing that the school is run with students' best interests at heart. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: French
Ages: 2 to 18

LEH International School Foshan

Set to open in 2020 on a brand-new purpose-built campus, LEH International School Foshan offers a high-quality British education modelled on its sister school in Hampton, England. All teachers at the school are UK-trained with international experience and are well-versed in teaching the British curriculum. The school's teaching philosophy is focused on nurturing children and developing their confidence. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: English National Curriculum, Cambridge IGCSE and A-levels
Ages: 10 to 18

Utahloy International School Guangzhou

Utahloy International School Guangzhou (UISG) was founded in 1998 and today has about 900 students from over 50 countries. With the aim of maintaining bilingualism in students who speak English as an additional language, UISG emphasises mother-tongue maintenance. Students aged seven to 18 can partake in the school's mother-tongue programme for languages such as Chinese, German, French, Korean and Japanese. UISG is set on a beautiful lakeside campus situated in Baiyun, just 20 minutes from central Guangzhou. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate
Ages: 2 to 18

Lifestyle in Guangzhou

As the main political and commercial hub in the Pearl River Delta, Guangzhou’s urban and industrial growth has exploded. Commercial development and capitalist energy pervade the city, as it tries to contain its burgeoning population.

A city of shopping centres and skyscrapers which still upholds ancient traditions, Guangzhou is also a major cultural and historical centre, home to temples and relics that date back 2,000 years.

Guangzhou's expansion has, unfortunately, come at a cost. Population growth and traffic congestion are significant concerns, the air quality has deteriorated and the environment has suffered.

The city does, however, maintain its fair share of green spaces, with many scenic spots for afternoon picnics. Afterwards, residents can dine out at a Cantonese restaurant, go to a nightclub or attend a world-class performance at the Guangzhou Opera House.


Shopping in Guangzhou

Known for its growing industries, Guangzhou residents have ready access to countless products, including inexpensive clothing and electronics. The city has some of the best supermarkets in China and a vibrant wholesale clothing sector.

Two of the best known wholesale markets are located close to the Guangzhou Railway Station in the city’s Yuexiu District. Tianma International Fashion Wholesale Center and Baima Garment Market sell international and domestic clothing brands, some of which may be cheap counterfeits.

Jade sculptures, jewellery and accessories, and brightly-patterned Cantonese embroidery are common local items. Jade is particularly popular and is frequently used in home, office and personal decoration.

Two popular shopping areas are Beijing Road, a bustling pedestrian road of more than 300 stores, and the Global International Trade Center Buyun World, which offers an endless variety of shoes at much better prices than in the West.

The Fenghe Tianxiong Textile City is another well-known consumer attraction. The market features an abundance of knitting, chemical fibres, cotton weaving, linen, leather and silk, and has more than 700 vendors.


Nightlife in Guangzhou

Some of the city’s best-known party districts include the Binjiang Lu Bar Street on the banks of the Pearl River and Huanshi Lu Street in the city centre. Residents will also have access to live music, dance venues, international DJs, karaoke and French riverside pubs throughout the city.


Eating out in Guangzhou

Guangzhou is arguably the region’s culinary capital and boasts a variety of signature restaurants, some of which are internationally recognised. Patrons can indulge in a variety of Cantonese, Chinese and foreign cuisines.

Its finest food emphasises organic flavours and subtle seasonings and is characterised by rich tastes, strong fragrances and vibrant colours. Cantonese pastries and dim sum are especially popular, although expats should be sure about what they are eating, as they may come across many exotic ingredients they're not familiar with.

Teahouses in Guangzhou are a part of its social fabric. Locals drink tea to cope with the summer heat, and to soothe sore throats in winter. The city’s teahouses tend to fill up early and are a part of many people’s daily routines.

Restaurants in Guangzhou cater to many different tastes. This includes traditional Chinese cuisine, American diners, jazz cafes, Vietnamese restaurants, seafood specialists and steakhouses.


Sports and outdoor activities in Guangzhou

Expats in Guangzhou are able to take part in a range of outdoor activities within easy reach of the city. Rock climbing and hiking in places such as the Yingxi Fenglin are popular pastimes. This scenic area contains dense forests, iconic rock formations, caverns, grasslands and rivers. Paragliding at Lufeng in southeast Guangdong is another popular activity, and expats with older children can put on their battle fatigues and try their hand at paintball.

Sports enthusiasts will also have a variety of options in the city. There are a number of golf courses and country clubs that offer members and non-members access to their impressive facilities. The city is also home to the Guangzhou Sport University, which trains athletes and referees, and offers students a range of options in sports sciences, research and sports management.

Guangzhou is home to several large sports centres, including the Tianhe Stadium which provides facilities for football, basketball, badminton and table tennis. City residents often make use of the stadium's offerings, which allow them to exercise, play sports and take classes.

See and Do in Guangzhou

Besides towering skyscrapers and sprawling shopping malls, Guangzhou also boasts a rich history. Known for being a centre of trade and cuisine, the city’s warm climate, natural and cultural attractions give expats a variety of options both indoors and out.

Depending on their interests, expats are able to explore the city’s museums and natural spaces from evening strolls along the Pearl River, lit up by city lights, to enjoying a day at one of the country’s biggest amusement parks.


Recommended attractions in Guangzhou

Yuexiu Park

One of the best known scenic spots in the city, Yuexiu Park is the largest natural space in Guangzhou and provides city residents with a chance to surround themselves with nature in the middle of the sprawling urban landscape. It also contains a number of Ming Dynasty cultural relics and a stone statue of the Five Rams, one of the city’s emblems.

Chimelong Paradise

A massive amusement park, Chimelong Paradise offers a dizzying range of entertainment options, including a circus, a water park, a wild-animal-themed park and one of the world’s most exhilarating rollercoasters. Chimelong Paradise offers fun for the whole family.

Guangdong Museum

Often recognised as the best museum in China, the Guangdong Museum contains over 160,000 artefacts and has been open to the public since 1959. Exhibitions of the local culture, natural environment and history are contained in its modern facilities, making for a perfect day out with the family.

Museum of the Western Han Dynasty Mausoleum of the Nanyue King

Located in Western Han, the museum is known for its ancient Han Dynasty architecture, showcasing the city’s almost 2,000-year-old history. Visitors have been coming to see the royal tomb since 1988. Buried almost 66 feet (20m) underground, 750 large, mural decorated stones make up the tomb. The museum’s centrepiece is an ancient garment made of jade pieces connected by a silk thread – the only one of its kind in the world.

Pearl River

One of the country’s longest rivers, the Pearl River is strung along 1,491 miles (2,400 km) of the Chinese landscape and is especially beautiful at night. The four river systems that make up the Pearl join up in Guangzhou before spilling into the South China Sea. As it cuts through the city at night, the river’s surface reflects the city’s neon lights, providing a unique view of Guangzhou’s urban beauty. Expats are able to walk along the river’s ‘Scenic Corridor’ while enjoying the gentle evening breeze, and take a ferry or river cruise.

South China Botanical Garden

Founded in 1929, the South China Botanical Garden is home to an impressive collection of local flora. Bamboo and other endangered plants feature alongside beautifully sculpted bonsai and displays of magnolias, orchids and medicinal herbs.

Temple of the Six Banyan Trees

The Temple of the Six Banyan Trees is a must-see attraction in Guangzhou. The impressive Buddhist structure was built in 537 AD during the Liang Dynasty and continues to attract scores of visitors. Local families often go to receive blessings for newly adopted children in front of the magnificent statue of Kuan Yin.

What's On in Guangzhou

The city's history means that annual events in Guangzhou are often not only for entertainment, but serve a purpose to celebrate traditions while delivering some sort of value-based teaching to the younger generation.

Festivals in Guangzhou are characterised by enormous preparation. Often, people from different religious, geographical and social backgrounds come together under a common cause to ensure that the festival runs smoothly. Cultural events in Guangzhou are full of colour and life and are an important part of the city’s heartbeat.


Annual events in Guangzhou

Spring Festival (January/February)

Better known to Westerners as the Chinese New Year, the Spring Festival is the most important traditional festival in China and is celebrated in parks and city streets across the country. Traditionally, the event is enjoyed by eating a New Year feast, setting off firecrackers, hanging red lanterns and visiting relatives. In Guangzhou, the Pearl River is lit up with magnificent firework displays while revellers feast on local cuisine.

Spring Festival Flower Market (January/February)

The Spring Festival Flower Market dates back to the Ming dynasty and is one of the city’s best known cultural events. A manifestation of time-honoured tradition and an integral part of the city’s Spring Festival celebrations, those in attendance get a chance to see the best in Cantonese flower arrangement. The flower market is a perfect way of getting immersed in the city’s culture.

Guangzhou International Dragon Boat Race (May/June)

Taking place on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month, the Guangzhou International Dragon Boat Race is another annual event focused on the Pearl River, and celebrates the Duanwu Festival. While dragon boating was popular during the Ming and Qing dynasties, the modern form of the city’s celebrations was officially declared in 1994. Since then, participants from all over the world have participated in the race between the Haiyin and Guangzhou bridges. There are, however, dragon boat races all over the city as residents and visitors race for the honour of victory.

Guangzhou Lotus Festival (August)

Tourists flood the street’s of the city’s Panyu District every August to take in the sights, tastes and sounds of the Guangzhou Lotus Festival. Visitors get to enjoy a variety of entertainment as they view fine lotus specimens and taste food made from lotuses harvested in the districts many ponds and rivers.  

Mid-Autumn Festival (September/October)

On the 15th day of the eighth lunar month every year, Guangzhou residents pay tribute to the moon as a symbol of family ties. People take a seat all over the city to sit and appreciate the moon or have family dinner while eating a variety of local foods such as moon cakes and shaddocks. A great way to enjoy this celebration is on a romantic Pearl River cruise or from the top of Baiyun mountain on the outskirts of the city.

Guangzhou International Gourmet Festival (November/December)

Held every year since 1997, the Guangzhou International Gourmet Festival is a sensory affair that combines fine food, tourism and entertainment into a single experience. One of the biggest annual events in the city, it showcases the best of Guangzhou’s world-renowned cuisine and allows experts, foreigners and locals to interact and exchange recipes and ideas.

Conghua Liuxi Peach Blossom Festival (December/January)

Winter in the Liuxi River National Forest Park is characterised by the largest area of peach blossom trees in Southeast Asia bursting into a lively display of colours. A striking contrast to the snowy mountains and the winter cold, thousands of local and international tourists flock to see one of the country’s most unique natural wonders. Visitors can also take part in photography competitions or enjoy the folk art performances that accompany the festival.

Shipping and Removals in Guangzhou

As a large port city and an air hub, shipping household goods to Guangzhou is easy. However, expats should weigh up the pros and cons of importing personal items.

Much of the popular expat accommodation in Guangzhou comes already furnished. Furthermore, it is often more expensive to ship furniture from overseas than to buy completely new pieces or live in furnished accommodation in Guangzhou. The city is the site of a lot of manufacturing, and expats can sometimes find great deals on electronics. Thus, they should choose carefully the items they’ll need to ship to Guangzhou.


Shipping goods to Guangzhou

We advise getting several quotes from several moving and relocation companies as costs and options for services may vary significantly. Some service providers can completely pack up a house in one country and unload the contents in another, while others offer assistance with only part of the moving process.

Air freight is more expensive than sea freight, so it is recommended when shipping smaller items. Larger, less essential items should be sent via sea.

It's important to budget for all the moving expenses, including import taxes and insurance costs. These can add up quickly and make the initial cost of moving to Guangzhou high.


Shipping pets to Guangzhou

As with all shipping and removals in China, bringing pets into Guangzhou requires extensive documentation, including health and rabies vaccination certificates of cats and dogs. Expats who want to bring their dog into Guangzhou should also contact the local police department near their place of residence for information on registering their pet.

We highly recommend enlisting the services of a relocation company that specialises in pet relocations.

Frequently Asked Questions about Guangzhou

Expats considering a move to Guangzhou will naturally have many concerns about life in this Chinese city. From their personal safety and security to the transport system and being able to keep in touch with friends and family back home, here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about expat life in Guangzhou.

Is Guangzhou safe?

Guangzhou is generally safe. As in most large cities, certain parts of the city centre are more prone to crime. Expats should be extra careful around the train station district at night and should be especially wary of pickpocketing.

What language is spoken in Guangzhou?

Mandarin is the official language, but most local people speak Cantonese (Guangzhou was once called Canton City). Both languages use the same characters for reading and writing. English isn't as commonly spoken as in China's other large cities, such as Beijing and Shanghai, but many professionals who deal with expats frequently will have some English ability.

Will I need a car in Guangzhou?

Taxis are fairly easy to catch and relatively cheap. Public transport does cover the whole city and is efficient, but can be uncomfortably crowded, especially during rush hour. Expats living outside of the city centre may need their own transport.

Can I find work in Guangzhou?

As a major city in China, Guangzhou offers ample opportunity for work. The job market is especially open for expats working in engineering, construction and ship-building, as well as the IT sector. Teaching English remains a popular job opportunity for expats.

Is it easy to find accommodation in Guangzhou?

While finding the perfect home is never a guarantee, expats can go about their house search in several ways. One of the best ways to secure a decent property is with the help of a real estate agent, however, fees for this service must be budgeted for. There are many types of accommodation in Guangzhou, and new arrivals to Guangzhou should research the typical lease requirements.

Getting Around in Guangzhou

One of the most cosmopolitan and prosperous cities in China, Guangzhou has had to adapt its transport networks to its population’s constant expansion. As a result, the public transport system is comprehensive, and expats should find getting around in Guangzhou to be easy and relatively trouble free.


Public transport in Guangzhou

Guangzhou has an established public transport system consisting of a subway, buses and trains.

Expats planning on using public transport in Guangzhou regularly should acquire a Yang Cheng Tong Card, which is a multi-purpose transit card that allows commuters to easily and conveniently transfer between different modes of transport, including buses and the subway. It is also accepted as payment at certain convenience stores.

While the cost of living in Guangzhou is relatively high, expats interested in discounts will be happy with those offered on public transit with the Yang Cheng Tong card. Discounts are available depending on the number of trips taken as well as for students and senior citizens. People with major disabilities and seniors aged 65 years and older can travel for free.

Buses

Catching the bus is the cheapest method of getting around in Guangzhou. Passengers can pay with a transit card or with the exact fare, although expats would need to know where they are going as few drivers can speak English, and signs at bus stops are usually in Chinese.

The Guangzhou Bus Rapid Transit (GBRT) system follows routes along isolated lanes as well as normal roads. The GBRT network is often faster than normal buses and is useful for getting to inner-city areas and suburbs not serviced by the subway.

Metro

Guangzhou has a comprehensive subway system which connects the city centre to the outer suburbs as well as the nearby city Foshan, typically from 6am to midnight. The airport is also connected to the city via the Guangzhou Metro. 

Though it is said to be the third busiest metro in the world, following Beijing and Shanghai, riders find the metro to be efficient, and English-speaking expats can rest assured that English translations of signs and maps are displayed.

The easiest and cheapest way to ride the subway is to purchase a Yang Cheng Tong Card at a metro station, although it is also possible to buy individual tickets from kiosks or vending machines at the stations.

Trains

Train travel in Guangzhou is primarily used for travelling long distances. It is possible to catch a train from East Railway Station to Hong Kong on trains operated as part of the Hong Kong MTR. The Guangzhou Railway Station, on the other hand, offers routes to cities such as Shenzhen and Beijing.


Taxis in Guangzhou

Taxis in Guangzhou are affordable for short distances, but most drivers don’t speak English. Expats should either show the driver a business card of somewhere near the place they want to go to or have the address written out in Chinese. Given the city’s size, it is often best to go to a landmark or intersection close to the final destination. Some drivers may get lost outside the areas they are familiar with.

Taxis are metered, and passengers should make sure they get a receipt for the trip in case there are any discrepancies; most drivers prefer cash. Taxis are colour coordinated, and the newer yellow ones are considered most reliable. Ride-hailing apps such as DiDi are also recommended in Guangzhou.


Driving in Guangzhou

Driving in Guangzhou is not quite free-for-all chaos but expats who want to drive in the city should consider it carefully. The congested traffic of China’s heavily populated cities is daunting and potentially dangerous for the uninitiated.

It is also difficult for foreigners to legally drive in the country. Their home driving licence or International Driver’s Permit (IDP) won’t be recognised in China, which means they will have to get a Chinese licence before they can drive. Road signs in Guangzhou are rarely translated to English, making it even more challenging for foreigners to get around the city.

The good public transport in Guangzhou means that owning a car is often unnecessary. However, it is possible to rent a car with a driver, a common practice in China.


Bicycles and scooters in Guangzhou

Scooters, including electric motorbikes, are a cheap and popular method of getting around Guangzhou and are even available in some supermarkets. They can, however, be dangerous in Guangzhou’s chaotic traffic and are banned from the city centre along with motorcycles.

Unfortunately, cycling infrastructure in the city is lacking and the number of cyclists has dropped over the years. Bicycles are often unsuitable for longer distances since they are not allowed on major roads, and cannot be ridden in the tunnels beneath the river or on bridges. E-bikes have also been banned from certain downtown areas in Guangzhou.


Boats in Guangzhou

The Pearl River, also known as Zhujiang River, flows through the city and offers a novel way of getting around. There are a number of ports and ferry terminals in Guangzhou that expats can take and travel to Hong Kong, including Nansha Passenger Port and Lianhuashan Passenger Terminal.

Expats who have newly arrived in Guangzhou can also find various options for boat rides and night cruises, among the recommended sightseeing activities, to get to know the city.