If you’re coming to China to teach English with a Top Notch ESL school, you’ll need some sort of housing. (Unless you’re the outdoorsy type and are bringing a tent. Hey, whatever floats your boat.) In a previous post, we wrote about some great tips for finding and using an agent to locate your dream apartment, but what are all your housing options? Here’s a handy list.

Studio apartments

This type of apartment has two levels that aren’t closed off and may or may not have a full kitchen. Many studios are rather new and reasonably priced because they aren’t very big. If you don’t mind being able to see your bedroom from the living room, this might be a good housing option for you.

One “bedroom” apartments

Just like a studio apartment, many smaller apartments in China do not enclose the bedroom area. But unlike a studio, there is only one level in most one-bedroom apartments and the “bedroom” is part of the living room. The majority of one-bedroom apartments are at least ten or twenty years old so expect that some repairs will be needed. Luckily, the landlord should cover most of them. However, don’t be surprised if he wants to keep costs low and fix the problem himself – no matter what it is.

Multiple bedroom apartments (shared housing)

Usually any type of housing with more than two bedrooms will be too expensive to rent on your own. Sharing an apartment can give you the best of both worlds: cheap rent and a very nice apartment you couldn’t afford on your own. The only downside is you are living with other people so hopefully they’re nice!


If you choose to do a homestay it means you’re living with a Chinese family in their spare bedroom. If you’re lucky, they might be quite wealthy and have a fancy villa out in the suburbs. Villas tend to be in a community and may include some nice amenities such as a swimming pool or gym. The only drawback is the commute; they’re located far from the center of town and the subway may not be nearby. You also may need to teach English to their child in exchange for the free room and board.

Serviced apartments

These apartments can be rather pricey, but everything is taken care of for you. You don’t have to worry about figuring out how to pay all the different utilities and there are even housekeepers to clean your place like a hotel. Also, the building may have some great amenities that residents can use.


These are only for the brave at heart. Often located off small “hutongs” or alleys, courtyard housing is often quite old and run-down looking. Some don’t even have a bathroom inside and courtyard residents will all share a public bathroom. However, if you want to have an authentic China experience, this is it. Courtyard houses may not be luxurious living, but you’ll have tons of great stories afterwards.