Chongqing City Guide: Understanding This Mega City in China

Josh Wilson
Josh Wilson

Don’t be 60 years old and say… "I could have done that!" Do it now!

 / Nov 11, 2017

Chongqing is among the fastest developing cities, not just in China but also in the world over. While it can have it's downsides, as all cities do, living in Chongqing can be quite rewarding among high-skilled expats from all over the world. And with numerous fun things to do in Chongqing, it's no wonder the city is among China’s top tourist destinations. If you plan to live in Chongqing or to visit this city during your vacation, here is a comprehensive guide that is worth your read prior to your visit. 


Overview of Chongqing City 


Previously translated as Chungking, Chongqing is a major city situated in southwest China. It is considered a direct-controlled municipality, together with other three other cities in China - namely Tianjin, Shanghai and Beijing. Chongqing boasts a rich culture and history, not to mention the fact that it is the economic hub of upper Yangtze basin. It is also one of China’s crucial manufacturing centers and further serves as an important transportation hub in southwest China. Going by the statistics from the 2015 national census, Chongqing had a population of more than 30 million inhabitants, thus making it China’s most populous municipality.


Neighborhoods / Districts of Chongqing


The city’s urban area is referred to as Central Chongqing and it covers approximately 2,113 square miles. It is made of the following districts.


Yuzhong District - popularly known as central Chongqing District, this is Chongqing’s most densely populated district and it is home to spectacular international business offices as well as home to the city’s best shopping areas. The district is situated on the peninsula that is surrounded by Yangtze River, E-ling Hill and Jialing River.


Jiangbei District - the district is located in the northern part of Jialing River and it is currently undergoing plenty of development.


Jiulongpo District - The district is situated between Zhongliang Mountain and Yangtze River. As one of the city’s main districts, it borders several districts among them Banan, Nan’an and Yuzhong.


Beibei District - this district is generally a satellite city that is located in the central part of Chongqing. It is one of Chongqing’s most developed districts.


Banan District - previously known as Jiangbei County, this district got its present name in 1994. This is after its southern area became central Chongqing. Lianglu Town doubles up as the district’s capital town and central Chongqing’s satellite city. 


Dadukou District - This is the most industrialized district of Chongqing, this district is home to Chongqing Steel and Iron Company Limited. It also has most of the city’s facilities, including hospitals, schools and shopping malls among other facilities.


Getting In and Out of Chongqing


As a link between central and southwestern China, and also being a major city in the upper Yangtze River region, Chongqing is one the country’s crucial transportation hubs thanks to the fact that it connects western and eastern China. Due to its developed transportation system, getting in and out is quite possible because the city can be reached via air, long-distance buses and train. Below are the common ways that are normally used to enter and exit the city.


By air - though the city has three civil airports, Jiangbei International Airport is the city’s main and busiest airport. It offers both domestic and international flights. Flights here can reach 120 cities, both home and abroad. As such, air transport is the easiest and most convenient way of getting to Chongqing especially for travelers coming from various global destinations. The airport is accessible via airport shuttle buses and there is a subway line passing there, meaning that travelers can get to the city center upon arriving at the airport. 


By train - there are more than 140 scheduled trains that pass through Chongqing on a daily basis. Most of them can travel to nearly all the prominent cities in China, apart from Yinchuan city. Trains, therefore, offer a nice option to arrive or depart Chongqing from various Chinese cities. The city is home to two main railway stations, namely North Railway Station and Railway station at no.249. 


By long distance bus - the city has more than 8 highways connecting it with other Chinese cities, and hence long-distance buses offer another option for entering and leaving Chongqing. Though these buses are cheap and frequent, there can be quite challenging for travelers from the Western origin or other travelers who can’t read Chinese. For such travelers, they might be unable to pick the right bus that is traveling to the right direction. Again, travelers are advised to know the exact place they want to travel to prior to boarding these buses. 


Transportation / Traffic (Getting Around Chongqing)


While Chongqing is one of China’s most congested cities in terms of traffic, this doesn’t mean that getting around the city is a nightmare. The fact that Chongqing has a well-developed transport system means that getting around isn’t much of a problem at all. Below are a number of transportation means that are commonly used for getting around Chongqing.


By city-bus – the city has over 500 city-bus lines, with most of them being self-service. City buses offer a nice, convenient and cheap option for getting around Chongqing. Most of them charge about 2 CNY per passenger. On the other hand, buses with conductors charge between 1 CNY and 10 CNY depending on traveled distance.


By subway - there are currently 4 subway lines in Chongqing, which connect all the city’s districts with each other. Riding the subway in Chongqing enables travelers to reach various places across the city, fast and conveniently. Travelers can reach all the city’s two railway stations, Jiangbei International Airport and various bus stations by subway. Ticket fare is normally charged depending on the total distance traveled. Apart from the four subway lines that are currently in operation, there are other 4 subway lines that are under construction.


By ship - ships can easily access Chongqing, thanks to its suitable location along the Yangtze River. Presently, there are several passenger ships and speedboats traveling between Yichang and Wanzhou District. Ships offer an excellent way of exploring the city from the splendid Yangtze River.


By taxi - there are thousands of taxis operating throughout Chongqing. Therefore, travelers can take taxis while traveling to any places of their choice within Chongqing. There are even some taxis that go as far as suburban areas. Taxis in Chongqing are metered, meaning that passengers will basically pay depending on the distance they travel. Again, taxis here charge more during daytime than they do at night. 


Chongqing Climate - Best Time to Visit Chongqing


Chongqing has a humid subtropical climate that is monsoon-influenced. Like Shanghai, Chongqing experiences extremely wet conditions all-year round. Chongqing is known for its 'night rains’, which normally start at the start of each summer season every year. Moreover, there are approximately 100 foggy days in Chongqing each year. 


The best time for visiting Chongqing is between early February and early May, which is basically the spring season. Though you can visit Chongqing around December, you nevertheless need to carry warm clothing since this is the winter season. The worst time to visit Chongqing is between July and August, or rather the summer season. During these months, temperatures are extremely high and life in Chongqing can be unbearable. 


No wonder Chongqing alongside Wuhan and Nanjing are considered furnace cities thanks to the extreme heat that is there during the summer months. 


Safety: Common Scams in Chongqing to Avoid


Overall, Chinese cities are quite safe for expats.  However among them all, Chongqing has a historical reputation of being a bit more on the seedy side. Although the government has consistently launched massive crackdowns, there are several scams that largely target foreign residents, especially tourists and expat community in Chongqing. Here are some scams that you are most likely to encounter in Chongqing, and which you definitely need to be wary of.


Traditional Medicine Scam - there are some people masquerading as traditional doctors, who are likely to lure you into coming to their traditional medicine clinic. If you agree, you will end up being diagnosed with a 'life-threatening ailment’ which will require you to pay a lot of money to get cured. The surest way you can avoid this scam is by refusing to be examined by just anybody who claims to be a traditional doctor. Visit a reputable health clinic in China whenever you fall ill. 


Tea House Scam - though this scam is common in all Chinese cities, it is however more prevalent in Chongqing. It is generally about someone luring you to go with them to a teahouse and taste as many types of traditional Chinese teas as you want. But the thing is that, you will be given a bill of hundreds of RMB to pay for the worthless teas you will have sampled. At that time, the person who brought you to the teahouse will have disappeared already. As such, avoid this common scam simply by turning down invitations from strangers who want you to join them in a teahouse for sampling Chinese traditional teas. 


The Art Scam - the scam is generally about an art student approaching you and inviting you to go with them to their gallery so that you can get to see their work. Once you take the bait, you will end up being forced to purchase overpriced, worthless art. To avoid this scam, the surest way is to avoid taking the bait and insist that you are fine. Above all, show them that you are really not interested in seeing their art gallery. 


Fake Police Scam - there are some scammers who go around claiming to be police officers, asking tourists and foreign residents to show them their passports. In case they don’t have their passports, they are handcuffed by these 'police’ and later asked to pay a decent sum of money to secure their freedom. If you encounter such scammers, ask them to show you their official IDs and insist on being taken to a police station other than paying money in exchange for your freedom. 


Fake Tickets Scam - be wary of strangers who try to sell you tickets at lower prices. Whether these tickets are for trains or any other event, desist from purchasing them because chances are high that these tickets are fake. Always get your tickets from the right places. 


Top Things To Do in Chongqing For Tourists 


Chongqing offers plenty of options for entertainment, from tasting delicious cuisine to touring cultural sites; there are so many thigns to do in Chongqing. Below are some of the most popular activities tourists (and locals) enjoy in Chongqing.


Go hiking at Wulong Karst Geological Park - the park sprawls along Wu River, which is in the southeastern area of Chongqing. The park isn’t just a breathtaking scenic area, but it is also one of China’s UNESCO world heritage sites. It is an excellent place for avid hikers and nature lovers. It is home to three natural bridges, karst limestone formations among other natural wonders that tourists find irresistible. Hiking here can be an excellent opportunity to experience the best of Chongqing city. 


Exploring Ciqikou Old Town - this is yet another fun thing for tourists to do in Chongqing. It can be also suitable for you, particularly if you are seeking to avoid the bustling side of Chongqing’s city center. This old town is situated in Shapingba District, and it served as commercial center and the area’s main port town. Today, the place is referred to as the Porcelain Town due to its long history as the city’s main porcelain producer. Exploring this old town can be a great opportunity to buy unique porcelain pieces you won’t get anywhere else in the world, visit numerous eateries where you can taste delicious pastries and spicy stir fry and witness the ancient side of Chongqing city as well. 


Unwinding at Ronghui Hot Springs Resort - this resort is an absolutely a great place to unwind after a long, busy day of shopping, hiking and touring. It is located at the foot of Gele Mountain. It is a cherished place among tourists, thanks to the fact that it provides high-quality services like massages and aromatherapy.  You can also get a fish pedicure - which is all about dipping your feet in a fish pond and all the dead skin nibbled away painlessly by tiny fish. It tickles...but also feels so good!


Visiting the People’s Assembly Hall - built in the 1050s, this magnificent hall was meant to be a welcoming auditorium for the city’s important visitors. This enormous structure is made up of three main sections: the south building, the north building as well as the auditorium. It is definitely something that can’t be missed by anyone visiting Chongqing, especially anyone wishing to get a glimpse of a true masterpiece of ancient Chinese architectural designs. 


Touring the People’s Liberation Monument - this monument is definitely a must-see for tourists, thanks to the very fact that it is among the city’s most iconic landmarks. Built back in1945, the enormous monument symbolizes the country’s success during the famous WW2. Tourists visiting the monument can also get to see the nearby attractions as well as several surrounding KTV clubs. The monument can be reached easily by city buses and entry is free of charge. 


Life in Chongqing for Expats 


With lots of international companies starting various types of businesses in Chongqing, the city offers numerous high-skilled job opportunities for expats alongside other foreign workers. Because of the vast amounts of foreign investment here, jobs are readily available for expats within international organizations. Expats wishing to work and live in Chongqing are required to obtain a resident permit while still in their home country. 


Due to the rapid growth of this city, there is plenty of accommodation for the expat community, which is mostly available in the form of high quality luxurious apartments. With just 4 subway lines in Chongqing, expats are advised to look for accommodation in places that are near these subway lines. This will significantly help them escape the heavy traffic and also improve their commute as well. 


Though the use of English language is on the rise, the city’s official language is clearly Chinese Mandarin, hence making it important for expats to learn this language just to make things a lot easier whilst residing and working here. 


Tips for Expats Working and Living in Chongqing


While most expats choose other major cities in China to live, the truth is that Chongqing offers a rewarding and enjoyable experience for all expats and foreign workers who are properly prepared for life in this upcoming Chinese megacity. Here are a number of actionable tips to help you acquire the most of your expat stay in Chongqing.


Do your homework - before moving to Chongqing, research on this city so that you can figure out what to expect as well as exactly what is expected of you upon getting there. Research on everything regarding the city ranging from traffic, weather to the people here as well as their culture. The more you research on this city, the more you will be prepared for your expat life here. 


Commit to learning Mandarin - learning this language can definitely go along way into making life easier for any expat residing in Chongqing. For instance, having a decent understanding of this language can help you overcome the language barrier that most Western expats encounter upon moving to Chongqing. Again, you will no longer experience problems when purchasing your ticket at the subway station, neither will you find it challenging to order your meals at any restaurant. 


The good thing is that learning Mandarin isn’t difficult as such. You can use the numerous free Mandarin learning resources available online to learn the language, as well as many helpful apps for your smartphone. Within a few months, you will have a decent understanding of Mandarin if you commit to learning a couple of words each day.


Avoid potential dangers - just because Chongqing may have a historical reputation for being a bit less safe than other major Chinese cities, this doesn’t mean you can’t live and work there safely just like you would when living in any other city. Using common sense and being aware can ensure that you avoid potential dangers. First off, start by avoiding the common scams targeting foreigners. Secondly, avoid going to dangerous places where you are likely to encounter pickpockets and other criminals. Again, stay away from places where there are criminal gangs, prostitutes and drug traffickers. If possible, avoid congested areas especially during the night. 


Embrace every aspect of their culture - embracing Chinese culture can help you intermingle with the locals a great deal. Chinese are generally happy with anyone who embraces their culture, since they see such a person as someone who truly respects them. As such, embrace their culture and incorporate it into your day-to-day life. For instance, learn different aspects of Chinese culture and behaving in a manner that is aligned with their culture will go a long way in gaining acceptance and really feeling a part of the community.


See the brighter side of Chongqing - looking beyond negativity can really help you see the bright and amazing side of Chongqing.  Become a bit adventurous and outgoing. By doing so, you will get to see the many breathtaking attractions of Chongqing and meet wonderful people at the same time. That is when you will truly fall in love with Chongqing and thus cherish every moment you spend here. 


Festivals / Events in Chongqing


Just like in the rest of China, there are various festivals / events that are held in Chongqing. Here are some of them to make note of in your calendar.


Qingming Festival - celebrated widely across China, this day is set aside for honoring the ancestors. During the Qingming Festival, residents of Chongqing do many things to commemorate and demonstrate respect to their beloved ancestors. They start with visiting their graves, offering food, tea and wine, burning incense and sweeping their ancestors’ tombs.


Winter Festival / Winter Solstice Festival - the festival is celebrated annually to worship and give sacrifices to God as well as ancestors. It is also set aside for people to show their respect to their elders and parents. On this day, people hold a family reunion throughout the night and eat their meals together as a way of demonstrating their family unity and prosperity.


Double Seventh Festival - the festival is held on the 7th day of every 7th month of the Chinese calendar. It is set aside as the day of romance, where people give their lovers flowers and buy them presents to symbolize their love for each other. 


The Hungry Ghost Festival - the festival is celebrated in Chongqing and throughout China as well. It is meant to worship the dead and the ancestors. During the festival, people perform various special festivals in order to avoid the wrath of their ancestors’ ghosts. Some of these special ceremonies performed during this festival include preparing food thrice a day, burning incense, placing ancestral tablets on tables, placing plates of food near their ancestral tablets and feasting on the night of this festival. 


Expat Resources in Chongqing


There is a thriving expat community in Chongqing, with many things to do -- including great restaurants, shopping, and nightlife.  Here are some important resources for expats living and working in Chongqing, which will definitely help make your life easier.


Expat forums


These are some of the expat forums that seek to bring together all expats living and working in Chongqing.


Expat.com - the forum is basically meant for expats in China, though it has a special section for expat in Chongqing.

Expatriates.com - the online forum for expats has a special section for Chongqing. It brings expats from Chongqing together by offering a platform whereby the can discuss various topics on expat life. It also features classified ads, links as well as a bulletin board. 

Internations.com - the forum basically looks into expat life in various Chinese cities, and it features a special section for Chongqing.


Chongqing expat blogs


There are several blogs that touch on expat life in Chongqing. Below are some of them you may want to read.


Bonita’s adventures - the blog details the adventures of an English teacher by the name Bonita, who is based in Fuling (a medium-sized city situated in Chongqing municipality). Reading the blog can help give you a glimpse into the expat life in Chongqing and also learn plenty of important things about this city as well.


The Alexis Adventures - the blog is authored by an American student studying at the University of Chongqing. The student shares helpful information on life abroad for expats as well as her own personal travel experiences in China


Mandarin Learning Resources


Learning Mandarin while living and working in Chongqing is definitely a huge plus for any expat. Below are a number of resources for learning this language.


Anki - the software is designed to help you record everything as you continue learning Mandarin. It is particularly helpful for beginners. 

Jukuu - the website offers Chinese-English example sentences in plenty. With this resource, you can learn new Chinese words and also see examples of how you can use these words in sentences. 

Fluenz - this is an effective language learning software that uses great explanations relating to various language, including Mandarin. It is offers an excellent way of getting started with learning Mandarin. 


Take the Leap & Enjoy Yourself in Chongqing!


Chongqing is truly an impressive upcoming Chinese megacity where opportunities are plentiful for international workers, not to mention the many breathtaking attractions that draw visitors from the world over every year. With this information, we hope you can look forward to experiencing the best possible life upon moving to Chongqing. 


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Josh Wilson

Don’t be 60 years old and say… "I could have done that!" Do it now!