Nanjing City Guide for Expats

Liz Smith
Career China Digital Marketing Manager
Oct 14, 2019

There is absolutely no doubt that Nanjing city can be a wonderful city to live for anyone aspiring to visit, work or live in China. The country’s most beautiful mainland city boasts lush green parks, historical buildings and monuments, small mountains and natural scenic lakes, all of which attracts dozens of tourists to the city each year. With a plethora of awesome historical sites, a world-class infrastructure, a robust economy, a vibrant culture and a wide range of breathtaking tourist attractions, then there isn’t any doubt whatsoever that the city can be a great place to be for anyone seeking a perfect getaway in China or anyone seeking employment in China. 

Nevertheless, living in Nanjing can be equally challenging just like living in any other Chinese city, thanks to the terrible traffic, language barrier as well as overcrowding. But life here can be a lot easier if one just knew what to expect while living or working in this city. Whether you plan to visit Nanjing or you want to work in Nanjing, understanding the city can help you prepare for the life that waits you here. This detailed guide of Nanjing city will give you virtually everything you may wish to know about this stunningly beautiful city. 

Overview of Nanjing

Situated in the heartland of China’s Yanghtze River region, Nanjing is the capital city of China’s Jiangsu province. Nanjing (also popularly known as Ginling or Jinling) is the largest city in China’s eastern and southern regions, boasting a land mass of approximately 6,600 square kilometers. It is home to over 8.2 million people. The city occupies a prominent place in the country’s history and culture, having been the capital of numerous Chinese kingdoms, dynasties and republican governments. Situated at the heart of east China and Yangtze River Delta, the city is one of the largest inland ports in the world. It is also home to some of China’s best and high-quality universities such as Nanjing University. Moreover, it is among the country’s 4 great ancient cities and has consistently been one of the largest cities in the world for hundreds of years. It boasts several historical landscapes, numerous cultural facilities and key heritage sites that are well-known in the world over. 

Neighborhoods/Districts of Nanjing

As a sub-provincial city of Jiangsu province, Nanjing is sub-divided into districts. Here are some of the city’s most prominent districts.

  • Xuanwu District-the urban district is located in the city’s north-eastern area. Moreover, it is home to Nanjing Municipal Government, in addition to being home to some of China’s finest attractions such as Hongwu Emperor’s Mausoleum , Xuanwu Lake and Nanjing International Exhibition Center.
  • Baixia District-located along the Qinhuai River and covering the city’s downtown areas, the district boasts a rich history and a long culture. Having benefited from massive infrastructural development over the past decade, the district is now an elegant living environment boasting a modern communication network and a world-class infrastructure.
  • Gaochun District- It is the city’s southernmost district, bordering Anhui province to the west and south. It is renowned for its traditional seafood and a vibrant nightlife.
  • Lishui District-located in the city’s southern region and neighboring Gaochun District to the north, Lishui is a fairly rural district though having a modern transportation network. It is also home to one of Nanjing’s busiest railway stations- Lishui Station.
  • Pukou District-located in the city’s northwestern area, and between Chu River and Yangtze River, the district is home to many cultural heritages, natural landscapes as well as numerous places of interest such as Forest Park and National Ancient Mountain Park.

Check out this apartment tour of an ESL teacher's apartment in Nanjing:

Getting in/out of Nanjing

International departures from the city as well as international arrivals to the city are mostly by air. The main airport that handles international arrivals and departures is Nanjing Lukou International Airport, which presently has more than 130 air routes to over 20 international destinations and 54 domestic destinations. There are numerous shuttle buses that ferry international visitors from the airport to various places throughout the city. Again, there are several buses operating between the airport and the neighboring cities such as Huai’an, Shuyang and Yangzhong.

Public Transportation in Nanjing

Getting around Nanjing has never been easier than now, thanks to the fact that Nanjing has a thoroughly developed transportation network characterized by high speed trains, subways and a superb road network. Below are some of the common ways to get around the city. 


Nanjing is a crucial railway hub in the entire East China. In fact, it serves as a meeting point of China’s east-west and north-south railway lines, all of which connect the country’s eastern, northern and middle regions. Train transport is the country’s most popular and convenient form of transportation. Transportation is usually handled at all the city’s 17 railway stations, with all of them operating partial and regular trains. With 5 hub stations, Nanjing South Railway station is renowned globally as the largest railway station in the whole of Asia. Rail transport is one of the fastest ways of getting around Nanjing for both international visitors and locals. But if you would prefer moving around by train, it is important you book your ticket in advance and also know the right railway station to board your train and the most convenient one to alight.


the city has a modern subway system comprising of 7 subway lines, and there are also many subway lines presently under construction. The subway has offered the fastest way of transportation for nearly a decade now. Better still, you can get to nearly anywhere you want to go by subway, provided you know the right subway line to use. Again, buy your ticket from the right subway station to avoid confusion. Most importantly, don’t throw away your ticket because you may be asked to produce it at the next station.

Long Distance Bus

This is the most preferred form of transportation for long distance travelling. There are over 8 bus stations operating within all the districts and along the Nanjing –Shanghai Highway. Though using long-distance buses can help you get around this city, particularly to distance places, it is prudent you learn some Mandarin so that you can interact effectively with the bus’ staff and also understand the entire road signs on various roads. But the only drawback with using long-buses is that, most of them are congested thus compromising on your comfort during your journeys. 

Local Bus

The city has a bus transportation system that caters for those travelling within the city. The various buses operating in this city are more flexible compared to other forms of transportation, thanks to the fact that they travel to all places within the city. Besides, fares are quite cheap and thus taking a city bus can help you tour the city conveniently and affordably.


With over 20,999 taxis in Nanjing, the city has the highest number of taxis compared to other big cities like Shanghai and Beijing. Most foreigners prefer taxis for moving from their hotels to the destinations of their choice within the city. They are various types of taxis in the city namely regular cars, British cars, mid-range cars and electric cars. However, touring the city by taxi may be a costly option for you just in case you are travelling far from the city. You can however bargain for reasonable rates by requesting the driver to charge you based on the number of kilometers you travel. That way, you can avoid being overcharged by some unscrupulous drivers who take advantage of foreigners.

Rental Car

The city has a vibrant car rental service industry that allows travelers to rent a wide array of rental cars, ranging from executive cars, mid-size cars to small-size cars. The car rental prices normally vary based on the car types and the rental duration. However, make sure you have an experienced driver with a valid driving license before renting a car. In most cases, foreign drivers aren’t allowed to drive in the city, especially in areas with high traffic.

Learn more about different modes of transportation in China:

Safety/scams to be aware of in Nanjing 

Like with any other Chinese city, there are a couple of scams mostly targeting tourists. But as a whole, the city’s residents are honest and friendly people. It is just that the few scammers are only a small sample of bad people in a city with millions of people from all walks of life. Below are a couple of common scams to be wary of while visiting or living in Nanjing.

Climate and best time to visit Nanjing

Nanjing has a North subtropical monsoon climate, which is characterized by four seasons, plentiful rains and sunshine. The average annual temperature is 17.8 . The best time for visiting Nanjing is spring(which normally starts from March), thanks to the fact that the weather is warm though humid. This is a great time to tour all the city’s attractions and also indulge in various outdoor activities. But July may be the worst months to be in the city, thanks to the extreme heat that can reach up to 32 C on average. The most pleasant season to be in the city is during the autumn, which is relatively shorter than other seasons. During this season, the weather is usually cool and dry. Sweet scents from Osmanthus flowers also fill the air during autumn. 

Best things to do in Nanjing for visitors 

While it may appear as if Nanjing is overshadowed by Shanghai and Beijing in terms of global city rankings and iconic sites, Nanjing is nevertheless a city of irresistible charms. The very fact that it is China’s former capital means that there are plenty of places worth checking out for visitor. In fact, Nanjing has consistently been ranked among the top tourist attractions in China. Below are a couple of top things to do in Nanjing for tourists.

  1. Fuzi Miao: This popular area is a great day or night. Stroll along the river, visit the Confucious Temple, and try lots of local Nanjing foods here.
  2. Niushoushan Temple: This scenic area in southern Nanjing is perfect for a day out exploring and enjoy a beautiful temple area.
  3. 1912: This part of Nanjing is home to lots of bars and restaurants and is a great place to go to find a lively nightlife!
  4. The Nanjing Eye: This awesome suspension bridge is a fun place for photos, especially when it lights up at night.
  5. Purple Mountain: A beautiful mountain area you can hike. It's big and may take the entire day!
  6. Xuanwu Lake: For a relaxing afternoon, walk around Xuanwu Lake or rent a boat.
  7. The Nanjing Wall: Many people know the Great Wall in Beijing, but Nanjing actually has its own wall you can walk on.
  8. Jiming Temple: One of the oldest temples in Nanjing and calming place where people pray and burn incense.

Life in Nanjing for expats 

Nanjing boasts a brilliant cultural heritage and an international feel, thus making it one of the top Chinese cities for expats-particularly long-term expats. Expatriates moving to this city are attracted by the numerous economic opportunities and a thrilling cultural experience. Expats looking for a rewarding career here are advised to learn at least a couple of words of the dominant Mandarin Chinese language. Though English is frequently used in the boardrooms, it is widely considered essential for expats workers to communicate in the local language. But expats living here shouldn’t worry, for there are numerous language centers across the city offering Mandarin Chinese classes.

While the city’s residents are predominantly Chinese, there are high chances of encountering other expats from various parts across the world. However, the whole concept of moving and living in Nanjing can be difficult for some expats than others, depending on how well one is able to couple with the new life in this populous city. Before moving to Nanjing, ensure you have a valid visa and any other necessary permits. Expats living in this city can look forward to experiencing China’s finest, from living in a thoroughly modern city, watching masterpiece Chinese architecture , strolling the bursting riverside markets to viewing the city’s shimmering skyscrapers.  

Check out what it's like being an expat in Nanjing with Niles, an ESL teacher living there.

Tips for expats living in Nanjing 

Living in Nanjing as an expat can turn out to be an exciting experience as long as one is prepared to the new life ahead. Here are some tips to help you cope with life whilst living here as an expat. 

Expat resources in Nanjing

With numerous resources for expats living and working in Nanjing, expats in this city can have an exciting moment whilst working and living here. Below are a number of expats resources in Nanjing that can help you in your quest to living and having the best life possible in this city. 

Many expat bars and restaurants in Nanjing offer their clients with free copies of expat magazines and promote local events going on in the city. Check out The Nanjinger to get connected and see what these events are.

There are several forums and platforms seeking to connect expats in Beijing with their fellow expats. Check Internations - Expats in Nanjing to get connected with other expats!

If you're looking to get connected with other expats in China, check out 6 Ways to Meet People While Living in China.

Get more tips from current expats living in Nanjing, China:


Nanjing is truly a great place to visit, live or work. In fact, visiting or living here can be a big step towards discovering the best of China. If you are already thinking of moving to this beautiful city, then you already know what to expect right from the moment you get here thanks to this detailed Nanjing city guide. 

Learn more about life in China with The Ultimate Guide for Moving to China

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