Living in Hefei China: City Guide and Anhui Province

Liz Smith
Liz Smith

Liz Smith left the daily grind in the States to travel the world with her husband. Eventually teaching English in China & loving it, she began sharing her experience with others who are interested in embarking on this new adventure!

 / Sep 21, 2017

Living in Hefei China can be an experience of a lifetime. The city is particularly suitable for expats and visitors alike, thanks to its cool nature and manageable population that makes moving from one place to the other seamlessly easy, not to mention that the cost of living here is way low compared to other bigger Chinese cities. Whether you want to visit Hefei, China or move to Hefei altogether, there are plenty of things to do in Hefei, all of which will make your time in this city truly worthwhile. This detailed city guide will definitely inform you on virtually everything you would wish to learn and know about Hefei.


Overview of Hefei City


Formerly known as Luchow, Luzhou or Hofei, Hefei is Anhui’s province capital and largest city. Anhui is a Chinese landlocked province that is located in the country’s eastern region. Hefei is the province’s economic, cultural and political center, and it is situated in the province’s central portion. The city is considered a prefecture-level city, which is basically a Chinese administrative division that is ranked above a county though ranked below a province. 


Hefei borders other cities like Huainan, Chuzhou, Wuhu and Lu’an to the north, northeast, southeast and west respectively. It has a landmass of 4,414.79 square miles and it boasts a population of 7,790.000 occupants as of 2015. The city has an incredibly long history that dates back over 2,000 years ago. The city has played a vital role in virtually all commercial transactions in Anhui province since ancient times. 


In addition to being an educational and scientific city, Hefei also boasts several talents both present and past alike. Some of these talents that are synonymous with this city include Yang Zhenning, the globally renowned physician and Nobel Prize winner, whose hometown is this city. 


As an educational city, Hefei is home to China’s University of Science & Technology, as well as the university’s department of Chinese Academy of Sciences. The city is remarkably beautiful, thanks to its stunningly beautiful surroundings like the Huaihei River to the north and Yangtze River to the south. The beautiful Chaohu Lake with its vast blue waters also lies on the city’s southeast area. 


Living in Hefei China - Neighborhoods / Districts 


As an administrative city, Hefei is home to 9 county-level divisions that are subdivided into 4 districts, 4 counties and 1 county-city. Below are the 4 districts of the city.


  • Baohe District - though largely viewed as one of the districts of Anhui province, the district is however under the administration of the Hefei city. It has a population of approximately 817,686 and a landmass of 294.94km squared. It is home to 2 towns and 7 sub-districts. 

  • Yaohai District - situated in the city’s central portion, Yaohai is one of the city’s most populous districts with a population of approximately 902,830 inhabitants. It is home to 10 sub-districts, 1 township , 1 town and 1 industrial park as well as 1 development zone. 

  • Luyang District -the district constitutes the main part of Hefei’s old city area. It has a landmass of 139.32 square kilometers and a population of approximately 609.239 inhabitants. 

  • Shushan District - situated on the western part of Hefei city, Shushan district is the city’s most densely populated district, boasting an estimated population of 1,022,321 residents. It is home to two towns and 8 sub-districts. 


Getting in/out of Hefei


Hefei is an important transportation hub in Eastern China, and thus it boasts a modern and well-developed infrastructure like any other Chinese city. As such getting in and out of this wonderful city is quite easy. Below are the various means of entering and leaving Hefei.


By air - this is actually the most convenient way of getting in and out of Hefei, especially for expats, tourists and other travelers coming from various global destinations, or those wishing to travel from the city to various international destinations. Air transport largely takes place at Hefei Xinqiao International Airport, which is approximately 20 miles from the City’s CBD(Central Business District). There are various airlines such as China Eastern Airlines that offer both international and domestic flights alike. For instance, the airport offers direct international flights to various Asian cities like Hong Kong, Macau and Seoul. There are also domestic flights to cities like Shanghai, Guanghzhou and Beijing among others Chinese cities.


By railway -This is also another common choice for getting to Hefei, particularly for people coming to Hefei from various Chinese cities like Shanghai, Guangzhou and Beijing alongside other cities that border Anhui province. The city has three railway stations that link it to other cities. Below are the three railway stations in Hefei.


  • Hefei Railway Station - it is located in the city’s Development Experimental Zone. The railway station can be accessed via various city buses. The station is home to various trains that reach Shenzhen, Beijing, Shanghai, Ningbo and Chengdu among other Chinese cities.

  • South Railway Station - the station largely operates high speed trains and it can also be reached by various city buses. The high speed trains operating in this station can reach various cities especially the ones situated in China’s eastern region.

  • Western Railway Station – it is located in the city’s western part and it operates regular trains that run from the city to bordering Anhui province like Wuhu, Anqing, Huangshan and Haozhou among other cities. 


Transportation (getting around Hefei)


Being the capital city of one of China’s most crucial province, Hefei is a vital transportation hub that connects Anhui with the rest of China’s eastern region as well as other prominent cities. As a result, the city has well-developed, modern transport system, that makes getting around the city seamlessly easy. Below are various means of touring the city. 


City bus - presently, there are more than 100 city buses that normally operate within various places across Hefei. With a city bus, you can travel to virtually all the scenic spots within the city, conveniently and cheaply. But the only drawback to getting around the city via a city bus is that, nearly all the buses’ staff barely speaks English, and thus Western visitors may have problems while traveling in buses that are mostly operated by Chinese natives. Again, buses can be overcrowded at times, especially the ones traveling to some of the city’s scenic spots.


Subway - though Hefei may not have many subway lines like other prominent Chinese cities, it however has a subway line that connects it to numerous railway stations, tourist attractions and other important places across the city. Taking the Subway in China offers an extremely fast travel option for tourists and expats wishing to get around the city with the shortest time possible. Better still, subway transportation is an inexpensive travel option for travelers with a small budget.


Taxi - this is a nice option to get around the city in case you feel exhausted or just in case you would like to save time. In Hefei, taxis are available in different car brands. Fares are priced based on the travel distance. In most cases, most taxi drivers charge higher fees at night than during daytime.


Long-distance buses - this is another convenient mode of public transportation , especially for travelers seeking to travel to places that are within long distances from the city’s CBD. However, most buses are overcrowded and may not be ideal for foreign travelers who don’t understand Mandarin Chinese. In most cases, the staff at several buses barely speaks a single English word. 


Safety / scams to be on the lookout for in Hefei


Most people in Hefei are overly honest and hardworking. But considering the soaring number of foreign tourists and expats in the city, there are some individuals who will definitely prey on foreigners while taking advantage of their vulnerability. As such, there are a couple of scams targeting foreigners in Hefei, and which you need to be on the lookout for the sake of your own safety. Below are some of the scams you should be on the lookout for:


Tea ceremony scam - This scam is pretty common in Hefei, as it is in other large Chinese cities. It basically involves a local Chinese meeting you in the street or other public places and then having an interesting and engaging conversation in English. Later on, they will ask you to accompany them to a local tea ceremony where you can taste a wide array of Chinese teas. If you agree, you will end up being taken to a local tea house and then handled a ridiculously high bill once you have tasted a couple of worthless Chinese teas. In order to stay away from such scammers, never agree to an invitation by a local to attend a tea ceremony unless you know them perfectly well. 


Counterfeit currency scam - this scam is also quite common and it targets foreigners especially the ones who know nothing about Chinese currency, and how to detect fake currency. Since there are already too many fake currencies out there, be on the lookout when being given change upon purchasing something. If possible, make sure you have exact cash with you whenever you want to make a purchase. This will significantly reduce your likelihood of being given fake currency. Again, ensure all your cash is coming from the ATM whenever you need some. 


Fake taxi scam - while taxis in Hefei and other places across China offer a safe transportation option to both foreigners and locals alike, they are however several unlicensed cars that operate as taxis in the city, particularly around train stations, airports and other major transport hubs. In most cases, unlicensed taxis will not just charge you high fares, but the driver will also drop you randomly before you get to where you wanted to go. To ensure you aren’t ripped off by fake taxi drivers, always avoid any motorists who approach you purporting to offer taxi services. In any case, all licensed taxis operate from one designated area and not in the streets. Again, a typical taxi cab in Hefei is painted yellow or green and thus any car with a different color is unlicensed and unofficial altogether. 


Fake Monks scam - this is another common scam that foreigners and tourists fall into regularly. It involves a monk approaching you requesting for a donation. In fact, most of them will even proceed and show you a list of people who have previously donated to them, just to make it appear legitimate. However, be on the lookout for such fake monks, for the real ones never beg for money. Actually, they never even handle cash in most cases. 


Public bus scams - if you are traveling in a public bus, make sure to remain in the bus until you get to the correct destination. There are some cases where some seemingly helpful individuals will convince you to stop at some point urging you it is the right stop, only to find yourself in dire need of a taxi where you inevitably pay a lot of money to get to the correct destination. 


Hefei Climate and the best time to visit the city


Hefei has a humid subtropical climate with 4 distinct seasons. The annual average temperature in this city is about 15.7C. Temperatures can be as high as 38C in summer, while they can be as low as -21C in winter. Though the city’s climate is usually quite warm in spring (March to April), it is however susceptible to fluctuation. 


While the city’s natural landscape is exceptionally beautiful in spring, heavy downpours nevertheless make it unsuitable to visit the city during this particular season. The best time and season to visit Hefei is in autumn (August to October), due to the fact that the weather is absolutely favorable at this time. Though you can still visit the city during the winter season (August to October), you will however have to contend with the cold weather and thus you should come prepared with warm clothing and a scarf. 


Top things to do in Hefei for tourists 


Even though Hefei may not be among the most famous Chinese tourist destinations, the city is however blessed with numerous historic sites, beautiful parks and breathtaking sceneries, all of which make a visit to this city truly worthwhile. If you are a self-seeking tourist, there is plenty to do here. Below are some of the best things to do in Hefei for tourists. 


Visit the Xiaoyaojin Park at the weekend - just in case you are looking for a suitable place to relax on those lazy weekends, a visit to this park can be worthwhile. Located in a 31.3 hectares piece of land, the park has a unique fan-shaped layout thus making it incredibly beautiful. The park has numerous recreational facilities thus making it an excellent place for families to spend their weekend. 


Go for a hiking tour at Mount Jiuhua - This is a great thing to do if you are the sort of a tourist who really enjoys experiencing breathtaking scenery as well as serene landscapes. Moreover, it is a wonderful place to frequent if you are the kind of person who really enjoys bonding with nature. The mountain boasts several sights that you can’t truly afford to miss. From the Taoyan waterfalls, Heavenly Terrace sunrise to Five Streams mountain scenery, there are plenty of awesome sights that you definitely can’t afford to miss. 


Visit the Lord Bao’s Cemetery - want to see the tomb where one of China’s most incorruptible and morally upright government official and political reformer-Lord Bao- was laid to rest? This is ultimately the right place to see. The cemetery is one of the best preserved ancient cemeteries in China, and it is a top tourist attraction especially for history lovers. 


Touring the Mingjiao Temple - this isn’t just the oldest temple in Hefei, but also in the entire country as well, thanks to the fact that it is over 1,500 years old. The temple boasts a unique history in that; it was ruined and restored several times. Today, the temple offers a nice place for visitors to experience the ancient culture of the city, especially during constant wars that took place as various dynasties came and went. This is absolutely a nice place to pay a visit just in case you want to view various kinds of ancient weapons that were used during ancient wars. 


Go for a boat ride at Chao Lake - Chao Lake resembles a bird nest, and it is one of China’s largest fresh water lakes. The lake is visibly calm and clear while its crystal clear waters make it truly great for boat riding and other water activities such as diving and snorkeling. The lake boasts enticing natural scenery and an abundant aquatic life that is characterized by whitebait, shrimp and various species of crabs that are hard to find anywhere else in the world. 


Life in Hefei for expats 


Though Hefei may not be most appealing to foreign expats like other Chinese cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Nanjing in terms of job availability, it nevertheless boasts a remarkably conducive working environment for expats. Unlike most prominent cities across China that are overly very overcrowded, Hefei has a decent population thus making it quite habitable and less polluted environmentally. The other thing that makes this city suitable for expat living is the fact that, the overall cost of living is much less. 


Renting an apartment is far less expensive than renting one in other Chinese megacities. But just like with living in any other Chinese city, the single-most challenging aspect attributed to living in Hefei is only the language barrier couple with the culture shock. However, lots of foreign expats have managed to experience life at its fullest whilst living in this city. After all, the challenge of language barrier can be weathered only if one is ready and willing to learn Chinese Mandarin. 


Tips for expats living in Hefei


Here are a couple of actionable tips to help you adapt to your new life in Hefei as an expat.


Join a foreigners community – though foreign expat community isn’t as large as the one present in other bigger Chinese cities, you can still find expat groups forums and favorite hangouts such as Shipwreck and Lento Bar among others. Joining an expat community is absolutely vital to eliminating boredom and loneliness, as well as getting insights on how to adapt to your new life from like-minded people.


Don’t expose yourself to crime - as a newcomer, it is prudent you stay away from crowded streets and other public places where you are likely to encounter scammers and all sorts of criminals that prey on foreigners. Only go to well known places and limit your contacts with strangers as much as you can.


Commit yourself to finding a real, local friend -Though it is pretty common for foreigners not to trust anyone, that doesn’t mean that you can’t find a true friend among the locals. In fact, you can make plenty of friends starting from your place of residence to your workplace. Getting a local friend will be a great step to learning more about the Chinese culture and exposing you to other people who are likely to make you feel at home. 


Make a point of learning Chinese Mandarin - this might obviously sound like a no brainer, but it is incredibly important to learn this dominant language so as to avoid the language barrier. From ordering food to purchasing your ticket at the railway station, every piece of communication here is mostly done in Chinese Mandarin. As such, learning this language can definitely help make your life a lot easier whilst living in this wonderful city. The best part is that there are so many places across the city where foreigners can take Chinese Mandarin classes and have a basic understanding of this language within no time.


Find a way of interacting with the locals - This is another helpful thing you can do in order to combat the notorious culture shock. Get involved in various community events where you will have the opportunity to meet as many locals as possible. That way, you will not only make more friends, but you will most importantly get to learn important aspects of the Chinese culture. 


Hefei festivals / events 


Below are a couple of important events / festivals in Hefei that locals, expats, and tourists may enjoy.


Qingming Festival - This important festival is also marked across China and not just Hefei alone. Its significance is to honor and show respect to the ancestors. On this particular day, people sweet the tombs of their ancestors as a way of respecting and worshipping them. 


Hungry Ghost festival - This is yet another festival that is mainly held to please and worship the ancestors. During this particular festival, families conduct special ceremonies for their departed ancestors so as to avoid being punished by the wrath of their ghosts. Some of the special ceremonies that are conducted during this festival include placing ancestral tablets on a table, preparing meals thrice a day and burning incense. 


Chongyang Festival - the festival is meant to show respect to all the seniors. During this day, families Climb Mountains, eat nine-layer cakes called Chongyang cakes and drink Chrysanthemum wine. 


Lantern Festival - This festival is marked everywhere across China and it is meant to end the traditional Chinese New Year Period. During this festival, families normally light lanterns, set off fireworks and watch the bright full moon. 


Expat resources in Hefei 


Living and adapting to expat life in Hefei can be surprisingly easy, thanks to the numerous expat resources out there. Below are some of the essential expat resources in Hefei that can help make your life in this great city a lot easier as an expat.


Expat forums


Below are a couple of expat forums where expats in Hefei can meet and interact with each other. 


  • Expat.com - this is a global directory of blogs featuring information related to expat life. It features a section and subcategory of Chinese cities including Hefei.

  • Hefeiexpat.com – the newly started expat forum seeks to bring together all expats living in Hefei, by offering them a platform where they can meet and discuss a wide range of topics. 

  • Expatriates.com - the online forum for expats features a section on Hefei alongside other Chinese cities. It also features classified ads and a bulletin board. 


Resources for learning Mandarin Chinese


Learning Mandarin Chinese is a crucial part for any expat living in Hefei as well as any other Chinese city. Below are some of the resources for learning Mandarin Chinese.


  • Jukuu - the site offers Chinese-English examples sentences in abundance. You can use it to learn new Chinese words and also learn how you can use them in sentences. 

  • Chinese-forums.com - this is a community bringing together anyone interested in learning Chinese. It has lots of active users among them native speakers that are there to answer any question touching on Chinese language learning. 

  • Anku - this is one of the best Mandarin Chinese learning resources especially for beginners. It makes it easier for beginners to learn the language in a simplified manner, at the same time helping them keep track of what they are learning. 


Resources for traveling in Hefei


  • Chinatour.com - offers valuable information for travelers to China, with a special section on Hefei.

  • Lonely Planet Worldguide - Provides valuable travel information on China, with a special section on Hefei.


Living in Hefei China Can Be a Wonderful Experience! 


Whether you look forward to living in Hefei as an expat, or you simply want to move to Hefei to visit some of its numerous tourists attractions, life in this city can be truly wonderful as long as you are adequately prepared for it. With this Hefei city guide now at your fingertips, living and working in this exceptionally beautiful city can be a an enjoyable experience that you will always remember.

 

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Liz Smith

Liz Smith left the daily grind in the States to travel the world with her husband. Eventually teaching English in China & loving it, she began sharing her experience with others who are interested in embarking on this new adventure!