The two most common factors when determining where to live, even beyond the housing allowance/budget, is the location of employment and the desired school for the kids. Due to Beijing’s size and traffic problem, traveling to the office can result in a long commute. If you plan on commuting to work by public transportation, then choosing housing near the subway line is essential. Walking to and from the subway for more than several minutes will prove to be miserable in the freezing winters or desert heat summers. Taxis are also a cheap option, so finding a place to live that is not too far off the beaten path is the only way to ensure that there are plenty of taxis in the morning.
The other factor is the location of international schools in the city. Most international schools are located in the eastern part of the city, in Chaoyang District and Shunyi District. Many of the much larger and well-established international schools are located in the northeast “suburbs” of Beijing in Shunyi District, although there are school options within the city as well. There are no international school options in the western part of the city, but many larger international schools will provide school bus service to different parts of the city.
A third factor, though less important when compared to the first two, is the proximity to entertainment and “essentials” such as restaurants, shopping, hospitals, and international churches and worship facilities. Most of the expat population is concentrated in Chaoyang District, hence many of the conveniences foreigners crave are also located in the eastern part of the city.