• Blog
  • Family

Beijing's essential services for families

Ayi services, tour companies, food deliveries, community groups and more

TooToo Organic Farm
New to Beijing? Bookmark these websites, put these numbers on speed dial or print out this page for the fridge, and you’ll be settled in the city

For housekeeping

Housekeepers – or ayis – are popular among expat families as they’re much more affordable than in the west, and offer a range of services from cleaning and shopping to full-time babysitting. Rates and contracts are often negotiable; expect to pay more for an English speaker. Alternatively, check out the bulletin boards at April Gourmet supermarkets; they’re always packed with referrals from families leaving town and looking to find a new home for their beloved ayi.

Beijing WorryFree Domestic Services Guarantees that you can change your ayi if you’re unhappy with the one you have. 5366 7120; www.bjzzbh.com

Beijing Huijia Ayi Housekeeping Service Company Offers a 24-hour free interpretation service to help you communicate with your ayi. 6040 9096; www.beijingayiservice.com

Beijing Sunnyhome Housekeeping Service Also offers services for driver and car hire. 5288 4727; www.bjayiser vice.com

Beijing Ex-pats Life Also offers help with getting a Chinese driving licence. 4008906518;www.expatslife.com

For the internet

Getting online is probably the first thing you’ll want to do when you move into your new home, so you can Skype relatives back home and log on to www.timeoutbeijing.com/ family. And the second thing you might want to do is get satellite TV. Here are our go-to services on getting set up.

China Unicom For internet installation, go to China Unicom. The fastest hard line service at 4Mb per second costs 160-180RMB per month with installation around 200RMB. New buildings have fibre-optic networks; subscription costs more (190-240RMB a month) but it’s faster. 10010, press 9 for English; eng.chinaunicom.com

Astrill When it comes to VPN clients, Astrill remains Time Out Towers’ favourite way to access sites such as Netflix and BBC iPlayer. It seldom has drops in its service and is fast enough to stream content. Choose from a number of servers around the world with ease. Sign up for three-month, six-month or one-year contracts from 35RMB per month; 24-hour customer service provided. www.astrill.com

Shanghai Satellite TV Installation Center Despite the name, these guys do installations in Beijing. Channels such as BBC, HBO, ESPN and many more are available. 131 6100 0160; www.satellitetvshanghai.com

For community support

Word of mouth is often the best way (after Time Out Family, of course) to get useful information in Beijing, whether it’s where to buy a buggy or which supermarket stocks Western brand nappies. Join these community groups to share tips with like-minded mums and dads, and get the emotional support you need while you’re finding your feet.

INN Meeting-1422


Beijing Mamas A members-only online group where parents with kids of various ages share resources and ask questions. Get local information and recommendations, find friends, hang out, start playgroup meetings and discuss everything from breastfeeding and pregnancy to kids’ classes and parenting styles. https:// groups.yahoo.com/neo/ groups/Beijing_Mamas/info

International Newcomers Network A longstanding community group that gives regular support for international passport holders in Beijing. Drop by their informal coffee mornings or sign up for a group night out. They even organise day trips to local sights. Read our interview with INN President Mary Peng. http://innbeijing.org/

Beijing Bumps2Babes & Beyond An English-speaking mums-support group created by mums, they hold two weekly meetings, one for pregnant women and those with newborns, and another for mums with older kids. Both groups are free of charge and meet at Soho Shangdu in the CBD, north of The Place. beijingbumps2babes@ gmail.com

InterNations A private network that gets you connected with like-minded expat professions and their families. You can apply for membership online. internations.org/ beijing-expats

LifeLine Shanghai A helpline that offers confidential, anonymous emotional support to China’s foreign community. Open 10am to 10pm daily, LifeLine also provides info on a wide variety of sensitive topics. And yes, you can call from Beijing! 021 6279 8990

For food deliveries

From reliable restaurant-to-door services to organic grocery deliveries, eating well in Beijing has never been easier. Check out the best options below.


TooToo Organic Farm

Sherpa’s Food Delivery Service A well-established service that picks up from over 50 Beijing restaurants and delivers straight to your door in 45 minutes. They’re open from 10.30am to 10.30pm daily, and delivery charges vary between 15 and 50RMB depending on the restaurant’s proximity to the delivery address. The website is easy to use and customer service on the phone is in English reliable. 400 600 6209; www.sherpa.com.cn

KK Rabbit Food Delivery Service The menu includes beer, imported wine, custom cakes and even floral arrangements. Open 10am to 10.30pm daily; delivery fees vary depending on distance and weather conditions. 400 720 1717; www.kkrabbit.com.cn

Jinshisong The extensive online picture menus help with ordering at unfamiliar restaurants. Plenty of Chinese choices – great for adventurous recluses. www.jinshisong.com

Jenny Lou’s Free delivery of groceries within 2.5 kilometres from any Jenny Lou’s supermarkets. The stores stock a wide range of imported products, and most are open 8am-10pm daily. 6506 5126; www.jennylou.com.cn

TooToo Organic Farm This popular home delivery ser vice for organic produce supplies from a huge farm in Pinggu and others. Choose from a wide range of products including vegetables, fruit, seafood, sausages, tofu, grains, juices and wines. All their products are certified organic, and they have an English website. http://shop.tootoo.cn/ (Here are more organic food delivery services.)

For travel

Make the most of the school holidays with these tour agencies. Our advice is to not travel within China on national holidays if you can, to avoid the crowds. Instead, take the opportunity to explore the rest of Asia.

Xilingol Grassland1

China Culture Center

General advice For official train schedules and notices, check The Ministry of Railways’ website www.12306.cn (Chinese only). For English-language advice on train travel in China, visit www.seat61.com; to book train tickets see www.ctrip.com. Planes can be booked (and paid for with cash) on www. ctrip.com and www.elong.net.

China Culture Center For expat-friendly package tours, have a look at the extensive range of itineraries on China Culture Center’s website. They offer trips to locations in China and abroad, including North Korea and Nepal. 6432 9341; www.ccctravel.net

Sunflower Travel Services This travel company offers package prices for going away around national holidays and school breaks,both in China and abroad. 8447 6361; www.sunflower travel-cn.com

The Hutong A popular cooking school that organises culinary tours and offers catering services, The Hutong also sets up Beijing days out and trips further afield. 159 0104 6127; http://thehutong.com

For mail

For fast, reliable services to send packages back home, try these international brands with offices across Beijing.

FedEx Contact for rates and details on domestic and international shipping and pickups. 800 988 1888; www.fedex.com

DHL Good for personal and corporate shipping needs, both domestic and international. Contact for rates and information on pickups. DHL services are also available at branches of China Post. 400 810 8000; www.cn.dhl.com/ en/express

SF Express Established across Asia and the US, SF Express has an English website and perks for members. 4008 111 111; www.sf-express.com/cn/en/

For transport

For weekend outings, rent a car and take your family out of town. Or even easier, hire a driver and car together. As it’s now very hard to buy cars in Beijing due to traffic control, these are often the best options for many families – check out our top picks for providers in Beijing.


Tour Beijing

Tour Beijing Book a chauffeur and driver online on their English website. A trip to the Badaling Great Wall in a standard car costs 710RMB. 6716 0201; www.tour-beijing.com

Beijing Top Rated Car Rental Service A range of models available for hire with driver. For example, an Audi A6L for eight hours costs 800RMB. Chauffeur service with package prices available to popular sightseeing spots, as well as long-term leasing. 6504 7266; www.sxsdcar.com

eHi Auto Services More than 100 models available for hire, with the option of online booking (Chinese only). Also offers VIP limo services. 400 888 6608; https:// corporate.1hai.cn

Beijing EX-PATS Service Offers a large selection of vehicles for leasing, as well as chauffeur hire. 400-890-6518; www.expatslife.com

For moving

Moving house can be one of life’s biggest headaches, especially with a kid or two in tow. Here we list removal services and estate agents to help you along the way.

AGS Four Winds Beijing A full-service moving company that handles office relocation, long-term storage and moving consultations.They cover both local and international relocations. 8532 5288; www.agsmovers.com

SDmoves These guys will shift the contents of an average three-bedroom apartment within the Fourth Ring Road for around 800RMB. They also move internationally. 139 1166 7764; www.bjsdmover.com

Continental International Moving Offers international and domestic moving services, as well as pet relocation and storage. 8762 5110; www.cimmover.com

Asian Express International Movers For those who are unsure about putting up shelves and installing washing machines, these guys will provide a handyman team to take care of the maintenance jobs. 8580 1471; www.aemovers.com.hk

Century 21 One of the more foreigner-friendly estate offices, Century 21 can arrange for an English speaking agent. Their typical commission is one month’s rent. 6561 7788; www.century21cn.com/ english/

Scout Real Estate Premium commercial and residential relocation services. They have multi-lingual staff and access to some of Beijing’s choicest service apartments and office complexes. Expect to pay a premium for Scout Real Estates premium level of service. 8596 8873; www.beijingrelocation.com

For pets

Acquiring a four-legged addition to your family can be a tricky business in China. Get the right advice and treatment from these expat-friendly services.

International Center for Veterinary Services (ICVS) Based in Wangijng, ICVS offers dog and cat grooming, veterinary services, boarding and day care, plus free workshops on moving internationally with your pet. Also delivers food and pet supplies. Read our interview with ICVS' medical director. 8456 1939; www.icvsasia.com

Beck and Stone Veterinarians Emergency appointments available 24 hours a day. Call the hotline on 400 103 8686 for a pet ambulance. 8457 8233; www.doctorsbeckandstone.com

For emergencies

Finally, don’t forget to memorise these numbers in case of accidents.

Fire 119

Police 110


Beijing Red Cross 999

English-language emergency hotline 6525 5486

  • 4 out of 5 stars