Suzhou can be divided in 3 areas
- Downtown, 市区 or the Old town 姑苏区
This part of Suzhou is most famous for its classical gardens, temples and canals. You should check out the Humble Administrator’s Garden（拙政园）and the Lingering Garden (留园) in Spring time when the trees are starting to blossom. Tiger Hill (虎丘) is a popular visiting spot offering a combination of outside rock formations, green walking tracks and a pagoda. Hanshan Temple (寒山寺) near the Feng Bridge (枫桥) is worth a visit as well. If you like canals, street food and people-watching, Pingjiang Road (平江路) and Shantang Street (山塘街) are the place to be.
- West of downtown is SND (Suzhou New District)
- and at the East you find SIP (Suzhou Industrial Park), most western expats live in this part of Suzhou.
Finding an apartment
Suzhou is one of the most fast-growing cities in China. Agricultural grounds changed over a short period of time into extensive compounds, shopping malls and factories. SND (Suzhou New District) and SIP (Suzhou Industrial Park) are both good examples of this phenomenon and were built at a fast pace and keep on expanding at the point of writing.
Most expats and wealthy Chinese people live in compounds. Although living in China is relatively safe, most compounds are surrounded by walls, a secured gate and guards. Typically, compounds are quite big and consist of several apartment buildings. However, some more upscale compounds have houses, beautiful gardens, shops, a pool and gym.
Some popular compounds in SIP:
- Marina Cove Garden
- Bayside Garden
- Horizon Resort
- Join in the Grand
- Golden Lough
- Casa de Esplanade
- Royal Peninsula
- Portland Street
- Lakeshore Garden
- Greenlake Garden
Compounds in SND:
- Regent on the Park
- Mingcheng Garden
- Gelin Garden
Real estate or relocation agent
Many expats visit Suzhou for an info-trip some months or weeks prior to moving here. You could consider hiring a real estate/relocation agent for advising you on a suitable location and helping you with the (Chinese) rental contract. Please bear in mind that you can always try to negotiate with your agent about his service fees (usually one month rent) and most likely also the apartment rent. Try to define your search criteria in terms of apartment location, size, facilities and budget. It might be wise to compare several agents or ask around in the expat community to verify if he/she is reliable. Often they can also help you to find a school, a hospital or a supermarket nearby. A.
Once you have determined what kind of property you are looking for, the agents will show you many elocation or real estate agents often have a limited amount of properties to offer, so they might Chances are high that you find a place you like if you give yourself a bit more time.
Suzhou is situated in the Yangtze River Delta, there are lakes and canals everywhere and the climate is quite humid. This results in some houses and apartments having mold problems, which can make you and your family sick. Check the walls behind curtains before you move into your new house.
Most decent apartments and houses have a heating system, however usually this is an air-conditioning that can be switched to either hot or cold air. Be prepared for some chilly months in winter time as the warmth disappears quickly after switching off the air conditioning. Alternatively, you could buy extra electrical heaters to warm up your apartment. The newer apartments and houses sometimes have floor heating, which is more efficient during winter time. So, when you are looking for a place to live, don’t forget to pay attention to the heating system.
As the driving experience in China might be different from your own country, you could consider living in a central area close to a subway or bus station. Another option is hiring a driver and car. Public taxis are also an affordable way of transport within Suzhou.
The two biggest international schools are situated east of the Jinji Lake, but most expats live at the west side of the lake, around Singa Plaza. The area is very comfortable to live because there are many international places where you can meet (new) friends, nice restaurants and decent compounds.
Subway is very user-friendly in Suzhou. There are two lines and a third one is being built at the point of writing., Besides the subway, the public bus system works quite well. It is fast and cheap. The easiest way to look up routes is by using the (Chinese) Baidu Maps on your smart phone. Both subway and bus are easiest to use with a Suzhou public transport card. You can also use it to pay in a taxi or certain convenient stores (Family Mart). There are certain locations where you can buy this card. Another way of transport is by e-bike or electric bicycle/scooter. They are very popular among the Chinese citizens too. You could also make use of the green public bikes that use a special bike card, fees are very low.