Cost Of Living In China| 4 min read


When planning to visit China it’s important to budget how much you will be spending so you can do all the things you plan, visit all the places you intend to go and not have to worry about money issues once you are here.


What is the cost of living in China like?


Generally, Beijing or Shanghai is relatively cheap compared to western countries.

Taxis, subways and local restaurant meals especially come to mind.

However, your lifestyle will play a big part in how much you spend. E.g eating out in Western restaurants, going to clubs, mode of transport, standard of accommodation etc will affect your spending and how much you need to budget.

If you intend to travel, go out or do some site seeing, then you need to budget more. That being said, a budget of 5-10 Euros per day should suffice for most people.

What are the exchange rates between the Euro and USD and Chinese currency?

Approximate exchange rates:

1 USD = 6.5 RMB
1 EUR = 7.5 RMB

There are main categories of expenses to consider:

  • Daily Expenses

Daily expenses are your most frequent purchases, and although they may be a lot lower than a plane ticket or accommodation initially, it certainly adds up.

If you use our Examples of Daily Costs in China Guide plus our summary below of how much things cost, you should be able to budget accurately


Mobile phone calls
– buy a prepaid sim card. RMB 100 a month should be quite sufficient for local calls. For overseas calls use Skype.

Internet – internet costs about RMB 150 per month


Buses – fares range from RMB 1-3 per trip (use the transport card in Beijing to receive discounts).

Taxis – starts from RMB 13 for 3km and RMB 2.4 for every kilometre thereafter.

Subway – starts from RMB 3 and up to RMB 5 in Shanghai. Very convenient.

Bicycles – buy one second hand for RMB 100-200 and sell it before leaving. These are very convenient to get around.

We definitely recommend you buy a pre-paid card for public transport.

Rather than lining up for tickets each time you can simply swipe the machines and it will deduct from your balance. It can be used on subways, buses and some taxis and shops.


Cooking at home – local groceries costing RMB 20-40 a day would suffice.

Eating out or takeaway – costs around RMB 20-30 per meal for Chinese food.

Western food – would cost anywhere between RMB 30 to hundreds of RMB.

Coffee shops (Starbucks etc) 

Coffee: RMB 20-40
Snack: RMB 10-20

Pubs, Clubs

Cheap bars: RMB 20-40 per drink
Normal bars: RMB 50-100 per drink


Beef: RMB 45/kg

Pork: RMB 35/kg

Tomato: RMB 13/kg

Apple: RMB 15/kg

Orange: RMB 10/kg for local oranges

Mineral Water (550ml): RMB 2

Coke (355ml): RMB 3.5

Beer (355ml): RMB 5

Canned Coffee: RMB 5

Milk (950ml): RMB 13

Ice cream: RMB 3

Cinema: RMB 30-90

Gym: RMB 1800-3000/yr

Daily Newspaper: RMB 2

Magazine: RMB 20

Hair Cut: RMB 20-150

  • Travel Expenses


There are many flights that connect cities.

These are relatively inexpensive, and the airlines are modern and reliable

The most expensive domestic airfare is about RMB 2,000 which is for flights of over 3 hours (e.g. Guangzhou to Beijing).

Short flights are often around RMB 600.

Flights are often discounted up to 70% depending on the destination and departure.

If you want to book cheap domestic flight tickets or accommodation, check out these pages:



Intercity trains are cheap and safe.

They are a good way to see the countryside.

You can travel either soft seat or more cheaply on a hard. They are very regular and reliable. Find out times, prices and where to buy train tickets in China.


Intercity buses are cheap and convenient. Seats are allocated and there is no standing. They are not crowded.



Rachel Yoon

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