Daily Travel Costs in China on a Shoestring Budget
US$30 | 200 Chinese Yuan Renminbi
China may have risen to the status of global super power over the past 15 years thanks to enormous economic growth but the country is still on the whole very good value and prices haven’t risen as much as you might think. There is a great deal of regional variation of course with Shanghai for example considerably more expensive than the predominantly rural West of the country but even the big cities are still really quite affordable if you steer clear of the bars and restaurants that are clearly geared towards the wealthy.
A one-way ticket on the Beijing subway will set you back just 4 Yuan for example (the equivalent of US$0.60). More local geared restaurants are also great value but menus aren’t all that easy to read and English isn’t widely spoken even in the big cities. Street stalls and BBQs offer a good alternative and are found all over the country. It’s much easier to know what you are getting with them and you can often stack up on tasty snacks that won’t set you back much cash. Going out can also be good value and if you know where to go you can find amazingly cheap bars and clubs which sometimes have ‘all you can drink’ deals for under $20.
The cost of travelling between destinations can add up though if you are looking to see large areas of the country in a relatively short space of time. In that case $30 might be an unrealistic budget but if you are spending a lot of time in more rural areas you can certainly get by on that sort of amount and do a large amount of travelling around.
Our China backpacking budget of $30/day isn’t impossible on a day-to-day basis in Beijing but might be a bit tougher to stick to in Shanghai where accommodation tends to be a bit more expensive. In general though you should probably allow a bit more if you are sticking to the Eastern route between Shanghai and Beijing with perhaps a couple of other stops. Even that would be dependent on you not taking any internal flights and settling for the slower but cheaper trains rather than the fancy high-speed ones.
See where China ranks on our World Budget Travel Table.
More Comfortable China Backpacker Budget
US$45 | 300 Chinese Yuan Renminbi
Coming up with a general budget for China in an article like this is pretty tough as it really does depend quite a lot on what part of the country you are in and how you choose to travel. By upping your budget to $45/day you won’t need to stress out as much and might be able to afford the odd high speed train or flight if you are in the country for more than a couple of weeks. It should also be enough to cover your daily expenses in any city in mainland China or even Hong Kong.
Sample Prices in China
Flight from Shanghai to Kunming (3 hours 25 mins) – 450¥ ($70)
Beijing to Shanghai by High-Speed train in 2nd class (5-6 hours) – 450-555¥ ($70-85)
Cheapest berth on Beijing to Shanghai slow sleeper train (15 hours) – 327¥ ($50)
Meal at an inexpensive restaurant – 25¥ ($4)
Large local beer in a bar or restaurant – 5¥ ($0.75)
Dorm bed in Beijing – from 35¥/night ($5)
Budget private double or twin room – 75-150¥/night (large amount of variation between cities) ($11-22)
Entrance to the Forbidden City, Beijing – 40-60¥ ($6-9)
Compare this with the cost of travel in Japan.
Currency – Chinese Yuan Renminbi
£1 = 9.46 CNY
€1 = 7.45 CNY
US$1 = 6.56 CNY
(All exchange rates are correct as of June 2016)
We suggest staying at Beijing Sunrise Youth Hostel Beihai Branch on your visit to the capital. The Forbidden city is within walking distance and it boasts some of the best value beds in town.
Share your Travel Costs!
If you’ve been to China recently, please let everyone know your typical daily costs by commenting below 😉
This article was published in June 2016.