Cost of Living in China


It can be very cheap to live in China but it can also be very expensive.  It all depends on where you want to live and what standard of living you want to keep.  China is home to very exclusive stores as well as very cheap stores. Your habits and preferences will decide how much money you have to spend. It has grown into such a diverse economy, western comfort foods can easily be found in all the major cities.

You can easily live on less than $5 a day in China, and then reward yourself during the weekend with a couple of western meals.

The exchange rate is:
$0.16 = 1 RMB (Yuan)


Estimated Budget for Rent

Expect to pay at least 2,500-3,500 Yuan a month for a room in a shared apartment in Beijing or Shanghai. In other cities the rent is much more economical but it depends on the individual case. You’ll also have to pay for electricity, water, gas, and internet. According to recorded expense data you shouldn’t spend more than 400-600 Yuan a month. The expenses are for the entire apartment.

Communication Expenses

Internet – internet costs about RMB 150 per month

Mobile phone calls – buy a prepaid Sim card. Expect to spend about US 20 a month for local calls. For overseas calls use Skype.

Transportation costs

-Subway – The subway is well managed and cheap.
-Bicycles – Most Chinese cities are designed with bikes in mind. A lot of Chinese people use bicycles.  You can buy a used or new bike cheaply.
-Taxis – Taxis are cheap but not nearly as cheap as trains and buses.


Intercity trains are available in many cities.. They are a convenient low cost way to travel
You can also use trains to visit the country side.  They are one of the best ways to see China’s countryside.
There are several different types of tickets.  Some offer a higher standard than other. Most trains offer more expensive soft chairs and cheaper harder chairs. Choose the type that suits you best.


Buses  are cheap to use in the cities. You will get a seat assigned to you and you do not have to stand. They are not crowded.

Entertainment expenses

– Two movie tickets will cost you between $9 and $22.
– A beer at a bar or a club in a major city will run you about $5, while a cocktail will cost closer to $10.
– If you happen to be a smoker, you’ll appreciate that the cost of a pack of cigarettes is only about $3.

Food and Eating Expenses

You’ll find the best prices at local markets and slightly more expensive prices at supermarkets. But regardless of where you shop, you’ll find that local foods are more expensive than imported products, such as cheese.

  • – One pound of apples only costs $1.
  • – A 2-liter bottle of Coca-Cola will set you back about $1.25.
  • – A pound of boneless chicken breast costs about $2.50.
  • – A dozen eggs will run you $2.50.
  • – As you can see, you can live a good life in China for around ¥1,200 – ¥1,600 a month which is between $192 – $256. But prices are going up and you might need more money in the future.

If you’re considering moving to a foreign country, China is a favorite among students. The culture is vibrant. The cities are bustling. The countryside is beautiful. And the cost of living is much cheaper than you might think.

Do your researches before you go so you know exactly what you can expect to spend as a student in one of the most vibrant countries in the world.