China: How Expensive is it?

Thailand, yep we know that’s cheap, The Philippines, yep pretty sure they’re cheap too. Japan, good salaries but also quite expensive. What about the cost of living in China?!

When it comes to Asia’s second largest country (if you count Russia that is), there’s a bit of a gap in most people’s knowledge. Well, here come the i-to-i TEFL team (many of whom have taught and traveled in China) to show you how much things really cost.


It’s one of the things that Asia is famous for – cheap, efficient public transport and it’s no different in the cities of China. A one day metro pass in Beijing or Shanghai will cost you below £2 and a 5 mile taxi ride around the same. Although the transport is cheap, why not take the opportunity of living in China to do as the locals do and get a bike.

Food and Drink

The cost of food in China is also low; a bag of apples or potatoes will set you back around 80p. For those of you whose cooking skills stop at boiling an egg, eating out is relatively cheap too. A meal in a mid-range restaurant will cost you around £3.50 but a bowl of noodles from a street vendor only £1-1.50. One thing to remember is that whichever country you live in imported goods will be more expensive. So if you’re really fond of a certain brand (I’m looking at you Cadbury’s) then be sure to bring it from home. When it comes to drinking the Chinese tend to enjoy a few, and drinks are cheap with a local beer a rather affordable 50p.


Comparing the cost of accommodation in China is like comparing the cost of a penthouse flat and a single room in a student house. Prices can range from £1000 a month for a swanky top floor pad to £100 a month for a room in a shared rural house.

Top Tip: Be prepared to pay a ‘foreigner supplement’ if you have to organise an apartment on your own with limited Mandarin abilities. If you’d rather have someone take care of all that for you then check out the China TEFL internship.


China is a huge country with a lot of culture, so when you’re not working, you’re going to want to see it. Some of our China TEFLers created a bucket list before leaving and then planned their weekends/holidays based on that. To give you an idea of prices:

A trip from Beijing to the Great Wall (1 hour) will cost £2.40 for a 1st class train seat
Entry to the Terracotta Warriors is £5 for the day (and it’ll be the best fiver you’ve ever spent)
A 5* hotel for the night in Shanghai will cost on average £39!

Strangely Expensive

Although the cost of living in China is really quite cheap there are a few odds and ends that cost double what they do in the West. So, if you can’t live without them – pop them into your suitcase.

One For the Girls – branded make-up (If your make up bag is worth more than what’s in your bank account, then stock up before you go…)
One For the Lads – condoms (not sooo expensive, just different than at home)
Corkscrews…don’t ask us why?!
Deodorant, even the stuff you do find will be weak by Western standards. Throw it in the bag!

Want to find out more about the cost of living in China?  Take a look at our China destination page here!


Related Articles

form girls discount


Simply pop your details below to receive your exclusive discount code.

Follow Us

Find Us

i-to-i TEFL
4th Floor, Wilson House, Lorne Park Road,
Bournemouth, England, BH1 1JN,
United Kingdom

i-to-i TEFL is a part of Teach and Travel Group Ltd.
Registered Company No. 7935847.