Guest post by Agness Whalewinder
Are you thinking of leaving your comfort zone and setting off for the journey of a lifetime to China? If so, I have some great news for you. China is growing at breath-taking speed nowadays and settling down here might be the perfect idea. You can not only experience the authentic Chinese cuisine, customs, and traditions but also travel and discover places unknown to ordinary travelers and holidaymakers.
Although the prices in the Land of Dragons seem to be rising at the moment, the cost of living in China is still low, especially in comparison to the cost of living in Western countries.
As a foreigner working as an English teacher or factory staff, your salary will cover for everything you need. You really don’t need to worry about money. You will get a free apartment and food from your employers and you can afford to travel nearly every month (inside as well as outside China).
On top of that, you will have enough money to dine out daily, enjoy massages fairly regularly and buy some electronic goods and, believe me, or not, but you will be still able to save up to $18.000 a year when in China.
Want to know more about teaching English abroad? Check out this post by Jeremy from TravelFreak.
Below you can find a breakdown of the monthly cost of living in China as an expat.
Current currency rate: RMB (¥) 1 – $0.16
Cost of living in China as an expat
1. Food – ¥500 a month
Chinese local dishes are very affordable, so dining out in restaurants is much cheaper than cooking at home.
For a typical Chinese breakfast (3 bāozi and porridge) you should not spend more than ¥5 ($0.80). As for your lunch and dinner, you can easily get a huge bowl of fried noodles with vegetables for ¥4 ($0.60) .
Here is a list of products and the price you should pay for each item:
Water (0.5L) – ¥1, (1.5L) – ¥1.5
Can of coke – ¥2.50
Bottled beer – ¥10
Milk (1L) – ¥8
Fried rice with vegetables – ¥5 – ¥10
Beef noodles – ¥7 – ¥12
McDonalds/KFC meal – ¥29
The prices of food in China depend on the province you stay in. Obviously, the prices of food in Beijing or Shanghai are going to be much higher than the ones in small towns such as Huayuan in Hunan province or Xiushan in Chongqing province.
As the food is very cheap, you should not be afraid of dining out and trying new dishes every day. Try to be as adventurous as possible when buying your breakfasts, lunches, and dinners.
2. Transport – ¥200-¥700 a month
If you travel a lot in China, the cheapest option is to take a train. There are 5 different types of train tickets: standing ticket, hard seat soft seat, hard sleeper and soft sleeper ticket. These obviously increase in price, with the standing ticket being the cheapest one but the least comfortable and the soft sleeper being the most comfortable but the most expensive.
For the sake of enormous distances between one destination and another in China, you should definitely buy a soft sleeper ticket. This way, you can enjoy some nice sleep and arrive in a good mood at your destination.
One other thing to note: if you find you have a hard seat ticket for an overnight journey, you can usually make your way to the restaurant carriage and pay around ¥30 extra to sleep on one of the table benches there. This also means that you may have to move if you don’t want to pay for breakfast in the morning, but it is another option.
Surprisingly, long-distance buses are usually more expensive than trains, but local buses are extremely cheap. You can get a ride anywhere in town or city for ¥1/2 when a taxi generally costs from ¥5 for the basic fare, depending on the location.
When you are traveling to such big cities as Beijing or Shanghai, you might want to use a subway. The one in Beijing can take you everywhere for only ¥2, (although the line to Beijing Capital airport carries its own charge of ¥25).
Lastly, taxis are a pretty good option when you can share the ride with other travelers. Make sure to check if they have a meter and if they have switched it on. Taxis are unbelievably cheap in small cities and towns. The price is almost the same, for example in Huayuan in Hunan province it’s ¥2 for a ride and you can get anywhere in Huayuan.
3. Clothes – ¥200- ¥400 a month
All clothes made in China are extremely cheap, but their quality might not be the best. Whilst in larger cities you will get Western brand shops like H&M and Zara, as well as some designers (highly sought after by the Chinese), there are many smaller independent shops which you can also buy clothes from.
Here are some examples of clothes you might want to buy with prices from Chinese stores, rather than Western brands:
Pair of trainers/sneakers – ¥39+
Pair of jeans – ¥100<
Winter jacket – ¥200
A t-shirt – ¥29
Scarf – ¥10
Sunglasses – ¥15-30 for a cheap pair
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. Can you make a decent living for this amount of money back in your home country? I don’t think so. Hurry up, pack your bags and move to China then!
All photos were provided by eTramping
Agness is a Polish vagabond who wants more stamps in her passport. Together with her best friend Cez, they stand behind eTramping – a travel website where you can find plenty of budget travel tips on how to travel the world with $25 in your pocket. If you love to eat, travel and take pictures on the road, make sure you follow these two! If you would like to read more about their expat life in China, you can check out “Add the Brick to the Great Wall:” Experience-based Advice for China from Expats” e-book which sums up their two-year experience of teaching, living and travelling in the Land of Dragons.
Want to know more about China? Check out these 97 fun facts about China!
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