October 20, 2018


Although prices are rising, the cost of living in China still compares favorably to most industrialized countries. You will be amazed by how comfortably you can live and how strong your purchasing power is. You can afford a lifestyle you are unlikely to be enjoying at home: get a housekeeper, travel every month, enjoy frequent restaurant meals, massages, and nights on the town. You can buy wear tailor-made clothes!



Eating local food and buying produce from the Chinese markets gives our English teachers amazing insight into the Chinese diet and a glimpse at traditional Eastern medicine. It also leaves them with money in their pockets for massages and traveling.

  • Milk (1L) : 7 RMB
  • Eggs (12) : 7 RMB
  • Carrots (1kg) : 5 RMB
  • Chicken breast (1kg) : 15 RMB
  • Rice (1kg) : 8 RMB
  • Bottle of water (1.5L) : 3 RMB
  • Bottle of Chinese beer (.5L) : 4 RMB



China has excellent, yet inexpensive public transport and even taxi rides are quite reasonably-priced, if sometimes harrowing. Chinese people often commute by bicycle, but this mode of transport is only for the bravest of foreigners.

  • Metro Ride : 3 RMB
  • Taxi rate per km : 2.2 RMB (start fare ~ 10RMB)
  • 20-min taxi ride across town : 25 RMB
  • City bus : 2 RMB
  • 3-hour bicycle rental : 8 RMB (plus 100RMB deposit, returned)
  • Ferry crossing : 2 RMB



Any traveler on a budget will love taking trains in China. Trains are numerous and increasingly high speed rail services connect large regional cities. Domestic flights are also usually inexpensive. There is some seasonal variation and prices rise during national holidays like Chinese New Year.

  • 1 night in a mid-range hotel : 350 RMB
  • High speed train, Guangzhou to Wuhan (3 hours): 490 RMB
  • Slow train, Guangzhou to Wuhan (10 hours) : 120 RMB
  • Flight, Guangzhou to Beijing (2 hours) : 800 RMB
  • Flight, Guangzhou to Bangkok (3 hours) : 1300 RMB



China has a wide range of regional cuisines and eating out is the best way to discover this variety. Chinese people eat out frequently and often entertain friends and colleagues in restaurants instead of having them into their homes. Whether you’re enjoying a meal with friends, working out at the fitness club, or getting a massage, you’ll find that leisure activities are often very affordable in China.

  • Three course mid-range restaurant dinner : 80 RMB
  • Quick restaurant meal of rice or noodles : 25 RMB
  • Large steamed dumplings, a common street food : 3 RMB
  • Housekeeper (2 hours) : 30 RMB
  • Massage (30 min) : 40 RMB
  • 1 month fitness club membership : 150 RMB
  • Movie ticket, international release : 65 RMB


To give you an idea of how a ESL teacher in China spends his or her salary, here is a sample monthly budget:

  • Gross Income (Salary) : Up to 13,500 RMB
  • Rent : 3000 RMB
  • Utilities (electricity, gas, water) : 200 RMB
  • Phone & Internet : 300 RMB
  • Food : 1500 RMB
  • Insurance : 295 RMB
  • Remaining Disposable Income : 8,205 RMB


As you can see from all of the examples above, living the western lifestyle is not so hard, but you pay the price (and really miss out on part of the whole experience in the process).

Whether you are looking for an opportunity to save money, or you’re looking to live month-to-month like a king. Both options are available and waiting for you in China and China’s cost of living can be whatever you make it.  My personal suggestion, live comfortably but never turn down a chance to try some dangerous looking street food or try your hand at cooking Chinese food. China’s cost of living can be whatever you make it. Life abroad is an adventure, treat it as such!


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