How much do everyday things cost in China?
For many the cost of living in China can vary wildly. For me and my family we are “fully” local and make do with spending much less than a newbie would when they first come to China because most shops, services, or housing options aimed at the non Chinese market are on the expensive side and until you have got used to how things work in China you might be spending way more than you have to if you are unfamiliar with the prices in China for daily necessities.
What are the real prices in China for everyday things?
I want to talk about the smaller costs that come up in a normal persons daily life? What should you budget for transportation, food, and clothing?
Transportation costs while travelling around China
You have the choice of taxis, buses, metros and cars and bikes to rent which should cover most of your travelling needs here in China.
Public transportation in China is really cheap compared to what I was paying in the U.K. If you want to go on a 10-kilometer ride in one of Beijing’s air-conditioned buses, the fare is only 2 yuan.
A ticket for the Beijing subway starts at 3 yuan, and there are metro cards with reduced fares for frequent passengers.
Even a taxi ride halfway across Beijing can cost as little as 50 yuan.
Transportation in Shanghai is a little more expensive, but not by much. A one-way ticket for the local metro costs 4 yuan.
With a population of over a billion people public transport is going to get a little crowded specially in rush hours. That said where I live in Baoding I can catch most buses with only a few people on board.
You can also rent a bike and peddle around for about 1 yuan an hour. There are many rental bike companies so you have the choice to pick one you like, get a package on an app and pay as little as 20 yuan a month if you are a regular user.
Driving a car in China
I own a car and for the money it was a great deal. However the local municipal governments restrict cars from driving one day of the week from Monday to Friday which is a pain sometimes. I didn’t get a reduction in price because I can’t use the car for a day a week!
Of course the prices in China you pay for a car is whatever your budget will allow, but cars start for as little as 40,000 yuan for a family car.
Petrol (gas) is cheaper than the U.K. at about 6 yuan a litre (2021) so it doesn’t break the bank every time we fill up. I get my car serviced every year and it costs about 200 yuan each service.
Our car insurance is a fully comprehensive package that costs about 2000 yuan a year, which is really cheap when you then factor in that it’s the car that is insured and not the people driving. We both drive so it works out really cheap.
When we fly anywhere we always rent a car and renting a car can cost as little as 100 yuan a day depending on where you hire the car. We spend most holidays in Sanya and we get a nice compact car, with air con for between 80 to 100 yuan a day every time.
Shopping for groceries in China
Buying your own groceries instead of eating out for each meal will save you a fortune in China. That said, we are guilty of ordering food almost everyday as it is so cheap, two meals can cost as little as 20 to 40 yuan. Sometimes we have even tried to workout if the cost of the food would be cheaper to buy than the ordered food because the prices in China can be so low and we sometimes struggle to do so.
What I call western groceries that are more unusual for Chinese cuisine – such as dairy or imported brands – have the prices to match: for a litre of milk or 100g cheese, you could spend 15 yuan or more. Likewise, international supermarket chains, can be more expensive than their Chinese counterparts.
Let’s get serious for a moment. How much is beer?
Beer is so cheap I have seen it for sale cheaper than bottled water! A local 500ml branded bottle of Chinese beer can cost as little as 3 yuan. And yes, China does have a drinking problem. Their local liquor (Baijiu – pronounced buy-g-o) is also ridiculously cheap, costing from 10 to 40 yuan for a 1000ml bottle!
Dining out in China
When it comes to dining out, your choices and prices will vary greatly. You can buy some Chinese snacks from a street vendor and fill your belly for less than 5 yuan, but a combo meal at McDonald’s or a regular cappuccino at Starbucks may cost up to 40 yuan.
If you go out for dinner at a Western-style restaurant, you need to spend at least 100-200 yuan per person, but a meal at a mid-range Chinese restaurant will cost about half that amount.
In Beijing, you can eat out and enjoy a typical Chinese hotpot for about 50 yuan per person. However a favourite with tourists, Peking duck at high-end restaurants, is much more expensive running at more than 300 to 500 yuan for a whole roasted bird.
Eat where the locals eat and you won’t spend more more than 100 yuan a day on food.
Buying clothes in China
China is a shopping paradise when it comes to buying clothes, I should know Aviva is an expert clothes shopper! We have all the brands you know and 100’s of others you have never heard off. Whatever you want to buy you can find it here in China.
Prices for clothing varies depending on whether you are a label buyer or not. Labels are definitely a little cheaper than back in the U.K. But your real saving is buying “normal” clothes online. As a family we nearly do all our clothes shopping using Taobao (except for shoes for us, but kids yes) we save a fortune buying online probably saving at least 70% on the price of our clothing bill. Like most people we do have a weakness however and that is H&M. Usually we pop into our local store nearly every week to pick up something in a sale, they are constantly having sales!
The Cost in China for tailored Clothing is Really Low
For me larger sizes aren’t easily available and proportions and cuts are often different than back home, and even our favourite H&M seem to make the clothes smaller than the label suggests, I guess this is to suit the smaller Chinese frame.
If I can’t find something that fits I can have it made! It’s fairly cheap to have clothes custom-made in China. For example I had my wedding suit custom made for 500 yuan and it still fits today. You can have anything made to order in China and when you compare the quality it always works our cheaper to have something nice made.
We regularly spend less than a 2000 yuan a week and that is for a family of 4. If you calculate the cost of living here compared to the U.K. I always tell my friends I live a lifestyle triple of what I could in the U.K.
If you really want to know how much something costs, and what the prices in China are for something then just ask in the comments section below and I will tell you!