Cost of living in China: An item by item comparison

One of the biggest questions I get about what it is like living in China is about how much it really costs to live here. How much are the basic living expenses like rent and food? How much does it cost to go out and have a meal with friends? How much will transportation cost?

Money can be a big factor when deciding to move to a new country, which is why China is such a popular destination for ESL teachers. When new teachers arrive, they quickly realize that things that were too expensive back home are easily affordable here. I’ve narrowed it down to a list of items that show the price comparison of what I pay now to what I paid right before I moved abroad so you can get an idea of what life could be like for you in China.

 

Housing:

Cost of housing will depend on a few things like if you live with roommates, where in the city you live, and how big the apartment is. In my first year as a teacher I lived in a studio apartment 10 minutes from my school for 4,000 RMB a month. On the other hand, my friends lived with roommates and paid 3,000 RMB. In comparison, back in the states I lived an apartment with 3 other people on the outside of town in Maine – which has lower costs than New York City or Los Angeles. Here’s what the cost of living looked like for me when I first for to China compared to my life in the States.

China United States:
Studio Apartment:
4,000 RMB = $576
Bedroom in 4-person apartment:
$700
Wi-Fi:
50-100 RMB /month = $7-$14
Wi-Fi
$25/ person in 4 bedrooms
Electricity and water:
100-200 RMB / month – $15-$30
Electricity and water:
$50-$100
Phone data:
59 RMB = $8.50 for 4 GB/month
Phone plan:
$50-$100/month

 

Food:

Food can be very inexpensive in China! Eating locally will save you money and keep you full with the large portions. Not to mention there isn’t anything more fun than sitting at a street barbeque with all of your coworkers enjoying cheap food and great company. Western food will be comparable to the prices at home – but when you first get here you won’t be able to get enough of the delicious cuisine and low prices!

China United States:
Meal at a local restaurant:
20-50 RMB = $2-$7
Meal at a restaurant:
$10-$20:
Milk tea:
10-15 RMB = $2
Starbucks Latte:
$4
Sandwich:
40-70 RMB = $5 – $10
Sandwich:
$7-$10
Rice:
A giant bag which lasts me about 6 months
30 RMB = $4
Rice:
1 small box for $4
Broccoli:
10 RMB = $1
Broccoli:
$3-4
Apples:
14 RMB = $2
Apples:
$4
Bottled water:
3 RMB = $0.50
Bottled water:
$1

 

Transportation:

Getting around in China is cheap and easy to do! All major cities have an easy to use public transportation system. There are even some memberships you can buy to use the shared bikes for dollars a month. There’s no need to worry about car payments, insurance, or expensive taxis here!

China United States:
Metro:
3RMB = $0.43
Subway:
$2.50
Bus:
2 RMB = $0.29
Bus:
$2
Bike Share:
2 RMB = $0.29
Bike Share:
This wasn’t an option for me in the US
10 minute Didi ride:
14-30 RMB = $2-$4
10 minute Uber ride:
$12-$20

 

Entertainment:

On your days off from teaching you’re going to want to explore and hang out with your friends in your new city! There are so many fun things to do in China whether that be cultural experiences or going to see a movie (they have them in English too!) with some friends or singing at your local KTV. Getting yourself pampered can also be a lot cheaper here with low cost massages, manicures, and haircuts.

China United States:
Movie ticket:
30-50 RMB = $4-$7
Movie ticket:
$10-$12
Chinese Movie Streaming subscription:
10 RMB/ month
Netflix:
$15/month
1 hour foot and back massage:
100 RMB = $14
1 hour massage:
$50-$100
Manicure:
20 – 100 RMB = $3- $14
Manicure:
$15-$50
Men’s Haircut:
50-100 RMB = $7-$15
Men’s Haircut:
$15-$20
Women’s Haircut:
200-400 RMB = $30 – $45
Women’s Haircut:
$30-$50

 

The cost of living in China has been one of the biggest reasons I’ve continued to live here past my first year. I was able to live in an apartment by myself, eat out for almost every meal, and spend less than $2 a day on transportation which seemed impossible when I was living at home in the States. I was able to use all of the money I saved from my living expenses to travel within China and to three other Asian countries. If you’re tired of paying for your expensive car and phone plan back home, then China is the perfect place to change that. Come and save money and see the world!

 

Post by: Skye Dole

 

Are you ready to explore China?

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