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Cost of Living in China

Unsurprisingly, the cost of living varies a lot depending on the city you live in and your lifestyle choices. It is easy to spend 1000 yuan (just over 100 GBP) at a nice bar in Beijing downtown, whilst it will take some doing to spend the same amount at a similar establishment in a third-tier city. However, even in Beijing the food and transportation will be a fraction of the cost of what you would be spending back home, whilst similarly to elsewhere in the world, accommodation would be the biggest expense.


Expect to pay at least 2,500-3,500 yuan a month for a room in a shared apartment in Beijing or Shanghai. If you are not keen on sharing, the costs will be between 4,000 – 8,000 yuan for a single apartment depending on how central the location is. You’ll also have to pay for electricity, water, gas and internet. On average utilities for a single apartment are around 400-600 yuan a month.

The rent is cheaper in second tier cities. For example, in Chengdu a nice one-bedroom flat would cost between 3,000 – 6,000 yuan per month, and shared apartments would be as low as 1,200 yuan per person.


It is easy to set up cheap ‘pay as you go’ contracts with either China Mobile or China Unicom. The cost will typically be between 60-100 yuan per month.


Typical lunch in Beijing costs between 20-40 yuan. Anything Western and the price instantly doubles, if not triples. Going out for a meal in the evening would on average cost between 60 - 100 yuan for a midrange restaurant. The prices are lower in smaller cities, where it is possible to splurge for 60 yuan.

Generally, from the teacher experience, the food expenses come to around 1,000 yuan in a second-tier city and about 2,000 yuan in Beijing. This would be without trying to save and live economically. However, for those who frequent Starbucks and Western grocery stores, the overall expenses will be higher. 


The subway and buses are cheap; standard daily cost would be between 6-10 yuan. Taxis are becoming more expensive, especially in Shanghai and Beijing, but are still much cheaper than those that you’ll find in Europe or the United States.

Compare the living expenses

There are a number of websites available providing price comparison statistics between various cities. If you want to see how your current living costs compare to a city in China you are considering to move to, we can recommend a website like Expatistan for a general estimate.