How much does it cost to travel in China?

This is my 5th time in China and once again I’m loving every second. Hopefully you guys are seeing another side to this massive country, different to the one the western media try to propagate (big factories, communist government, stifled people etc).


I thought I’d give an idea about how much it costs to travel in China on a daily basis, and from there calculate an approximate monthly budget that you can feasibly stick to:



China is home to the best hostels in the world, I’ll be sad to leave them behind. Most places with any tourist attractions will have a plethora of hostels to stay in, generally speaking a dorm bed costs around 25-50 RMB ($4-$8), with private twin/doubles costing around 100 RMB ($15).

If there are no hostels (rare), you can always stay in a chain hotel like Super 8 or 7 Days Inn for around 140 RMB ($20) for a twin room.

Average daily spend on accommodation: 40 RMB ($8)

best hostel in the world

Chinese hostels are the best in the world!


Chinese food isn’t quite what we get fed in the west, and it’s certainly not the same prices! A meal on the street runs around 8RMB ($1.30). A meal in a locals restaurant will cost around 15-30RMB ($2.50-$5). Obviously if you wanna eat western food or high end dining, you can pay a fortune but that’s not for backpackers, so steer clear!

Average daily spend for 2 or 3 meals: 30 RMB ($5)

chinese street food

Chinese street food is so cheap, portion of dumplings? $0.80!

Sights and activities:

This is where things can get a little pricey. The Chinese have a lot of very awesome things to see, and they don’t half know it. An amazing national park or a famous sight can cost around 200RMB ($30) for a ticket, but naturally that’s not an everyday event. If you can squeeze a couple of these a week in, you’ll be doing well.

Smaller temples, activities and sights etc and much more reasonable priced and cost around 10RMB ( $1.60).

Average daily spend for sights*: 70RMB ($11)

Calculated at 2 major sights per week, plus a minor sight per day 

The Summer Palace

The Summer Palace, Beijing


China is a huge country but the transport links are good, and if you’re willing to rough it, they can be quite cheap. A 10 hour bus will run around 65 RMB ($10), whereas a 10 hour train will run at 50RMB ($8) for a hard seat or 120RMB ($20) for a hard sleeper. So if you’re tightening your budget, use a train and take the seat!

Local transport within a city or area costs 2RMB ($0.30) per subway ride, or 1RMB ($0.15) per bus ride. Once you get your head around the transport system, it can work out very cheap indeed.

Average daily spend on transport*: 25RMB ($4)

Calculated at a 10 hour bus every other day

trains in china

Train from Beijing to Harbin

TOTAL DAILY BUDGET FOR CHINA: $28 per day + $5 wiggle room



So for around $900 per month you can take China by storm. Remember, if you wanna stick to a budget like this you always have to consider what you’re buying, is the extra comfort worth the extra money? Should you eat on the street? Do you wanna hold a panda for an extra $200? China is still a cheap country to travel in, so get here soon before they take over the world. Happy travels!

11 thoughts on “How much does it cost to travel in China?

  1. Jonny Blair

    Hi Johnny – nice post and pretty much spot on – agree with the “Chinese Hostels are the best in the world” bit. I have travelled quite extensively through China since 2007 – 15 visits now (most of them in the last 2 years since basing myself in Hong Kong) and I LOVE IT. I have backpacked a lot in the last 10 years and China is still one of the cheapest places. I cant understand why so many travellers head to places like Thailand, Cambodia etc. instead of China.

    An important thing to note about travelling in China in my opinion is to avoid places like Beijing and Shanghai. Sure theyre good and lots to see and do, but to get the taste of real China backpackers need to head to real Chinese towns and cities like Ljiang, Shuhe, Yongding, Xiamen, Chongqing, SHaoguan etc. Whenyou get to places like that you can get by on $10 US a day easily. Amazing!

    The sightseeing part is definitely the most expensive part though. The beer is ridiculously cheap – like 20p for a small tin in some remote rural towns.

    The biggest problem with China is its size. After 15 visits I have still only been to parts of 9 of the 29 provinces an despite having seen a lot of it, I feel it could take years to see the whole country. Once I hit the 100 country mark, I’ll be planning to visit all 29 provinces of China. You and your readers can check some of my really remote China stuff on my blog:

    Safe travels, Jonny

  2. Stacey

    How recent were these prices? I’m thinking of heading to China next year and am looking into what kind of budget I’d need…

  3. Alexander

    Excellent post! Fits my budget plan pretty good. I will soon be backpacking China, so its very interesting to read all your posts right now. Alot of the places you have been (zhangjiajie, beijing, chengdu, leshan, yangshuo) is on my initiary :) .. I’ll fly to Thailand the 30th april and spent one and a half month and then take a boat to china (not the illegal way that you did haha).. Check out my blog for updates!


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