How much does it cost to backpack in China? (on a budget!)

How much does it cost to backpack in China? Well, 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 if you’re on a budge. And from there calculate an approximate monthly budget that you can feasibly stick to. For sure, China offers a lot of luxury these days too, but this article is more about backpacking China without much money. True travel!

Accommodation Costs

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 dorm-room accommodation: 40 RMB ($8)

best hostel in the world
Chinese hostels are the best in the world!

Food Costs in China

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 want to 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 activity costs in China

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 reasonably priced and cost around 10RMB ($1.60) per sight.

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

Transport in China costs

China is a huge country but the transport links are good. So f 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 third day

trains in china
Train from Beijing to Harbin; backpack in China


$28 per day + $5 wiggle room

Plus, cheap travel insurance is just $9 a week

So, is it expensive to travel in China?

If you’re on a backpacker budget, as I used to be, it can be cheap. For around $900 per month, you can take backpack in China. That’s $30 a day, or so. Remember, if you want to stick to a budget like this you always have to consider what you’re buying. Always think ‘is the extra comfortable train to Harbin Ice Festival, rather than the slow train, worth the extra money? Should you eat on the street? Do you want to 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 and crank their prices. Happy travels!

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