Cost of living in China

Jan 14, 2019

The cost of living in China depends on the city in which you live (Beijing and Shanghai for example are much more expensive than secondary cities such as Chengdu or Kunming, which in turn are more expensive than smaller cities and countryside) and your lifestyle (if you like drinking whiskey and cola in the elegant bars of Shanghai and buy extra virgin olive oil at the City Shop you will spend more than those who shop at Perry’s – a bar for students on Huai Hai Road where a bottle of Tsingdao beer will cost you 10 Yuan – and those who only eat Chinese food).

Expect to pay at least 2,500-3,500 Yuan a month for a room in a shared apartment in Beijing or Shanghai (at least if you don’t want to live in the deep peripheries). In other cities the rent is much more economical but it depends on the individual case. You’ll also have to pay for electricity, water gas and internet. According to our data you shouldn’t spend more than 400-600 Yuan a month. The expenses are for the entire apartment so if you live with others you should pay just a portion.

You’ll also need a cell phone. In general, 100 Yuan a month should be enough (also counting internet) but depends on your use.

A meal could cost you only 10-15 Yuan for a plate of jiaozi (ravioli) or of lamian (noodles). If however you want to eat meat and fish regularly and visit elegant restaurants, prices rice quickly. It depends on your diet.

The subway and buses are still economical; let’s say 5 yuan a day (or 150 yuan a month). Taxis are becoming expensive, especially in Shanghai and Beijing, but are still much cheaper than those that you’ll find in Europe or the United States.

Let’s review: Apartment Rent (at least 3,000 Yuan) + utilities (at least 200 Yuan) + telephone bills (100 Yuan, with internet) + food (at least 2,100 Yuan for a high quality diet, at least 1,100 Yuan for a diet that includes a lot of rice, pasta and potatoes) + transportation (at least 150 Yuan) = 4,500-5,500 Yuan a month.

Let’s say, therefore that the starting point is 4,500 Yuan a month in Beijing or Shanghai. Clearly you should add expenses for entertainment (travel, dining out, alcohol, cigarettes, some tea), clothes, health insurance, visas, international flights, and unforeseen expenses.

Keep in mind that in China it is very common to perceive different benefits beyond just salary. This can go from 5 Kg of rice for the Spring Festival up to total reimbursement for rent, transportation within the interior of the country (even taxis), health insurance, visas and an international flight a year.

 This article will only give the readers an idea on what is the amount necessary to SURVIVE. The calculation is done for a single person.We cannot forecast each reader’s situation. People who come to China with children, the situation will be totally different. The private or international schools are not cheap in China.

Here we will also give a price table for living cost in first class cities (take Suzhou as an example) :

Restaurants  Price(¥) Range(¥)
Meal, Inexpensive Restaurant 25.00 20.00-35.00
Meal for 2 People 135.00 100.00-200.00
McMeal at McDonalds (or Equivalent Combo Meal) 30.00 28.00-30.00
Domestic Beer (0.5 liter draught) 9.00 5.00-12.00
Imported Beer (0.33 liter bottle) 15.00 8.00-20.00
Cappuccino (regular) 29.29 20.00-35.00
Coke/Pepsi (0.33 liter bottle) 3.96 2.80-6.00
Water (0.33 liter bottle) 2.44 2.00-3.00
Milk (regular), (1 liter) 12.28 8.00-16.00
Loaf of Fresh White Bread (500g) 11.56 6.00-20.00
Rice (white), (1kg) 5.00 5.00-5.00
Eggs (regular) (12) 13.40 5.40-20.00
Local Cheese (1kg) 68.00 50.00-86.00
Chicken Breasts (Boneless, Skinless), (1kg) 27.50 8.00-33.07
Beef Round (1kg) (or Equivalent Back Leg Red Meat) 68.33 60.00-80.00
Apples (1kg) 11.00 8.00-16.00
Banana (1kg) 6.44 4.00-12.00
Oranges (1kg) 7.67 5.51-14.00
Tomato (1kg) 6.00 3.00-12.00
Potato (1kg) 6.33 4.00-10.00
Onion (1kg) 5.50 4.00-6.00
Lettuce (1 head) 5.00 2.00-8.00
Water (1.5 liter bottle) 3.90 3.00-5.00
Bottle of Wine (Mid-Range) 50.00 45.00-60.00
Domestic Beer (0.5 liter bottle) 3.67 3.00-5.00
Imported Beer (0.33 liter bottle) 11.00 8.00-12.00
Cigarettes 20 Pack (Marlboro) 19.00 18.00-20.00
One-way Ticket (Local Transport) 2.00 1.20-2.00
Monthly Pass (Regular Price) 75.00 50.00-100.00
Taxi Start (Normal Tariff) 12.00 10.00-13.00
Taxi 1km (Normal Tariff) 2.00 1.80-2.80
Taxi 1hour Waiting (Normal Tariff) 48.50 32.00-65.00
Gasoline (1 liter) 6.75 6.00-7.80
Volkswagen Golf 1.4 90 KW Trendline (Or Equivalent New Car) 150,000.00 140,000.00-150,000.00
Toyota Corolla 1.6l 97kW Comfort (Or Equivalent New Car) 145,933.33 125,000.00-160,000.00
Utilities (Monthly)
Basic (Electricity, Heating, Cooling, Water, Garbage) for 85m2 Apartment 386.12 251.85-566.67
1 min. of Prepaid Mobile Tariff Local (No Discounts or Plans) 0.17 0.10-0.20
Internet (60 Mbps or More, Unlimited Data, Cable/ADSL) 87.83 60.00-100.00
Sports And Leisure
Fitness Club, Monthly Fee for 1 Adult 284.72 166.00-500.00
Tennis Court Rent (1 Hour on Weekend) 50.00 50.00-50.00
Cinema, International Release, 1 Seat 35.00 30.00-50.00
Preschool (or Kindergarten), Full Day, Private, Monthly for 1 Child 5,500.00 2,500.00-12,000.00
International Primary School, Yearly for 1 Child 146,800.00 70,000.00-210,000.00
Clothing And Shoes
1 Pair of Jeans (Levis 501 Or Similar) 225.00 60.00-600.00
1 Summer Dress in a Chain Store (Zara, H&M, …) 245.00 200.00-350.00
1 Pair of Nike Running Shoes (Mid-Range) 464.29 350.00-700.00
1 Pair of Men Leather Business Shoes 566.67 200.00-1,200.00
Apartment rent in Suzhou 
Apartment (1 bedroom) in City Centre 3,144.44 2,000.00-4,500.00
Apartment (1 bedroom) Outside of Centre 2,071.43 1,000.00-3,000.00
Apartment (3 bedrooms) in City Centre 5,928.57 4,500.00-8,000.00
Apartment (3 bedrooms) Outside of Centre 3,933.33 2,500.00-5,000.00
Buy Apartment Price
Price per Square Meter to Buy Apartment in City Centre 28,000.00 20,000.00-35,000.00
Price per Square Meter to Buy Apartment Outside of Centre 18,500.00 14,000.00-20,000.00
Salaries And Financing
Average Monthly Net Salary (After Tax) 6,150.00
Mortgage Interest Rate in Percentages (%), Yearly, for 20 Years Fixed-Rate 4.97 4.15-5.50

Prices in Suzhou

These data are based on 416 entries in the past 18 months from 45 different contributors on
Last update: January 2019


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