Cost of Living in China

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Cost of Living in China

Postby inbeijing » Thu Jul 31, 2014 8:09 pm

Many expats are lured abroad to China by lucrative salary packages, and these allow them to live a far more luxurious life than many locals. However, be aware that a Western lifestyle will come at a price in China. Expats planning to move to China should carefully evaluate their level of comfort, research the associated cost of living, and negotiate their contract accordingly.

An expat's cost of living in China will depend on their lifestyle, although it is easy to minimise day-to-day costs depending on how much luxury a person wants to live in and how far they will go to re-create the way they lived at home.

The cost of purchasing imported, Western-style brands and goods will be significantly more expensive - cereal in particular is exorbitant. Not to mention, prices associated with items that are not typically Chinese, like dairy and wine, will also be higher.

On the other hand, local products and services are widely available and incredibly affordable. Fresh produce and food stuffs, clothing, entertainment and domestically manufactured electronics are all very reasonably priced in China.

As in most destinations, the cost of living in the larger, urban centres will far exceed that of the small, rural villages. Beijing and Shanghai, in particular, claim cost of livings on par with major European capitals.

Cost of transport in China

Transportation costs can be minimal for someone based in a big city with a reliable public transit system. Public transport in main Chinese cities like Beijing, Shanghai or Guangzhou is very affordable. The subway is about 2 RMB per ride, while the bus is 1 RMB per ride. Many people choose to cycle or ride scooters, which is the easiest and cheapest way to get around in China for short distances.

By contrast, driving in China can be treacherous, and expensive at that. A leased vehicle can cost nearly as much as a second rent, petrol isn't cheap, and in many cases it's necessary to hire a driver. A mid-range car with a driver in Beijing can easily cost 10,000 RMB a month excluding petrol – as much as a second apartment.

Cost of food and eating out in China

Cost of food in ChinaEating out in restaurants is affordable, depending on the establishment. An expat could eat breakfast out for as little as 10 RMB or more realistically spend up to 30 RMB. Lunch is as little as 15 RMB upwards, depending on whether a hungry expat is buying Western food or eating local cuisine. Typically, a good Western lunch can be around 80 RMB per person. A fancy brunch or dinner can cost around 600 RMB per person, but it is possible to get a decent Chinese meal for 35 to 110 RMB per person. A typical Western dinner will cost about 100 to 200 RMB per head.

Cost of accommodation in China

For the most part, an expat living in this superpower will find their largest expense to be accommodation, especially for those basing themselves in Beijing or Shanghai. In these over-populated commercial centres the closer the accommodation is to the city centre, the more expensive it tends to be.

In Beijing, rent for a 50 sq. metre apartment can be as low as 3,000 RMB per month, but expats will typically spend 5,000 RMB up to RMB 35,000 per month on accommodation in China. A decent 200 sq. metre apartment with two bathrooms and three to four bedrooms can be found for about RMB 13,000 a month in an old apartment block. The same place in a new, one- or two-year old building can easily cost two or three times that amount.

Typically, expats will congregate in the same suburbs with higher-than-average accommodation prices, and often near the CBD. A general rule in Beijing and Shanghai is that the closer one is to the city centre, the higher the price of accommodation.

Cost of schooling in China

Expats who relocate with children will also find that the costs attached to international schooling can be astronomical, in some cases higher than tuition for a year of university in their home country. An average school year for a primary school-going child will cost about RMB 120,000, and this cost increases as the child ages. It's best for expats to try and negotiate school fees into their contract since most companies would provide an allowance.

Cost of living in China chart 2014 (based on Shanghai)
(Note that prices may vary depending on product and service provider and the list below shows average prices)
Accommodation (monthly rent from unfurnished to furnished)
Furnished 2 bedroom apartment RMB 10,000
Unfurnished 2 bedroom apartment RMB 8,500
Food and drink
Milk (1 litre) RMB 15
Cheese (500g) RMB 107
Dozen Eggs RMB 14
White Bread RMB 14
Rice (1kg) RMB 7
1 packet of cigarettes (Marlboro) RMB 15
Public transportation
City centre bus/train fare RMB 3
Taxi rate per km RMB 3
Eating out
Big Mac Meal RMB 25
Coca Cola (330ml) RMB 3.50
Cappuccino RMB 30
Bottle of beer RMB 35
Three course meal at a mid-range restaurant RMB 250
Internet uncapped ADSL per month 140 RMB
Electricity (average per month for standard household) 370 RMB

Be happy no matter what....

Beijing New Citizens
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Joined: Mon Jan 26, 2015 8:59 pm

Re: Cost of Living in China

Postby lucycase » Tue Jan 27, 2015 8:39 pm

Compared to the U.S. the cost of living in China is certainly less, although, if you plan to live in cities such as Hong Kong or Shangai it will cost you a little more.

If you plan to move to China - many people seem to be doing it lately - you should know that the country appeals to foreigners because of its rich culture, low cost of living, advanced facilities, its tradition and friendly people.

Buying a home in China is not a problem, since there are a number of affordable houses there.

If you plan to stay in China even after you retire, the country offers plenty of retirement options that certainly will suit your taste. Retirees don't have to worry about amenities and services, since these are easily available at much cheaper rates, so, you can relax and enjoy your golden years without any worries.

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