Cost of living in China: Your guide


Maybe you’ve been dreaming of trying the delicious cuisine, sampling the rich culture, seeing the historical sites, or just the taking advantage of the inexpensive cost of living. Whatever your reason, it’s no surprise that relocating to China has piqued your interest.

Whether you’re retiring, temporarily relocating or moving to China for good, this guide will walk you through all the most important things you need to know about how your new home will affect your finances.

How expensive is China in comparison to other countries?

One of the biggest financial factors you’ll contend with after you move is exchanging your money from your home country into renminbi, China’s currency. While many banks and other services will take care of this for you, it’s fairly common for them to use a marked up exchange rate in order to see a bigger profit on your transaction. It’s a good idea to use an online currency converter to check on the real rate, so you can keep an eye on any transaction fees hidden within the exchange rate. You can also use Wise to ensure you’re getting the same fair rate you find on Google while also cutting back on transfer fees.

Money in China is usually written as ¥ or CNY, and isn’t usually called by it’s real name, renminbi. It’s more typically referred to as Chinese yuan. The list below shows the approximate value of the yuan at the time of writing, compared to a few major currencies:

  • $1000 = ¥6,700
  • £1000 = ¥8,700
  • €1000 = ¥7,800
  • A$1000 = ¥5,300
Comparing basic cost of living1 bedroom flat in city centre (monthly rent)meal for 2 (mid range restaurant, three course)transportation (monthly pass)
Beijing, China¥6,441.18¥160.00¥200
Shanghai, China¥6,805.88¥200.00¥200.00
London, UK¥14,754.07¥482.70¥1,148.58
New York City, USA¥20,378.12¥507.49¥811.99
Berlin, Germany¥5,903.04¥314.75¥637.36
Sydney, Australia¥14,010.06¥427.32¥854.64

What are the most expensive and cheapest major cities?

The five most expensive cities to live in in China are:

  1. Shanghai
  2. Shenzhen
  3. Beijing
  4. Sanya
  5. Hangzhou

What are general living expenses like in China?

Total Living Expenses in ShanghaiAverage cost
1 person, per month (without rent)¥4,327.53
1 person, per year (without rent)¥51,930.36
student, per month¥2,350.00
4 person family, per month (without rent¥16,005.46
4 person family, per year (without rent)¥192,065
Total Living Expenses in BeijingAverage cost
1 person, per month (without rent)¥3,643.56
1 person, per year (without rent)¥43,722.72
student, per month¥2500
4 person family, per month (without rent¥13,412.63
4 person family, per year (without rent)¥160.951.56

What are the average salaries in China?

If you’re not going to continue working for the same company you did in your home country, you may find your pay rate in China is vastly different, even for a fairly similar job. While Chinese salaries can sometimes seem low when directly translated, compared to the affordable cost of living you’re sure to find that you’re making more than enough to sustain a pretty high quality of life.

Salary averages for ShanghaiAverage salary
financial analyst¥317,603
graphic designer¥269,578
mobile developer¥345,223
product manager¥347,706
software engineer¥217,849
web developer¥261,611
Salary averages for BeijingAverage salary
financial analyst¥317,603
graphic designer¥311,700
mobile developer¥264,671
product manager¥462,413
software engineer¥333,180
web developer¥246,350

How expensive is housing and accommodation in China?

No matter where you live, rent will typically take up the bulk of your budget, and China is no exception. This table should give you an idea of how much you can expect to pay in China’s two biggest cities.

Renting in ShanghaiAverage monthly cost
large apartment¥10,801
medium apartment¥8,101
small apartment¥4,928
student dorm room¥1,350
Renting in BeijingAverage monthly cost
large apartment¥10,801
medium apartment¥8,101
small apartment¥5,400
student dorm room¥1,500

What about healthcare and dental costs in China?

All in all, healthcare in China isn’t all that expensive as compared to Europe or North America. While costs have a significant range depending on whether you see a general practitioner or a specialist, the Dongguan health department recently found that the average cost of a doctor’s visit is about ¥155.

How much is travel and transportation costs in China?

Getting around in China can look a lot different than transportation in other countries. Because the cities are so densely populated, it’s much more common to get around by bike, motorbike or public transportation than by car. Even in rural areas, you’ll find more people on two wheels than four.

Transportation and vehicle prices for ChinaAverage cost
gasoline (1 litre / 0.25 gallon)¥6.03
monthly bus/transport pass¥120.00
bus ticket, single use¥2.00
taxi tariff, 30 minutes¥16.00
Toyota Corolla, new¥128,802.20
VW Golf, new¥150,000.00

How much does education cost?

China’s public school system covers all children to age 18, though it’s not uncommon for parents to opt for private or international school. It’s also important to consider the cost of university when calculating how much to set aside for your or your child’s education.

SchoolAverage yearly cost
preschool / kindergarten¥5,669.40
private school for lower grades¥190,829.97
Tsinghua University tuition¥20,000-40,000
Peking University tuition¥26,000-30,000

While costs in China are typically quite low, it’s also a good idea to consider the tariffs on imported goods; you’ll find it’s much less expensive to embrace Chinese life and say “see you later” to your favorite name brands from home. All in all, living in China isn’t too expensive, and you’re sure to enjoy the lifestyle that cheap price point affords. Enjoy living in China!

*Please see terms of use and product availability for your region or visit Wise fees and pricing for the most up to date pricing and fee information.

This publication is provided for general information purposes and does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its subsidiaries and its affiliates, and it is not intended as a substitute for obtaining advice from a financial advisor or any other professional.

We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether expressed or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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