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Travel Budget for China Question

“Hey Wade, read your site for quite some time now and am currently in the preliminary stages of planning a trip to China. I’m curious as to what you think someone traveling solo could expect to pay per day. I realize you preach the 10-15 per day anywhere motto. I like this. Is this reasonably [...]

“Hey Wade, read your site for quite some time now and am currently in the preliminary stages of planning a trip to China. I’m curious as to what you think someone traveling solo could expect to pay per day. I realize you preach the 10-15 per day anywhere motto. I like this. Is this reasonably easy to do in China?” -Tim

Hello,

It’s true, anywhere in the world can be traveled on $10 per day. But this often demands going into extreme budget travel mode and fending for your own transportation and shelter while cooking meals for yourself  multiple times per week. If you’re not up for hiking/ biking/ hitchhiking , sleeping in your own tent, and cooking your own food, and you like going to attractions that have entrance fees then it’s my impression that it would be challenging to travel through China on a $10 – $15 per day budget.

To speak bluntly, the prices in China have rose sharply in recent years, and it is becoming a major issue for the people who live here. This is no longer a super cheap country for travel. If you’re taking public transport, sleeping in hostels and hotels, eating in restaurants, going to tourist attractions, taking tours, and changing cities once or twice per week expect to drop between $20 – $40 per day.

The real kicker here as far as a daily budget is concerned is the cost of entrance fees to attractions. Even gardens are now charging $10 -$17 admission fees, not to mention the cost of entering the big and famous sites. Even small, local attractions now have $5 – $10 entrance fees — unbelievable. If your plan is to DO THINGS in China or go to the attractions that you see in the tourist brochures expect to pay out for it big time. But if you’re not really interested in going to the tourist sites then the cost of traveling in this country likewise drop considerably.

I do not want to say that it’s impossible to travel here on $15 per day — I pretty much do it, so it can be done. If you’re living simple, enjoy the free attractions, dig the street life, eating from street stalls and local restaurants, staying in hostel dormitories, and traveling by train, you can still probably travel China for well under $20 daily. It just takes some motivation, tact, discipline, and a genuine interest in the culture and places that you will be surround by.

The following is a run down of budget expenses in China:

  • Dorm bed: $5 – $7 per night
  • Budget hotel room: $12 – $25
  • Bowl of beef noodles: $1 – $2.25
  • Meal of a meat and vegetable dishes and rice: $3
  • Bus: $4 – $5 per hour
  • Train: less than $2.50 per hour
  • Entrance fees to attractions: expensive
  • Liter of local beer in a supermarket: less than $1

Keep in mind that the cost of traveling in China decreases in the west of the country. The prices in Yunnan, Qinghai, Sichuan provinces etc . .  drop by roughly 30% over the cities in the east of the country. The overall estimates I give here are for someone who wishes to travel in both regions — if choosing one or the other then plan accordingly.

As always, it is possible to travel anywhere in the world on $10 a day, just as it’s also possible to drop $100 daily. Coming up with travel budgets often has more to do with your travel preferences than the actual prices in a given country. While China is no longer a super for the traveler with a little effort it can still be traverse on a relatively small daily budget.

Filed under: Budget Travel, China

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 89 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3465 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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Wade Shepard is currently in: Prague, Czech Republic

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  • Tim June 14, 2012, 2:46 pm

    Sounds like im buying a tent! Thanks for the response,definitely a help.
    -Tim

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    • Wade Shepard June 14, 2012, 10:14 pm

      Excellent! Glad that you found the response. What parts of China are you considering traveling in?

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  • Tim June 15, 2012, 1:20 pm

    I would like to do some biking/walking in the southeast. I kind of want to plan a route and then walk or bike it. Im keeping up with the stuff your writing while your in china. I have to say the timing is great,getting a first hand account is awesome. Definitely will take any recommendations you have for fun places to check out!

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    • Wade Shepard June 15, 2012, 8:07 pm

      Sounds like an excellent plan. The SE is otherworldly, for sure.

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  • Jimmy June 23, 2012, 2:18 am

    Wade, if you lived like a local, a simple life, how much would it cost per month to live in China? $500 a month? No women or alcohol, or travel. Just setting up in one spot, and enjoying the simple life, and eating like the locals. ***My only requirement is that apartment would have to be in a nice area. No slum dog for me.*** I love to people watch, no tourist attractions, alcohol or women for me. Thank you.

    JImmy

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    • Wade Shepard June 23, 2012, 6:28 am

      Sure, it is possible to live here on way under $500 per month. But it really helps if you can speak some Mandarin.

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