What Does It Cost Per Day to Travel In China?

If you know how to save money in China, you can travel for cheap. I mean....really cheap.

So what will it cost to travel in China? We have identified six categories (Airfare, accommodation, food, public transportation, attractions, and domestic train / plane tickets) and will suggest our best tips to keep your travel costs down. t. If you know how to save money in China, you can travel for cheap. I mean....really cheap.


Airfare - Book your airfare to China in the low season

So you would like to know what is a very cheap price for a round trip ticket to Beijing or Shanghai? If you can book a ticket for under $1000 round trip in the low season, its very cheap. In the peak season, a cheap fare is around $1500 and up.

According to our sources at FlyChina.com, the cheapest departure dates are in January, February, March, April, and November. You can also set low price alerts to scout out good deals.

Generally, I have found Fly China to have the cheapest air tickets to China.




Hotels, hostels, and accommodations - Stick to hostels

China has a GREAT network of hostels. By sticking to hostels, you will save loads of money. I have always had great experiences staying in hostel dormitory beds. Dormitory beds are rooms, which have been divided up to host multiple travelers or groups at a fraction of the cost. There is no better way to make friends, find travel companions, and learn about other exciting attractions and experiences from fellow travelers.

The best part is the cost. For example, Qianmen hostel (My preferred hostel in Beijing) is located right in the middle of Beijing. Dorm beds on hostel world for tonight (4/24/2013) are running just over 70 Yuan a night. A budget hotel room in the same vicinity is running between 400 – 500 Yuan per night.

Outside the major cities, hostels and hotels become much cheaper. If you plan to stick to hostels during your stay in China, you can expect to spend around 50 – 60 RMB per night (per person) on average.

There are several websites over the years, which have served me well when booking hostels in China. They are:

  • YHA China - - If a hostel is an YHA (Youth Hostel International) approved hostel, you simply can’t go wrong. YHA hostels are held to certain standards by the YHA organization. To this day I have never seen a bad one.
  • Hostel Bookers - Hostel bookers is one of the two major hostel booking websites on the internet. I personally prefer them to Hostelworld because they are slightly cheaper.
  • Hostel World


Food; Eat local

Food in China is stuuuupendous! If you’re into food you’re going to absolutely go wild here. The vast majority of restaurants in China are still family owned and operated, so the trick to saving money on food is just to stick to small places and to avoid shopping malls, foreign chains, and fancy restaurants.

 No matter what city you’re in, a decent meal can be had for around 10 yuan.

If you visit China as a part of an organized tour, food is going to be a large part of the experience. It’s important that if you plan to travel on your own, to do your research beforehand so that you don’t miss out! For example, you need to eat roasted duck in Beijing. Ask your hostel where an inexpensive place to eat Beijing duck is and they can guide you.

If you get tired of eating cheap Chinese food, a great option is to use the kitchen in your hostel to cook your own food. Many hostels in China have community kitchens and kitchen utensils.

In larger cities, foreign food chains (such as McDonalds, KFC, and Burger King) are also available. The price in my experience has been about the same as the USA (way more expensive than local food)

A special Chinese feast

A special Chinese feast

Public Transportation; use it

Every city in China has great public transportation (Subway, Public bus, etc.). Using the public transportation is a great alternative to paying for taxicabs. I have always been able to use Google Maps on my phone to find public bus directions. Generally subways in China are very inexpensive (2 Yuan per ride in Beijing for example). Public buses are even cheaper.

Taxi cabs are more expensive, but in certain situations can save you a lot of time. A taxi from the North of Beijing to the South Railway station will take you about 35 to 40 minutes and will run you around 70 Yuan. The same trip by subway will take you around an hour; but will only cost you 2 Yuan.

Public transportation is cheap - Expect to spend under 20 Yuan per day.

Attractions - Bring Your Student ID

Unfortunately, attractions have been the most expensive part of my travels in China. The trick here is to bring a student ID. It doesn’t matter if its from when you graduated college ten years ago. It will save you half the price on your admission tickets to some major historic attractions.

Admission tickets range from 80 to 300 Yuan per ticket depending on the attraction, but usually offer large discounts for student ID holders.


Train tickets and domestic plane tickets: Do research

China has a massive network of trains that can literally take you from one side of the country to the other. I have found that using hostels to procure your train tickets, has been a wise decision. Hostels can usually add a 10 Yuan fee to send someone to the train station to pick up your ticket.

Another consideration is to book sleeper cars for overnight train tickets. This way, you can avoid paying for a hotel for the nights you spend sleeping on the train. Surprisingly I sleep really well in “soft sleeper” trains. “Hard sleeper” trains are much less inexpensive, but are comparable to sleeping in a bar. Puffs of cigarette smoke, obnoxious drunks, screaming children, total pandemonium etc.

If traveling a large distance, you should always check to see if plane fares are cheaper than rail tickets. I have used several websites to book my domestic plane tickets:


So what will it cost per day to travel in China?

The average cost to independently travel in China can vary largely depending on several factors. How long you choose to spend in large cities can increase your daily average greatly.

The following budget is adequate for a mid-range budget traveler (Will offer plenty of wiggle room)

  • Hostels – 60 Yuan per night
  • Food – 30 Yuan per day
  • Public transportation – 10 Yuan per day
  • Attractions – 40 Yuan per day (assuming major attractions only come along every several days)
  • Train tickets / plane tickets – 40 Yuan per day

If you budget around 150 – 200 Yuan per day, you will have more than enough to cover all of your expenses while traveling in China.

Lets get some discussion going. Where do you plan on traveling to on your China trip? This can influence your daily cost greatly.

Written by Matt


Matt founded Backpack In China in 2010 to help travelers make the best of their trips to China. Since that time he has been living and working in Florida, USA. Each summer he for vacations in China for several weeks.


  1. This is one of the good things about traveling in Asia, it seems to be that there are many cheap ways to travel and stay, even if the city can be notoriously expensive.

    • Yes this is true! And sticking to hostels in Asia has been a lifesaver for us! For example a hotel in HK was around $300 a night in Kowloon, but in the same area a luxury hostel was only $40 for a private. In China the hostels are really nice too!

  2. asslamualaikum dan selamat sejahtera,
    Marcapada ini, pelajar fakuti sains atau yang selalu parking belakang fakulti ekonomi rasanya mesti tahu isu saman menyaman yang ghairah dijalankan bahagian pengawal keselamatan baru baru ini.
    persoalannya, macam mana ye nak masuk parking motor kat belakang ekonomi tu tanpa pusing jauh lalu balik bangunan pentadbiran semata mata nak masuk ikut depan, sebab ikut library tu semua sehala. ke memang upm ni suka menyusahkan pelajar. membazir minyak, lagipun kitorang nak go green, nak ikut laluan dekat. ke memang jalan penyelesaian dia parking dekat library, even motorsikal? hm. mungkin boleh bukak balik jalan yang nak ke cimb tu, barulah kami boleh masuk ikut depan dengan bergaya. :)
    oklah dah kena saman pun, dengar cerita dah tak boleh buat rayuan? lima puluh ringgit sama dengan satu hari bekerja kot. tak kesian ke dekat pelajar yang sedia tak bekerjaya lagi papa kedana ni.
    Cadangan untuk mpp ke sesiapa yang berkuasa, tak boleh buat sistem warning ke? kali pertama kali kedua di saman tak perlu bayar, masuk kali ketiga baru kena bayar, maklumat kan semua key in dalam sistem, boleh je detect dah saman untuk kali ke berapa. oklah kalau nak sangat duit. warning sekali je? tak boleh ke? budi bicara lah dengan pelajar. UPM ni tak sayang pelajar dia ke? macam mana pelajar nak sayang UPM macam ni? hm.

    Kami bawak kenderaan sebab taknak padatkan lagi bas yang dah sedia padat, walaupun kami ni bayar jugak duit bas, lagipun bas bukan selalu ada, pengurusan masa setiap orang berbeza, ada yang balik kelas terus pergi kerja, jadi, kenderaan tu dah jadi satu keperluan. Hm. Jalan kaki? sekarang ni panas, salutelah kat bebudak yang mampu jalan kaki bawah laluan pejalan kaki berbumbung yang tak nampak sangat fungsi bumbung dia tu. waktu hujan pun basah, waktu panas pun terbakar.

  3. i submit comment to wrong website, can admit please delete my comment above, sorry and thanks

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