Cost of Living in China

admin May 31, 2013 0


Despite its status as one of the world’s most rapidly developing economies, China is still a highly affordable country for expatriates and retirees. From its truly gigantic cities, many of which offer high-end living options for those on a high budget, to its small towns, which offer low-cost living for expatriates on a tight budget, China has a lifestyle option to suit any visitor’s financial needs.

China is the world’s largest country by population, and one of the world’s largest by size. As such, it’s home to hundreds of major cities and population centers, as well as tens of thousands of towns and small settlements. Because of this huge variety of living situations, China is one of the world’s most diverse countries in terms of the cost of living in the country.


Let’s start with one of China’s most popular destinations for expatriates and retirees: Shanghai. As the country’s undisputed commercial center and the capital of rapid development, Shanghai is one of the most expensive places to live in China. Despite this reputation for high costs, however, it’s very possible to live a comfortable lifestyle in Shanghai on as little as $1,000 USD per month.

Of course, there are some sacrifices required to stick to this budget. Expatriates and retirees with a low monthly budget may need to live outside the city center, as apartments in central areas of large cities like Shanghai and Beijing can command high prices. Likewise, they may need to dine at local restaurants, as many international chains in Chinese cities command Western standards of pricing.


Transportation in most of China’s major cities is affordable and easy for visitors to use, with train tickets often modestly prices at under $1 USD. Taxis, likewise, are priced very affordably, with a trip around many Chinese cities available for less than $10 USD. Generally speaking, transport is one of the least expensive aspects of living in China, particularly in a modern coastal city.

The cost of living in a Chinese city varies drastically depending on your expectations and living requirements. Small apartments in cities such as Shanghai and Beijing can be found for as little as $400 USD per month. At this rate, however, the apartment may be modern and clean, but will lack the size and features that some Western-based retirees are accustomed to.

Shanghai Busy Street

High-end apartments and houses are available in cities such as Shanghai, with prices ranging a huge amount based on the size and style of the apartment. As a world class city and a capital of business, Shanghai is home to hundreds of high-end developments. Whether you have $500 or $10,000 each month to spend on accommodation, you’ll have no issues finding an apartment in a Chinese city.

Likewise, the cost of food and drinks can vary dramatically in China. China’s culinary scene has expanded alongside its economic development, and many high-end restaurants can be found in the country’s major cities. These are priced in line with Western standards, while local restaurants are often highly affordable, with large meals available for as little as $3 USD per person.

Shanghai (waterfront)

The cost of living in China decreases substantially as you move out of the major population centers and further into the country’s inner rural zones. Pricing in coastal cities is often anywhere from three to five times as high as it is in minor cities and smaller towns, making rural life in China affordable for retirees on a tight budget. Many retirees enjoy a great rural lifestyle on as little as $800 monthly.

China Currency

While China certainly has its expensive options for retirees and expatriates with large trust funds and successful businesses, it’s also home to a variety of affordable options for visitors without an extensive budget. Whether you’re retiring to China with substantial savings or a shoestring budget, you’ll have very few issues enjoying a great life in China that suits your expectations.

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