We’ve had lots of emails and comments sent to us about the cost of living in China. With practically everything being made in China due to the cheap cost of labour and materials, most people envision China as being a very affordable place to live. If you’re one of those people, you would be correct…mostly.

Note: The cost of living in China is very low and by finding teaching jobs in China, you can save a lot of money. But there are plenty of jobs out there that will allow you to work from anywhere! Check out our epic list of 101 Travel Jobs to find out detailed information about 101 amazing jobs. Find out how much each job pays, where to find work (ie: online registries, job boards and websites) as well as what the work entails!

We live in Yangzhou, China, a not-so modern city of about 5 million people with little draw for foreign tourists and not many expats. So, the cost of living here is much less compared to the more commercialized, metropolitan cities of Beijing and Shanghai. For the major cities, take these numbers and add 50% or more. Check out this website for the cost of living in Shanghai and other parts of China.

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Here’s a breakdown of our costs of living while teaching English in China (all costs are per month unless stated, and are quoted in US dollars):

Apartment Rent (88 square meters):   $322.58

Agent Apartment Finder’s Fee (one time payment, 1/2 of one month’s rent):   $161.30

Property Management Fee (1 rmb/square meter):   $14.19

Internet:   $16.12

Utilities – Water:  $5

Utilities – Electric:  $50

Cell Phone:   $4.00 (Pay as you go plan. This amount allows for lots of texting and some local phone calls.)

Health Insurance / Year (basic coverage):   $242

Haircut:   $5.65 ($1.80 at a barber)

New Bicycle:   $56

E-Bike:   $245

Taxi Fare:   $1.13 to start, plus $0.32/km (after 3 km)

Bus Fare:   $0.16

Gym Membership / Year:   $240

Dinner At A Nice Chinese Restaurant With Beer:   $7.25

Local Snack Food (dumplings, steamed buns, soups, etc.):   $0.80

cost of living in china
Fresh fruit for sale in the market

Purified Water (18L jug):   $0.97

Bottle Of Local Beer At The Shop (650ml):   $0.36

Bottle Of Imported Wine:   $10

Fruit & Vegetables From The Market (a big bag full):   $3

Groceries (including buying imported western foods):   $325

There you have it. The cost of living in China in a nutshell. Surprisingly, the cost of buying new clothing isn’t as cheap as you would assume. A new jacket or a pair of nice boots are about $100 and the cost of name brands such as Nike or Levis are the same price as they would be in a western country.

Imported foods and goods are also quite expensive. Do as the locals do and shop online, that’s where the best deals on clothing, books, some foods and other random items can be found. Check out or for deals.

***Note: We have a combined income of $3,000/month. We take day trips to nearby cities, frequently eat at restaurants, drink lots of wine & beer and buy imported western foods. We are able to save half of our earnings each month. China is definitely affordable!

For more information on how we were able to save $21,000 in a year while teaching English, click here.

Hopefully this helped answer some of your questions about the cost of living in China. If we missed something, let us know.

Not sure if you want to pack up your life and move to China? There’s another option – you can Teach English online from home, or anywhere in the world! If you’re from Canada or the United States, check out VIPKID and get paid to teach English online to Chinese students. If you’re not from North America, don’t worry, you can still teach online. Check out our article for details:

Teach English Online: Get Paid With These Top 5 Companies



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Nick Wharton & Dariece Swift

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Nick Wharton and Dariece Swift are the owners and founders of Goats On The Road. Together they have been travelling and working abroad since 2008 and have more than 20 years of combined experience in online business, finance, travel and entrepreneurship. Their expert advice has been featured on the Lonely Planet, CNN Money, Business Insider,  WiseBread and Forbes and they also spoke at the World Tourism Forum in Istanbul about the business of travel blogging.

Learn more about Nick Wharton and Dariece Swift on their respective author archives on this site and on the Goats On The Road About Us Page.

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60 thoughts on “Is China Cheap? The Cost Of Living In China Revealed

  1. So $1000 a month would make for a comfortable living style where you guys are living. I was just wondering how much you earn teaching English as a second language? Are you guys just making it over that amount or are you able to save a decent amount to continue traveling? I ask because traveling the world while teaching English to sustain myself is something I’m interested in doing, I just don’t know anyone who has or is doing it.


  2. Hey Alex!
    Thanks for the comment. We earn around $1500 / month and that’s a very average wage here, some jobs pay half that and some pay double, depending on your credentials. $1500 / month is PLENTY to live off of and save here in Yangzhou but may be more difficult in major cities like Beijing and Shanghai. We live together in a nice modern apartment and go out for dinners and trips quite frequently and are still able to save HALF of our money! China is cheap and the wage is good.
    Contracts usually last for a year here, so you have to stay still for a bit, but it’s fun to take little trips around your province here in China.
    Well… Now you know someone who’s teaching English and sustaining travel! You can do it too!
    Cheers and good luck.

  3. Awesome, awesome stuff here and extremely accurate. China is cheap in some regards but expensive in others. Thanks for this.

  4. Would that be 1500 per month per person, or the two of your together? I too am an English teacher and wondering about going to China to teach. But for just 750 bucks (if it’s divided by the two of you), it might not be a good deal for me as I’m alone without a partner.

  5. Hi Mel,
    Our combined income here is just under $3000, it’s a pretty typical wage here in China, but you can make more if you looked around. Hope this helps, good luck!


  6. Hi, There is a school that is willing to pay me 5500 RMB per month, they give me everything else, a nice room, food, internet etc… you think its a nice deal, Thanks in advance. and let me tell you your blog is awesome.

  7. Hey Richard,

    5,500 isn’t all that bad – it really depends on which city you are in? Are you living at the school? Eating at the cafeteria or something like that?

    To give you an idea – we were paid 8,000 each, plus our housing, insurance, once a week Chinese lesson, flights to and from home, student retention bonus each month and contract bonus at the end.

    If you’re getting your apartment, food and internet paid for, then 5,500 is an ok deal, but to be honest it’s kind of low for China. It really does depend on the city…some amazing cities where everyone wants to work/live will pay less money than some middle-of-nowhere town that no one has heard of 🙂

    I hope this helps somewhat! Let us know if you have anymore questions.


  8. Thank you for your fast answer, its really good to have an objective opinion from someone who has been there before, I have a question for you, did you just landed in China and start Looking for a teaching work?? or you find it online and wait for the invitation letter and all the stuff???also what small town in the middle of nowhere can you recomend me to start my Journey?? Thanks and best regards.

  9. Hi Richard,

    Yes, when we were travelling around China is when we started sending out our resumes via email to different schools that we found on ESL Dave. We found one, decided to take the job, went back to Canada to get our things and flew into Hong Kong, where we received the Invitation Letter and everything we needed for the working visa.

    Things have changed recently in China when it comes to getting a tourist visa, so definitely check out the status of working visas as well and see if you can get it overseas (ie: Hong Kong), or if you need to obtain it in your home country.

    Hmm, as for small towns, there are many! First we would suggest maybe getting a Lonely Plant guidebook and checking out each of the different Provinces. See which one appeals to you…check the sights and weather and food, etc. and then go from there. Where we lived in Jiangsu Province, Suzhou, Wuxi, Hangzhou and Nanjing were all cities nearby our home of Yangzhou and they were all great.

    It really depends on what you’re looking for!

    Hope this helps 🙂

  10. Hi Goats,
    I am looking at a position at a university in Jinhua. Their salary is 5000/month, and they provide health insurance as well as an apartment. Is this a good offer? It seems lower than what you recommend, but there are some services provided, so I am not sure.
    Thank you!

  11. Hmm, it’s hard to say. If you’re working at the university, you should be offered more than we were offered for working in a private school. I imagine your hours are more than 20/week?

    We were provided with health insurance, apartment, chinese lessons, flight reimbursement to and from Canada, end of contract bonus and were paid 8,000/month, each.

    If you really want to live there, then you could shop around for other jobs, or, if you really like the sounds of the school, take the job. It’s up to you 🙂

    Hope this helps.

  12. Hi Goats,

    I got an offer from China.It is 176 Hour per month(pay rate is 35$ per hour).Also they are going to provide me a good Apartment and they will cover my health insurance.Do you think is it good deal…..

  13. I think that the amount of money you are earning per hour is great! However, working 176 hours a month is a lot. You’ll be working 44 hours a week. So, you’ll have to think about whether or not you’ll want to work that many hours. Also, are those in classroom hours, or total hours? You’ll have to take into consideration time for lesson planning, commuting to and from the school, marking tests and writing student reviews.

    It’s great that they are providing you with an apartment and health insurance, that’s pretty typical for China.

    Good luck to you!

  14. Hey Anthony,

    That really depends on where you are living. In the smaller/less westernized cities, the healthcare is so-so. In bigger cities like Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, etc. The healthcare would be much, much better.

    Chinese people have a different thought process when it comes to hospitals and healthcare. As an example:

    In Yangzhou, a friend smashed his knee cap while riding his motorbike. In the hospital he had major surgery and woke up delusional from the pain – he was only on Tylenol 3 painkillers! Not morphine or anything. It was an awful situation. The way he was treated by the staff was totally unacceptable by western standards. They told him he’d never walk properly again, let alone run or anything. He went back to England for proper healthcare and is doing just fine now!

    So, if you need just a little check up, then it’s ok to go to the doctor. If you need something major, go to Shanghai (or similar) or home!

  15. Hi Goats: I was wondering how you found getting around in China. I’m referring to your daily commute. There’s no subway, I don’t think, in the small city you settled in, is there? I certainly don’t expect to own a car in China, and I’m wondering if I should narrow my target Chinese destinations to cities with subway systems. That would still live plenty of options, as a number of Chinese cities do maintain subway systems, but certainly not all do. Any thoughts?

  16. Hi Peter,

    In Yangzhou, there wasn’t a subway system. We got around primarily by bicycle (we bought one each), taxi (very cheap) or public bus (cheap, but we rarely used it).

    Lots of people in China ride bicycles around or they have motorbikes or e-bikes (electric motorbikes!) Knowing how you’ll get around is important for sure, but I wouldn’t rule out a city just because there isn’t any major subway systems.

    I hope this helps!
    Good luck.

  17. My cousin approaching to China with his family members for a job of teacher in Embassy school. the school will give him 2200 us dollar per month, accommodation, medical facility and return ticket. the school locates in Beijing….. the above mentioned monthly salary is enough for him and for his family?????????????