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How Much Does It Cost to Travel China

a family enjoy a great china trip at good costA family had a great tour with us in Longji, Guilin.

How much does it cost to travel China? This question might be on your minds as you consider a trip to our far eastern country. Here is a breakdown of how much it costs for flights, hotels, transportation, sightseeing, food, and activities.

International Airfare to China

	International Airfare to China

How much does it cost to go to China? The cost of airfares from the US or Europe to China vary a lot depending on when you fly and which airline you use, from around 800 to1300 USD for an economy round trip. It’s possible to save up to about $400 if you get a deal or you’re willing to take a stopover or two (or more!) stops.

Summer is the most expensive time to travel to China. Traveling from the U.S./Europe to China in winter from December to March (apart from around Chinese New Year) is about 40%cheaper than June–August.

The most popular entry and exit cities in China are Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong. See more on Things to Know Before Booking Your International Flights to and from China.

Which China Cities Are More Expensive?

Shanghai skyline viewsShanghai's classic skyline views. Shanghai is a 2nd tier city, and prices are considerably lower than 1st tier Hong Kong for everything except for shopping.

The cost of China travel depends on which cities you visit. Generally speaking, there are four price bands for China cities,and the cost of travel in China’s cities decreases as you go from the top tier to the fourth.

  • Top tier: Hong Kong and Macau are in a league of their own: the priciest cities in China.
  • Band 2: Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen, Hangzhou, and Guangzhou lie on the second tier.
  • Band 3: Guilin, Chengdu, and Xi’an are on the third tier.
  • Band 4: Most of the remaining cities (Harbin, etc.) fall into the cheaper fourth price brand.

Prices for tourist hotels etc. in remote places such as Tibet and on the Yellow Mountains are inflated, due to the cost of transporting commodities in (though local living costs are low).

For first-time visitors, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, and Xi'an are popular destinations. Read more on How to Plan a First Trip to China — 7 Easy Steps.

Accommodation Costs for Travel in China

Accommodation is a huge chunk of the budget for any China trip. Hotels in China range from inexpensive inns that offer simple hostel-like accommodation to lavish 5-star hotels.

Prices of hotels vary widely from city to city and from season to season, peaking at public holidays. Here is a table to show you the approximate average minimum cost(not peak or off-peak) for a standard 2-person room around China:

Average Minimum Hotel Costs (in USD) for China
Price Band 1: HK, Macau 2: Beijing, Shanghai... 3: Xi'an, Guilin... 4: Harbin, Luoyang...
Luxury Hotels 250 180 130 100
Mid-Range Hotels 120 90 60 40
Budget Hotels 40 30 20 10
Hostels 20 15 10 5

As two of the largest expenses are hotels and transport, travel costs can be up to 30% less if shared by two traveling together.

A Chinese 5-star hotel in a second tier city such as Beijing might only meet the standards of a 4-star hotel in the West, while in top tier cities like HK you can expect the same standard, etc. Vacation renting (Airbnb etc.) is at early stage in China and not recommended for foreign tourists.

See more on How to Choose a Hotel in China.

Transportation Costs for Travel in China

Transportation Costs for Travel in China Bullet train in China

The other major expense of touring China is inter-city transport (domestic flights, trains, etc.). The following are ballpark figures.

Traveling between Chinese cities can be done for 50 to 100 USD on trains, or for 80 to 300 USD on economy flights. (For first class or business class multiply by 2 or 3.)

Train prices don’t vary much with time of day or season. Our English train booking service is highly recommended. Compare prices there.

The earliest and latest flights will be cheapest in general, as well as low season (winter) flights and stopover flights. Here are some popular websites for searching domestic flights: Ctrip.com, Qunar.com, and Elong.com.

China cities’ public transportation is very affordable, convenient, and safe. Subways, taxis, and buses are well run in the major destinations. Taking Beijing as an example, metro fares are 3–8 yuan, public buses are 1–5 yuan, and taxis charge 13 yuan minimum. See detailed information on Beijing Transportation.

For a smooth and time-saving journey, you are recommended to book a private car for your tour. Contact us for detailed information and quotation. 

Attraction Costs When Travelling in China

Yulong River rafting, Yangshuo

The cost of tourism in China is generally less due to lower wages than in the West, which affects everything in the supply chain from tour guide costs to dish washing at restaurants.

Tickets for most of China's famous attractions cost 20 USD or less. Reed Flute Cave in Guilin, for example, is rated #2 of all the Things to Do in Guilin on TripAdvisor and is very popular with foreign tourists receiving a Certificate of Excellence, but tickets cost only 20 USD.

Beijing's Mutianyu Great Wall is China's #1 Thing to Do as Listed on Trip Advisor, and entry tickets cost 40 RMB (6.40 USD).

Food Costs for Travel in China

hotel, beijing

The cost of food in China varies a lot depending on what kind of restaurants you eat at.

On average, expect to spend between 5–15 USD per meal per person for a good restaurant and 30–60 USD for more expensive restaurants.

In third tier cities, such as Guilin, you'll find a bowl of rice noodles costs less than a US dollar. Trying some local food in local restaurants or on the streets is a way to enjoy an authentic Chinese experience and save a ton of money.

How much does it cost to go to China for a week?

enjoy a private tour in China and experience local cultureLearn how to make clay warriors in Xi'an.

Expect to pay a ballpark figure of 2,600 USD for a high-quality tour including return flights. But bear in mind all that’s been said above about prices varying with season, level of comfort required, cities visited, etc.

If it is your first time to China and you have one week, you are recommended to spend your time in Beijing, Xi'an, and Shanghai. 

Here is a sample private tour itinerary for your reference:

  • Day 1: Beijing — Tian'anmen Square, the Forbidden City, hutong alleyways
  • Day 2: Beijing —The Temple of Heaven and the Great Wall
how much cost to china
  • Day 3: Beijing to Xi'an —The Summer Palace and high-speed train to Xi'an
  • Day 4: Xi'an —The Terracotta Warriors, a traditional cave dwelling, the Ancient City Wall
  • Day 5: Xi'an to Shanghai — Shaanxi History Museum, Big Wild Goose Pagoda, the Muslim Quarter, flight to Shanghai
  • Day 6: Shanghai —the Bund, Yu Garden, Shanghai Old Street, Shanghai Tower
  • Day 7: Shanghai departure

The price is from US$1,639 p/p based on 2 persons & 4-star hotels, which includes local guides, drivers and vehicles, hotel buffet breakfasts, and local restaurant lunches, entry to all attractions, and intercitytransportation. See the detailed itinerary and prices for this tour.

How much spending money should I bring to China?

China trip cost on Souvenir

Most China tours don’t cover personal purchases, free-time activity spending, snacks and meals not on the itinerary, souvenirs, etc. From what has already been mentioned above, the spending money you need will depend on where you go and your usual expenditure levels.

Here are some average spending figures for foreign travelers: a free-time meal 15 USD, a couple of taxi rides 10 USD, snacks and drinks 10 USD, sundry purchases and souvenirs 15 USD. So on a tour with free time it wouldn’t be unreasonable to need 50 USD spending money a day in China.

How much does independent travel in China cost per day?

a family enjoy a china tripa family enjoy a china trip

If you organized your own China trip, we worked out the following per day costs for one traveler: top end travel 850 USD, mid-range travel 220 USD, local experience travel 70 USD. 

Costs for a typical day for one traveler enjoying top end travel:

  • Chinese 5-star hotels: A Chinese 5-star hotel in a second tier city might equal the quality of a 4-star hotel in the West: 1,000 RMB (160 USD).
  • Gourmet meals: lunch 60 USD, dinner 180 USD per person.
  • Private transport: 300 USD day for an executive sedan and service of driver for 8 hours.
  • Example sights: Shanghai Tower observation deck (30 USD), Yu Garden (5 USD RMB). Perhaps Nanjing Road shopping and Bund sightseeing the rest of the day (100 USD). Total 135 USD.
  • Snacks: 30 USD
  • Total: 865 USD

Costs for a typical day for one traveler in the mid-range:

the great wall of china
  • Hotels: A Chinese 3-star hotel might equal the quality of a 1- or 2-star hotel in the West. In a second tier city (Beijing) the average is 50 USD and in a third tier (Guilin) 37 USD. Overall average: 44 USD.
  • Good restaurant meals: For middle-level dining, lunch in Guilin costs 6 USD and dinner in Shanghai costs 23 USD. Total: 29 USD
  • Private transport: Four taxi rides of 15 km in Shanghai cost 30 USD, in Guilin 13 USD. Average: 22 USD.
  • Example sights: Guilin Li River cruise (3 star, free pickup, Chinese lunch included) 72 USD, Impression Liu Sanjie(night show) 30 USD. West Street shopping and biking: 20 USD. Total: 122 USD.
  • Snacks: 9 USD
  • Total: 226 USD

Costs for a typical day for one traveler traveling like a local:

  • Hostel or economy hotel: A hostel in Beijing costs 15 USD, and a local's choice hotel in third tier Guilin costs 19 USD. Average: 17 USD.
  • Budget restaurant meals: A native lunch in Guilin costs 2 USD, and a local Shanghai dinner about 9 USD for highly rated restaurants. Total: 11 USD
  • Public transport: Four metro rides in Shanghai cost 2.50 USD and six bus rides in Guilin cost 2 USD. Average: 2 USD.
  • Sights: Guilin's Reed Flute Cave costs 19 USD, Yulong River rafting 15 USD. Exploring the countryside by rented bicycle: 3 USD. Total: 37 USD.
  • Snacks: 7 USD
  • Total for a day for one: 74 USD

Of course, there is usually a substantial cost in personal time and stress to organizing independent travel in China that this doesn’t cover. See 10 Reasons You Should NOT Travel China Independently.

Private Travel Costs Less in China

take a private tour in china

Once again, due to lower service costs in China, traveling with a private tour company can actually mean you enjoy excellent service for a fraction of the price.

For example, our 1-Day Beijing Highlights Tour costs from 179 USD. But for that, your transport and entry are arranged, so there is no hassle waiting for tickets or finding transportation.

Our journeys are consistently ranked among the best in China, but they are more moderately priced than foreign tour companies of similar ranking.

We care about you! China Highlights is the choice of discerning travelers: excellent for families, small groups, and individual tourists who want flexibility, local expertise, close personal service, and to be in control of their tour.

Recommended Customizable Itineraries

a couple on the Great Wall
  • The Golden Triangle (8 days): Beijing, Xi'an, and Shanghai — the most popular destinations for a first trip
  • Classic Wonders (11 days) — Our most-chosen China itinerary will take you to the classic attractions in Beijing, Xi'an, Guilin, and Shanghai.

Tell us your interests and requirements, and we will tailor-make your China tour.