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What It Costs to Tour China — Daily Expenses Summed Up

a couple on the Great Wall

Here is a breakdown of how much travelers can expect to pay per day in China for traveling top end, middle level, or budget style. Prices for hotels, meals, transport, sights, and snacks for a person traveling in China are covered.

Single-person travel: We have based prices on a single traveler. As two of the largest expenses are hotels and transport, these costs can be up to 30% less if shared by two traveling together.

Costs Vary Across China

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.

Our representative price per day is based on the idea of price bands for China's cities.

  • Band 1: 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.

Comparing Hotel Costs in Different Cities

Trip Advisor includes price information for hotels, restaurants, and sights, so travelers can readily get an idea of the costs in a China city. Using Trip Advisor's' top 10 5-star hotels [Feb. 2018] for various cities and taking a mean for the same date...

  • The top tier cities: Macau's mean price was about 250 USD and Hong Kong's mean was 370 USD.
  • Second tier: Beijing's mean for 5-stars was 160 USD and Shanghai's was 155 USD. Hangzhou's mean price was about 120 USD, and Guangzhou's was about 135 USD.
  • Third tier: Xi'an's mean 5-star hotel price was 100 USD, and Guilin's was about 80 USD.

Cities changing tier ranking: Chengdu's mean for 5-star hotels was about 140 USD or second tier rank, and Harbin's was 100 USD or third tier. Chengdu is a city moving up to the second tier, but other prices in Chengdu are lower than second tier ranking making Chengdu a third tier city. Harbin is moving up from fourth-tier ranking.

Top End Travel in China

hotel, beijing

Enjoying some luxury in China doesn't cost as much as in developed countries.

We assume that a person enjoying top end travel might spend most of his/her time in second-tier cities of China. They would stay in 5-star hotels, eat in 5-star restaurants (if available), take private or first class transport, enjoy expensive attractions or sightseeing, and eat expensive snacks.

Costs for a typical day for one traveler:

  • 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


Yulong River rafting, Yangshuo

"Middle level" expenditure in China may seem more like lower middle class in the West.

We assume that travelers in the mid-range of spending would spend about equal amounts of time in third-tier and second-tier cities. They would probably eat at middle-budget restaurants, take taxis, pay middle budget for sights and activities, and middle budget snacks.

Costs for a typical day for one traveler:

  • 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

Local Experience Travel

China bullet train

If traveling like a local in China, you can benefit from the huge infrastructure of hotels, local restaurants, and transportation designed to serve China's working class population who earn about 2 dollars an hour.

We assume that travelers looking for a local expereince would visit the second-tier cities, but spend more time in the attractive third and fourth-tier areas, such as scenic areas and places with ethnic minority culture. We have priced for staying at local hotels or hostels, indigenous dining, taking public transport, paying the local rate for attractions, and eating the most native street snacks.

Costs for a typical day for one traveler:

  • 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

(This is for a relatively comfortable local experience in highly-rated local hotels and restaurants and two highly-rated attractions in Guilin, but you can certainly enjoy traveling in China for much less. See e.g. how to tour Guilin on a Shoestring for 20 USD a day.)

Other Major Expenses

The other major expenses of touring China are getting there (international flights) and inter-city transport (domestic flights, trains, etc.). The following are ballpark figures.

International return flights from the US or the UK can be bought at their cheapest for around 1,000 USD, and business class roundtrip flights may cost 5,000 USD or more.

Traveling between Chinese cities can be done for 50 to 100 USD on trains, or traveling business class for 500 to 1,000 USD on domestic flights or high-speed trains.

Seeing Attractions Costs Relatively Little in China

Chinese ethnic minority feast

The cost of travel 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 the cost of washing or disposable chopsticks at restaurants.

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

Private Travel Costs Less in China

China private tour driver serviceOur services reduce hassle and can cost less too!

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 Half-Day Mutianyu Hiking Tour costs 89 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

walking the Great Wall at Mutianyu with no crowds

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

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