Cost of living is such a broad and subjective concept that it is hard to know where to start. A suitable home for one person is an impossible shoebox for someone else. In China, the variations of expats and incomes is so broad, and the location of your job or school will largely determine where you live, and therefore, how much rent you will need to pay.
According to various surveys by ECA International, Shanghai and Beijing are the 8th and 9th most expensive cities in the world for expats, and 1st and 2nd, respectively, in the Asia Pacific region. They rank even higher than Hong Kong!
China’s tier one cities are no longer cheap places to live. With Guangzhou and Shenzhen quickly catching up to Beijing and Shanghai as far as living costs are concerned. If you choose to move to China, your money will go a lot further in one of the nation’s other cities. One can have a great life (and save a bit of cash) in one of China’s “New Tier 1” cities like Dalian, Qingdao, Hangzhou, or Chengdu.
Long gone are the days when you could live in Beijing or Shanghai on US$1,000 a month. After the Olympics in 2008, things started getting especially expensive. Rapid inflation occurred across the board in China from food to taxi fares and rent prices.
Back in the day, a perfect savoury breakfast crepe (jianbing) cooked on the street would set you back only 1 or 2 Yuan. These days though, you would be hard pressed to find one for under 6 Yuan. Beijing taxis went from 1.2 RMB/km to 2.3 RMB/km around 2014. A large, modern 1-bedroom apartment in Landmark Crystal was just 2,000 RMB/month back in 2007. Today, a 40-sqm studio without a kitchen in the same building will set you back 4,700 RMB/month.
We hope this guide will give you some in-depth understanding of the real costs of living in China today.