Low Cost of Living means High Disposable Income

The cost of living in China is substantially cheaper than what most teachers will be used to at home, so although your monthly salary may be lower, it will go a very long way in terms of purchasing power in China. As a comparison, native English teachers in China generally earn up to 3 times more than that of a local Chinese teacher. Teachers can afford a comfortable lifestyle and enjoy daily meals at restaurants, cinema trips, visiting bars and tea houses, shopping trips, gym membership, massages….and the funds to go on weekend trips to explore other areas of China.

Living in China’s bigger cities is, for the most part, much less expensive than living in the majority of cities and towns in the West. You’ll live a comfortable lifestyle and should find saving money to be quite easy. As with all locations, the more you adapt to the local culture, the more affordable you can live. Local food is cheap, delicious and amazing; public transport within cities is both abundant and incredibly affordable, and travel across China, be it via High Speed Rail or Domestic Flights, is inexpensive – meaning that salaries can go a long way, whether you choose to save or to spend!

Find a price guide below to what you’ll be spending your money on in China, and importantly how much you’ll be spending as a teacher in China.


Rent and Utilities


If renting your own room or apartment (as opposed to living in an apartment provided by an employer) then this will be your biggest outlay each month. The cost greatly varies from city to city, and should be a factor to keep in mind.

As a guide, in central Shanghai/ Beijing, a room in a shared 2/3-bedroom apartment will cost around RMB4000 a month as a minimum. Your own one-bedroom apartment will cost a minimum of RMB5500.

By comparison, in 2nd tier cities such as Ningbo, Chengdu, Hangzhou or Shenyang, a small studio or one-bedroom apartment can be found from as little as between RMB1500-3000 per month. With rent even less if you choose to live with friends in shared apartment! Accommodation in China is for the most part modern, and affordable. It’s important to note, that if you are renting your own apartment in China, you’ll need to put down the equivalent of 5 months’ rent for your first payment. This can be a big outlay; however, the majority of schools will provide a start-up loan to assist with this.

Basic monthly utilities, such as water, heating, electricity and internet will cost around RMB400-500 per month in a top tier city like Shanghai or Beijing and between RMB250-350 each month in a second tier city.




Many teachers go through their time working in China rarely cooking at home. This is in no small part due to how inexpensive China is as a country for eating out! A meal at an inexpensive traditional Chinese restaurant will be mouth-wateringly cheao, even in a city such as Shanghai, at around RMB35. In a second tier the price would be closer to around RMB18.If you’re looking some familiar fast food as a home comfort, a meal deal at a McDonalds in China would set you back around RMB30.If you are looking to splash the cash a little more at a mid-high range or western style restaurant you’ll be looking at spending closer RMB200 in a city like Shanghai or around RMB120 in a second tier city.




Transport in China is cheap, efficient and (for the most part) very modern– albeit a little crowded! In most cities a bus journey will cost just  RMB2 and inner-city metro services between RMB2-8 depending on the distance you’re travelling. You’ll also get used to taking taxis around town. A general price guide for a city can be gauged by the starting meter of a taxi. For instance, in Shanghai the meter will start at RMB14 with each subsequent kilometre costing and additional RMB3 (still inexpensive compared to the west). In a second tier city like Chengdu, the meter will start at RMB8 and cost an additional RMB2 for each subsequent kilometre.




When it comes to entertainment, there are an abundance of options in China, and with a spike in urbanisation and a growing middle-class this shows no sign shrinking.

When it comes to nightlife, First and Second Tier Cities in China have a wide selection of foreign or ex-pat oriented bars and clubs, generally situated within central districts of the city, you will find drink prices very reasonable, with a pint of cheap lager at around RMB10 or up to around RMB30 for a more upmarket imported beverage or cocktail.

If you want to catch an English Language film, many Cinemas in first and second tier cities feature 1 or 2 newly release English Language films each month. Cost of a cinema ticket in China varies between around RMB40-RMB60.





Here’s where you might splash the cash. China is an incredible country with so much to see and do, and most teachers spend their holidays and days off exploring new places.

A night in a hostel or in-expensive hotel will cost anywhere from RMB100 – although in cities such as Shanghai and Beijing, you’ll be looking at RMB200 as a minimum. If you’d like something more luxurious, a 5 star hotel can be found for around RMB300 in most tier 2 or 3 cities.

Budget flights around Asia can be unbelievably cheap if booked in advance, so long weekends in exotic destinations like Thailand, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Singapore won’t break the bank.


If you want to learn about cost of living in a specific Chinese city, see our City Guides for a full run-down of cost of living for each city.


Save, save, save!


In your home country you may be used to saving only a small percentage of your monthly salary due to the high cost of living. In China however, many  teachers are able to save around 50% of their monthly salary!

Teachers who eat at local restaurants and prepare their own meals, do not party too much and not live too ‘wild’ a lifestyle can still live a comfortable life in China while also accumulating substantial savings. It is certainly feasible to save 4,000 RMB per month which means at the end of a 12 month teaching contract you could have 48,000 RMB saved up!

If you want to learn about cost of living in a specific Chinese city, see our City Guides for a full run-down of cost of living for each city.



City Guides


Cost of living in Beijing

Cost of Living in Fuzhou

Cost of Living in Hangzhou

Cost of Living in Qingdao

Cost of Living in Suzhou

Cost of Living in Chengdu

Cost of Living in Foshan

Cost of Living in Shanghai

Cost of Living in Chongqing

Cost of Living in Ningbo

Cost of Living in Guangzhou

Cost of living in Xiamen

Cost of Living in Kunming

Read more about your finances whilst working in China.

Read our blog post: The financial benefits of teaching in China[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]