5 Tips On Budget Travel In China

China is becoming a more and more popular destination for travelers of all sorts, from the typical holiday makers to budget travelers looking for a cheap hotel in Hong Kong for a few nights, this country has it all. Stunning sceneries, beautiful temples and delicious Chinese food are some of the main reasons to travel to the Land of the Dragon.

However, the prices in China seem to be increasing lately. Compared to America or Europe, China is still a fairly cheap travel destination, but it’s much more expensive than most of Asian countries nowadays.

But if you know your way around, you can still travel cheaply around China.

5 Tips On Budget Travel In China

Here are some tips to apply in your daily travel routine that will help you save some money when traveling in China…

#1 Use local transport

Avoid taxis and travel around the country using local transport instead.


Travelling by train is the cheapest option. There are 4 types of tickets available:

  • standing ticket 无座
  • hard seat 硬座
  • soft seat 软座
  • hard sleeper 硬卧

The standing ticket is the cheapest option, but also the least comfortable. Keep in mind that you sometimes will be able to get a hard seat ticket for the same price. If your budget is very tight, you can buy a standing ticket and try to get a seat on the train. Chinese people are very polite and they will not allow you to stand – there will always be someone who will give up a seat for you.

China is a huge country, which means that traveling from one place to another often takes up to 26 hours. Thus, the most comfortable option is to buy a hard sleeper ticket. These are usually 3 times more expensive than a hard seat ticket, so it all depends on your budget and how you want to travel.


Taking the subway is the cheapest and fastest way to explore Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. The subway tickets in Shanghai only cost RMB2 (£0.20/ $0.30).


Local buses are extremely cheap, and you can usually get a ride anywhere in the city for RMB1 (£0.10/ $0.16). Meanwhile, long distance buses are sometimes more expensive than the trains, but they are also more comfortable. Sometimes you can even watch a movie or try surfing the Internet (although that rarely works). Be sure to check out these 6 apps when visiting China.

#2 Eat street food

The food in China can be as cheap or as expensive as you want it to be. There are always many places to eat and it is often cheaper to eat out every day than cooking at home. As long as you eat in local places and grab some snacks from the street you will find very cheap food.

However, there are many restaurants located in city centres where the food is not cheap at all. The same food in the local restaurant can cost 10 times more in a touristy place, so be careful to check the prices before ordering. The menus are not in English, but you can ask someone around to translate it for you.

Here is a brief example of what prices you can expect when dining out in:

  • Local restaurant/street food:

–  breakfast consisting of 3 baozi (包子 – a kind of Chinese dumpling) and porridge –  ¥5 (£0.50/ $0.80)
–  a decent bowl of fried noodles with vegetables for ¥4 (£0.40/ $0.64)

  • Restaurants for foreigners:

–          5 baozi with a bowl of porridge for ¥30 (£3/ $4.8)
–          Fried noodles with vegetables for ¥45 (£4.5/ $7.2)
Can you see the price difference?

#3 Work as a teacher

If you are running out of cash but don’t want to stop travelling, a great way to extend your trip is to look for a teaching job in one of the provinces in China. Nowadays, all schools in every province are looking for foreign teachers to teach oral English to Chinese students.

Some schools do not even require you to possess any teaching experience nor TESOL/ TEFL certificate. All they need is a foreigner who would have fun and play with kids talking in English to them. The salary varies from ¥5000 (£500/ $800) to ¥12000 (£1200/ $1900) per month per 16 teaching session a week.  Sounds like a decent wage, right?

#4 Travel off the beaten path

Try to avoid touristy spots and start exploring ‘off the beaten path’ places – it is much cheaper and definitely more adventurous. Have you heard of the Floating Hallelujah Mountains in Zhangjiajie, Hunan province? No? That’s a real pity! These incredible mountains will simply take your breath away.

ZhangJiaJie National Forest Park has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1992 and definitely deserves some attention from travellers who fancy a breath-taking walk amongst limestone formations rocketing to the sky. Instead of spending weeks in busy Beijing or Shanghai, go explore the Hunan province!

#5 Learn some basic Chinese

Chinese people will be over the moon when they hear you talk some Chinese, often treating you with some nice free food and won’t stop talking to you. Some of them might even ask you to stay overnight at their place! Once you visit the places where tourists are rarely seen, you quickly notice that Chinese people do not speak English at all.

Therefore, look up some basic Chinese words you will need for everyday conversations such as “hi”, “order”, “food”, “how much”, “too expensive” and go try to speak to them. If you struggle to learn them all by heart, take your dictionary with you and show them. The more of the language you know, the bigger your chances are of being able to haggle down prices.