International Travel

Budget Breakdown: How Much I Spent Traveling China for 7 Weeks

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If you’re looking to know exactly how much it’ll cost to travel China for 7 weeks, I’m going to disappoint you.

That’s because the truth is, there’s no good way to really tell you how much it costs to travel in China. It’s a huge country with diverse topography, 56 ethnic groups, and thousands of years of history. It’s also a country that’s been rapidly modernizing over the past 20 years, in some ways for the better, in some ways for the worse.

Domestic wealth has increased significantly over the past decade, and prices have increased accordingly as domestic tourism has boomed. Some areas like Beijing and Shanghai have gotten increasingly expensive thanks to more domestic and international visitors. Other areas that are more off the beaten path remain expensive due to a lack of tourism infrastructure.

In other words, it all depends on where in China you go. (And of course, how much it’ll cost will depend on your preference for budget travel, the luxurious life, or somewhere in between.)

Here’s a glimpse at the cost to travel China per my 7 weeks there in fall 2017.

Visa and flights to China

First off, getting there.

Flights to China from the West Coast aren’t too bad. I often see deals for $400-$600 from major West Coast cities to major cities on the eastern seaboard of China. My one-way ticket to China was $340 and my return months later was $316.26.

If you don’t already have a valid visa, you’ll also likely need that. China requires visas from most western countries, though in recent years it’s much easier because of reciprocal visa policies. U.S. citizens, for one, can now get 10-year tourist visas to China for $140.

The cost to travel China for 7 weeks

My 7 weeks in China were split between 4 regions: northern China, northwestern China, southern China, and eastern China.

I should caveat that I did spend some of that time with relatives (in some less expensive cities), so I was not paying for lodging and food. I did have to pay a bit extra during some of my travels when I was with a relative or two who needed slightly nicer housing or food than I typically would have during my budget travels. So, potato, patato; it more or less balanced out.

Here goes.

The cost to travel northern China

My first stop was in northern China where my main purpose was mostly to visit extended family.

I spent 8 days there, with approximately 3 days doing touristy things. Two of those days was with a tour, as my aunt and uncle weren’t comfortable DIY’ing our trip to Changbaishan, the sacred mountain across from North Korea.

Costs were certainly lower than if I wasn’t staying with relatives, but then again, I probably would have had lower costs if I didn’t have to do the whole tour group thing.

  • Food: ¥220.37
  • Entertainment/attractions/tickets: ¥886 (included lodging and transportation thanks to the tour)
  • Misc: ¥44.90

Total: ¥1151.27

northern Chinese stew
Look at this giant pot of northern Chinese stew!

The cost to travel northwestern China

Next, I spent 8 days in the northwestern Chinese provinces of Qinghai and Gansu exploring the Buddhist and Muslim influences in those regions as well as the area’s diverse natural formations.

Tibetan Buddhism China

Here’s a breakdown of the costs:

  • Train to and flight back (between the eastern cities and northwestern China): ¥1710
  • Ground transport in the form of a rental car and gas: ¥789
  • Lodging:  ¥696
  • Food: ¥345
  • Entertainment/attractions/tickets: ¥848

Total: ¥4388

Interested in learning more about the region? Here are 5 major reasons why you should visit northwestern China.

ZhangYe Danxia China
The Rainbow Mountains of China.

The cost to travel southern China

I skipped around eastern and central China for a few days to hang out with relatives after our road trip in northwestern China. Then it was time to go south to Guangxi and Guizhou provinces.
In Guangxi, I focused on the major hotspots of Guilin and Yangshuo, as well as the gorgeous rice terraces of Longsheng. In Guizhou, it was the ethnic minority tribes that I was most interested in visiting.
Longsheng Rice Terrace
Over the course of 10 days, these were my costs:
  • Flights to and from central China to southern China: ¥772
  • Ground transportation (trains, buses, taxies, motorbikes, and more): ¥638.50
  • Lodging: ¥613
  • Food: ¥516.35
  • Entertainment/attractions/tickets: ¥970
  • Misc: ¥6

Total: ¥3515.85

Longhorn Miao traditional clothing

The cost to travel eastern China

Last but not least, I made my way to the southern part of China’s eastern seaboard.

In particular, I wanted to visit the classical cities of Hangzhou and Suzhou. And I figured I’d go to Shanghai as well while I was in the area, even though I’m not a huge fan of big cities.

Suzhou Humble Administrator's Garden
I’m also super grateful that I had the time to visit Nanjing, despite the dark history and hurt that still haunts the city.
Here were my expenses for this 10-day trip:
  • Trains to and from central China to the eastern seaboard: ¥796.61
  • Ground transportation (trains, buses, subways, bicycles): ¥258.06
  • Lodging: ¥427.82
  • Food: ¥678.50
  • Entertainment/attractions/tickets: ¥405
  • Misc: ¥74.50

Total: ¥2640.49

Total cost for 7 weeks in China:

In total, I spent exactly 7 weeks in China before flying off to Chiang Mai.

  • Northern China: ¥1151.27 (~$175.11 USD)
  • Northwestern China: ¥4388 (~$659.29 USD)
  • Southern China: ¥3515.85 (~$531.45 USD)
  • Eastern China: ¥2640.49 (~$398.37 USD)
  • Miscellaneous costs for the other days in between those trips: ¥832.40 (~$125.07 USD)
  • Visa: $140 USD
  • Flights: $656.26 USD

Total: ~$2681.55 USD for 7 weeks, including visa and flights.

If you take out visa and flights, it was ~$1885.29 USD or ~$38 a day!


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4 thoughts on “Budget Breakdown: How Much I Spent Traveling China for 7 Weeks

  1. I lived in China for 2 years and traveled so much because it was so affordable. Got to see some great places. Very helpful post

  2. I cannot believe the price of flights – much cheaper than I expected. So good the visa lasts 10 years too – perfect excuse to return ;)

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