The Cost of Living in China

Jul 31, 2010 by

Cash Revolution

Last year, I went to Germany and compared German and American prices. This year brought me to the Chinese eastern seaboard, where I once again had the opportunity to observe prices. The exchange rate was about 6.8 renminbi to the U.S. dollar, making one renminbi worth approximately 15 cents. The average Shanghaiese earns around $11,000 per year and the average Beijinger earns around $10,000 per year. Overall, the buying power of the dollar seems 2-4x in China what it is in the U.S. But, some goods and services were more expensive. Here is a list of the prices of a variety of goods and services I purchased or considered:

Train ticket (no seat in a slow train): $1.50 per hour
Train ticket (nice seat in a high-speed train): $8 per hour
Cost to flag a taxi: $1 to $1.50 (depending on city)
Cost per mile in a taxi: $0.60
Cost to ride a bus: $0.15
Cost to ride a subway: $0.30 to $0.60 (depending on city and distance)

Food and Drink
Coca-cola (can): $0.45
Beer (can): $0.40
Bottle of water: $0.30
Coffee: $5
Tea: $1.50
Yogurt in a plastic bag: $0.30
Yogurt in a plastic cup: $0.75
Chicken sandwich at KFC: $2
Value meal at KFC: $3.50
Value meal at a Chinese fast food restaurant (Kung Fu, Mr. Lee’s, Yonghe King): $2-3
Street meal (no table, or a small bench): $0.45
Simple cafe meal (no tableclothes): $2
Really nice meal (i.e. tableclothes and good presentation): $5-10

Basic hotel room: ~$25
Made-to-measure shirt: $27
Off-the-rack shirt: $5-100 (depending on brand and quality)
Li Ning sneakers: (local popular brand): $30-45
Admission to a tourist attraction: $1-5 for small attractions, $10 for major ones

1 Comment

  1. James

    The thing that struck me about prices in china was that, except for a few very specific skills, labor was extremely cheap relative to capital or physical inputs. This resulted in strange things like a meal at a restaurant costing not much more than buying the ingredients and cooking at home.

    As for chinese fast food, I'm a fan of cafe du coral. And it's too bad Mr. Lee's changed its name from “California Beef Noodle King USA”

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