Chinese Cost of Living (How much is a dollar worth in China?)

Discussion in 'Travel' started by wingedrabbit, Dec 19, 2006.

  1. Hello all. I hope I don't bore you with my question. I usually hang out in
    the wedding forum, but I have a question with China.<br>
    I'll be traveling to China in a few days for 2 weeks. We're adopting a boy
    from China. We'll be traveling to Nanjing first and then on to other towns to
    do paperwork. I'll just bring a small setup which includes my Canon 10D, 17-
    40, 50mm, 24mm, 2gigs of memory and a laptop.<br>
    Question: Locally, I exchanged $2,000 to get 14,520 yuan (I figured I could
    get better rates if I shopped around locally). Is 14,000 yuan a lot of money?

    I checked around and the cost of a BigMac is about 4 yuan. Since it costs me
    in California about $2-3, does that mean I'll be carrying around $14,000 in
    Chinese money?<br>
  2. As of 10:28 CDT 1 US Dollar = 0.1278 CY

    That means 14,000CY = $ 1,789.20 US.

    I am not sure about the Big Mac exchange rate.
  3. Exchange as you go at banks, hotels etc (keep your passport handy for identification). Start exchanging with 200$ -300$ worth and see what transpires. Does you agency not have suggestions on what the extras will cost? Can you talk to old hands at this adoption tripping?

    The excahnge rates are all the same (+/- 1%). You may have troubles bringing in Yuan. So keep your money in $s as much/long as you can.
  4. The Big Mac Index is a good start but it is misleading. Goods and services that are labor intensive are probably going to be cheaper in China than in California. But some things that businesses take for granted in some countries are absent in others and raise the cost of some products quite inequally. Some equipment and materials may also be procured at a much higher cost. So it is not easy to determine if your purchasing power will be higher in China than in California. The mix of production factors that influence the price of your own basket of products is not the same as the one that impact the Big Mac Index - you have to determine what you are going to buy. From my experience in Africa and Central Europe, local food and local products will certainly be extremely cheap, but anything produced to US standards such as luxury hotels, telecommunications or photography equipment may be as expensive as in the US or even more.
  5. China has a very low cost of living compared to the US (the daily wage scale is much, much
    lower than the US). I honestly do not think it is a really good idea to take $2k in cash around
    with you! Do you need this kind of money because of the adoption issue? Can you use
    travelers checks? Do local ATM machines not work? I now always simply use ATM machines
    when i travel as its much easier than dealing with currency changers (if you have a decent
    bank they will just give you the exchange rate for the day) and you can take money out as
    you need it.
  6. In response to Avijit, the money is just for spending. I figured $1,000 a week would be enough for food and spending. I also didn't want to get screwed by the exchange rates banks would give us.<br>
    As for the adoption charges, they've been taken care of before hand so we don't have to deal with that.<br>
    I figure we'll have some money in our money belts and the rest we'll maybe hide with the dirty diapers.<br>
  7. I suggest changing only as much as you actually anticipate spending. Keep in mind that there is a service charge for changing money, so if you have RMB left over and try to convert back to dollars, you will lose 2x the service charge.

    Also, do dismiss the possibility of using a credit card, especially in the larger cities. That's safer, and the service charge will be considerably lower than you will get from a moneychanger.

    I'm sure it's possible to blow through $1000 per week in China. Whether it's necessary is another matter. If you are living (eating, sleeping, drinking, etc), you won't need that much. But if you are playing tourist and buying gifts for the family back home, you can easily spend that much. Just keep in mind that whatever you buy you have to schlep home. And when you get home, the ICE inspector may assess a duty charge that adds to the cost.
  8. Well, you shouldn't have exchanged the money before you left, but you probably already knew that. Now you may face a terrible problem if you don't spend all the money - it can be a terrible ordeal to change RMB back to the USD, as it's not a freely convertible currency.

    The best way to exchange money in any foreign country is usually to use your foreign ATM card and withdraw locally. That way you get the credit card exchange rate, which is usually a lot better than banks/etc. In China the two banks that will nearly always take foreign debit cards are 1)China Construction Bank and 2) Bank of China.

    $1000 a week is an unbelievable amount of money in China. I don't know what kind of lifestyle you live at home, but I live in China quite comfortably for $250 (~2000rmb) a week - that includes a big apartment/etc etc in Beijing. Nanjing is obviously cheaper than Beijing. Then again, if you book a hotel through expedia or something, you can probably easily spend $200 a night for a hotel room. If you get a comfortable, but not 5 star, local hotel you can probably spend more like 200 rmb per night. A really nice hotel in Nanjing should definitely not cost more than US$100 a night - more like US$50. If you're paying more, rent it for a day or two, and then find a new place when you're walking around Nanjing.

    If you have a chance to travel, I would strongly recommend you try to get to Suzhou and Hangzhou - both beautiful places very close by. If you go to Shanghai you'll take a big hit on your budget, as you're effectively leaving China and going back to the west. You could go to Suzhou for a day (I think its about 2 hours from nanjing), then go to hangzhou the next day (another 2 hours more or less) and spend 2 days in hangzhou. Hangzhou is quite beautiful - an enormous lake, with temples and mountains in the distance, a beautiful walk around the lake with restaurants/etc. and gucci, ferrari, and nightclubs on the other side. take your pick. even there you shouldn't spend over $50-$100 a night for a hotel by the lake. ESPECIALLY in the winter.
  9. stemked

    stemked Moderator


    China certainly CAN be expensive, at least Shanghai and Beijing or really fancy places in Guilin, but it doesn't have to be. Now if you are planning to do a lot of shopping one can easily go broke in a casual day of shopping if one wants to buy expensive art, jade, etc. Long cab rides can cost you a bit; make sure you have agreed to a price before you go to 'small towns' by taxi.

    Note: China is not free of pick-pockets as we observed a local get pinched while we were there (we warned him though).

    Suzhou is more or less between Nanjing and Shanghai and should be easy to get to by train. I have only been there in late spring but it should be lovely in the winter too. My wife just got back from Shanghai and took a side trip to Hangzhou; she had a wonderful time.
  10. Thanks all for the advice. After we get back, I'll repost and tell you how it went (for others that might search this thread).<br>
    We're planning on carrying the money on us (in a money belt) during the fight and storing the money in our hotel in the diaper wipes bag. During the week, we plan on only carrying around 200 RMB or what we figure we need for the day in our under-the-shirt-money-belt. I also plan on bring my regular wallet with some USD, some RMB, and some fake credit cards (the Vons and Ralphs cards), so if we do get mugged, I can hand over the wallet.<br>
    We usually don't spend $1,000 a week, but with the cost of the trip and the adoption, $1,000 a week for 2 weeks is a drop in the bucket. Of course, I'd rather spend it on a lens or lighting, but my family won't enjoy that as much as I would. Plus, we really need a vacation.<br>
    Thanks again.
  11. I second John's suggestion for using ATMs. I no long carry a lot of cash and only a small amount in travellers checks. While in South America, I used an American Express card which did not have any charges for ATM withdrawal or currency conversion. But this is only true if the card is used at certain banks. I forgot which bank that was, but I'm sure American Express' site or customer service can tell you.

    Instead of keeping my valuables (passport, money, camera, etc.) hidden in the hotel room, I would either leave them at the hotel safe or the safe in the room (if available).

    You may want to look into how to make overseas calls or internet use in China. I didn't think that these would be a problem, but some recent visitors to Beijing told me that their hotel tried to charge them outrageous fees. This really caught me by surprise.

    Not sure how you manage to get a boy. I have come across many adorable adopted Chinese girls in the US, but never a boy. In either case, best of luck.
  12. The cost of a Big Mac is not an accurate index to use in china. It is an import, therefore the cost of it will be multiplied by the exchange rate, probably even a little higher. They are cheap food in the US, but a king's meal in china. The dollar's worth in the US is about a Yuan's worth in china, in most cases.

    How long your $2ooo dollars will last you depends on your lifestyle. How long can you last with $2000 in the US? Your biggest expense is hotel if you like equivalent US standard. Food will be expensive if you eat expensively. Same as taxi. By mass transit is cheap, about 1-2 yuan a ride. I can last 3 months with $2000.

    If you are a foreigner, it is advisable to bring some reserve dollars and retrieve the bulk of your money through the bank's ATM. Getting money from the atm is as simple as anywhere. The major bank for nonchinese is the bank of china, which are everywhere. The fee is standard, about $5 dollars each way with my bank. $2000 dollars is not alot of money, so bringing US cash(easier,as you can exchange it in most banks in most places) or travel checks is ok. However,I bet you will spent more, so bring your cards. Forget about the fake cards, it will only add to the load and confuse you.
  13. "You may want to look into how to make overseas calls or internet use in China. I didn't think that these would be a problem, but some recent visitors to Beijing told me that their hotel tried to charge them outrageous fees."

    This is a problem that has been with us for decades, and there is no incentive hotels to change their practices. The best solution is to buy a phone card, and call from a public phone.
  14. In much of Asia, the best exchange rate is given at banks and other reputable money changers for USD $, and the bigger the bill, the better the rate. Travellers checks, although safer than cash, will definitely get you a worse exchange rate. When you can use them, credit cards offer a better rate, but they will be extremely difficult to use outside of service-industry businesses that cater to foreign tourists, like hotels and major restaurants. That said, there is absolutely no reason to carry that kind of cash on you for that length of time outside of Seoul, Beijing or Tokyo. Even Bangkok or Singapore isn't that pricey. Do NOT leave that kind of cash in your hotel room diaper bag. If the room has a personal safe whose combination YOU can control, lock it in the safe. If not, have the hotel front office lock it in their safe, where someone has to sign to take it in or out of the safe. I did this in Cambodia and it worked out very well... I put my excess cash and my important documents (passport, plane tickets) in an envelope sealed with tape, and the front desk clerk had to go into the safe, hand me the taped envelope, and I would open it, get out what I wanted, then tape it closed, and we would both initial the envelope again. Nothing ever went missing.
  15. We're here in China (Nanjing). There's a safe in the hotel room which provides us our actual bank. All the time we spent changing the money and the hotel will actually give us a better rate.

    Food costs about 50 yuan for 3 people (2.5 since the third person is a child), so the Big Mac index doesn't translate well. A can of coke is 2 yuan in the restaurant.

    Also, I am watching out for theives, but it's pretty hard to blend in when you're an American on crutches (I broke my leg a while ago in California) and traveling with the world's cutest 2 year old. Everyone is staring at us (and I'm not just being paranoid).

    Thanks again for the responses.
  16. I was told this by a Chinese friend and he said you will get stared at no matter what. It's a cultural thing, I guess. 14,000 is an unbelievable amount of money for a regular Chinese, as you have discovered. Change your money in the country you go to, not in the USA...we stick it to you here.
  17. I'm back.<br>
    So, the Big Mac factor is a little off. It actually cost for a meal at McDonalds is about 23 yuan.<br>
    Staying in the town of Nanjing was really cheap and no tipping was involved. Everything was pretty cheap.<br>
    Once we got to Guangzhou it was totally different. I actually don't think Guangzhou is Chinese. It's more like western culture. Mostly everyone there can speak English and I could get a burger in a non-McDonald's restaurant.<br>
    We came back from the trip with about 3,000 yuan. We did spend alot of money. As it turns out, we could've gotten a better money exchange deal at the hotels we stayed at. We could've made a little money by exchanging Dollars to Yuan there and then changing it back here.<br>
    The hotel in Guangzhou (the Victory) was dorking around with us when we checked out. They claimed we stained a pillow case, then they thought we took they're remote control. This is a 5 star hotel, so I couldn't figure out why they were trying to ding us for extra charges. Make sure you leave some time to make it to the airport before you check out.<br>
    All in all, it was a fun trip. I wish we had more time to take pictures, but we had a new child to take care of. I'm sure we'll visit again in a few years.
  18. The cost of living in Guangzhou (The capital of Guangodng Province) is much higher than in Nanjing because people in Guangzhou earn a lot more than people in Nanjing. (Guang Zhou claims a per capital GDP of over $10,000, among the top cities in mainland China.)

    In MacDonald in Beijing, a complete meal cost around 20-22 yuan. Mid range salary is 3,000-5,000 yuan a month. White Collar usually can earn 10,000-20,000 yuan a month. A Chinese meal usually cost around 20-25 yuan. Taxi (10 yuan basic charge for the first 3 kilometer than 2 yuan per kilometer from then on.) is very cheap comparing with the price in the US. Income level varies a lot depending on your profession. 200,000-300,000 yuan annual income in Financial, Power, Gasoline, telephony sector (Monopoly) is very usual for ordinary employees but 30,000 yuan annual income is considered good for taxi drivers.

    Rent is around 3,000-6,500 yuan for a three bedroom apartment if you live within 20 kilometer from the center of the city. Subway fee is 3 yuan/trip. Movie ticket is 25-70 yuan (very expensive considering the average income). meat/Veggie is very cheap.
  19. your are right, the money you converted are eight times as much as before. so you can bear in mind that you will have the same feeling of spending $14,000 in US while it is 14,000 Yuan you spend in China.

    In term of the rate of currency converting, it changes all the time. The rate of us dollars to chinese yuan is 1:7.74.

    So 2000 dollars should convert to 15,000 Chinese Yuan at least.

    You can find current Currency Converting rate on: on the right corner

    also the site is rich in information of Chinese culture, society, language, etiquette, customs, manners and travel tips
  20. I worked in Panjin and Daqing China 10-years ago for more than a year. The Renmin B and Yuan were hard currencies back then. It was exceedingly cheap to work there, as the gov't provided housing (in a Guest House) and at least one "meal". We got a $150 per diem because the project manager thought they were sh11te holes, which they were. BTW, I wouldn't hesitate to go back. Thievery is very rare, although, one might have to pay a "foreigners" price at the markets.

Share This Page