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Daily Travel Costs of Backpacking in Beijing, China

Stay in Beijing and see all the main attractions on less than $40 per day! Here's how..

ETD Guide: Backpacking in China and travelling to Beijing - how much money will you need per day?

So, how much does it cost to stay in Beijing, whilst travelling on a budget?  China is a very backpacker friendly country to travel in.  That is providing you don't mind getting around the language barriers.  Unless you are in very tourist places, very little people will speak English.  Surprisingly when we visited Hangzhou, we found the language barrier not to be a problem compared to Beijing.  Which is weird, given that most people travelling to China will go to Beijing as top of their list of places to visit.

Our budget guide will help you with planning out your finances when visiting Beijing.  Please remember though, these are our costs of staying in Beijing.  So yours may well differ depending on the standard of accommodation you pick, the restaurants you eat out at, attractions you want to see, etc…  More than likely if you are a backpacker, travelling on a budget you will find our daily costs on the higher end of the spectrum and you can definitely get by on less per day!

Our overall daily budget whilst in Beijing came to almost $63 per person. That sounds high doesn't it? Well that's even excluding our train fare from Shanghai and then onwards to Xi'an!  If I add them as well (and count the Xi'an train as an additional night as we had a sleeper train) then our true costs of visiting Beijing per day, comes to $77 per person, per day.

However, just because we spent that, doesn't mean you need to spend anywhere close to that amount!  If we stayed in dorm beds ($14 per night, per person) for those 10 nights and excluded our train fares to / from Beijing.. Then our daily budget would have come to just a little over $50 per day.

Even if the daily budget you are trying to work towards whilst visiting Beijing is slightly lower than that ($40).  You still should have no issues with seeing all the main sights. Areas in which you can save a bundle are staying in dorms in hostels.  Many hostels in Beijing are a very good standard and you can book a decent quality hostel bed, in a central location for as little as $12 per night.

Chinese Currency (RMB) Information:

Current exchange rates for 1 US Dollar to Yuan (¥).

1.00 USD = 6.06298 CNY
US Dollar Chinese Yuan Renminbi
1 USD = 6.06298 CNY 1 CNY = 0.164935 USD

These rates don't change all that often. The exchange rate to the US Dollar & British Pound have been fairly static for the past few years.

Travel tip: If you want to know more about the Chinese currency (Renminbi), it's various denominations and how you pronounce it.. Then read our guide on Currency: Chinese Renminbi Denominations.  If you want to learn how to count in Chinese before you get there, read our guide on How to count numbers in Chinese 1-10 to 1,000.

Our average daily living costs in Beijing:

To get things moving, below is our average daily expenses (per person) in RMB (¥), US ($) and UK (£).  You can reliably use these average travel costs, providing you are a group of 2 or more, sharing accommodation and transport in most cases. These figures do not take into consideration single occupancy rates.  I have also for the sake of tarnishing average daily ‘living' costs, removed our costs for getting to Beijing from Shanghai and leaving Beijing for Xi'an.

Accommodation Meals Transportation Attractions Sundries
153 RMB
$25
£15
88 RMB
$15
£9
7 RMB
$1
£0.65p
63 RMB
$10
£6
69 RMB
$11
£7

Notice the transport costs, are just $1 per day!  Travelling around Beijing is easy and cheap on their Subway system.  We clocked in over 25 journeys on the Subway, with average journey costs at just 50 cents each way. Bargain!

I can even break these figures down further for you, in relation to our 10 days staying in central Beijing.

Accommodation:

We spent $250 per person, over 10 days.  That's $25 per night, each in one of the best hostels in central Beijing for a Double En-suite room.  We also stayed for a few nights at the AccorHotels Mercure Hotel, which is what pushed our average nightly stay cost up.  If we had stayed at the hostel for the 10 nights, then it would have been just $21 per night, each.

In hindsight, we should have done this, as a tip – never stay at a Mercure Hotel in China, they are overpriced and you end up having to pay an upfront (later refundable) deposit of more than the price of your actual stay!

Travel tip: Accommodation prices vary widly during the different seasons of the year.  The cheapest time to visit Beijing is between November – March.  The most expensive time to find hostels / hotels is May – October (peak season).

Meals:

We spent $146 per person spread over 10 nights.  The majority of that was spent on dinners ($100) and then lunch ($43).  We aren't really breakfast eaters, so it meant we could go out for really nice dinners in the evenings!

Our average dinners cost about $9 per person.  And that will buy you A LOT in China!  We must have been really hungry, because some of our meals could have fed a big family very easily.  But it was great trying all the delicious Beijing delicacies and not having to worry about how much it was really costing.

Cristabel getting ready for our feast of Peking Duck!

Cristabel getting ready for our feast of Peking Duck!

Want to try some Beijing Style / Peking Duck?

If you are interested in going out in Beijing to have the famous Peking Duck.  I would recommend trying it at Bianyifang.  This place is an institution in Beijing, originally said to be the oldest Peking Duck restaurant in China.  The branch that we went to wasn't all that old, but they use the same old style of cooking the Duck as the original place.  It's located in the ‘New World Shopping Mall', which is close to Chongwenmen Subway.  It's located on the top floor, easy to spot as it has a big plastic duck at the entrance.  The cost of a whole duck to share, with all the sides, and drinks, etc.. Came to $20 per person and one of those ‘Must Do' items on your travels in Beijing.

Want to try The Best Steamed Dumplings in all of Beijing??

Guan Tang Steamed Dumpings Outside Sign

The Best Steamed Dumplings Restaurant in Beijing

Here is a little tip if you are in the mood for trying some of the best steamed dumplings you will ever have!  I recommend a place called ‘Guan Tang Steamed Dumpings'. It is a little hard to find as there is no information on Google Search or Google Maps (but that might just be a good thing).

The best directions I can give you are.. If you get to Dongsi subway station (Line 5 & 6) and then come out of there and walk North on the right hand side of the main road and keep an eye out to your right (there are lots of restaurants on that road). Within a minute or 2 you will come past it. You will see dumpings being served inside, 99% chinese locals and it has a plaque on the outside talking about it in English. It is what they call a ‘Time Honoured Brand' in Beijing.  This means its old, good value and the food is superb. The plaque will read ‘Guan Tang Steamed Dumpings – At Top Restaurant', it has some small steps leading up and the menu is translated in English. Grab some dumpings and a few side dishes of meat and vegetables with some rice and you will leave happy you have tried something really authentic and not touristy in Beijing.  Our meal there came to just $11 each, with drinks.

Steamed Dumpings from Guan Tang Beijing

Steamed Dumplings filled with Pork and Soup.

Transportation:

We spent $22 per person in total (excluding our train from Shanghai and then to Xi'an. Total costs overall for taxi's were $3.50 per person, with the rest spent on subways.

Attraction costs in Beijing:

The Great Wall of China

Stretching into the distance – The Great Wall of China

Here is a sample guide to how much we paid for attractions in Beijing, China.  We have written guides on each of the paid attractions (and plenty more free ones) listed, click on any of the headers to read that article.

Sundries

From laundry to snacks in the day, our sundries expenses came to roughly $113 per person, that's just over $11 per day. Below are some example costs in Beijing for everyday expenses!

  • Supermarkets (Walmart / Tesco's) are the cheapest places to buy everyday groceries like big bottles of water, snacks, chocolate, medicine, beauty products, etc..  Our average shops came to about $5 each per day.  Even imported food stuffs are cheap, such as Lay's Crisps and McVities biscuits.  You can buy many of your comforts from back home in China for roughly the same price you expect to pay at home.
  • Laundry costs can vary wildly, if you are staying in a hostel with laundry facilities sometimes it's completely free.  Otherwise expect around $3 per kg.  4* Hotels will charge you a lot more, perhaps $5 per item.. Which makes it cheaper to just buy new clothes!
  • Refreshments / drinks cost us on average $2 per day, each.  That includes my occasional beers!  A big bottle of beer from the supermarket can cost as little as $1. Or in hostel bars / restaurants as low as $2 for a big bottle.  When we were in Beijing, the temperature got up to the mid 40's (Celsius) on some days, meaning we bought a lot of iced drinks throughout the days to.. well stay alive!!  If you are a fan of fruity iced drinks, I recommend trying out coco tea outlets.
    My expensive souvenir from Beijing!

    My expensive souvenir from Beijing!

  • Souvenirs, I went a little mad and bought a few things in Beijing I realised I couldn't possibly travel around with in my backpack.  So I did the logical thing and bought a small suitcase that I trawled around for almost a month full of souvenirs I bought along our journey.  The most expensive thing I bought was some cotton shoes on Qianmen Street, which cost $60.. Turns out they aren't machine washable and are ruined now, ouch!
  • Snacks were a mainstay of our diets in Beijing.  Crisps, chocolate and my favourite.. Ice Cream all averaged at $1 per day each.

How much we spent in Beijing over a 10 night stay (2 people)

The below table shows our full travel costs for 10 nights in Beijing.  Based on 2 people travelling together, so if you are in a group of 2 or more, half the amounts displayed and that's a good indication of planning a daily budget for Beijing per person. Please bear in mind that in this table, I have added both train journeys at the start and end of our trip to Beijing.  This is just a sample of what we spent on everything whilst there.

Total Cost (¥ RMB) Total Cost (US $) Total Cost (UK £)
Accommodation ¥3,060 $505 £302
     – Hotels / Hostels ¥3,060 $505 £302
Attractions ¥1,260 $208 £124
     – Entrance Fees ¥620 $102 £61
     – Tour Cost ¥640 $106 £63
Meals ¥1,714 $283 £169
     – Breakfast ¥34 $6 £3
     – Dinner ¥1,205 $199 £119
     – Lunch ¥529 $87 £52
Sundries ¥1,373 $226 £136
     – Laundry ¥30 $5 £3
     – Refreshments ¥242 $40 £24
     – Snacks ¥110 $18 £11
     – Souvenirs ¥398 $66 £39
     – Supermarket ¥593 $98 £59
Transportation ¥2,840 $468 £280
     – Subway ¥96 $16 £9
     – Taxi ¥40 $7 £4
     – Train ¥2,704 $446 £267
Grand Total ¥10,301 $1,699 £1,017

Pie Chart: Daily costs of backpacking in Beijing

As you can see from our pie chart below, the majority (40%) of our daily costs were spent on Accommodation.  Now that is because we stayed in a nice hostel, had a double en-suite and then spent 4 nights at a 4* hotel (worked out just a few dollars extra per night!).  So your costs of travel in Beijing cost easily be significantly less.

Transportation around the city shouldn't be much of a worry and neither should attractions.  With the only attractions kind of breaking the bank at $66 per person was The Great Wall of China. All the other attractions averaged just over $6 per person and many of the things we did were completely free.

How much our daily travel costs were in Beijing

What is the cheapest Daily Budget you could backpack in Beijing on?

This is a good question, and worthwhile knowing what the bare minimum you could travel on, in Beijing.  Let's say you are 2 people sharing and are keen to see a lot of things..  I think perhaps by sharing and cutting back on some of the expenses we incurred.  You could get a hostel on average for $12 a night in a mixed dorm, meals maybe could average $10-$12 a day, transport isn't a problem, as we are talking about $1 per day.  Attractions you will be hard pressed to get below $10 average per day as The Great Wall is such a budget suck. Sundries could maybe average instead at $5 per day (you have to buy bottled water and if you are travelling in the peak seasons, your going to need more than just water to survive!).  This would mean the minimum you need to backpack in Beijing is $38-$40 per day, per person (in a group of 2 or more).

That concludes our guide on building a daily budget for backpacking in Beijing.  I hope we have answered your questions on how much does it cost per day to travel.  Post any additional questions in the comments section.  If you want some more information on things you can do in Beijing, then read our Beijing (China) – A Backpackers Budget Guide & Travel Itinerary.

About Darryl Hall (85 Articles)
Darryl left the shorelines of England in 2013 to study and travel in China and South East Asia for a year. Darryl is a co-founder of escapingthedesk.com, a travel blog with the aim of sharing travel tips, country & city guides for other backpackers. Visit my Google+ page.

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