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Travellers Guide to Chengdu (China) – Travel & Attraction Costs

Backpack in Chengdu, on as little as $30 per day + see the cute Panda Army!

When we travelled across China, we had the fortune of being able to travel through so many interesting places with major attraction draws.  Perhaps the only exception to this was Nanjing, although with plenty of awesome attractions, didn't have the big draws as say.. The Great Wall of China.  Well maybe you could consider the Nanjing Massacre as something people have heard of outside of China.. But it's not really a happy attraction is it?

Over the 5,500km of distance we travelled across China, we tried to make sure that we could visit the top tourist draws in those places.  So in Hangzhou, we spent a lot of time around West Lake.  In Shanghai we enjoyed our time in Pudong and walking on the shorelines of the Old Bund.  In Beijing we saw history up close, at The Forbidden Palace, Summer Palace and The Great Wall of China at Mutianyu.  In Xi'an we of course visited the The Terracotta Warriors and Horses Museum.

The next destination on our list was Chengdu, with maybe the ‘cuddliest' form of attraction we both wanted to see, especially Cristabel!

Pandas in Chengdu - Daily Budget for visiting panda's of Chengdu

This little guy is the inspiration behind the WWF Panda Logo

 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 between Yuan and £ Sterling is usually around 10RMB per £1, so 100RMB is £10 – simple to work out the true costs for us brits!

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.

 Average Daily Travel Budget in Chengdu (Sichuan, China) 

Before we begin, there are a few caveats to our average daily costs displayed below.  Because these budget guides are meant to show ALL our costs, it means we put down things that you may not end up paying for yourself.  Below are a list of items that are included in the averages below, but not necessarily reflective of your own travel costs.

  • We flew from Xi'an to Chengdu (lack of planning!) instead of getting the overnight sleeper train.  Although the costs for the flight aren't included here, the Airport Shuttle / Taxi is included within Transportation costs (84 RMB)
  • We stayed at a 5* hotel for 3 nights as a treat whilst seeing the Pandas (more on that later!), so accommodation costs are higher than normal, when we take this into account (2,200 RMB).
  • We went to the Cinema to watch a film on IMAX, as you do..
  • We advance purchased train tickets from Guilin to Shenzhen for ease of future planning (877 RMB).
  • Cristabel got to cuddle a baby Panda (2,000 RMB).

We stayed in Chengdu for 7 nights at 2 separate hotels, below daily costs are the average ‘per person' rates, based on 2 people sharing accommodation costs (so Double / Twin rather than dorm accommodation).  Our whole stay with everything included worked out to be $100 per day, per person budget.  *If you want to know how much you could realistically travel to Chengdu on as a budget backpacker, then skip all the way to the bottom of this article.

Table Key: Our Daily Costs (Per Person) for 7 Night Stay in Chengdu
Accommodation Meals Transportation Attractions Sundries
197 RMB
$32
£19
111 RMB
$18
£11
77 RMB
$12
£7
173 RMB
$28
£16
66 RMB
$11
£6

As we traditionally do for these Budget Breakdowns from our travels, each of the main categories of spend (above) are broken down further so you can see exactly what we spent in Chengdu.

 Accommodation Costs in Chengdu: 

OK, so I guess we begin with our stay at the 5* hotel we spent 3 nights indulging ourselves at.

I came across the Crowne Plaza Panda Garden on TripAdvisor, usually I try to avoid reading too much into TripAdvisor reviews because they can be a little ‘unevenly' reviewed.  Crowne Plaza however just shouted out to me from the amazing number of positive reviews.  Also in terms of how 5* hotels are usually priced in China, it was a pretty good deal for what we would get AND only 5 minutes away from the ‘Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding'.  I figured, why not make this trip of a lifetime to see the Panda's even more special?

Crowne Plaza - Panda Garden Hotel in Chengdu - 5 Stars

Crowne Plaza Chengdu Panda Garden | ★★★★★

Address Poly Park 198, No.1980 Shulong Avenue, Xindu District, Chengdu 610503, China

Price $$$$$ | Location 5 Minutes from the Panda Reserve | Value Excellent

May I start by saying this is the best hotel I have ever stayed in, worldwide.  I know that is a big statement, but let me re-assure you that I have stayed at some of the best hotels out there, this trumps them all.  The service is actually 5* (compared to many 5* who don't understand the term ‘service').  The food is fantastic, the rooms are comfortable, modern and spacious.  They went all out at any opportunity we needed help.  Simply put, this was a place I would travel half-way around the world again to visit.

Rooms from 600 RMB per night ($100 / £60) for Double Ensuite. Book online

International Youth Hostel (IYH) Chengdu China

Chengdu International Youth Hostel | ★★

Address No.211 North Section 4, First Ring Rd., Chengdu, Sichuan, China 610081  (中国四川省成都市一环路北四段211号邮编610081)

Price $$$$$ | Location Central Chengdu, 15 minutes to Subway | Value Excellent

This place turned out to be a pretty decent stay for us (although a little less luxury than our previous hotel!!).  It was in a decent location for what we wanted to do, which was simply wandering around the city and shopping malls.  The place is located on the main road (North Section 4) which in either direction has a Shopping Mall about 10-15 minutes walk.  There is a Wanda Plaza one way and a Carrefour in the other direction.  The twin rooms are clean and tidy, although have a slightly odd bed which you likely won't have an issue with, just the foam mattress is a bit old.  The hostel is like a complex hidden from the hustle and bustle of the streets outside, with a reasonable bar / restaurant onsite.  It was overall a good stay, we would recommend it for other travellers.

Rooms from 140 RMB per night ($23 / £14) for Twin with en-suite. Book online.

 Eating out in Chengdu, our daily costs for meals: 

Our meals averaged at $18 per day, per person.  I guess this was due to our first few nights staying at the Crowne Plaza where although the food was reasonable price for the quality, was over our usual spend.

As we generally do.. We always miss breakfast and spend more on Lunch and Dinner so we can eat at nicer places.

I can recommend a few places to eat in Chengdu that are good value and give you a nice array of local Sichuan cuisine.  The restaurant at the Panda Reserve is well worth a stop for lunch.  They have some nice signature Chengdu dishes all served in large portions.  Definitely try their bamboo side dishes, you will be surprised how tender and flavourful this is!  We spent about $10 per head, for food and drinks there.

If you stay at the Crowne Plaza, then definitely opt for their ala carte menu, rather than the buffet.  The food is reasonably priced and cooked fresh to order.  Great place to get some authentic italian pasta dishes if you are missing home comforts.

The Jinniu Wanda Plaza at the end of the North Section 4 main road, has plenty of nice restaurants mostly all with an English menu.  We tended to eat out mostly at the Malls, because they had an assortment of local cuisine restaurants, national chains and Japanese / Taiwanese choices.  Also they are reasonably priced and going by the amount of locals in these places, it paints a positive picture..

 Transportation (Getting in and out of Chengdu): 

Chengdu has a modern Subway (metro) system in place, that can connect you to Chengdu North Railway Station (Sleeper Trains), Chengdu East Railway Station (High Speed Connections), other stations not used as frequently require bus transportation in most cases.  Most travel fares cost just 50 cents per ride.

Getting into Chengdu:

If you are flying to Chengdu from another chinese city, you will fly into the new Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport.  There is no metro linking the Airport up, but bus services that run into central Chengdu and to the Train Stations.  The rides to most destinations costs just 10 – 15 RMB per journey.

If you arrive in Chengdu by train, you can either take the metro system to a central location and then get a taxi for the remaining portion.  Or alternatively simply opt for a taxi directly to your hotel.  As a typical fare for example, our trip from the East Railway Station (we had to buy tickets for our future journeys, thus the detor!).. This cost about $10 for a 30 minute journey, most journeys around town will set you back by $5 – $10.  I guess a point to make is that you may find queue jumpers when waiting for taxi's at major transport hubs.  There is simply nothing you can really do about this, but just smile and accept it.

Getting out of Chengdu:

Same hubs you will likely use for getting out of Chengdu as you used to get here.  Most sleepers go from Chengdu North Railway Station.  This is your main hub for journeys to most destinations.  If you are heading South to Kunming, the fare is roughly < 400 RMB for sleeper and similar prices for Xi'an.

If you were thinking of travelling to Lhasa (Tibet) from Chengdu which is a popular jumping on point.. It costs about $100 for a sleeper (one-way) and takes roughly 3 days.  The exciting thing about this trip is that you will be travelling on one of the highest (altitude) railways in existence.  It was a feat of engineering when they finally finished the railway. Although I bet within 10-15 years they will upgrade the line with a more direct High Speed service.

 Visiting the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding (Top Attraction): 

The entrance fee for the Chengdu Panda reserve is just $10 per person.  This gives you pretty much full access to all the enclosures, daily entertainment / events.  Our advice is to get there for when the park opens.  Especially during the summer months when it can get very hot and the Panda's will end up towards midday retreat inside to be cooled with the large banks of Air Conditioning units.

You may have heard that there is a chance to spend a few moments holding / cuddling a baby Panda for a fee.  This service still exists and is available everyday.  There are a few things you need to understand first though..

  • It is not guaranteed that you will have a baby Panda placed on your lap to hold.  If they are the older / larger ones, then they will be sat besides you and you can put your arm around them and stroke them.  It is pure luck of the draw, on the day which you will get.
  • You can only go into the ‘Experience' area if you have paid, so don't think you can pay for your partner / child to take part and you just go in to take photos.  It's an entrance fee..
  • You will get about 1 minute of time with the baby Panda and if you want pictures / video of the experience – make sure you have someone who can do it for you!
  • The cost of this is a ‘donation' of 2,000 RMB.  That is roughly $350 / £200.  Work that into the time you get with the Panda and it equates to $6 per second of time with the Panda.

So just a few helpful tips to make sure if you want to spend this money and take part in the experience, you don't become disappointed.  There are usually 2 times per day that you can take part in this experience.  The 1st at around 11am and the 2nd around 2pm.  There is a high demand (from westerners) for this.  So make sure you get to the park early (when it opens) and make your way over to the ‘Panda Experience' area and register / make your donation.  Then just come back at your allocated time.

Maybe you are asking, was it worth the money?  I don't think you could put a price on the chance to be that close to such a special animal.  With China becoming more ‘regulated' and always changing fast, I doubt this will be available over the next 5 years.

Our video of the Chengdu Panda Breeding Base – Cristabel cuddling a baby Panda:

 Sundries & Misc Costs in Chengdu: 

Sundry costs generally include the ‘non-essentials' or the ‘low cost essentials' such as Water for instance.  Our sundries in Chengdu included drinks, Ice Cream, Supermarkets, Haircut, Laundry, Phone Credit, Clothes, Suitcase and Souvenirs.

  • Supermarkets – Chengdu has a wide variety of supermarkets (Wal-Mart / Carrefour) which you can pick up the essentials for very little.  Google Maps has a generally good map for China which can help you find supermarkets locally.  There are also a tonne of local convenience stores.  China doesn't generally have nationwide convenience store chains (7-Eleven) but usually has a chain of local stores that cater to basic daily stuff.
  • Laundry – We had our laundry done at the hostel and it came to $1.50 per load.  There was plenty of undercover / outside hanging space which was a relief as some of our clothes really needed a good clean at this point!!
  • Drinks (beers) – Beers in restaurants and from supermarkets generally is under $1 for a big bottle.  The hostel we stayed at was great value for money on drinks.
  • Haircut – For Men at least, it's really easy to get your haircut.  You do generally find yourself a temporary attraction at the salons as it's likely the first time they have cut westerners hair.  Luckily my hair is pretty straight, so they generally never had any problems with it.  For between $3 – $4 you can go to a ‘top' local stylist in a salon, have your hair washed, dried, cut and then washed again.  I don't think I had a bad haircut in China at all, and they do it so fast!
  • Phone Credit (China Mobile) – I used a variety of Chinese networks during our stay in China for 6 months.  The most reliable was sadly China Mobile, which doesn't use western radio standards.  Which meant my iPhone 5 never had more than 2.5G (Edge) data.  The good thing about China Mobile was you could keep topping up money and renewing data plans until your balance was exhausted.  China Unicom on the other hand was great for speed (3.5G) but when you used your allocated Data, you couldn't simply put more money on it for a renewal, you had to wait for another 30 days!  Tell me how they justify that business decision?!

 How much we spent in Chengdu over a 7 night stay (2 people) 

The below table shows our full travel costs for 7 nights in Chengdu.  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 Chengdu per person. Please bear in mind that in this table, I have added all our travel costs.  As stated at the top of this article, there will more than likely be costs not associated with your own travels.

Total Cost (¥ RMB) Total Cost (US $) Total Cost (UK £)
Accommodation ¥2,760 $455 £273
     – Hotels / Hostels ¥2,760 $455 £273
Attractions ¥2,416 $398 £239
     – Panda's Entrance Fees ¥416 $69 £41
     – Panda's Experience ¥2,000 $330 £197
Meals ¥1,555 $256 £154
     – Dinner ¥960 $158 £95
     – Lunch ¥595 $98 £59
Sundries ¥928 $153 £92
     – Laundry ¥15 $2 £1
     – Misc ¥432 $71 £43
     – Refreshments ¥75 $12 £7
     – Snacks ¥34 $6 £3
     – Supermarket ¥373 $61 £37
Transportation ¥1,086 $179 £107
     – Bus ¥28 $5 £3
     – Subway ¥21 $3 £2
     – Taxi ¥160 $26 £16
     – Train ¥877 $145 £87
Grand Total ¥8,745 $1,442 £864

 Pie Chart: Daily costs of backpacking in Chengdu 

As you can see from our pie chart below, the majority (31%) of our spend went to Accommodation.  With Attractions coming in a close second (28%).  If we excluded the cost of Cristabel's experience with the baby Panda, then the attraction cost would be very small.

Meals came to $256 overall and 18% of the total spend.  I guess in Chengdu we saw everything we wanted to see and ate well in the process!  But in general, Chengdu was certainly one of the most expensive portions of our China Trip and that was down to us, not because Chengdu is ultra expensive.  In fact, it's probably one of the cheapest cities we visited in general.

How much we spent in Chengdu on travel and attractions Pie Chart

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

If we had stayed in the hostel the whole time, eaten the way we did whilst we were at the hostel and didn't do the ‘Panda Experience', then our daily budget could have been instead of $100 per day, more around…

  1. Hostel = 980 RMB for 7 nights (490 RMB each) for Twin Ensuite.
  2. Attractions = 58 RMB for entry to Panda Breeding Centre, per person.
  3. Meals = 100RMB per person, per day.
  4. Sundries = 50 RMB per person, per day.
  5. Transport = $2 per person, per day.

Add all that together and you could travel comfortably in Chengdu on a budget of just 180 RMB per person, per day.  That is about $30 per day, representing one of the cheapest cities in China to visit.  The only caveat to this is there will obviously be a cost of getting to Chengdu and out again.  Plus there are other attractions you can visit which might be worthwhile whilst you are here, that add to the daily costs.

That concludes our guide on building a daily budget for backpacking in Chengdu.  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 Chengdu, then read our Chengdu thread, or our China thread.

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.

2 Comments on Travellers Guide to Chengdu (China) – Travel & Attraction Costs

  1. Hi Darryl,
    I am going Chengdu next month with my family and really want to hold a baby panda in there. As you mention about the cost of the Experience Area, I am wondering that if I want to take some pictures/video of the experience, can I ask someone to go in with me for that? Or they can help me to take some pictures/video without any costs? Many thanks!

    • Hey Yvonne, because there are large groups of people at the panda experience there is always someone to take photos / videos. You also get an official photo anyway. Hope you have a great time in Chengdu!

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