Updated: Nov 25, 2020
Are you planning to move to Beijing? First things first, great choice! Beijing is a beautiful city exploding with life, both modern and historically authentic, incredible mouth-watering cuisine, lively nightlife, and amazing parks. You're probably wondering, 'how much does it even cost to live in Beijing?' Beijing is the capital city of China. With this comes a bit higher living expenses. Is it still affordable to live a pleasant life in Beijing? Absolutely! Depending on your lifestyle, Beijing is still an extremely affordable place to live. Today, we're going to break down all ordinary living expenses for life in Beijing.
Before we begin, the Chinese currency is called Yuan Renminbi, or RMB for short. The symbol looks like this — ¥.
Let's begin with the top expense. We all have to pay rent. On the bright side, rent can be very affordable in Beijing. Generally, rent ranges between 3,500 to 12,000 RMB a month. If you're thinking about sharing a one-bedroom apartment in the city center, your rent can be close to 3,500 RMB. For a studio apartment in the city center, rent will range between 6,000 to 8,000 RMB a month. However, if you don't mind living outside the city center, you can find nice large one-bedroom apartments closer to 4000 RMB. A two-three bedroom in the city center will be closer to the 12000 RMB price point. So, when it comes to renting, you've got options! Check out our blog all about how to find an apartment in Beijing for more rent concerns here.
BILLS BILLS BILLS
I want to preface this part: I've never experienced a more relaxed way to pay bills before living in Beijing. You can pay all your bills right through your apps on your phone. It's so easy and convenient! Monthly bills will include water, electricity, heating, garbage, your mobile phone plan, and WIFI. A whole year's wifi plan can cost from 600 RMB to 1,500 RMB. Electricity can vary from month to month. Winter will, of course, be more expensive because we all need that heating! On average, electricity costs around 100 to 200 RMB a month, and water around 50 to 85 RMB a month. In regards to your mobile phone plan, it's around 50 to 99 RMB a month. This gives you unlimited data, talk, and text. Not bad, right? 'Topping up' your phone is also extremely easy and efficient. You can top up directly through Wechat or Alipay apps as well.
If there's one thing Beijing has got, it's fantastic transportation options and at low costs. Let's begin with the subway. The subway is one of the most reliable and affordable ways to get around the city. A one-way ride on the subway, including transfers, is typically 4 RMB. If you prefer taking a bus ride, it's a whopping 1 RMB. The next option is one of the most significant inventions to bless our earth — Beijing's unique shared bikes. You will find shared bikes all over the city. For a ride across the city, it's usually not more than 3 - 4 RMB. For the more comfortable route, you can ride a taxi or DiDi (Uber/Lyft of Beijing). The express DiDi option is generally less expensive than a traditional taxi. A DiDi ride across the city costs around 30 - 35 RMB, and for shorter distances, it's about 15 RMB. If you want to go full Beijing style, you can buy an awesome electric scooter! You can find excellent scooters ranging from 2,500 to 7,000 RMB. Then, of course, there's always walking, which is free. Beijing transportation rocks!
A week's worth of groceries varies from person to person. Some people cook all their meals at home, and some don't even own an oven. If you cook most of your meals, groceries will typically cost around 300 to 500 RMB a week. This amount will get you a stocked fridge with veggies, fruit, meat, eggs, milk, bread, and snacks. If you rarely cook at home and need the absolute essentials like milk and water, you're looking at 200 RMB a week. There are many different kinds of markets in Beijing. You can find small local markets, fruit & veggie markets, supermarkets, and big bougie fancy types of markets. You can also get all your groceries delivered to your door if you opt to use a grocery delivery app like Meituan. To give you an idea of what to expect:
A Liter of dairy milk - 12RMB
A Liter of dairy alternative milk - 30RMB
A loaf of bread - 12RMB
A Dozen eggs - 14RMB
1 kg of chicken - 25RMB
1 kilogram of beef - 70RMB
1 kg of various fruit (bananas, apples, oranges, mango)- around 20RMB
1 kg of assorted veggies - 20RMB
A bag of Nuts or seeds - 25RMB
A 4L bottle of water - 12RMB
A bottle of domestic beer - 5RMB
A bottle of imported beer - 15RMB
A pack of cigarettes - 20RMB
RESTAURANTS AND DINING
I did not expect Chinese food was going to be so versatile and incredible in Beijing. There's a vast range of different price points when it comes to dining. Let's begin with the exquisite authentic Chinese food. You can find excellent Chinese restaurants at all kinds of different price points. At the lower price point, you can enjoy a whole delicious meal for under 40 RMB. Generally, a plate of dumplings will cost around 30 RMB, different vegetable dishes for around 25RMB, and meat dishes for around 35RMB. There's also a large selection of non-Chinese restaurants like Italian and Japanese and more western-style places like cafes and fast-food (KFC and McDonalds). You can find any cuisine you'd like in Beijing. It's around 35 RMB for a burger and fries at McDonald's. If you're in the mood for some pizza, you can get a nice gourmet style pizza for around 90 RMB. You typically won't pay more than 100 RMB per person when dining out. Coffee is usually the higher expense. A venti latte at Starbucks is about 35 RMB. If you'd like a nice tall cold glass of beer with your meal, it's typically around 12RMB for domestic beer and 25RMB for a bottle of imported beer.
CLOTHES & SHOPPING
Beijing has got a little of everything when it comes to what's available for clothes and shopping. You've got the familiar large western-style stores, like H&M, Uniqlo, Zara, and Sephora. You can typically find great quality clothes at fair price points — 300 RMB for jeans/pants, 75 to 150 RMB for shirts and sweaters, and 75 to 300 RMB for shoes. You can also find all the luxury stores you desire, such as Chanel and Louis Vuitton. There's plenty of inexpensive none name brand shops all over Beijing, too, where you can buy a whole outfit for under 100RMB. Then there's the online shopping route, which is another entire level of shopping. You can shop using apps like Taobao and JD for everything. On Taobao, you can find anything you need. Prices can range from extremely low to higher price points. You can find nice shoes for under 100 RMB and clothes for similar prices.
CHILDCARE & EDUCATION
If you've got little ones coming along to live in Beijing, let's talk about childcare and schools. Pre-school and kindergarten will likely cost around 5,000 RMB a month. This will be childcare for full days. If you'd like to enroll your kids in an international school, yearly tuition is around 157,000 RMB. International schools in Beijing are a great way to get your kids integrated into Beijing life. If you are looking to learn some Chinese while living in Beijing, you can enroll in Chinese lessons. To learn Chinese at an established university like the Beijing Language and Culture University will cost 9000 to 13,000 RMB for one semester. HSK 6, here we come!
ENTERTAINMENT & SPORTS
There is always something to do in Beijing. Of course, there are all the great sites to check out around Beijing, and this should keep you busy for the first year or two. Checking out sites such as the Forbidden City and the Temple of Heaven is incredibly affordable: around 40 to 60 RMB. If you're in the mood to go out to the cinema, a ticket costs about 35 to 50RMB. For some fun times at bars with friends, a drink typically doesn't cost more than 25 to 30 RMB. Then, a monthly gym membership is around 400 RMB on average. If you're a yogi, you can find yoga classes for about 125 RMB.
Health insurance is usually paid for by your school, so you won't need to worry too much about it. If you decide to get your own private insurance, you can find affordable plans that will surely meet your budget and needs. Some insurance plans might not include dental care. You can opt to see a dentist at the hospital. And it's not as expensive as you might think. A dental cleaning at a local government hospital will cost around 200 RMB and 500 RMB at an international hospital.
SALON & BEAUTY
There are numerous options for different salon and beauty services all over the city. You can get extremely inexpensive haircuts for 30 RMB. Will it be a perfect cut? Maybe. If you're looking for higher-end salons, you can get a hair cut for around 250RMB. There are countless nail salons and foot massage shops around the city. For a gel manicure, it's about 150 to 200RMB. If you need a nice foot massage, it will cost you around 100 RMB. All kinds of treatment, such as waxing, tanning, eyelash extensions, facials, and skincare, are available in Beijing. So, get ready to look and feel like your best self in Beijing.
Depending on which country you're coming from, it's safe to say life in Beijing will most likely be more affordable than back home. Of course, we all live different lives, so expenses differ from person to person. If you don't blow your paychecks at luxury stores, you're bound to save some money. Beijing life is sweet.