Trip Budget: China and Hong Kong
We’d assumed China would be one of the cheaper countries of our trip, so we were in for a rude awakening when we saw some of the transport costs and entrance fees. The good news is that food and accommodation are both pretty cheap. The same can’t be said for Hong Kong, where just about everything is crazy expensive. Here’s a breakdown of our budget for one month in China, and one week in Hong Kong (all costs are per person, based on two people sharing).
Note: We travelled in November, which I highly recommend if you’re trying to cut down on costs. Hostel prices drop, though weather-wise it’s still a good time to visit. Entrance fees for parks are also massively discounted during off-season, though the official starting date of off-season differs from park to park.
£50/ $75 for the first, £20 / $30 for the second.
We briefly passed through Beijing on our way to Mongolia, but, as we couldn’t get a double-entry visa, we had to pay £50/ $75 each for a single entry visa in Kathmandu (including rush fees). Read more about getting a visa here.
We then travelled from Mongolia back into China, and got another single entry visa in Ulaanbaatar for £20/$30. Read more about this visa here.
The hostels in China are amazing! They come with everything you need from a hostel- hot showers, wifi, lockers, a bar/restaurant, towels, and cleanliness! It may not sound like much, but compared to hostels in other countries, they’re incredible.
Hostels in Beijing cost ¥60-80 (£6-8, $9-12) for a dorm, whereas dorms in the rest of the country cost ¥30- 40 (£3-4/ $4.50-6), and private rooms started at as little as ¥50 (£5/ $7.50) per person (remember, these are all off-season prices).
As a vegetarian, food was always a bit tricky for me (read my veggie travel tips here), but the good news was it was all pretty cheap! Meals cost as little as ¥15 (£1.50 /$2), and even meals in nicer restaurants were only around ¥50 (£5/ $7.50). Adam’s meals were usually more expensive, as they contained meat, but even his most expensive Chinese meal was around ¥70 (£7/ $10.50).
Street food was widely available, usually in the form of corn on the cob, sweet potatoes, or tofu (and meat for Adam). These were usually ¥6-10 (£0.60- 1/ $0.90-1.50).
When we were in a large city and craving something other than Chinese, we’d usually go out for pizza or a burger. At around around ¥50-80 (£5-8/ $7.50-12), these were more expensive than local food (but worth it when I just couldn’t go another day without cheese).
Getting around cities was pretty cheap. Beijing and Chengdu both had extensive metro and bus systems, for around ¥2-4 per journey (20-40p/ 30-60c).
Long Distance Transport:
Here’s where things started getting expensive. We’d usually cover long distances by train. A second class hard sleeper was perfectly comfortable and a good bit cheaper than first class. For our first few trains it was worth paying a small bit more to get a sleeper instead of a seat, but for our last train, we found the price for a sleeper was double that of a seat. The first few trains had been K trains, whereas this was a T train, so I’m not sure if that was the reason for the sudden price difference, but it’s always worth asking what the difference in cost is when booking a ticket (the seat on the T train was actually ok for the night).
Here’s some of our train costs:
Beijing – Chengdu, 29 hours, ¥456 (£46/ $70)
Chengdu – Huahuai, 19 hours, ¥207 (£21/ $32)
Huahuai – Zhangjiejia, 3.5 hours, ¥35.5 (£36/ $54)
Zhangjiejia – Guangzhou, 12 hours, ¥172.5 (£17/ $26) for a seat (or ¥350 for a sleeper)
And here’s the cost for some bus trips:
Erlian – Beijing, 12 hours sleeper, ¥220 (£22/ $33)
Chengdu – Bagou, 2 hours, ¥41 (£4/ $6)
Chengdu- Juizaigou, 9 hours each way, ¥250 return ticket (£25/ $38)
Fees weren’t so bad for some sights, but the entrance fees for national parks really bumped up our costs.
Great Wall (at Mutianyu): ¥45 (£4.50/ $7)
Forbidden city: ¥25 (£2.50/ $4)
Panda Research Base in Chengdu: ¥58 (£6/ $9)
Mt Emei: ¥185 (£18.50/ $28)
Juizaigou: ¥180 (£18/ $27) in low season (starting November 16th), or ¥300 (£30/ $45) in high season
Zhangjiejia: ¥136 (£14/ $21) in low season (starting December 1st), or ¥245 (£25/ $38)
In one month in China, we each spent ¥5,500 (£550/ $831) (not including visas). This worked out at ¥183 per day (£18/ $27).
Even with the hefty price tags of some of the trains and entrance fees, we were still well under budget (hurray!), but of course, we still had a week in Hong Kong left…
No matter how far you try to stretch your money, Hong Kong is going to be expensive.
We were visiting a friend, so we stayed at his apartment for the week. Lucky for us, as even the cheapest hostels are around HK$210 (£18/ $27) per night.
Dim Sum is a great way to try lots of local dishes at once. Each dish is cheap, (HK$30-55/ £3-£5/ $4.50-7.50), but you do end up ordering three or four per person!
Just about every type of food is available, so when we weren’t eating Dim Sum, we were trying some Mexican, Thai, or just eating as much cheese as we could manage. We stuck to fairly cheap restaurants, and meals usually cost us around HK$110 (£10/ $15).
A ride on the metro cost HK$4-11 (£0.35- 0.90/ $0.50- $1.35). Get an Octopus card, which can be charged up, swiped on each journey (for a discounted rate), then returned.
Taxis are metered, and work out pretty cheap each journey tended to cost us HK$30-60 (£2.50- 5/ $3- 7.50).
Nights out were where our budget really took a hit, but it was so worth it! As we were staying with a friend, he took us to all his favourite spots, including a high end whiskey bar, a beer pong bar, a rooftop bar overlooking the city, and several hidden speakeasies. Drinks cost anywhere between HK$60 (£5/ $7.50) and HK$175 (£15/ $22.50).
All in all, our week in Hong Kong (minus accommodation), cost us each HK$1,700 (£150/ $225) (though we also took this chance to buy some electronics, and repair our broken laptop screen, which I haven’t included in this total here, but which bumped the real total up a hell of a lot!).
Got any budget tips for China and Hong Kong? Be sure to share them in the comments!