How Much Did We Spend in China?

September 24, 2013 — 12 Comments
How much did we spend in China?

It’s the Cube! I had to jump in front of it!

Overall score (Dan) = B
Overall score (Jocelyn) = C

Total days = 13 nights, 14 days
Total cost = $1,943
Cost per day = $139 / day
Flight costs = $540 one-way from Delhi
Cities visited: Yangshuo, Guilin, Xi’An, Beijing (also including Hong Kong and Macao in this report)


Our previous experience with Chinese tourists in other countries led us to believe that entering their country would prove hazardous to our sanity due to their overzealous line jumping, lack of personal space, and their love of traveling around on large tour buses where 50 of them get out and ruin whatever tourist attraction they arrive at with their pushiness and loud talking. Our sentiments were echoed by a recent New York Times article:

“Their numbers have also placed them among the most resented tourists. Mainland Chinese tourists, often laden with cash and unfamiliar with foreign ways, are tumbling out of tour buses with apparently little appetite for hotel breakfast buffets and no concept of lining up.

…users posted complaints about Chinese tourists using outdoor voices inside and spitting in public, among other transgressions.”

What’s interesting is we saw this a lot with Chinese travelers in other countries, but it wasn’t as bad while traveling the mainland (well, besides the hacking, spitting, and loud slurping).

China offered quite a few unique archaeological and cultural sites, but it also felt more like “the West” than any other country we’d been to since Australia. New buildings mimic giant corn stalks as they rise out of the fields that once grew rice. Most cities could easily be dropped in the US and the only difference would be the Chinese writing naming them.

Forbidden City, Beijing

The gates to the Forbidden City in smoggy Beijing

In addition to visiting mainland China, we added four days in Hong Kong and a day trip to Macao which are both somewhat independent from China, but not enough to be called a separate country… I’m still trying to figure that part out.

How far does your money go in China?

Overall, China was a pretty good value as far as lodging and food but Hong Kong was more expensive than most other countries we’d visited. $1 USD equals roughly 6 Chinese Yuan and 8 Hong Kong dollars.

Spending details

Here are our per day spending highlights:

Transportation = $60 / day
Lodging = $30 / day
Food = $27 / day
Excursion = $18 / day

Total hotel points used = 24,000 Starwood Points
Sheraton Guilin, 1 night (4k)
Sheraton Great Wall Beijing, 4 nights (20k)

The Good

Even though many of their cities have become globalized and lost their unique feel, China offers some incredible history and archaeological finds; my favorite is the Terra Cotta army in Xi’An. The emperor Qin Shi Huang who united China in the second century was afraid of dying alone so he had a replica city – over 57 sq km in size – built for himself along with 8,000 terra cotta warriors and buried it underground so he could take it with upon death. It made for some great photo opportunities, but probably didn’t make for a good time for the tens of thousands of workers and slaves who were forced to build it.

Terra Cotta Soliders, Xi'An

This is the largest collection of Terra Cotta soldiers and it is still being unearthed

Xi’An was our favorite city from a historical perspective, but our favorite modern city in China is Hong Kong; but as I mentioned earlier it is technically “independent” from China. Its modern buildings line the harbor and come to life at night when the neon takes over the sky line. Hong Kong was established and built by the British before handing the territory over to China in 1997, so it’s much easier for the western tourist.

Hong Kong Island at night

A beautiful night view of Hong Kong Island from across the harbor

China’s countryside also provides some great things to see around the cities of Guilin and Yangshuo. Their natural limestone karsts shoot up across the countryside and provide for some great scenery.

Karsts in Yangshuo, China

The natural limestome karst formations that shoot up across Yangshuo, China

The Bad

China has really good transportation options between cities with regular flights, buses, and trains. You’ll just need your hotel’s Chinese name as most taxi drivers can’t understand a lick of English. However, China is large and much like Australia, we chose to fly between the cities so we could skip the overnight buses and trains. The flights were decently priced, but it still added quite a bit to our overall spending as we flew from Hong Kong to Guilin, Guilin to Xi’An, and then Xi’an to Beijing. We thought about taking the high speed bullet train to Beijing, but it would’ve cost more than flying so we chose the flight instead. Transportation was our biggest cost contributor at $60/day.

Another interesting thing with China is the country isn’t really set up for foreign tourists – outside of the major cities at least. It’s still easy to get around the country and the big cities have plenty of English, but even the more popular tourist cities inland don’t care too much about their foreign visitors. The main reason is they have so many Chinese domestic tourists that frequent these areas and the majority of the tourist dollars come from them. This is especially evident in Hong Kong where locals say the Chinese mainlanders come in like “locusts” with bags full of cash to buy everything they can get their hands on – from expensive clothing to high-end jewelry which can be found at a store on every corner.

Ventian, Macau

Entrance to the in Venetian in Macau with locals pouring in

Yanshuo, China West Street

Yangshuo is a favorite local tourist destination for the Chinese

The Ugly

If you’re not paying attention, it’s easy to look past the constant monitoring taking place in China. Jocelyn read an article which stated China has somewhere north of 30,000 “internet police” watching everyone online and shutting things down sites and blogs as necessary. In addition, they have cameras everywhere and they always record your location. Even the bus had at least three cameras on it so they can monitor who’s coming on and getting off – it was pretty amazing!

Even though there were eyes everywhere, they still didn’t stop one of the most surprising and disheartening things we found in China – specifically in the smaller tourist town of Yangshuo which is mostly frequented by locals. There were various types of Osama bin Laden paraphernalia – from shirts with his face on them, to paintings, and even bumper stickers available for purchase. There was really only one reason for bin Laden’s popularity and it definitely left a bad taste in our mouths.

Osama Bin Laden items in China...

One of the Osama Bin Laden items you can purchase in China…

In conclusion, we’re glad we visited China, but it won’t be very high on our list of places we’d like to go back to… even though we missed the Great Wall!!

Next up: Austria, Croatia (Yessss, we’re ready to leave Asia after 3.5 months!!!)

Terracotta Soldiers, China

Notice how every solider is unique in their mannerisms and looks (kinda like snowflakes)

Terra Cotta Soldiers, China

One year after the Emperor died, his underground army was looted and smashed. They were rediscovered in 1974 and archaeologists have been unburying and rebuilding them since

Yangshuo, China

Another pretty show in Yangshuo, China

Bird's Nest, Olympic Village, Beijing

The bird’s nest! From the 2008 Olympics in Beijing

Drum Tower in Xi'An, China

The Drum Tower in Xi’An, China

How Much Did We Spend in China?

Standing with the replica terra cotta warriors (you can’t get in the pits with them)

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12 responses to How Much Did We Spend in China?

  1. All I can say is ‘Wow’. China is not on my bucket list. I will settle for your great photos. 🙂 Stay safe. Until next time…

  2. Like all the places you’ve been, I have travel envy. At the end of this trip you should really do a post on how you managed to keep going. Aren’t you guys tired yet?

    • uhh, Jeri, you nailed it! We’ve had a few breaks where we spend 5-7 days doing nothing but working and resting. It really has been exhausting, but at this point we’re down to six weeks or so and rallying 🙂

  3. I love the Hong Kong photo. It really is beautiful. China and Hong Kong are not on my list of places to visit, ever, so it’s really cool that I can see and hear about it from you two.

    On an unrelated note, there is a wee typo in the blurb that shows up below each of your posts. It’s kinda driving me crazy and I’d like you to be aware of it. All you have to do is delete an apostrophe in the word “others” in this sentence: Now he’s helping other’s dominate money and work so they can BREAK FREE in pursuit of their passion.

    Sorry, Dan. I just had to point that out!

  4. China is such a travel destination for so many people I would think they would be more friendly. I am too appalled by the blatant Osama Bin Laddin merchandise for sale. I do not think China would be high on my list either. 🙂

    • Yes, it was a little surprising that we had troubles in some of the smaller towns… I think the bigger towns were pretty easy though. Also, I might have been a little too hard on China in the post, it was still a great place to visit 🙂

  5. Was that $1,943 each? or for both of you?. Thanks for the interesting article, I really enjoyed it and I believe it will help us a lot in our trip to china!

  6. Thank you for the article, my boyfriend and I are thinking of doing a four week trip to China next June, total budget (excluding flights) of £3000 a little over $4800. Any other tips for travel would be amazing, we have total travel envy and a desperate need to get those flights BOOKED.

  7. Hi

    I am just wondering when you visited. I plan on going around China for 3-4 weeks during July/August. I know it’s busier and more expensive, but would you have any idea how more expensive? Can it be that bad?? Would appreciate your input.


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