“If you expect great things of yourself and demand little of others, you’ll keep resentment far away.” - Confucius
Whether you’ve visited Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Japan, and Taiwan or not, there’s always China’s capital city, Beijing, which literally means the capital of the north. China’s capital city is home to 21.54 million people, has a metropolitan area 4 times the size of New York, and has over 5 million cars driving around it.
For two people on a modest budget, you can expect to pay around £35 per day per person for accommodation, £15 each day eating in restaurants, and £300-£400 for return flights from the UK (if you travel at the right time), and £200 for high speed trains if you decide to travel elsewhere in the country (Beijing-Xi’an, Xi’an-Shanghai, Shanghai-Guangzhou).
Here’s how much you can expect to pay for a short stay in Beijing?
In this article, we'll look at how you can find cheap flights, the expenditures you won't be able to avoid, the cost of transport around Beijing, and how much you can expect to spend on tourist attractions.
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How Can You Find Cheap Flights to Beijing from the UK?
Are you interested in Chinese culture, history, food, or just the country itself?
You best get to comparing the costs of flights then...
The first thing you need to consider when travelling to Beijing on a budget is the cost of flights:
- From which airports can you travel to Beijing on a budget?
- Which airlines offer the best prices?
- How much are domestic flights once you get to China?
If you’re flexible on dates, retired, freelancer, or having a sabbatical, get yourself on Skyscanner and find when the cheapest flights to Beijing are.
Of course, Skyscanner isn’t the only site. There’s also Momondo and plenty of sites for comparing the prices of hotels in Beijing.
The People's Republic of China is made up of 23 provinces, 4 municipalities, 5 autonomous regions, and two special administrative regions: Beijing is one of the municipalities and even though the cost of living in China is quite low, the capital isn’t cheap.
On Skyscanner, you can find return flights for as little as £300. You can also check out Holiday Pirates for cheap deals. The comparison site Momondo also has cheap flights to Beijing in the low season.
Once you get to China, you might need to get internal flights. A flight from Beijing to Canton will cost around £280 in August, £100 to get to Nanjing, £160 Guilin, and £120 for Shanghai.
Unavoidable Expenses when Travelling to Beijing
When we say “unavoidable expenses”, we’re talking about things that you’re definitely going to have to pay for.
In this case, we’re referring to food and accommodation.
Staying in Beijing can cost a lot and accommodation can cost between £500 and £2000 for a month in the city centre. Of course, this is for longer stays (working or studying abroad, for example) and this price will vary depending on how close you are to the city centre and the comforts you can afford. For short stays, you can find interactive maps on Airbnb and HomeAway, for example. After all, Beijing is huge.
In some cases, any money saved on accommodation will be lost on public transport.
Prices can vary massively. For example, you can find youth hostels (with beds in dormitories) for £15-£20 per night and private holiday flats costing between £200 and £300 a night!
Don’t forget that accommodation in the very centre of Beijing is quite expensive. For short stays, you can get accommodation in the Sanlitun neighbourhood and there are plenty of amenities such as hotels, guest houses, bars, restaurants, and modern shopping centres.
Accommodation costs between £40 and £60 up to £100 per day for two people. This means you’ll be paying £20 to £30 each but it’s alright since your other expenses will be lower.
When it comes to food, Beijing, like many of Asia’s biggest cities, is an open-air restaurant! Jiumen Xiaochi and the Guije Street Night Market are some of the most popular places to eat authentic Chinese food in the city.
You can eat for between £5 and £10 a day each. This would only add up to between £75 and £150 for a fortnight.
The Cost of Transport in Beijing
Since the Chinese capital is absolutely huge, you’re going to have to factor in the cost of transport.
It’s a 30-minute walk from Tienanmen Square and the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong to the old city and the Forbidden City.
How much you use public transport will also depend on your budget. To go from one district to another, you can use the metro, bus, taxi, bike, or walk. Cycling and walking can be enjoyable but not during days where pollution is at its highest. While the Chinese government is trying to curb pollution, overpopulation and industrialisation are working against them.
Find out more about Beijing's different districts.
Between 5:10 and 23:40, you can take the metro’s 18 lines connecting 370 stations. Expect to pay between 3 and 9 Yuans (between £0.35 and £1.00) depending on the distance covered for one of the world’s cheapest metros.
While buses only cost between 1 and 6 Yuans (£0.12 and £0.70), traffic jams are common.
There are 68,000 taxis in Beijing and hailing a cab isn’t difficult. It’ll cost you 10 Yuans for the first three kilometres and 2 Yuans for each kilometre after that. You’ll also be charged for standing time in traffic jams.
Make sure you take official taxis with a meter and a licence.
You’ll need between £250 and £350 per person if you plan on taking China’s high-speed trains.
If you want to head to the centre of China, Sichuan, Tibet, Yunnan, Yangshuo, Tianjin, Suzhou, Shanghai, Chengdu, Xi’an, or Shenzhen, trips in China are long and costly.
In any case, avoid trying to travel during the Chinese New Year when it’ll be packed and expensive.
Find out more about the best time to visit Beijing.
The Cost of Tourist Attractions in Beijing
Once you get to Beijing, you can visit Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, the ancient imperial city of the Ming and Qing dynasty, and plenty of UNESCO World Heritage Sites:
- The Great Wall of China
- The Jing–Hang Grand Canal
- The Summer Palace
- The Imperial Palace of the Ming and Qing Dynasties
- The site of Peking Man, dating between 730,000 and 300,000 ago.
- The Temple of Heaven
- The imperial tombs of the Ming and Qing dynasties
- The Miaoying Temple
You can expect to pay between £150 and £600 for activities and between £150 and £400 for bars, nights out, etc.
This is a budget based on two people spending a fortnight in China with:
- A visit to the Great Wall of China from Beijing: £50 each.
- Visiting tourist sites in Beijing: £35 per monument.
- Souvenirs, gifts, etc.: £1.50 per item.
- Buying items in upmarket stores: £25 per item.
- Packets of cigarettes: £10 per packet.
- Visiting a café or bar: £3.50 each.
Other Chinese cities, such as Chengdu, Chongqing, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, etc. tend to be cheaper than Beijing with the exception of Hong Kong and Shanghai. It all depends on your budget and what you do.
Are you staying for a while?
Make the most of your time in China by getting Mandarin Chinese lessons! Before you go to China, consider getting private tutorials in Mandarin Chinese. On Superprof, there are three types of language tutorials available: face-to-face tutorials, online tutorials, and group tutorials.
Face-to-face tutorials are bespoke lessons with one tutor and one student. As the only student in the class, this is the most cost-effective type of private tutorial. Your tutor can spend all their time focusing on you, rather than having their attention split between you and other students. In most cases, the tutor will travel to you.
Online tutorials are similar with the main difference being that the private tutor isn't there with you in the room. Thanks to the internet and programmes such as Skype, you can learn Chinese from anywhere with a decent internet connection and from tutors from anywhere in the world. Your Chinese language tutor may even be in China! With no travel costs and fewer expenses, the tutor can pass their savings onto their students.
Finally, group tutorials are closer to traditional lessons at school with multiple students and a single teacher. This is usually the cheapest type of tutorial since the cost of the tutor's time will be shared amongst all the students in attendance. If you and your family or friends are planning a trip to China, you could all get Chinese lessons together from a tutor before you go.
Each type has its pros and cons so it's up to you and your budget to decide which type of private tutorials you want.