How to Work on the Budget?
If you think China is fantastically cheap, then your knowledge has not been updated for years. Depending where you go, how you spend your money, China can be far cheaper or more expensive than the West. Just find out where and how to travel based on your budget allows you to live well within your means.
Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Macau, Shenzhen, the costal cities and Special Economic Zones are the most expensive destinations. Hong Kong is a intolerably dear place to eat and sleep. The most modest budget is around HKD300 per day, just for simple dormitories and meals to survive. Anything approaching comfort can double that figure. Compared with Hong Kong, Macau is generally cheaper. But the price will rise on weekends, especially the hotels, the rise can be sharp.
Anyway, just look around, get savvy and acquire a sense of where locals shop, be sensible and cautious about where you shop, and what you buy. Even Beijing and Shanghai can be cheap if you keep an close eye on your budget.
Staying in some simple chain hotels, travelling by bus or metro, eating in small restaurants, refraining from buying anything attractive, you can live on less than 300RMB per day. Accommodation will take the largest chunk, if you are a couchsurfer, the cost can be half lower.
Whereas, the western, southwestern and the interior China remain relatively inexpensive. Yunnan, Sichuan, Guangxi, Guizhou, Gansu, Xinjiang and Qinghai are very good choices for fun, abound in budget accommodation and cheap eats. You can stay in the Youth hostels or some amily guesthouses and homestays, very cheap and comfortable.
Eating in China remains to be reasonable though out China. In western and interior provinces you can eat under RMB25 one day. In more expensive regions, figure on at least Y40 to Y70 per day. Travelling by train “hard seat” are cheaper and safer than by bus, due to the rapidly increase on oil price. Flying in China is more expensive, but discounts are given in low season. If you are going for long distance and want to save time, check and book the ticket in advance, it helps to save money.
3 star hotel doubles start at around Y240 and you can eat in midrange restaurants from around Y35. Midrange comfort – decent accommodation and food, local transport and admission to important sights – can be bought in China for around Y500 a day, making it neither a very cheap nor an exorbitant way to see the land.
Top-end travel in China? Five-star double-room rack rates can reach thousand a night in the big cities and you can expect to pay upwards of more than RMB1000 for a meal at Beijing or Shanghai’s high class restaurants.
Do I Have to Give Tips for Service I Receive?
All through China (including Hong Kong and Macau) almost no one asks for tips. Some restaurants refuse tips. But nowadays many tops-end eateries include service charge. Taxi drivers do not ask for tips either.
How to Prepare and Get the Money?
ATMs (Automated Teller Machines) advertising international bank settlement systems such as GlobalAccess, Cirrus, Maestro Plus and others are common in Hong Kong and Macau. In mainland, ATMs that take international cards include branches of the Bank of China, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, where you can use Visa, MasterCard, Cirrus, Maestro, Plus and American Express (AmEx) to withdraw cash. The network largely applies to large towns and cities. If you plan on staying in China for a long period, it is advisable to open an account at a bank like the Bank of China with a nationwide network of ATMs.
Can I Use My Credit Card?
Cards that can be used include Visa, MasterCard, AmEx and JCB. But the cards cannot be used everywhere, so it is always safe to carry enough cash. You can use credit cards in above midrange hotels and restaurants, supermarkets and department stores. Where they are accepted, credit cards often deliver a slightly better exchange rate than in banks. However, you cannot use credit card to buy train or bus tickets, nor can you do any purchasing in small shops.
Where to Exchange Money?
US dollars are the easiest to change. The exchange can be done in most banks in China. But you always have to wait and go through long procedures and sign a lot of papers to get the money. Some foreign-invested banks like HSBC in large cities are a lot faster. Top-end hotels also help to change money, but for hotel guests only. The official rate is given almost everywhere and the exchange charge is standardised, so there is little need to shop around for the best deal.