Release Your Inner Explorer: Budget Travel in China Revealed

By Matt Wilson | Published on  

China, with its rich history, diverse landscapes, and mouthwatering cuisine, has become a popular destination for travelers from around the world. While it may be more expensive than other Asian countries, you can still experience everything this incredible country has to offer without breaking the bank. I’m Jennie from, and after living and traveling in China, I’m excited to share my tips and tricks for traveling China on a budget.

One of the most significant expenses while traveling is accommodation, but there are several ways to save money on this front in China. First, consider staying in Chinese hostels, which are often more like three-star hotels. You can find them on Hostelworld or Ctrip.

Booking your accommodation through Ctrip or Agoda can also save you up to 20% compared to other websites. Additionally, these sites often allow you to pay upon arrival, helping you avoid card fees. Make sure to book early, as popular cities like Beijing and Shanghai can fill up quickly, especially during holiday seasons.

If you’re craving a bit of luxury, avoid Western hotel chains and opt for five-star Chinese hotels without recognizable brands. They are often just as good and much cheaper. Remember that staying further from the city center can also save you money, as the excellent Metro system makes getting around the major cities easy and affordable.

Traveling during off-peak seasons, such as winter, can lead to lower rates on flights and hotels. However, it’s essential to avoid Chinese holidays like Chinese New Year (usually in February) and Golden Week (early October). Booking your trip just after a national holiday can result in quieter and cheaper travel experiences.

China’s extensive train system, including high-speed trains, can be a more affordable option than flying or taking a bus. Browse and buy tickets on Ctrip, and book in advance, especially during holidays or the summertime.

If you’re short on time, consider flying with budget airlines like Spring Airlines. Check prices on Skyscanner and Ctrip, and consider booking multi-flight options to save even more.

Renting bikes using the WeChat app or utilizing the Metro system are cost-effective ways to navigate Chinese cities. Didi, China’s version of Uber, is also a convenient and affordable option for getting around.

Local food and restaurants in China are not only delicious but also affordable. Avoid hotel or hostel restaurants, which tend to have higher prices, and instead seek out local eateries, street food vendors, and hole-in-the-wall establishments. Hug bargaining when shopping at markets or small stores, and be cautious of potential scams in tourist-heavy areas.

Make sure to use a VPN to access social media and Google while in China. We personally recommend ExpressVPN, but there are free options available as well. Lastly, enjoy the many free and cheap sites China has to offer, including beautiful temples, parks, and museums.

Now that you’re equipped with the best ways to save money while traveling China, let us know where you’re planning to visit in the comments below. We can’t wait to hear about your adventures!

China has a wealth of unique cultural experiences that can be enjoyed without spending a fortune. Participate in local activities like tai chi sessions in parks, explore bustling street markets, and attend traditional performances, such as Sichuan opera or acrobatics shows. Look for free or inexpensive community events, workshops, and walking tours to gain deeper insights into Chinese culture.

China’s extensive public transportation system, including buses, trams, and the subway, is not only convenient but also affordable. When traveling between cities, consider taking long-distance buses, which are often cheaper than trains or flights. Download local transportation apps and familiarize yourself with the schedules and routes to navigate like a pro.

Many tourist attractions in China offer discounts for students, seniors, and children. Always carry a valid ID or student card to take advantage of these savings. Additionally, some sites may have free admission days or discounted entry fees during certain hours, so make sure to do your research before visiting.

Traveling with friends or joining a group can significantly reduce costs by sharing expenses like accommodation, transportation, and even meals. Group discounts are often available for attractions, guided tours, and activities, making it even more affordable to explore China.

To stay connected without incurring high roaming charges, consider purchasing a local SIM card for your phone. China Mobile, China Unicom, and China Telecom offer various prepaid plans with data, voice, and text options to suit your needs. Free Wi-Fi is also widely available in cafes, hotels, and public spaces, so make sure to ask for the Wi-Fi password when visiting these establishments.

With these additional tips, you’re now fully prepared to experience the wonders of China while sticking to your budget. Enjoy your journey, and don’t forget to share your stories and experiences with us!

Exploring China on a budget is not only possible but can also lead to a more authentic, immersive, and rewarding experience. By being mindful of your spending and taking advantage of cost-saving opportunities, you can truly make the most of your journey without breaking the bank.

Keep in mind the importance of planning ahead, using local resources, and hugging local customs to maximize your savings. Stay in hostels or lesser-known hotels, use Chinese booking platforms, and rely on public transportation to get around. Don’t forget to try the incredible street food and hole-in-the-wall restaurants that offer delicious, affordable meals.

Additionally, make sure to time your visit wisely, avoiding peak seasons and national holidays when possible. Hug local experiences, take advantage of discounts, and consider traveling with friends or joining a group to share costs.

With these practical tips and insights, you are now ready to embark on an unforgettable journey through the enchanting landscapes, vibrant cities, and rich culture of China. As you venture through this vast and diverse country, you’ll create lasting memories and gain a deeper appreciation for the history, traditions, and people that make China a truly remarkable destination. Enjoy your adventure, and happy travels!

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