Cost Summary: First Month as an ESL Teacher in China

I’m teaching English as a second language in Xi’an, China. Keep in mind the cost of living would be dramatically higher if I were living in Shanghai or Beijing. Since this is my first month, I needed a lot of basic things for the apartment. I landed in Beijing August 25th, 2010 and arrived in Xi’an on the 26th.

Accommodation is paid for by the university. I have yet to pay for electricity but from what I understand, it’s fairly cheap anyway.


Bank Days: (in USD)

  • $17.76 | Meal in Tokyo for Layover
  • $44.23 | Beijing Airport | Aug 25th
  • $44.23 | Xi’an | Aug 28th
  • $44.16 | Sept 1st
  • $73.74 | Sept 4th
  • $44.29 | Sept 9th
  • $44.47 | Sept 11th
  • $44.55 | Sept 14th
  • $44.77 | Sept 18th

Total: $402.2USD

Spent On:

  • Each meal is typically 10RMB for lunch or dinner. Breakfast is about 4RMB. I normally need my three meals a day.
  • About twice a week I spurge spending around 25 to 40RMB for a dinner. I love a good BBQ on the streets with a few friends.
  • I’ve partied. At the bars it ranges from 10RMB to 20RMB a beer. On the street it’s 4RMB. There has been about plenty of nights of this.
  • I needed things for my apartment. New pillow, snacks, coffee, tea, soap, shampoo, hangers, rug, and a few other small items. Most of these will last for months.
  • I’m taking Chinese lessons. It’s 40RMB an hour and I go twice a week.
  • Touring around here and there to downtown Xi’an.

$1usd = 6.8rmb


I’ve spent a lot according to the Chinese standards of living in this area. I’m living 30 minutes from downtown so things are a bit cheaper than in the city center. I could have done it for less but it would mean sitting in my apartment all month with anything. Most of the money went towards getting settled and experiencing what Xi’an has to offer. In the coming months, I plan to take it easy. I’ve got most of what I need to get by. I’m estimating in the coming months, I’ll be averaging $200USD a month.

I hope this helps give you a general idea what to expect if you plan to teach English in China. Again, prices vary significantly in different cities. I may also buy things you may not need/want and vice versa.

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