Today, I am going to reply this reader’s email about how much does it cost as a normal budget tourist in Shanghai. Here was the email:
Hi Jian Shuo,
I can’t find anything on your blog about how much per day it would cost to enjoy a holiday on various budgets. Maybe you can only do it for Shanghai but it would be good to see how much to expect to pay per day when I am there in March/April this year. Obviously accommodation costs vary so that could be excluded (with a disclaimer). I am talking about food and travel fares and apporximate sightseeing costs in general. I was thinking about $40US per day would be more than enough for my low budget holiday expenses, again not including hostels and souvenirs.
Here was my answer:
Thanks for your trust to ask me the question. It is obviously a FAQ – how much I need to plan to tour in Shanghai. Let me try to help.
As a normal tourist, you want to visit some places in Shanghai in a budget fashion. Let’s just try to describe what a day should look like for you, starting from breakfast.
If breakfast is included in your hotel plan, there are two possibility. Possibility #1: you stay in a five star hotel, like Shangri-la, or JW Marriott Shanghai… If it is the case, I don’t see any reason you continue reading this article. :-) Possibility #2: your hotel provide very cheap breakfast that they even don’t bother to charge, like a salt-egg plus some bread.
So, in most cases, let me assume that you need to buy yourself something to eat in the morning. You still have some options.
My suggestion for really curious visitor is to go to those eatery streets near where you stay, and eat as locals do. There are many places where vendors gather in the morning to sell breakfast – they normally share the same store-front with small local shops. When the shops open at around 10:00 AM, all the breakfast stores disappear. For example, my daily routine starts from the corner Tianping Road 天平路 and Guangyuan Road 广元路. If you are lucky enough to find them, 10 RMB (or 1.5 USD) can get you some nice delicious local food. You can buy some dupplings (Baozi 包子), or Toufu Milk (Duojiang 豆浆). You need to eat on the go – there is no place for you to sit down.
If you are not that adventous, find a local McDonald’s and the price for morning is also around 10-15 RMB. You know what you get. I would recommend KFC – the provide some varity from that you find in other countries in China.
In conclusion, budget 15 RMB for breakfast for budget travel. I bet that you can even save some money if you try.
Then after you are full, and you start your day by looking at your first place to visit. If you want to save money, take bus. They are 2 RMB in average if your destination is in Shanghai (I mean within the outting ring – a very large area). If you want to go to nearby “cities”, or “town”, that is another story. Or you can take Metro – one way cost you 6 RMB at most if you do not go to places like Songjiang or Minhang, or even between them… Most of the attraction of Shanghai is along Metro: The Bund? Pearl Tower? Xintiandi? Xujiahui? Where do you want to go?
So, I would say 20 RMB per day for transportation is enough for you, if you want to explore the city of Shanghai, not surrounding areas – that means you can take 10 times of bus, or maybe 5-6 metro ride. (To tell you a secret, I walked at midnight from the north-east of Shanghai to southwest, it only took me 4 hours. You get the idea?
Tickets are the major part of your day. Let me give you some example. To get to the top of Jinmao Tower, you need to pay 80 RMB. The higher WFC (Shanghai World Financial Center) cost you 150 RMB. Pearl Tower is 50 RMB. Most of the museums cost you 50 RMB (20 RMB is considered cheap).
So, let’s say, you want to visit two places in the morning, two in the afternoon, prepare 200 RMB in your pocket.
Lunch and Dinner
For lunch and dinner, you can try different styles. From the cheapest, visit any local noodle shop, and you can get a bowl of noodle at around 10 RMB. Be alerted that it is no way to the same service standard or cleaness standard of US. If you are adventous and want to try, please. That is a lot of fun.
If you want to be safe, and just want to have a cheap but nice lunch, visit the fast food stores. You already know McDonald’s, KFC, and almost all major brands in U.S (or international). They are likely to have an outlet in Shanghai. Or you visit the newer comers. My favorite is Ajisen Ramen. For all these fast food restaurants, their price is between 20-30 RMB.
There are of cause some decent restaurants that can easily charge you 150 RMB per lunch or 300 RMB per dinner (their entry level menu), but I think it is out of the scope of this article.
So, please 50 RMB for your lunch and dinner.
I don’t see any additional cost. You can always spend if you want, but besides food, and sometimes tickets, you don’t need to really pay too much.
A normal tour, as I described, cost you 265 RMB. For many people, I would just suggest you to take your time to walk on the Shanghai street. That is amazing, more engaging, and, free. I would not be surprised if a tourist tell me that he/she only spend 40 RMB per day for staying in Shanghai (excluding hotel). Believe me, the 40 RMB trip may be more rewarding than more expensive one.
Hope this helps, and I will publish my reply to my blog tonight.