The Chinese Ren Min Bi 人民币


One of the most immediate indications your about to enter a new country is the day you get your monies changed. Currently in circulation within China is the Chinese Ren Min Bi 人民币, a strong currency that’s highest denomination is a 元100 note, a £10 note equivalent in the UK. Receiving those beautiful red Chinese notes confirmed my commitment to China…but what exactly can my new money buy me?

So How Expensive is China?

The following is based on my personal experience within Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, based on an exchange rate of around元10 to the £1.

Food & Drink

  • 4 Litre Bottle of Water – 元6.50 – 65p
  • Food from local Fast food -元5 – 50p
  • McDonalds Big Mac Meal – 元 23 – £2.30
  • Meal for 4 at average restaurant – 元200 – £20


In Club

  • 1 Pint / Bottle of Lager – 元30 – £3
  • 1 Vodka & Mixer – 元25 – £2.50

In Shop

  • Can of Beer -元10 – £1
  • Bottle of Vodka – 元50 – £5

Living Expenses

  • Clothes Wash & Dry on campus – 元 7 – 70p
  • Bus Fare (2 Miles) – 元2 – 20p
  • Taxi Fare (2 Miles) *seats 4* – 元15 – £1.50
  • Average Hotel (Per Night) – 元400 – £40


  • Average Souvenir – 元50 -£5
  • Wallets / Belts – 元50 / 元100 – £5/£10


The cheapest areas of purchase within China appears to be food, groceries and transport. The dearest appears to be alcohol and Multi-national fast food & beverages companies such as McDonalds and Costa Coffee, branded fashion and ironically electricals.

Where to Exchange Money in China


Airports in my opinion are a no go. Exchange rates are poor, certain currencies are unavailable and all airport desks take a commission rate of around 40%. So unless your rich and/or desperate, choose against it

The Bank Of China

The bank of China actually offers competitive rates and this appears to stretch across the whole of China including large tourist areas such as Shanghai. The rates appear to be similar to those offered elsewhere and there appears to be no commission to pay. Just make sure you take your passport!


Of course the final option is to withdraw money directly from your UK bank account in China, something I did on three occasions with minimal problems. Just take into account you are charged for doing so and there is a chance your card will be swallowed (notify and check with your bank)

Reflection: Overall for the Three weeks I was in China I spent approximately £450, an amount I believed to be closer to £800 disproving my previous misconception that China would be expensive. However electricals are not cheaper in China and only appear to decrease in price alongside quality

Danny Perks


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