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Counting your pennies

It's always possible to save money, and as the Chinese have been trading and cutting deals for over 5,000 years, you could learn from the masters of the art of haggling.

No such thing as a set price

If you have a working knowledge of Mandarin, this will prove very useful when it comes to negotiating prices in China. Though if you aren’t confident in your language skills, a pen and paper, and a calculator will always help. Haggling isn’t restricted to markets; you can exercise your bargaining skills in shops, though supermarkets and shopping malls have to charge the full price on the goods’ labels. ‘Pian Ye Dan,’ will open all sorts of discount doors as it simply means ‘ Can you give me this cheaper?’

Eat locally

Even though food and restaurants are cheap in China, if you eat in a local café, you’ll soon notice the savings. The quality of the food will be just as good, sometimes even better than the food that’s served in establishments that are solely used by foreigners. Local supermarkets or stores are also good value. Imported wines and beers are a lot more expensive than local produce. If you do have to drink wine, try shopping online, it’s cheaper.

Dealing with the rent

It’s not just small ticket items where you get a good deal. If you’re looking for a flat, take some time. Very often the cheapest rents are advertised on the internet, and Sou Fan is an excellent resource, it’s similar to the U.S. Craig’s List or Gumtree in the U.K.  If you are using an agent, they will try to show you the most expensive flats on their books, even though you have stipulated your maximum price. Don’t worry agents earn commission from any lettings, if you are firm and bargain, you should be able to find a flat at a price you can afford as long as you are realistic.

It’s also cheaper to live in western China, but this isn’t always practical if your work is in one of China’s major cities on the eastern seaboard.


The train service in China is efficient, and it's far cheaper to explore the country in this way than use domestic flights, the bullet train network is expanding on a regular basis, and this is also a cheap option for travel over middle and long distances. You can opt to use a long distance bus, though these aren't always very comfortable, especially if you're travelling overnight and need to sleep.

A popular image of China used to be images of a large number of people travelling to and fro on bicycles. The advent of air pollution has made this form of transport almost impossible; the same applies to walking. Subway trains are cheap and an easy way to carry out your journeys across town.

Travelling on Chinese public holidays is more expensive, if you want to go sightseeing, then, go on weekends rather than on national holidays.  

If you want to save paying huge bills for your health care in China, please get in touch, and we can help you plan for your health cover while living overseas.

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