Travel Cost Comparison China vs. India

China or India: which country is more expensive?

This comparison of travel costs between India and China examines average prices across multiple categories. Please visit each country's individual budget page for more detailed information.

  • Average Daily Cost Per person, per day
    China $77
    India $31
  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    China $44
    India $17
  • Food Meals for one day
    China $16
    India $7.36
  • Water Bottled water for one day
    China $0.88
    India $0.50
  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    China $9.45
    India $3.72
  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    China $11
    India $6.55
  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    China $5.70
    India $3.52
Should you visit China or India?
China and India: two huge and growing countries with plenty to see and do. While culturally they are different, there are many similarities. Both have ancient history, wonderful cultures, art, music, and large urban areas. Both also have diverse outdoor activities such as swimming at beaches, hiking in the mountains, cruises on rivers, and more. But the differences can also be great.

China is massive, diverse, enigmatic, beautiful, and chaotic. And you should definitely go! But it's hard to summarize the price of everything in a country as large as this. From sprawling metropolises to sparsely populated countryside, the price of travel in China is as diverse as its attractions. Large cities are generally higher in price than the countryside, but overall China is surprisingly affordable.

The Indian tourism slogan is "Incredible India" and it is quite accurate! This massive nation is rich with beautiful culture, ancient history, amazing food, and a diverse set of activities to pique the interest of any traveler. From hiking in the Himalayas to tropical beaches in the south, to staying on houseboats in Kerala, to religious experiences in Varanasi, India has something for everyone.

And India is very affordable, too. At nearly every price range, travelers find India to be a good value. If you want to travel on a shoestring budget, India will reward your wallet with amazing gems at extremely low prices. But if you want luxury, India also offers terrific service, food, and accommodation options at amazing values.

The downside of India? Sometimes the culture of India can be a shock to visitors. Even when staying in more luxurious areas, it is almost impossible to shield yourself from India's high rates of poverty, population density, and diverse culture. First-time visitors can find it to be agitating, but once you embrace the culture and the excitement, you'll have no trouble experiencing India for the amazing destination that it can be.
When is the best time to visit China and India?
Xi'an, China Xi'an, China
As China is geographically large, the weather varies by region. The northeast experiences four seasons, while the south is fairly mild and tropical. The west can be cold in the winter as well, and sometimes harsh in the high plateaus and mountains.

In northeastern China, winters can be very cold and less tourists visit during this time. However, some areas have winter festivals (such as Harbin) which bring in large crowds despite the chill. Summers in the northeast can be warm, and sometimes hot and humid. This is still the peak season in this region, especially in Beijing. Traveling in the shoulder season will usually give you lower prices and good weather.

In the south, from Shanghai down and across to southwest China, expect warm weather almost all year. While winters do get a little cooler, it's not much to worry about. For this reason, travelers visit southern China year-round. Some even avoid the warmer summers in favor of the cooler winters.

In the west, the mountains make everything a little more complicated. Even in the usually warm southwest, higher elevations equate to colder weather. As you venture into the northwest, expect frigid winters but mild summers.

Other than weather, the only thing to look out for are the Chinese national holidays. During these times, which usually last a weekend or a whole week, many local Chinese people will be traveling to experience their own country's grand beauty. Expect hotels to be full and transportation to be crowded. You may wish to avoid the country during these times, or hunker down in a smaller city. Make reservations in advance if you can.

The weather in India is diverse as the country is geographically large. In the central and southern regions, from October to March is generally best as the temperatures are a little cooler and precipitation is at a minimum. During the summer months, the temperatures can get quite warm and the monsoon rains bring a great deal of moisture. However, in the far north, the Himalayan regions should be visited in the spring and fall as winters are cold and summers are extremely wet.

Other than the weather in India, consider the various Indian festivals and holidays. While these festivals can bring an influx of tourists and raise overall prices in certain areas, they are also very much worth the extra cost. But plan accordingly if you need to make reservations in advance, or if you wish to avoid these areas during festivals.
Why is China more expensive than India?
China's economy has been growing in leaps and bounds in recent years and decades, leading to a growing middle class and rising tourism industry. While competition is keeping prices down, it's not enough, thus tourism prices are generally increasing. Furthermore, with large populations moving to the larger cities looking for work, the overall cost of living is going up.

Transportation in China is also become more high-tech. With bullet trains, subway systems, and internet-enabled ride sharing services, moving around is becoming more convenient, but also more expensive.

India has one of the lowest costs of living in the world. Combined with a massive population (the 2nd largest in the world), the low wages for most of the country mean that everything is generally cheap. The tourism industry is no exception. The government encourages business growth, so local families often open small hotels or restaurants, adding to the overall competition for tourists and lowering prices. And the large agricultural production of India means that food is very cheap for all but the most luxurious restaurants.
What are the most expensive and cheapest cities and regions in China and India?
Humayun's Tomb, Delhi, India Humayun's Tomb, Delhi, India
Like large cities in any part of the world, with more people comes more diversity in prices. Some of the most expensive hotels and restaurants in China can be found in Beijing and Shanghai, as well as other touristy areas. But at the same time, these crowded cities also offer cheaper options.

Western China can be an expensive region due to its remote location. Here, transportation is pricey, food is more scarce and thus more expensive, and hotels are less frequent. But this enigmatic region can be worth the visit, and isn't too much more expensive than the more populated eastern regions.

Otherwise, some of the most expensive places in China are those that require more activities. A cruise through the famous three gorges, for example, is a must-see, but not so cheap. Hiking in the mountains or visiting famous parks that require entrance tickets, while worth the visit, can add to your travel budget.

Tibet is also relatively expensive due to travel restrictions, remote locations, and a lack of infrastructure.

While India is very cheap overall, touristy areas will usually be more expensive, as is the case in most countries. Agra, for example, is home to the Taj Mahal, one of the wonders of the world. As nearly every visitor to India comes to this city, expect prices for everything to be a bit higher, especially close to the main attraction.

Goa is another area known for drawing large crowds, as the beautiful beaches and nightlife attract visitors from all over the world. Expect higher prices for most services.

Prices in the larger cities can also get higher for those looking for more luxurious travel and higher-end services. Delhi and Mumbai, for example, have a large number of western style hotels with plenty of conveniences, but also prices to match. As is the case in most large cities, plenty of low-price, budget options are available, too.

The rural countryside can be extremely low in cost. Travelers have reported staying in family-run hotels for just a couple of dollars, or even for free if they buy food from the family. This is common in places where tourists rarely visit.
How you can save money when visiting China and India?
Use public transportation whenever possible. China's network of trains between cities has grown lately, and high speed rail lines connect every major city in the east, as well as some in the west. Not only is it fast, but it's also affordable. In India, many people hire a car with a driver for an extended period of time, such as for a week or two. This may or may not be less expensive than using public transportation, so shop around.

Look into the price of flights. The Chinese government subsidizes many flights and airlines, leaving you with plenty of ways to get around this huge country fairly quickly. Flights in India are often quite cheap as well. As the government subsidies some flights and some airlines, the overall prices can be lower than expected. Again, shop around and compare flights with train tickets or bus tickets before making your decision.

Stay at locally owned hotels, and eat at local restaurants. The prices are great, the service is great, and you'll have a more enjoyable and authentic experience.

While many travelers wish to raise their standard of luxury once they arrive in both India and China, this is the main reason why people end up spending more than they planned. By lowering your standards and accepting that you will not be staying in western-style hotels, you can save significant amounts of money. Sometimes the difference between a cheaper, family-run hotel versus a chain hotel can be as much as ten-fold in price. Avoid national and international chain hotels and restaurants, and you'll be amazed at the price difference for both China and India, and in other Asian nations, too.

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