Travel Cost Comparison USA vs. China

USA or China: which country is more expensive?

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

  • USA Prices
    China Prices
  • Average Daily Cost Per person, per day
    USA $225
    China $77
  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    USA $107
    China $44
  • Food Meals for one day
    USA $41
    China $16
  • Water Bottled water for one day
    USA $14
    China $0.88
  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    USA $37
    China $9.45
  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    USA $51
    China $11
  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    USA $18
    China $5.70
Should you visit the USA or China?
China and the United States are often compared across the board on a number of different topics. Travel is one of these topics, and there are many similarities. Both countries are large and diverse when it comes to sights and activities. From big cities to beautiful natural scenery, both the U.S. and China have a lot to offer. But what may surprise many visitors to China is its relatively cheap price of travel.

If you're an American deciding whether you should travel internationally or domestically, then a large part of your decision may come down to cost. Surprisingly, if you travel independently abroad, it is often more affordable than traveling within the United States. Depending on where you go, you can often find cheaper accommodation, particularly if you're a budget traveler and willing to stay in hostels. Even if you want higher end accommodation, great deals are often available.

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.
When is the best time to visit the USA and China?
Chicago’s Elevated Train Chicago’s Elevated Train
In many ways, the weather patterns of China and the U.S. are similar: cold winters in the northeast, warm weather in the south, and rugged terrain out west.

The United States is a vast country that covers a wide variety of landscapes and climates. You can really find somewhere to visit any time of the year.

The southern United States and parts of California are lovely places to visit during the colder winter months, as temperatures are still fairly warm. Many cities also have interesting holiday decorations if you're planning to be in the country during that season. Skiing and winter sports are also popular in the mountains.

Summer months can become very hot in the southeast, but the northern states are often quite pleasant, even during the hottest months. In general, national parks are most crowded during the summer months. Visiting the busiest parks during the shoulder seasons is recommended if you want to avoid the crowds.

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 holidays. During these times, in both countries, which usually last a weekend or a whole week, many people will be traveling to experience their own country's grand beauty. Expect hotels to be full and transportation to be crowded.
Why is the USA more expensive than China?
In general, the US is an expensive place to visit. The high cost of living and the vast size mean that transportation costs can be quite expensive. If you really want to see a lot of the country, flying is really your best option. Amtrak is the most well known train system, but it is limited to where it goes and prices are quite high. In some situations, flying is cheaper than taking the train. If you want to explore the country's impressive national park network, a rental car is a must. Public transportation throughout the nation is generally lacking compared to other countries.

Hotels in the United States are also quite expensive. There are very few hostels throughout the country, particularly when compared to European countries, so accommodation prices can be more than you might expect. If you're driving, there is an extensive network of budget hotels along the interstate highways, so prices between cities can be reasonable.

China is a fairly affordable country to visit for a number of reasons. Although the economy is growing and the Chinese middle class is traveling more, competition for tourists and low wages are keeping travel prices lower than most developed nations.

A pro-business economy means that there are more hotels, restaurants, taxis, and attractions for you to visit, and all of the locals are essentially fighting for your attention and money. Budget hotels in China are growing by leaps and bounds, as local families and large companies open independent and chain hotels and restaurants. Generally, prices for hotels in China are cheaper due to the huge number of hostels and budget-friendly hotels throughout the country. While major cities have many hostels, even smaller cities and small towns are starting to jump on the hostel bandwagon, providing both dorms and private rooms for everyone from students to backpackers to families with kids.
What are the most expensive and cheapest cities and regions in the USA and China?
Pingyao, China Pingyao, China
In the United States, the larger cities are some of the most expensive places to visit. New York City and San Francisco are notoriously expensive because of their high hotel costs and expensive restaurants. Still, there are plenty of affordable restaurants in these larger cities, so it is possible to save some money. Free entertainment in the larger cities can be common, and this can help you keep costs down.

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.

Rural parts of the U.S. and smaller towns are generally cheaper than the big cities due to cheaper hotel costs and a plethora of inexpensive chain restaurants. Fast food is also ubiquitous, just don't expect a healthy meal.

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.
How you can save money when visiting the USA and China?
Many larger cities in the US have cheap public transportation systems that can save you money. Consider this when you plan your trip, especially if you intend to rent a car for a portion of your trip. Likewise, 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.

Hotels in the center of cities are more expensive, so look for options that are a little further out, especially if public transportation is available.

In the US, making reservations for hotels will usually save you money. Shop around for the best prices.

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.

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