Should you visit China or Indonesia?
China and Indonesia are both very populated nations that provide an Asian cultural experience to visitors. Indonesia is much cheaper, and has amazing beaches and jungles. China, on the other hand, is known more for its history, food, and big cities.
China is massive, diverse, enigmatic, beautiful, and chaotic. 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.
Indonesia is a relatively inexpensive destination known for beautiful tropical beaches, exotic jungles teeming with wildlife, and large urban areas full of culture and markets. Visitors to Indonesia are often surprised at the number of activities to do and places to visit, as once they step away from the beach, they find historic temples, eco-tourism adventures, jungle and mountain hiking, and more.
Which country is cheaper, Indonesia or China?
Should I visit China or Indonesia? This is a popular question for many travelers. By figuring out which country is more expensive, you'll understand where you'll get more bang for your buck. A week in Indonesia can cost you about $351 (per person), while a week in China may cost you around $480. These differences become even more noticable if you plan to spend a longer time in the country. 10 days, two weeks, or even one month of travel to Indonesia or China can really add to your travel budget.
Accommodation is often cheaper in Indonesia compared to China ($27 vs. $30). Budget travelers usually stay in less expensive hostels and guest houses, while nicer hotels often appeal to families and upscale travelers.
Compare hostel, B&B, and guesthouse prices between Indonesia and China to find the cheapest accommodation here: Indonesia hostels and China hostels.
When comparing food in China vs. Indonesia they are not just different in cuisine, but also in price. Meal and restaurant costs in China ($20) are often cheaper than Indonesia ($13).
When is the best time to visit China and Indonesia?
Farms near Yangshuo, 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.
Much of Indonesia is very close to the equator and quite tropical. Therefore, the seasons are divided between wet and dry depending on seasonal winds. The dry season is from May to September, while the wet season is from October to April. A few places have an exception to this (such as Sumatra), but you can expect warm tropical temperatures everywhere in the country.
Why is China more expensive than Indonesia?
The overall low cost of living of Indonesia, combined with low wages and a massive population has left the tourism industry with plenty of competition, especially compared to some of its Asian neighbors. For western travelers from the U.S., Australia, or Europe, this means that Indonesia is a dream destination for a cheap price (once you pay for a plane ticket). With some of the most beautiful tropical destinations in the world available for extremely low prices, it's easy to see why this is a popular destination.
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.
What are the most expensive and cheapest cities and regions in China and Indonesia?
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.
In the larger cities of Indonesia, it's possible to find a wide range of accommodation, restaurants, and activities at a variety of prices. Budget hotels and hostels are often found not far from high-end luxury hotels. If you want luxury, you can expect to pay a fair amount more for it, but it is still usually of good value and quality.
Tourism has driven up prices in some areas of Indonesia, namely Bali, Lombok, and some of the surrounding islands known for their beaches and scenery. If other travelers are flocking to an area, then expect prices to be higher.
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.
In the countryside of both Indonesia and China, prices can be very cheap, especially in off-the-beaten path locations.
How you can save money when visiting China and Indonesia?
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.
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.
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.
Smile and make friends with the locals. Many travelers have stories of how a friendly local got them a great deal or some other amazing benefit that they couldn't have gotten themselves.
Eat the street food. In Indonesia, small eateries known as "warungs" are everywhere in urban areas. They offer delicious food at a cheap price. Also, buying food at local markets is significantly cheaper than at restaurants or larger stores.
Flying between the islands of Indonesia can get expensive. Instead, pick just a few islands and stick to them, or look for the less expensive ferry boats. Use public transportation whenever possible.