Cost of Living in Shanghai

The cost of living in Shanghai is considered the highest in China and, according to Mercer's 2017 Cost of Living Survey, it's the eighth most expensive city in the world for expats. 

There is wide variation in expat budgets which leads some to opt for a more economical lifestyle in the city, while others tend to live more extravagantly than they would back home, taking advantage of Shanghai's luxuries and renowned nightlife.

Regardless of which end of the spectrum an expat ends up living on, it's good to be informed on the basic costs of living in Shanghai before arriving.

Cost of food in Shanghai

The great thing about buying groceries in Shanghai is that just about anything can be found at foreign supermarkets like City Shop. Imported produce is, however, more expensive than back home. 

Buying vegetables from local vendors is often half the price of fresh produce from supermarkets, although the bigger stores may have a larger organic selection.

Expats who would like to live cheaply can "rough it" like many locals and foreign students do by eating at a small mian guan or tan restaurant for dinner. Slightly more mid-range Chinese-style restaurants would usually cost more per person.

Restaurants serving foreign food are often much more expensive. Occasionally, more upscale restaurants will also apply a service charge to the bill since waiters don't normally receive tips in Shanghai.

Alcoholic beverages in most bars and restaurants might cost more than expats are used to, especially if they choose a more upscale venue for drinks. Although the cost of alcohol may seem daunting, frequent promotions and "Happy Hours" run rampant in Shanghai, allowing everyone a chance to have some fun.

Expats who are particularly money conscious can purchase local beer, wine and the notorious baijiu – which tastes something like vodka and rubbing alcohol – at any convenience store at much more affordable rates. 

Healthcare costs in Shanghai

The cost of healthcare in Shanghai varies dramatically. In the case of emergencies, fees at a private hospital in China would add up quite similarly to those in a Western country. As a result, medical insurance is essential.  

Cost of shopping in Shanghai

Some of the best bargains in Shanghai can be found in its local markets. Spread throughout the city, these places are a great way for savvy shoppers to find deals on pearls, electronics, antiques, books and branded clothing. Quality, selection and authenticity may be lacking, but expats are often able to bargain prices down to a fraction of what they would be sold for abroad.

On the other hand, prices for luxury goods at places like the malls on Nanjing Road are in line with those in North America and Europe.

Cost of living in Shanghai chart

Prices may vary depending on product and service provider and the list below shows average prices for July 2017.

Accommodation (monthly rent)

Furnished two-bedroom apartment

RMB 14,300

Unfurnished two-bedroom apartment

RMB 9,500


Milk (1 litre)

RMB 17

Dozen eggs

RMB 16

Loaf of white bread 

RMB 15

Rice (1kg)


Packet of cigarettes (Marlboro)

RMB 20

Public transportation

City centre bus/train fare


Taxi rate per km


Eating out

Big Mac Meal

RMB 36

Coca-Cola (330ml)   

RMB 3.50


RMB 30

Bottle of beer

RMB 38

Three-course meal at a mid-range restaurant

RMB 300


Uncapped ADSL internet per month

150 RMB

Utilities (average per month for standard household for electricity, gas, water etc.)

400 RMB