Cost of Living in Shanghai

The cost of living in Shanghai is considered the highest in China and, according to Mercer's 2018 Cost of Living Survey, it's the seventh 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 in 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 March 2019.

Accommodation (monthly rent)

Furnished two-bedroom apartment

RMB 15,300

Unfurnished two-bedroom apartment

RMB 10,500

Groceries

Milk (1 litre)

RMB 16

Dozen eggs

RMB 17

Loaf of white bread 

RMB 15

Rice (1kg)

RMB 8

Packet of cigarettes 

RMB 21

Public transportation

City centre bus/train fare

RMB 4

Taxi rate per km

RMB 3

Eating out

Big Mac Meal

RMB 34

Coca-Cola (330ml)   

RMB 4

Cappuccino

RMB 30

Bottle of beer

RMB 20

Three-course meal at a mid-range restaurant

RMB 200

Utilities

Uncapped ADSL internet per month

130 RMB

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

420 RMB

Expat Health Insurance Partners

Aetna Global

Aetna is an award-winning insurance business that provides health benefits to more than 650,000 members worldwide. Their high quality health insurance plans are tailored to meet the individual needs of expats living and working abroad.

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Bupa Global

Bupa Global's international private medical insurance offers expats direct access to some of the very best doctors and hospitals in the world. Bupa is chosen by individuals who value expertise, freedom and quality. You can choose to see your preferred doctor close to home or a specialist in another country. Their health insurance plans are designed for day-to-day healthcare needs too.

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