China, as a whole, is an expensive country to live in – and although the cost of living in Guangzhou doesn't quite reach the dizzying heights of that in Beijing, Shanghai or Shenzhen, it isn't far behind.

The 2023 edition of Mercer's Cost of Living Survey ranked Guangzhou as the world's 36th most expensive city for expats out of 227 cities assessed. It's also notable that Guangzhou's position in the rankings and cost of living are comparable to other major global cities such as Paris and Berlin.

Cost of accommodation in Guangzhou

For most Guangzhou residents, accommodation will be their biggest expense. The burden can be eased somewhat by making smart choices about what area of the city to live in, and what kind of housing to aim for. A brand-new apartment in the city centre will be significantly pricier than a slightly older build out in the suburbs, for example.

Utilities are usually an extra expense for the tenant on top of rent, so expats should be sure to make provisions for this in their budget.

Cost of transport in Guangzhou

Guangzhou offers expats many opportunities to explore and experience its rich culture and history. However, one aspect that expats should be mindful of is the cost of transport in Guangzhou. The city boasts an extensive public transport system which includes buses, taxis, and the metro, all of which are readily available to expats. While the cost of transport in Guangzhou can vary depending on the mode of transport and the distance travelled, expats can expect it to be reasonable and affordable.

Buses are a fantastic option for budget-conscious expats. They are the cheapest form of transport in Guangzhou and offer routes to almost every corner of the city. The city's metro system is also a popular choice for expats, as it is efficient, clean, and easy to navigate. While it may be a tad pricier than buses, it is still affordable. Taxis are slightly pricier but offer a more convenient and comfortable ride.

Cost of groceries in Guangzhou

Expats who prefer to cook at home can find good deals on local seasonal produce in the city's various markets. Market produce will tend to be not only cheaper, but also fresher and more eco-friendly than what one would find in the grocery store. Imported Western goods and organic fresh produce will often fetch a higher price than local alternatives. 

Cost of entertainment and eating out in Guangzhou

Guangzhou has such a wide range of things to see and do that everyone, no matter the size of their budget, is sure to find some great entertainment options. Historical attractions, such as museums and temples, are plentiful and typically free to visit. Green spaces cost nothing to visit and provide an idyllic atmosphere that's great for taking walks, cycling or having a picnic.

On the other end of the spectrum, expats looking to splurge could take in a show at the Guangzhou Opera House or enjoy the bright city lights on a Pearl River night cruise.

Guangzhou's street food is well-priced and delicious. In fact, street food will typically be cheaper than cooking a meal at home. Eating out at a sit-down restaurant that sells local cuisine is also usually affordable, but restaurants offering exotic fare from abroad can be pricey.

Cost of education in Guangzhou

Most expats opt to send their children to international schools in Guangzhou, to ease culture shock and avoid the language barrier in Chinese public schools. While international schools can generally be trusted to offer a high standard of education in a fantastic environment, this does come at a cost. Tuition fees can be exceptionally steep, so expat parents moving to Guangzhou for work would do well to bring education costs to the table when negotiating salary and benefits.

Cost of healthcare in Guangzhou

Healthcare in Guangzhou is largely excellent, with private hospitals offering internationally qualified doctors and well-equipped facilities. This comes at a cost, though, so it's recommended that expats purchase international private health insurance to ensure they are covered at most hospitals in Guangzhou. 

Most hospitals catering to the expat market will require a registration fee to provide care. Expats are encouraged to budget for this cost. 

Cost of living in Guangzhou chart 

Prices may vary across China, depending on product and service provider. The list below shows average prices for Guangzhou in April 2024. 

Accommodation (monthly rent)
Three-bedroom apartment in the city centreRMB 8,140
Three-bedroom apartment outside the city centreRMB 4,800
One-bedroom apartment in the city centreRMB 3,100
One-bedroom apartment outside the city centreRMB 2,000
Food and drink
Dozen eggsRMB 12
Milk (1 litre)RMB 15
Rice (1kg)RMB 8
Loaf of white breadRMB 14
Chicken breasts (1kg)RMB 29
Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)RMB 29
Eating out
Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurantRMB 200
Big Mac MealRMB 35
Coca-Cola (330ml)RMB 4
CappuccinoRMB 24
Bottle of beer (local)RMB 6
Mobile phone monthly plan with calls and dataRMB 95
Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month)RMB 93
Basic utilities (average per month for a standard household)RMB 451
Taxi rate/kmRMB 2.60
City-centre public transport fareRMB 2
Gasoline (per litre)RMB 8.55

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