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 therefore its cost of living, is 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 more expensive 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 an abundance of 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.

For those looking to save a few pennies, buses are a great option. 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 an affordable option. Taxis are slightly more expensive but offer a more convenient and comfortable ride.

Cost of food and eating out in Guangzhou

Guangzhou's street food is well priced and delicious. In fact, street food will often 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.

Expats who prefer to do their own cooking 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.

Cost of entertainment 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 splash some cash could take in a show at the Guangzhou Opera House or enjoy the bright city lights on a Pearl River night cruise.

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 living in Guangzhou chart 

Prices may vary across China, depending on product and service provider. The list below shows average prices for Guangzhou in August 2022. 

Accommodation (monthly rent)

Three-bedroom apartment in the city centre

RMB 8,700

Three-bedroom apartment outside the city centre

RMB 4,800

One-bedroom apartment in the city centre

RMB 3,800

One-bedroom apartment outside the city centre

RMB 2,300

Food and drink

Dozen eggs

RMB 20

Milk (1 litre)

RMB 17

Rice (1kg)

RMB 7.53

Loaf of white bread

RMB 12

Chicken breasts (1kg)

RMB 40

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

RMB 23

Eating out

Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant

RMB 200

Big Mac meal

RMB 35

Coca-Cola (330ml)

RMB 3.07


RMB 26

Bottle of beer (local)



Mobile call rate (per minute – mobile to mobile)

RMB 0.36

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month)

RMB 113

Basic utilities (average per month for a standard household)

RMB 420


Taxi rate/km

RMB 2.60

City-centre public transport fare

RMB 2.50

Gasoline (per litre)


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