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Moving - Requesting Feedback, Please


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I've been reading through this forum religiously for several months now, and it has, hands down, been the most informative place on the internet for information about moving to China. But now I've got a few questions that haven't been answered.

My husband and I are planning to visit China for 6 months, with the hope (but not the expectation) of relocating permanently if all works out. We initially planned to attend the language program at Kunmig Normal U, but being in classes m-f places too many restictions on our ability to see other parts of the country.

So, during our 6 months (starting in November), we plan to visit a handful of major cities by train. The plan (which can always change) is to start at HK, go west to Kunming, then north to Chengdu, northeast to Zhengzhou, north to Tianjin, then south to Shanghai and (possibly) to HK for the return flight. Since we plan to travel on a budget, we're traveling by train, and stopping in smaller cities for a few days here and there to break the monotony of 26 hour train trips. We also plan to have a couple of "hubs" - ie. we plan to stay in Kunming and Tianjin for 2 months each and probably rent a short-term apartment there. Because we are hoping to eventually relocate, we don't plan to visit a bunch of tourist attractions - rather, we just want to get a feel for daily life, but still see some really cool things in case we decide to relocate elsewhere. In addition, my husband is taking a bunch of on-line classes, so we wont be able to "tour" all the time - hence, the need for a "hub".

ANYWAY, my questions are, is this possible on a budget? Adding up the cost of accomodations (a few hostels, a few hotels, a couple of short-term apartment rentals), daily food allowance, busses, internet connection, shopping and train tickets, I'm coming up with a budget of less than US $3K. Is this feasible, or am I just kidding myself? We plan to take much more than this, but I'm wondering if we can live on $3k for 6 months, and then possibly settle down in an unexpensive city (such as Kunming or Tianjin) and live comfortably for another 6 months on $3K while attending language classes and maybe doing some tutoring on the side.

Thoughts? Opinions? Questions?



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$3K US is about 21,000 RMB. For two people living for 6 months it comes out at 1,750 RMB per person per month. That's doable but really you'll find it a bit tight. Especially if you are traveling and paying for hotels. You also need to think about your visa. If you're not studying for the first 6 months, while you travel, you'll be on a tourist visa and that will need renewed periodically.

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Kunming Guanxi pronvince will be fairly cheap and easy to find hostels. Even with these you will have to look around and ate at cheap noodle places most of the time.

But in the mid range Xian, Nanjing, Shanghai, (HK espicially) your budget will be very tight as costs are more expensive, food and lodging.

The southern places and hostel are more likely to offer bikes to rent and ride around which are great ways to see the country side . (I'm thinking places like Yangshuo, Lijiang, Dali, etc..)

I also think you need to figure out your visa issues as well, espicially around this Olympics crack down period.

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Thanks. You both make excellent points.

Kunming Normal University has sent our JW202 forms, we should be getting them shortly. But we only recently decided to travel and see the country rather than attend school right away. I don't want to be in the country illegally... but maybe the best option is to come on a student visa, and if we decide not to relocate, we can leave, and if we decide to stay, we can get the school to help us renew the visas. How does that sound?

As for money - yeah, I was getting a bit worried by how cheap everything looked online. In both Kunming and Tianjin, I've seen short-term apartment rentals for around $200/month. For the other 2 months, staying in hostels or hotels, the prices (that I've seen online, anyway) suggest we can get away with spending about $400/month. So that only puts us around $1600 for sleeping accomodations.

Train tickets were equally cheap; according to http://www.chinahighlights.com/china-trains/, our travel route of visiting only 6 major cities, instead of trying to cram in 10 or more, will only set us back less than $100/each.


This is all confusing the crap out of me. I'm being anal about it all because I'd like to plan a very strict budget and put the majority of our savings into 6 month CDs, so we don't overspend.

If I want to limit my budget to, say, $4000 for 6 months, what do you all suggest that I cut out of my trip?

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If you are American the cheapest visa will cost you 260 and maybe only good for 30 days.

Hostel = no marital relations/shared rooms most of the time. Better to look for really cheap hotel that will give you some privacy. Not trying to be crass but the romantic trekking can turn into frustration if you can't live as a couple.

Cheap hostel = 50 kuai/day (really cheap!) leaving you exactly 250 RMB /month for food, cell, and travel (plus visa costs mentioned above) for the 2 hostel months.

At a "hub" internet hookup fee = 200-300 + 100-150/mo. Deposit, possible agent's fee . . .

Tutoring worth its salt will cost more than your living expenses.

Better plan on some teaching duties during the 2-month stays.

Instead of saying you have a budget it might be better to list it out. That way people can address estimates per item and eliminate uncertainty.

Anything is possible depending on your level of tolerance and how much time you are willing to spend. Attitude is everything. The challenge itself maybe the best memory.

Idea: exchange homestay for English tutoring???


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I've spent about a month travelling with my girlfriend all over China. We managed to get around most tourist attractions and many big cities on roughly EUR 600 per person. That's about half your budget for a month. Then again, we were trying to make the most of it, so we weren't exactly on a shoestring budget, and we changed cities every couple of days, paid every single entrance ticket in the country, etc.

You can spend less than we did (fewer hotels, more private rental of accomodation in some way, cook your own stuff most of the time, no going out, that sort of stuff), but it will still be tight. Planning roughly double that should put you on the safe side.

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I know I've probably got about 3 or 4 posts in a row - as a newbie, I have to wait until the next day for my posts to show up, so that a moderator can review them. Whatever.

Anyway, so yeah... I'm just starting to understand that a tourist visa is only good for 30 days. I mistakenly thought that tourist visas could last as long as student visas. :oops:

So I think what's going to have to happen is that we're going to go for a month, see a couple of things, and head down to Thailand. We REALLY want to travel for 6 months outside of the States to figure out where it is that we want to live.

So perhaps we will simply visit a handful of cities (Hong Kong, Beijing, maybe Shanghai) and Zhengzhou (we really want to see the temple). If you have any other advice, it's certainly welcome. But I guess the "Living in China" isn't really the thread I should be posting to anymore. :(

Thanks everyone who responded!

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Here are a few more fundamental questions you may want to ask yourselves first: Have you been to Asia before? And if so, China? Having been to places like Hong Kong or Thailand won't really prepare you for mainland China. How do you plan on supporting yourselves? Are you prepared to be English teachers? If not, what skills do you have that a Chinese (who will work for a fraction of what you will) doesn't have? Finding work other than teaching English isn't very easy, especially with no Chinese language skills and expecting to continue an American standard of living. It will take you at least a year of full time, hardcore study before you could successfully operate in a Chinese-speaking work environment, and that's only if you work very hard. Have you taught before? You seem to have done some research, so have you read about people's experiences teaching? Can you do it? These same questions will apply to most Asian countries you could move to, only finding non-teaching work in some other Asian countries is more difficult than China, as you may first have to prove that you possess a skill that a local doesn't have before being allowed to fill the position.

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Anyway, so yeah... I'm just starting to understand that a tourist visa is only good for 30 days. I mistakenly thought that tourist visas could last as long as student visas.

True but they can be renewed at the PSB twice before you have to leave. So you could stay for 90 days in total.

As for money - yeah, I was getting a bit worried by how cheap everything looked online. In both Kunming and Tianjin, I've seen short-term apartment rentals for around $200/month.

Be aware that this might not be furnished, or at least not what you would call furnished. You might have to invest some money buying a bed, chairs, pots and pans. Then what about washing machines, fridge-freezers and such.

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You're traveling plan sounds pretty good. But you might want to consider modifying your plans a bit and go from HK to Kunming, but then go out further west to Lijiang, and then to surrounding towns, and then slowly make your way up through Yunnan, lower Sichuan, up through Sichuan through to Shaanxi until Xi'an, then head east on rail to Shanghai or Beijing.

My philosophy for the last three or four years is that Chinese cities are basically all the same, especially from a tourism point of view. 千篇一律。In other words, why travel to a mini-mall in Dallas and then travel to a mini-mall in San Diego? They're all esentially the same. But, S.W. China has lots of cool little towns with original architecture, lots of real temples, mountains, state and national parks....etc.

That's why I've mainly focused my traveling in China on small towns, mountians, and national parks.

In any case, I think you could live in Kunming on $3,000 USD if you live cheaply. Although classes, epecially private tutoring, could dig into your budget.

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This is all excellent advice...

It's been really frustrating, trying to figure out where to go and what to do and for how long. We're really hoping to relocate, and want to be able to live comfortably for as long as possible on a limited budget.

We just got our invitation letter to Yunnan Normal University, and are reconsidering living in Kunming for 6 months to attend school and learn the language. We're just sort of worried about being committed to school and not having any opportunities to see the rest of the country except on weekends.

As for teaching - what I actually meant, in my original post, was my teaching English part time to make some money. I would actually prefer to not do that if I can get by on our savings for 6 months, and still have enough to go elsewhere if we decide that we absolutely hate it in Kunming!

So, okay... in the event that we choose to attend school for 6 months at YNU, any tips?

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