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Cost of Living - Food


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was just wondering how much money I should be prepared to spend while in Hangzhou.

I'll be at Zhejiang Uni so will have access to cafeteria food.

The uni website says you would need about 15 - 40 RMB for daily food expenses.

Is 15 enough for a decent amount of food? Is it possible to live on less than that, each day?

Can I spend this same amount outside of the uni?

If I wanted to splurge and eat some fancy food etc. how much would I expect to pay for a meal?

If I were to buy ingredients and make my own food, how much would THAT cost?

Just trying to make things as cheap as possible for self while still being able to eNJOY food

Food pretty much only variable expense so all tips appreciated.

Thanks for all help yo

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Not sure about the University's Canteen (I've been told that food there is dirt cheap), but if you want to eat outside 15rmb is way too little.

I think 40rmb should be enough for a decent diet (5rmb breakfast, 20rmb lunch, and 15rmb dinner).

If you want to splurge, then it depends, I went to Pizza hut a while back and my share of the check was about 80rmb (which I thought was a lot). And when I went to a Beijing duck place (in Beijing) with some friends, and we each ended up paying 200+rmb.

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Is 15 enough for a decent amount of food?

I would allow that much for an outside meal, not for a whole day's eating.

When you get tired of cafeteria food, look for Kuai Can 快餐 lunches in the small streets near where you live. Can get a selection of three vegetables and two or three meat dishes for about 12 Yuan. (That's in Kunming; I don't specifically know about Hangzhou.)

A quick outside breakfast can be a couple of baozi 包子 and a glass of soy milk 豆浆, together running about 5 or 6 Yuan.

Cooking at home may not be a whole lot cheaper, but can be healthier.

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You could get by on 15 yuan a day, but it wouldn't be nice.

I live in a VERY cheap area, and spend 20-30 yuan per day on food. I generally eat oatmeal for breakfast, spend 10-15 yuan on lunch, and cook tofu with veggies for dinner. Sometimes chicken. I also have a late-night snack of milk or boiled eggs and fruit. I buy my tofu, fruit, and veggies from the farmer's market, which is ridiculously cheap. However, if you are in a bigger city, you will need more money.

If you are really trying to save money, here's what I would do: Eat as much as possible at breakfast. Breakfast in China is super cheap. Eat fried rice or something from the school cafeteria at lunch. Cook your own dinner, generally something without meat. For fruit, only buy bananas and whatever is in-season. If that's not cheap enough, you could eat a lot at breakfast, cook your own lunch (tofu, eggs, veggies), and do instant noodles for dinner. That would get you by on 15-yuan a day.

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wow.. this thread is helpful, i will definitely keep in mind of how much it costs, as i will travel to china in about 4 months give or take. so about 5 bucks american per day would be good (32 rmb). I also dont drink soda, i only drink water (lucky me) so i think 32 rmb would be good per day.

can you guys put down how much it cost, breakfast/lunch/dinner, portion, what food is it? I have seen some travel documentaries and i see a big bowl of noodles for 5-7 rmb, a breakfast wrap thingee with egg, a deep fried something, for 1 rmb. and also a standard order fried rice for 4 to 7 rmb.

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I haven't been to Hangzhou (this is where Zhejiang University is, right), so I can't say for sure. The thing is, there is a lot of variation, so it's hard to say.

Right now the 'big bowl of noodles', probably 牛肉拉面 is what you're referring to, I don't think you can get at less than 6 RMB anywhere. Maybe a few places still have 5rmb, but I think 6-7 is normal now. This is not a big bowl, however. Not at all. If you eat a lot, you will need to eat something else with the noodles or else you will be hungry again in like 1 hour. Some places in bigger cities may charge 10, 15, or even 20 for the bowl of noodles. Like, the 美国加州牛肉拉面 charges 15 for terrible noodles (never eat at that place!). I've heard of people paying 20 in more expensive areas. Granted, in USD, this is still only 3 bucks -- not bad for a meal -- but it's way more than it should cost.

If you're trying to save money, I would suggest going out to eat at a proper restaurant only once or twice a week. There are plenty of cheaper restaurants in China that are damn good. If you go with 4-5 people, you can order a lot of dishes and try lots of different foods, but per person, it's still not that expensive. Other than that, fill up at breakfast, cook some for yourself, and eat at the school cafeteria or 兰州牛肉拉面 places.

Most expats in China who spend too much on food either (A)Eat too much foreign stuff or (B)Go to nice restaurants like every night. If you avoid those two things, you should be able to keep a small food budget.

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If I were you I'd be really careful about food quality and not try to go too cheap. To save money some restaurants will recycle oil which can make you sick (地沟油), or sell fake food e.g. lamb on a skewer for 1 or 2 rmb, which is really just pork with chemicals injected to make it taste like lamb. Of course there are a whole range of other fake or unhealthy food products, so it's better to pay a bit more and eat at a place that looks reasonable. I pretty much never eat Western food, but spend say 35 give or take 10 rmb a meal in Beijing (not fancy places, but reasonable places that have food that tastes nice and clean interior).

Given the possibility of getting sick from eating poor food (never happened to me) I'd suggest spending more rather than less to get decent food, even if it might stretch your budget a bit. If cost is an issue best case is to make your own food most of the time and invest in good quality oil.

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Big bowl of noodles here (Kunming) usually costs 10 kuai in a no frills, hole in the wall place. Small bowl is 6 and medium is 8. True with 米线 or 拉面。

nice to know. i guess some of the clips that i saw on youtube were a couple years old so food prices went up. but i did remember seeing a big bowl of noodles for 5 rmb on youtube. and yes, the place look like a s*** hole :)

to think again, i can remember when I was in china at age 10 (year 1996) i ate a big bowl of congee with preserved duck eggs and beef, in kaiping, guangdong for 2rmb (.25 usd at the time, 1:8 ratio). and i also remember "cheoung fun" for 1 rmb, comes with 2 of them.

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Agreed with JustinJJ.

Well if you really want to save money and wants to eat good food, then improve your culinary arts by cooking everyday at home before going to China.

I did Chef course and it's gonna very helpful for me there in China, as i am going to Wuhan province for studies in fall semester. I want to cook for myself because one reason is that I am Muslim and we don't eat pork etc. So that would be fair for me as well as for my pocket budget :)

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  • 3 months later...
  • 1 year later...


I've returned from my one year stay in Hangzhou so now I have REAL KNOWLEDGE.

WestTexas's first post in this thread is pretty good advice.

Hangzhou is relatively expensive compared to other cities. My friend lives in Wenzhou and EVERYTHING is cheaper there, not just food. His food dishes are probably all about 2 - 3kuai cheaper, which adds up over a year.

Although, Hangzhou university campus has pretty cheap food. (I think the cheapest things were 7 kuai up to 20ish kuai (seafood)
8 - 10 kuai - can get you a decent non-meat meal
12-18 kuai - Meat dishes (although compared to western food, their meat portions are tiny so you may as well just get non-meat)

Restaurants 小吃 - (cheap restaurants) outside of campus are pretty similar but better quality food, and a little more expensive Add 2 - 3 Kuai to all prices.

I personally ate porridge and fruit/nuts in the morning, (depending on what fruit/nuts could be equivalent to 40-60kuai/week)
Lunch: 12 - 15
2nd lunch: 10 kuai
Dinner: 16 kuai

Somehow my routine included 2 lunches (I have no idea how I developed that) so I found it pretty hard to stay under 40 kuai per day, but it is POSSIBLE if you are awesome.
I NEVER cooked for an entire year ~ lazy and just felt like it was too much of a hassle since food was already so cheap.

Dining-out/splurging, can actually be pretty cheap >20~kuai each with friends will get you a good range of foods.

My biggest demon was Coffee. Can be from 10 kuai - at bread shops or up to 40 KUAI!!! at proper sit down cafes. (cappuccino) That's twice as much as my country!
Fortunately Universities USUALLY have cheap areas nearby. Next to Yuquan Campus there are 3 cafes next to each other where you can get 25Kuai coffee (2nd coffee half price). So that makes a really nice place to study all day.

With a little effort and visit to supermarkets I'm sure you could survive on 20Kuai/day for food providing you do a fair amount of cooking. Just a little frustrating cooking in shared kitchens, that's why I blew my budget with ease.

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