Cost of Living in Shanghai



Shanghai is currently the world's 40th most expensive city, but expatriates tell another tale. Those who have lived in the city know that a comfortable life is perfectly possible as long as one works his keep.

The standard of living in Shanghai is not exactly cheap, but an expat who knows how to manage his finances will even find opportunities to save. In general, real estate might be a bit of an issue, especially for expats who have just moved, but other commodities are notably affordable - one reason why Shanghai is considered a good option for those who have moved in search of a brand new home.


In Shanghai, housing costs can be varied depending on the location and the age of the housing units for rent.

Average rental prices:

  • One-bedroom apartment city centre - USD$800 - 1,000 pcm
  • One-bedroom apartment Outside city centre - USD$400 - 550 pcm
  • Three-bedroom apartment city centre - USD$2,000 - 2,400 pcm
  • Three-bedroom apartment Outside city centre - USD$1,080 - USD$1,500 pcm

Colonial houses in the same neighbourhoods could be rented with a minimum of about USD$1,200 up to about USD$60,000. Because there could be various issues involved in Shanghai house rentals such as heating and utility payments, get an expert's advice to help simplify the rental process.

Buying a Property

Regulations for buying properties in Shanghai are continually changing, especially for expatriates. Right now, foreigners can buy only one house in the city and only if they have a residence permit and have lived in it for at least a year. There are also two ways to own properties - with user rights, whereby the buyer has rights over the land and freehold rights which only cover ownership of the property.

Foreigners can only buy freehold rights which hold up to seventy years and may be extended for payment of a certain tax. 

Average property prices:

  • Apartment in city centre - USD$12,500 - 14,000 per sqm
  • Apartment outside city centre - USD$5,450 - 8,000 per sqm


Home rentals may be far from cheap in Shanghai, but other commodities are relatively affordable.

Average utility prices:

  • Basic utilities (Water, Gas, Electricity, Heating, Garbage) - USD$57
  • Internet (10Mbps DSL) - USD$20
  • 1 minute prepaid mobile local call - USD$.04


Food can be quite cheap in the city for local cuisine. If you wish to find more variety, however, it can be pricier.

Average food prices:

  • Meal for two in an inexpensive restaurant - USD$10
  • Three-course meal for two in a mid-range restaurant - USD$30
  • McDonalds combo meal (fast-food chain prices) - USD$4.50
  • One litre of milk - USD$2.60
  • One dozen eggs - USD$2.08
  • One kilogramme of chicken breasts - USD$4.30
  • One bottle of domestic beer - USD$1
  • One bottle of imported beer - USD$2.9
  • One bottle of mid-range wine - USD$12


Public transport is another cheap thing in Shanghai.

Average transport costs:

  • Taxi flag-down rate - USD$2.08
  • Taxi rate every 1km - USD$0.38
  • One litre of gasoline - USD$0.93
  • Monthly public transport ticket - USD$30
  • One-way local transport ticket - USD$0.60



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Cost of Living in China

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