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Currency & Spending Money (China)


In China, the local currency is known as the Renminbi (RMB), which is commonly referred to as yuan, and it is divided into smaller units called jiao and fen. The term "yuan" is commonly used when referring to the currency, whereas the terms "Renminbi" and "RMB" are more formal and encompass the entire currency system in China.

The basic unit of currency is the yuan (¥), and it is equivalent to 10 jiao. Each jiao is further divided into 10 fen. Therefore, the hierarchy of the currency is as follows: 1 yuan = 10 jiao = 100 fen.

When representing amounts in currency, it is common to use the symbol ¥ before the numerical value. For example, ¥100 represents one hundred yuan. Additionally, the abbreviation RMB (standing for Renminbi) is often used alongside the numerical value, so you might see prices displayed as 100RMB.

Here is a reference table of approximate exchange rates (for up-to-date exchange rates, please check xe.com before you travel):

1 unit of currency










Correct as of December 2023 

We recommend that you have access to more than one source of money – bringing a combination of cash and a credit/debit card will give the most security and flexibility while travelling.

Exchanging money

We recommend exchanging money prior to departure at banks, money exchanges, or at international airports in Australia. It is possible to exchange money at your arrival airport and some banks in China and it's a good idea to have a small amount for when you arrive. Your National Escort or Local Guide will also be able to assist with exchanging money at reputable sites while on tour.


In major cities like Beijing, Xi'an, and Shanghai, you'll find that cash is accepted, and most hotels, restaurants, and the shopping places/factories included in your travel itinerary also accept international credit cards. However in some supermarkets and local market stalls, international credit cards may not be accepted and payment via Alipay or Wechat may be preferred (see Mobile Payment Apps below).

Therefore it's always a good idea to carry some cash for smaller purchases or in case of any issues with card payments.

Counterfeit cash

This is a problem in China so shop owners and clerks at banks or exchange desks are very cautious and can refuse to accept notes in bad condition. When purchasing cash before you depart from home, or when exchanging cash during your holiday, it is a good idea to stand at the desk to count and check the condition of each note. Do not accept any notes which are torn, very faded, a different shade, have ink stamps or any writing on them. If you accept the notes and sign the exchange receipt, then later notice a problem, you will not be able to exchange them back.

Keep some of your exchange receipts

You can convert any unused notes into USD at the international airport exchange desks when you depart. You will need to present your passport, airline ticket and some receipts of the money exchanged/withdrawn in China. Some banks in Australia/New Zealand may be able to convert your money back into Australian or New Zealand dollars, however please check before departing on your tour.

Credit/Debit Card & Mobile Payment Apps

We recommend taking a debit and/or credit card which is still accepted at major shopping malls and some hotels and ATMs. The most widely accepted credit cards include Visa or MasterCard. However, please do not rely on a credit/debit card as your only source of spending money and keep a photocopy of your card(s). Please do ensure that you notify your bank that you will be travelling abroad.

Mobile payment apps like Alipay and WeChat Pay are becoming widely accepted payment methods in China, however it is not always possible to utilise these apps without a Chinese bank account. Please ensure that you have checked with your Australian bank to confirm that your bank card can be linked to these payment platforms.

We also therefore recommend that you have a small amount of RMB cash for use on arrival and in the event that a facility won't accept an international credit card or cash, please ask your National Escort for assistance.


Unless you are in a major city, many ATMs only work with the Chinese Banking system. ATMs can be a good source of travel money, especially in major cities, but we strongly recommend that you do not rely on this method – although there appear to be many ATMs available in China, they often run out of cash, have different minimum withdrawal amounts, may not be in English and reject foreign cards. If you do need to use an ATM, we recommend you use the Bank of China machines, preferably during the open hours of the attached Bank of China branch so that you can go to their staff if anything goes wrong. Try to withdraw as few times as possible because overseas withdrawal fees can be very high.

We strongly suggest you alert your bank in Australia of your travel plans and check any potential foreign transaction fees or ATM withdrawal limits imposed by your bank.


A detailed guide to payment options in China is available here: https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/ox5Eb0gBJzSxRpRCtN1vcg

Spending money

On a two-week Classic Tour, we would recommend approximately AU/NZ$1,000 per person spending money, although this depends greatly on your individual needs and shopping preferences.

For Go Beyond tours, Short Stay/Extensions and your own independent arrangements before or after your tour, you will need to budget for additional meals, drinks, transportation, and site entrance fees that are not included in your tour price.

The price of a meal or drink will vary from city to city, and depending on where you choose to eat, with the cost of meals and drinks in major cities generally more expensive than rural areas. As a guide on price, you can expect to pay:

Common Snacks:

  • Street food snacks (such as dumplings or baozi): ¥5-¥10 (approx. AU$1-AU$2)
  • Skewers (such as lamb skewers or grilled vegetables): ¥2-¥5 per skewer (approx. AU$0.40-AU$1)


  • Bottle of water (500ml): ¥2-¥5 (approx. AU$0.40-AU$1)
  • Soft drink or soda (can or bottle): ¥3-¥6 (approx. AU$0.60-AU$1.20)
  • Local beer (500ml bottle): ¥5-¥10 (approx. AU$1-AU$2)


  • Noodle or rice dishes (such as fried noodles or steamed rice with meat/vegetables): ¥10-¥20 (approx. AU$2-AU$4)
  • Fast food meal (at popular chains like McDonald's or KFC): ¥20-¥40 (approx. AU$4-AU$8)
  • Mid-range local restaurant: ¥80-¥150 per person (approx. AU$16-AU$30)
  • Fine dining or upscale restaurant: ¥200-¥500+ per person (approx. AU$40-AU$100+)

Plan ahead

Be prepared with enough cash in hand for the next few days. Once you have started your tour, you will quickly get a sense of how often or how much you need to exchange money. Try not to leave this to the last minute: exchange desks can close, ATMs can run out of cash and your group could be scheduled to leave your hotel at 7am tomorrow morning!