Currency

Yuán (¥; 元)

Daily Costs

Budget: Less than ¥250

  • Hostel dorm: ¥60–100
  • A meal in a local restaurant: ¥20–40
  • Subway tickets: ¥3–8

Midrange: ¥250–800

  • Standard private room: ¥260–500
  • A meal in a midrange restaurant: ¥40–80
  • Short taxi trip: ¥20
  • Admission to main sights: ¥20–150

Top End: More than ¥800

  • Luxury accommodation: from ¥1000
  • A meal at an international restaurant: from ¥100
  • Drinks at cocktail bars: ¥50–80
  • Guided tours: ¥200–1000

Bargaining

Bargaining is common in shops (apart from supermarkets), and expected in markets. But there are no hard and fast rules. In shops, you'll only be able to knock a small amount off the asking price, but in markets – especially souvenir markets – you can bargain your socks off. Remember to keep negotiations lighthearted, and be prepared to walk away; that's usually when you'll hear the genuine 'last price'.

Money

Most ATMs accept foreign cards. Most large banks change money. Credit and debit cards are now used more widely than before, especially in hotels, shopping malls and upmarket restaurants, but cash remains king in Běijīng, so carry money with you at all times.

ATMs

Most ATMs (取款机; qǔkuǎnjī) in Běijīng accept foreign credit cards and bank cards connected to Plus, Cirrus, Visa, MasterCard and Amex; a small withdrawal charge will be levied by your bank.

The following banks have extensive ATM networks.

Bank of China (中国银行; Zhōngguó Yínháng)

Industrial & Commercial Bank of China (ICBC; 工商银行; Gōngshāng Yínháng)

China Construction Bank (中国建设银行; Zhōngguó Jiànshè Yínháng)

Agricultural Bank of China (ABC; 中国农业银行; Zhōngguó Nóngyè Yínháng)

ATM screens almost always offer the choice of English or Chinese operation. There are ATMs in the arrivals hall at Běijīng Capital International Airport, and in many large department stores and hotels.

Banks

Bank of China One of dozens of branches around Běijīng with money-changing facilities.

HSBC One of around 15 branches in the capital, not including several standalone ATMs.

Changing Money

Foreign currency can be changed at large branches of banks, such as the Bank of China, CITIC Industrial Bank, ICBC and the China Construction Bank; and at the airport, hotel money-changing counters and at several department stores, as long as you have your passport. You can normally change foreign currency into rénmínbì at foreign-exchange outlets and banks at large international airports outside China, but rates may be poor. Hotels usually give the official rate, but some will add a small commission. Some upmarket hotels will change money for their own guests only.

Keep at least a few exchange receipts if you want to change any remaining rénmínbì back into another currency at the end of your trip.

Counterfeit Bills

Counterfeit notes are a problem across China, Běijīng included. Very few shopkeepers will accept a ¥50 or ¥100 note without first running it under an ultraviolet light or through a machine. If you receive a note that doesn't seem right, hand it straight back.

Credit Cards

Credit is not big in China. The older generation doesn’t like debt, however short-term, and while it is increasingly fashionable for young Chinese to use credit cards, numbers remain low compared to the West. In Běijīng, credit cards are relatively straightforward to use, but don’t expect to be able to use them everywhere, and always carry enough cash. Where they are accepted, credit cards often deliver a slightly better exchange rate than in banks. Money can also be withdrawn at most ATMs on credit cards such as Visa, MasterCard and Amex. Credit cards can’t be used to buy train tickets, but Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC; 中国民航; Zhōngguó Mínháng) offices readily accept international Visa cards for buying air tickets.

How Much?

  • Bāozi (steamed dumpling) from street stall: ¥2
  • One hour in internet cafe: ¥3 to ¥5
  • Large bottle of local beer from a shop: ¥4
  • Small bottle of local beer from a bar: ¥20
  • Half-litre bottle of mineral water: ¥2
  • Lamb skewer: ¥2 to ¥3
  • Bananas from a market stall: ¥4 per jīn (500g)
  • Bicycle rental per day: ¥30 to ¥50
  • Repairing a puncture: ¥5

Money Transfers

If you need cash in a dash, Western Union arranges money transfers that arrive in just 15 minutes. Counters can be found all over town at branches of China Post and the Agricultural Bank of China.

Tipping

Tips are never asked for, or expected. The only time you should ever consider tipping is in top-end luxury hotels or in top-end international restaurants, although they usually tack a 10% to 15% service charge onto the bill anyway. Taxi drivers don't expect tips. Don't be pressured into tipping tour guides – giving them extra on top of their fee is entirely optional.

Travellers Cheques

Travellers cheques cannot be used everywhere; as with credit cards, always ensure you carry enough ready cash. You should have no problem cashing them at top-end tourist hotels, but they are of little use in budget hotels and restaurants. Most hotels will only cash the cheques of their guests. If cashing them at banks, aim for the larger banks such as the Bank of China or ICBC. Some banks won’t change travellers cheques at the weekend.

Sticking to the major companies such as Thomas Cook, Amex and Visa is advisable, particularly if you plan to travel outside Běijīng. Keep your exchange receipts so you can change your money back to its original currency when you leave.

Snapshot 2

ATMs are everywhere, and many accept foreign bank cards. Visa and MasterCard are most readily accepted. Don't expect to be able to use a foreign card to make purchases (the exceptions are at hotels, upmarket restaurants and modern shopping malls) – always carry cash too.