How Much Money Do You Need To Move To China To Teach English?

Liz Smith
Liz Smith

Liz Smith left the daily grind in the States to travel the world with her husband. Eventually teaching English in China & loving it, she began sharing her experience with others who are interested in embarking on this new adventure!

 / Apr 3, 2018

Making the choice to pack up your life and move to China to teach English is definitely exciting, but before you hop on that plane just yet, take some time to consider some of the financial costs that will come along with this decision too. After all, the last thing you want to be worried about while you're settling into your new life is whether or not you have enough funds to survive (especially when you could be out exploring and touring the country instead).


The best way to think about the costs you'll encounter is by breaking it down into two major categories: pre-arrival expenses and post-arrival expenses. Let's start with your pre-arrival expenses.

** Watch the Video & Refer to the Text Below for a Summary and More Details **

PRE-ARRIVAL COSTS ($400 to $800)


1. Visa Costs for China

Anytime you go abroad, especially if you plan to move, there's going to be a lot of paperwork to handle--and chances are it's probably not going to be cheap either. You don't always know what hiccups you might run into along the way, so don't procrastinate on getting all your documents in order. For obtaining items like your passport, which can be a lengthy process, try and apply at least six months in advance. 


  1. - For US citizens, you can expect your passport to cost around $110, along with an extra $15 for passport pictures as well. (Be sure to make sure your photos meet international guidelines--different countries have different regulations regarding picture size, background color, etc.) 


  3. - Another thing to think about is your Visa fees. These can run you anywhere from $90 to $140--depending on what country you live in. (To be safe, set aside $140.)


  5. - For your Criminal Background check, which can probably be handled with your local police station or DMV, you can expect to dish out $35. 


  7. - You will need to have a health check-up, but depending on your insurance or doctor, this price could vary. Some cities may require this happen before or after your move to China--so make sure you know beforehand. 


  9. - Don't forget about getting important documents notarized and authenticated by the Chinese Embassy before you move. Along with getting what we've listed above notarized/authenticated, you'll also need your University degree and TEFL certificate too. This will all cost around $200 to $500--specific price will vary based on your locati

  10. on. 

    - Along with getting those documents authenticated, you'll also need to mail them too--which is another $50 to $100. 


2. Packing for China


It's one thing to try and pack what you need for an abroad vacation, but a move? Yikes. Here's what you'll need: 


  1. - If you do take prescription medications, be sure to talk with your doctor beforehand about getting a supply for several months. It could be awhile before you find a new doctor or get healthcare costs sorted out. 


  3. - Having at least a 3-month supply for hard-to-find hygiene products is a must. Just because a certain brand is available in the US does not mean it's also available in China--this rule especially applies to feminine products. 


  5. - Don't forget about bringing appropriate clothes for the weather. Some cities In China run colder or hotter than others, so it's important to know the local climate. On top of this, large clothing and shoe sizes are much harder to find in China--so be sure to purchase these things before you leave. 

  6. - You'll need an unlocked smartphone too--either bring your own from home or plan to purchase one once you get there. 


  8. - Speaking of phones, downloading and purchasing a VPN before you leave is essential. Unlike the US, many websites--especially social media--is blocked by the government in China. Depending on your preference, most VPNs will allow you to pay either monthly or yearly for your usage. 

Read more on:  Packing List for ESL Teacher Moving to China

3. Flight to China



Worried about pricey airfare? Don't be--this one's on us. If you get your contract through Career China, your flight cost is $0. 



Now that we've calculated your pre-arrival costs, it's time to look at what kind of expenses you'll be facing once you actually arrive in China. One thing to keep in mind is that there will be at least a month--if not longer--lag between your arrival and your first paycheck. It's a good idea to bring some extra cash so you're prepared for the waiting period. 


1. Apartments in China


Currently, the average monthly rent for an apartment in a small city is around $300 and living in a bigger city will run you around $650. Keep in mind that many apartments do already come furnished so you won't have to do too much furniture shopping unless you really want to. 


Once you arrive, you'll also be expected to pay three months of your rent up front along with your deposit and housing agent fees. This could total anywhere from $1,300 to $2,500. (The good news is that many schools offer housing allowances or higher salaries to help cover your rent.) 

Take an Inside Tour of an Apartment in China

2. Settle-In Costs 


With all those pesky apartment fees out of the way, it's now time to worry about your next major expense: settle-in costs. 


  1. - For your household necessities--such as towels, pots, and pans--these items can be picked up at Wal-Mart or another similar local supermarket. Try to budget at least $100 for these things. 

  2. - Chinese SIM cards are usually around $20 monthly.  

  3. - Since you will be waiting a little extra time to get your first paycheck, you'll need somewhere between $200 to $400 for a month's supply of food and entertainment. This may vary on how much you plan to eat out and go exploring. 

  4. - Lastly, let's not forget about planning for transportation. Purchasing a metro card is usually about $20. 

Although it does take a lot of money to move to China, the experience and adventure of living in a foreign land is worth it. In the months before your big move, be sure to save as much money as you can. Although you can definitely get a good idea about your potential expenses from this list, having extra money on handis never a bad idea--you just never know what kind of obstacles could pop up along the way.

Sign Up for Our Free Newsletters

Please submit in right format.

Thank you for signing up!

Sign Up for Our Free Newsletters

Please submit in right format.

Thank you for signing up!

  • Save With a Great Lifestyle: Expat Cost of Living in China

    Discover the cost of living in China for expat professionals, and the lifestyle you can have.

  • ATMs and Banking in China - What You Need to Know

    Despite development, China is still growing and handling your money with ATMs and banking in China is different.

  • How to Set Up WeChat Wallet to Pay With Your Phone in China

    It's so easy to pay for things in China with your phone. Learn how to connect your bank account so you can use your WeChat Wallet to pay.

Liz Smith

Liz Smith left the daily grind in the States to travel the world with her husband. Eventually teaching English in China & loving it, she began sharing her experience with others who are interested in embarking on this new adventure!