Monday, September 3, 2018

No Time? No Money? No Problem! How You Can Travel To China With a Zero-Dollar Budget or Any Budget

You’ve finally made your decision that you will be traveling to China! Congratulations! Now, you need to be aware of the four different options you have. These options come with four separate and sometimes drastically different price tags. Everything depends on how much you wish to spend and if you’re willing to do something for a smaller price tag, what you wish to get out of your trip to China, and how long you wish to stay.

This article is based off a Buzzfeed series called “Worth It” where two guys go to three separate food places or hotels to see what the difference is between the cheapest and most expensive option. This is how this article is going to work.

Instead of three options, I’ve come up with four based on price, location, time spent in China, and what you wish to do when in China. The four options include a (possible) “free” trip, going through a non-profit, group tours (small and large), and going solo.

Option 1: The (Possible) “Free” Trip

This is the option I was the most interested in when I decided that I wanted to travel to China. Many of my friends and family have asked me if I had thought about this option, and I said, “Yes, I have thought about this.” Yet, I didn’t pursue this option for my first trip because I wanted to get used to the country first before committing myself to six or more months.

The possibility for a “free” trip is intriguing and the options are pretty much endless if you are willing to commit to a longer stay and working while traveling. This option is for people who are willing to teach English as a second language in China.

U.S. Embassy Information

If you decide on this option there are a fair share of teaching opportunities including teaching in kindergartens, boarding schools, summer and winter camps, private language institutions, university departments, and advanced degree programs. Also, you can teach business English, career teaching, and become a private teacher and tutor. These options require certain levels of education and experience. To learn more, visit the U.S. Embassy website on job opportunities in China.

Teaching Options

The kindergarten jobs are the most common type of English teaching job in China. Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou are the most common locations for jobs and are great places to start for first-time travelers and teachers. These jobs may not include housing.

The boarding school jobs are also very common in China. This job usually includes an apartment and reimbursement of airfare costs. Some of the perks for this kind of job is that you may get a 1-month vacation for the spring festival, 2-months for the summer vacation, and 2-weeks of paid vacation.

The summer and winter camp jobs are for you if you wish to stay in China for a shorter period. Summer and winter camp jobs are usually 1-week to about a month.

The other teaching options have certain requirements of applicants and some of the jobs may require a certain education background (Bachelor's Degree or higher).

Credit Card Awards

There is an option where you can travel to China for free if you have certain credit cards and have spent a certain amount of money and have the required number of points to receive free rewards like airfare, hotel, food, and transportation. The only problem with this option is that you need to spend before you get “free” rewards.  


I have two resources for you if you decide on this option for a possible “free” trip.

The American TESOL Institute offers a 3-week TESOL Certificate Program in Shenzhen (near Hong Kong) that guarantees a 6 to 12-month ESL job, a salary up to $1,000 (USD), free accommodations, insurance, and flight fare reimbursement. To learn more about this opportunity visit

Dave’s ESL Café is another great resource for finding teaching jobs in China. Companies and individuals update their job offers on the website. The website also offers educational teaching tools and activities. To learn more about these opportunities visit

Option 2: Going Through A Non-Profit

World Explorer Program
This is the second cheapest option. Going through a non-profit may be for you if you are new to traveling or new to China. I picked this option for my first international trip by myself. I was able to connect with the locals and had such an amazing time that I have already planned my return trip. I have two options for you if you decide this option is right for you.

CHI – Cultural Homestay International

CHI is a non-profit that offers travel to over 20 destinations in Europe, Latin America, Africa, and Asia. Participants can choose to become a World Explorer (like me), go through the Au Pair program, study abroad program, or internship and work abroad program. I’m going to focus on the World Explorer program for this example.

World Explorer Program

Prices for trips through CHI range from $699 to over $2,000 (USD) for a month. The China opportunity costs $699 for a month. Participants can stay in China for 3 months. You may be placed in Beijing, Shanghai, or Shenzhen (will most likely be placed in Beijing).

Housing, food, airport pick-up, and constant support while in the country is included. There are opportunities to learn Chinese, connect with other international tutors, additional tutoring opportunities, and volunteering as an English teacher in a classroom. The China opportunity offers a stipend that increases every month you stay.

1st Month: $140
2nd Month: $196
3rd Month: $280

Additional opportunities include International Internships in Information Technology, Digital Media, Graphic Design, and Hospitality. To learn more about this opportunity visit


Bunac has opportunities that are like CHI. TEFL opportunities include 120-hour online TEFL course and certificate ($375 value), airport pick-up and transfer, one-week orientation, cultural activities, sightseeing trips, accommodations, weekday meals, and 4-month teaching guaranteed, transfer to local school, a monthly allowance of $320 and $400 completion bonus, access to online resources, and 24/7 support.

The cost for this opportunity is around $2,000 (USD). There are additional costs that include insurance, flights, police check, visa, and immunizations (not always required but suggested). This opportunity is for you if you wish to stay in China for longer than a few weeks.

Option 3: Group Tours (Small or Large)

Touring is the most popular way to travel around China. Many people choose this option because nearly everything is taken care of by the tour company. Group tours will show you the tourist attractions (the Great Wall, Forbidden City, etc.). Some of the highlights of group tours include the cruise (if included in tour), meeting the locals, Kung Fu Show, and the Musical and Dance Performance. These highlights are from an 8-day Small Group Tour through

Group tours can cost between $899 to $2,000+ per person depending on the time of year. Some popular group tours are in Beijing, Shanghai, and Xian (the Terracotta Warriors). Group tours usually include airport pick-up, airport and hotel transfer, hotels, meals, English-speaking guides, and entrance fees.

Additional costs include airfare, visa and passport, and police screening (not always required).

Option 4: Going Solo

The most expensive option is going solo (usually). I’m going to give you some ideas of what things are going to cost without going through a group tour or non-profit. Everything depends on how long you wish to stay and where you wish to go.  

You can stay in one of China’s mega-cities for under $50 (USD) a day. This price can be even lower in rural areas. This depends on where you stay, where you eat, and what you do each day.

Airfare is going to be around $1,000 (roundtrip). I was able to snag a cheaper price on Travelocity for $724 (roundtrip). This price can be higher if you decide to not travel economy class. Some first-class seats cost nearly $5,000 (roundtrip). Purchase your plane tickets at least 6-weeks in advance.

Hotels are going to cost around $87 to $300+ a night. These prices are from the Prime Hotel Beijing and the Beijing Landmark Hotel.

Hostels are going to cost around $28 to $200+ a night. This option is for you if you wish to backpack through China. Hostels are popular for backpackers. These prices are from the Leo Hostel and the Peking Yard Hostel. To book a hostel visit

Homestays are going to be the cheapest option. Homestays are going to cost around $40 to $200+ for a week. Many Chinese families are welcoming to foreigners and wish to have their children exposed to native English speakers. To book a homestay visit

Food is going to cost around $5 to $100+ a day. This depends on where you go to eat. Grocery stores and street markets are going to be the cheapest places to eat while restaurants are going to be the most expensive.

Additional costs will be entrance fees, your visa and passport, and insurance. These costs vary as entrance fees change depending on the season and insurance is not the same price for each provider. I went through World Nomads for my travel and medical insurance. To learn more visit

Take Home Notes

Here are the four options for traveling to China. Everything depends on what you wish to accomplish while in China. You can travel to China for free if you’re willing to work while traveling. You can stay in China for a short period of time and still experience the culture by working in summer and winter camps. You can go through a non-profit if you wish to stay in China for longer and not spend as much as you would if you went solo.

Happy traveling! The Road Less Traveled On. 

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