China’s Southwest is unbelievably cheap to travel for western tourists: even though we significantly upgraded our standard of living and traveling, no longer really taking care of what we spent, we spent about 35 Euros a person per day. This could have been cut by at least one third, of course if we wanted to!
On average we spent 11 Euros per night on accommodation for a nice double room with private bath. A bargain!
Chinese food is tasty and diverse, but due to the language barrier, we surely only tasted a very small range of dishes. We spent on average of 7.5 Euros a day per person on food and drinks, even though we regularly ate at much more expensive tourist restaurants and for dinner, we most likely enjoyed a beer or two or eventually some Great Wall wine.
The costs for traveling naturally depend on the level of comfort and how fast you want to move. For instance, a 14 hour train ride in a soft sleeper can almost be as expensive as a discounted plane ticket. Plane tickets we always booked on www.eLong.com, which had the best prices, with up to 65% discount! Creating an account was a bit of a hassle (take photos of your credit card, passport and required form and send it via eMail). However, once it is done, it is very efficient. When traveling long distance, we usually choose the faster and more comfortable version: we flew three times and took one overnight train, soft sleeper. Still, we did not spend more than 300 Euros per person for traveling almost 5.500 kilometers!
What really add up are entry fees: temples, museums, old towns, mountains, villages, you name it… The concept of allowing tourists to stroll through a village or rice terraces free of charge by making money on souvenirs and food does not exist yet. Thus we spent an incredible 190 Euros per person just on that.
Just to get a perspective of our purchasing power: women planting rice seedlings earn 40 Yuan (3.85 Euros) per day for back braking work, a seamstress who fixed our torn clothes asked for 0.5 Euro for half an hour of work.