Shanghai is one of the most exciting and vibrant cities in the world, but it can also be one of the most expensive. If you’re thinking about living in Shanghai, or if you’re already living here and you’re looking for ways to save money, this blog post is for you.

Living Expenses in Shanghai in 2024

Shanghai is one of the most vibrant and cosmopolitan cities in the world, and it’s also one of the most expensive. However, there are ways to save money and live comfortably in Shanghai, no matter what your budget is.


One of the biggest expenses in Shanghai is accommodation. Rents have been rising in recent years, but there are still affordable options available.

One-bedroom apartments in the city center start from 8,000 yuan per month, while those outside the city center, about a 30-minute metro ride away, cost around 3,000 yuan per month. Villas and cottages with 3-6 bedrooms typically cost 35,000-40,000 yuan per month in the city center and 20,000-25,000 yuan per month outside the city center (a 30-40 minute metro ride away).

Student dormitories are a more affordable option, with shared rooms costing around 12,000 yuan per year or less. If you have a government scholarship, your dorm room may even be free.

Hotels are the most expensive option, with 4-5 star hotels in the city center starting at 800 yuan per night and going up to 100,000 yuan per night or more. Hotels outside the city center (a 30-40 minute train ride away) start at around 300 yuan per night.

Airbnb does not work in China, but traditional real estate agencies are very efficient and have offices in almost every neighborhood. Rents are typically paid with a one-month deposit and two to three months’ advance payment. Real estate agents usually charge one month’s rent or half the rent as their service fee.

It’s best to speak to agents in the same neighborhood where you want to live to find an apartment.


Food is another major expense in Shanghai. However, there are ways to save money on food without sacrificing quality.

One way to save money on food is to eat at local Chinese restaurants and street stalls. Food at these establishments is typically much cheaper than at Western restaurants. An average meal at a local Chinese restaurant will cost around 35-40 yuan, while an average meal at a foreign restaurant will cost around 50-60 yuan.

Another way to save money on food is to cook at home. Groceries are relatively inexpensive in Shanghai, and there are a number of international supermarkets where you can find imported ingredients. A family of four can expect to spend around 3,000 yuan per month on groceries.

Important note for families with infants: Powder milks (formulas) start at 250 yuan per bottle (usually 250-300 grams).

It’s important to note that street food may not always be hygienic or healthy, so it’s best to eat from reputable establishments.


Getting around Shanghai is relatively inexpensive. The public transportation system is efficient and affordable.

Bus and overground trains cost 2 yuan per trip if you use a top-up card, which is slightly cheaper than purchasing a single ticket. Metro/subway fares start at 4 yuan per trip and go up to around 8 yuan per trip depending on the distance. You can also use Alipay and WeChat Pay to pay for public transportation, which is often slightly cheaper than purchasing a physical ticket.

If you prefer to take taxis, they are also relatively inexpensive in Shanghai. However, it’s important to note that taxi fares can vary depending on the time of day and the distance traveled.

Cheap cars are also available in China, but imported cars are typically expensive. Some local car brands start at around 5,000 USD for a very basic sedan.


Utility bills in Shanghai are relatively low. The average monthly cost of utilities for a one-bedroom apartment is around RMB 200 (USD 30).

Mobile phone

Mobile phone plans start at around 40 yuan per month for 500 minutes and 5gb of internet.


Internet costs around 1,000 yuan per year for basic service. 5G wifi is also available in many districts for around 2,500 yuan per year.


Education in Shanghai is of a high standard, and there are a number of international schools available for families with children of all ages. However, the cost of education can be high. International schools typically charge between RMB 100,000 and RMB 400,000 (USD 15,000 and USD 55,000) per year for tuition fees.

There are also a number of public schools available in Shanghai. Public schools are much cheaper than international schools, but they are less likely to teach in English. If you are considering sending your child to a public school in Shanghai, it is important to do your research and choose a school with a good reputation. Public schools typically cost between RMB 2000 – RMB 12000 per year for tuition fees.

Total cost of living

The total cost of living in Shanghai will vary depending on your lifestyle and budget, but here is a rough estimate for a single person and a family of four:

Single person:

  • Accommodation: 3,000 yuan per month
  • Food: 2,000 yuan per month
  • Transportation: 200 yuan per month
  • Mobile phone: 40 yuan per month
  • Internet: 1,000 yuan per year

Total: 6,240 yuan per month

Family of four (without education):

  • Accommodation: 8,000 yuan per month
  • Food: 6,000 yuan per month
  • Transportation: 400 yuan per month
  • Mobile phone: 160 yuan per month
  • Internet: 2,000 yuan per year
  • Education: RMB 100,000 and RMB 400,000 (USD 15,000 and USD 55,000) per year per child.

Total: Around 31000 yuan per month

It is important to note that these are just estimates, and your actual expenses may vary depending on your individual needs and lifestyle.

Tips for saving money in Shanghai

Here are a few tips for saving money in Shanghai:

  • Eat at local restaurants and street stalls instead of Western restaurants.
  • Cook at home instead of eating out.
  • Use public transportation instead of taxis.
  • Take advantage of free and low-cost activities, such as visiting museums, parks, and temples.
  • Bargain for goods and services, especially at markets.
  • Buy in bulk to save money on groceries.
  • Use coupons and discounts whenever possible.

Living in Shanghai can be expensive, but there are ways to save money and live comfortably. By following the tips above, you can reduce your living expenses and enjoy all that Shanghai has to offer.

JR & Firm LLC: Your Trusted Partner for Corporate Services in China

Navigating the business landscape in China can be challenging, but JR & Firm LLC is here to simplify the process for you. With over 15 years of experience in corporate consultancy, we specialize in a range of services tailored to meet your business needs. Whether you’re looking to form a company, draft contracts, structure your organization, or set up offshore accounts, we’ve got you covered.

Our Services in China Include:

  • Company Formation: From selecting the right business structure to handling all the legal formalities, we make the process of setting up a company in China seamless and hassle-free.
  • Contract Drafting: Our team of legal experts will draft contracts that are not only compliant with Chinese laws but also protect your interests.
  • Company Structuring: We help you design an efficient organizational structure that aligns with your business goals and complies with local regulations.
  • Offshore Accounts and Company Formation Globally: Looking to expand beyond China? We can assist you in setting up offshore accounts and forming companies worldwide.
  • Consultancy Services: Benefit from our in-depth market insights and strategic advice to make informed business decisions.

Contact Us:

For more information on how JR & Firm LLC can assist you in China, feel free to reach out to us at:

Trust JR & Firm LLC to be your reliable partner in China, offering comprehensive solutions for all your corporate needs.

JR & Firm LLC is also the proud owner of an international logistics company, JR International Logistics LLC. If you’re seeking a reliable logistics partner to transport your goods from any location worldwide to any desired destination, we invite you to explore our services. Please click here for more information.

1. What is the first step if I want to register a WFOE?

The first step towards registering a WFOE in China involves contacting a professional consultancy firm, such as JR & Firm, and signing a service agreement. In theory, the founders could handle the process themselves. However, since it requires an in-depth understanding of the company registration system and proficiency in Mandarin Chinese, it is generally more practical to hire a professional company to prevent potential mistakes during the process.

2. I have signed a service agreement with JR & Firm to register my WFOE, what's next?

After signing an agreement with our clients for WFOE registration in China, we issue a formal invoice. At this stage, we anticipate that our clients will make a payment for the service, allowing us to commence the process.

3. I have paid JR & Firm for the WFOE registration service, what should I do next?

Upon receiving full payment for the WFOE registration, we provide our clients with a detailed questionnaire. This document requests all the necessary information about the company, business activity, founders (shareholders), and executives (including the company director and supervisor). We request that our clients complete the questionnaire and return it to us via email.

4. What should I prepare for the WFOE registration questionnaire?

1. Company Name Choices: In China, WFOE names should follow this structure: [Place of Registration] + [Chosen Name] + [Business Direction] + Co., LTD. For example, Shanghai Silk Road International Trading Co., LTD, or for a consultancy company: Shanghai Silk Road Consulting Co., LTD. An alternative structure is: [Chosen Name] + [(Place of Registration)] + [Business Direction] + Co., LTD. For example: Silk Road (Shanghai) International Trading Co., LTD. Please note, in China, a company’s Chinese name is considered its main name. If our clients know Chinese, we ask for name choices in both Chinese and English, following the above structure. If not, English name choices will suffice, and we will select a corresponding Chinese name based on similar sounds. Avoid city, country, and historical names, as they’re typically disallowed. Also, we discourage direct translations of the English name due to high likelihood of them being taken. We recommend selecting similar-sounding Chinese characters to avoid delays. The Chinese name does not need to have a specific meaning, as meaningful characters are often taken.

2. Company’s Legal Person (Company Director): The legal person is an individual and cannot be a corporate entity. Please prepare their full name (as on the passport), a copy of their passport (not ID), along with their address, phone number, and email address.

3. Company’s Supervisor: The company supervisor is a separate individual from the company director, meaning they cannot be the same person. Please provide their full name (as on the passport), a copy of their passport (not ID), and their address, phone number, and email address.

4. Company’s Shareholder(s): Shareholders are the owners of the company and can be both individuals or corporate entities. Both the company director and supervisor can be shareholders. There can be up to 50 shareholders. Whether an individual or corporate shareholder, full information is required: full names, contact details, address, and either passport copies (for individual shareholders) or a full set of company documents (for corporate shareholders).

5. Company’s Business Activity: What products and/or services does the company plan to sell? Please prepare a detailed list.

6. Company’s Registered Capital: The registered capital is the amount the founders plan to invest in the company over a span of 30 years or more. The amount varies depending on the activity and place of registration. We recommend $300,000 for international trading companies and $100,000 for consultancy companies, as examples. The registered capital amount is usually suggested by the local government.

7. Full Contact Details for All Involved Executives and Shareholders: We need the complete contact details for all executives and shareholders. This includes addresses, emails, and phone numbers.

5. I submitted the WFOE registration questionnaire to JR & Firm via email, what's next?

Once we receive the completed WFOE registration questionnaire, we review it carefully and follow up with our clients accordingly. If there’s any missing information, or if the company requires additional permits or licenses based on its planned products or services, we will inform the client. If everything is in order, we prepare the application documents, attach our clients’ documentation, and submit the WFOE registration application. The estimated waiting period for feedback from the government on the registration application is approximately 10 business days. Please note that timeframes in China are approximate due to government bureaucracy.

6. How long does it take to get my WFOE license after the registration application is submitted?

Once the WFOE registration application is submitted, the government generally responds within 10 business days. If approved, they will issue the company’s structural documents, which the founders (shareholders) and executives (director and supervisor) are required to sign with a black gel pen and mail back to us (Note: In China, only black gel pens are acceptable for signing legal documents; other colors and ballpoint pens are not accepted). We then submit the signed documents to the company registrar and await the business license. The waiting period for the business license is roughly 10 business days unless expedited service was purchased. With expedited service, a business license can be obtained within 2-5 business days. Contact us for more details about the expedited service.

7. Great, I have obtained my WFOE business license, what is the next step?

Once we secure the WFOE business license, we will contact our clients and the bank to schedule an appointment to open a corporate bank account for the company. Please note, the company director must be present in China to open a corporate bank account and their citizenship should not be among the countries sanctioned in the bank’s system. Alongside being present, the director needs to provide a Chinese phone number linked to their passport and a second person’s passport and phone number linked to this second person’s passport. This second person can be anyone in China (provided their citizenship isn’t among the sanctioned countries) with a Chinese phone number. This requirement is due to the banks’ need to issue online banking devices that require two people’s information. Legally speaking, this second person doesn’t have any rights or obligations regarding the company’s finances or bank account. While this might seem unusual, it remains a requirement, so we advise clients to identify such an individual in China before opening a bank account. The bank account opening process takes around 5-6 hours, and we recommend our clients exercise patience during this process.

8. I have my WFOE bank account opened, what is the next step?

After your WFOE bank account is opened, we’ll proceed to contact the customs department to initiate the process for the e-port device (if you’re registering an international trading WFOE focused on import/export. Note that e-port isn’t required for consultancy or other types of companies). This process typically takes about 5 business days, and we’ll mail the e-port device to our clients once it’s secured.

9. I have obtained my e-port device, are there any other steps to be completed before I start my company’s operations?

Yes, following the acquisition of the e-port for the WFOE, we’ll register the company with the tax department. This process generally takes around 14 business days, and it requires the company director to visit the tax office in person for ID verification.

10. After the WFOE tax registration, are there any other steps involved before the company becomes active?

Indeed, the final step in the WFOE registration is the foreign currency permission application. This process typically takes around 7 business days and necessitates a visit to the relevant government department. After securing the foreign currency permission, the WFOE can commence its operations.

On the whole, the complete process for WFOE registration can span anywhere between 4 and 8 weeks. As we mentioned earlier, all timeframes are approximations due to the inherent unpredictability of government bureaucracy. Although these factors are beyond our control, we will do our absolute best to expedite the process.

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Jasur Mavlyanov, an experienced entrepreneur and legal expert, has built a notable career in international business, with a focus on China. With over 13 years of experience living and working in China, Mavlyanov has acquired valuable insights into the Chinese legal system and business environment.

As an entrepreneur, Jasur founded JR & Firm LLC, a company dedicated to providing legal services to global clients entering the Chinese market. His leadership has helped the firm become a reliable partner for businesses navigating the complexities of Chinese regulations and laws. READ MORE about Jasur.

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