The cost of living in Shanghai is considered the highest in China and, according to Mercer's 2021 Cost of Living Survey, it's the 6th most expensive city out of 209 cities for expats.

Depending on an expat's budget, some will naturally opt for a more economical lifestyle in the city, while others tend to live more extravagantly than they would back home, taking advantage of Shanghai's luxuries and renowned nightlife.

Regardless of which end of the spectrum an expat ends up living on, it's good to be informed of the basic cost of living in Shanghai before arriving.

Cost of groceries and eating out in Shanghai

The great thing about buying groceries in Shanghai is that just about anything can be found in foreign supermarkets. Imported produce is more expensive, though. Buying vegetables from local vendors is often half the price of fresh produce from supermarkets, although the bigger stores may have a larger organic selection.

Expats who would like to live cheaply can follow the example set by many locals and foreign students by eating at a small mian guan or tan restaurant for dinner. Slightly more mid-range Chinese-style restaurants would usually cost more per person, while restaurants serving foreign food are often much more expensive.

Alcoholic beverages in most bars and restaurants might cost more than expats are used to, especially if they choose a more upscale venue for drinks. Although the cost of alcohol may seem daunting, frequent promotions and 'happy hours' are common in Shanghai, allowing those of all budgets a chance to indulge.

Cost of healthcare in Shanghai

The cost of healthcare in Shanghai varies dramatically. In the case of emergencies, fees at a private hospital in China would add up quite similarly to those in a Western country. As a result, medical insurance is essential.  

Cost of shopping in Shanghai

Some of the best bargains in Shanghai can be found in its local markets. Spread throughout the city, these places are a great way for savvy shoppers to find deals on pearls, electronics, antiques, books and branded clothing. Quality, selection and authenticity may be lacking, but expats are often able to haggle prices down to a fraction of what they would be sold for abroad.

On the other hand, prices for luxury goods at places such as the malls on Nanjing Road are in line with those in North America and Europe.

Cost of living in Shanghai chart

Prices may vary depending on product and service provider and the list below shows average prices for June 2022.

Accommodation (monthly rent)

One-bedroom apartment in city centre

RMB 7,900

One-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

RMB 4,600

Three-bedroom apartment in city centre

RMB 21,400

Three-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

RMB 11,300


Milk (1 litre)

RMB 19

Dozen eggs

RMB 16

Loaf of white bread 

RMB 17.40

Rice (1kg)

RMB 8.70

Packet of cigarettes 

RMB 25

Public transport

City centre bus/train fare


Taxi rate per km


Eating out

Big Mac Meal

RMB 40

Coca-Cola (330ml)   



RMB 30

Bottle of local beer

RMB 10

Three-course meal at a mid-range restaurant for two

RMB 300


Uncapped ADSL internet per month

RMB 120

Utilities (average per month for standard household)

RMB 470