To conclude the series on my holiday during Golden Week, I will give a brief summary and breakdown of my budget. Before we left, I sat down and drafted an estimate of my budget for the week. Now, I went into this with ideas in my head about how ridiculously cheap it is to travel around China from overly idealistic and enthusiastic bloggers. Some said you can live off as little as $20 per day. Even I knew that was ridiculous, but I still figured I could get away with about $40 USD/day with room for incidentals and unforseen expenditures.
*Estimate: 1500 RMB– $240 USD
Exchange Rate (USD to RMB= 1:6)
*Lodging: 480 RMB (for all six nights)– $76 USD
Hostel in Qufu (45/night- 4 nights): 180 RMB
Hostel in Taishan (150/night- 2 nights): 300 RMB
The lodging was pretty straightforward as we were able to budget for that ahead of time. For our first four nights in Qufu, we purchased three bunk beds in a dorm style room at Qufu International Youth Hostel for 45 RMB/night. That averaged out to be around $7 USD/night. We splurged a bit more on our hostel in Taishan and got a private three bed room for 300 RMB ($24/night).
*Transportation: 315 RMB –$50 USD
Bus from Xiashan to Qufu: 115 RMB
Bus from Qufu to Taishan: 30 RMB
Train from Taishan to Weifang: 85 RMB
Taxis/ busses: 55 RMB
Bus from Mount Tai: 30 RMB
Getting transportation ended up being the biggest headache of our trip (and this was a week before the official start of Golden Week.) It started when our school informed us that the seats for the school bus to Qufu, which they had formerly told us were free for all teachers were actually, in fact, not free for us. We each had to cough up 115 RMB for the bus because although it was free for regular teachers, apparently it was a rule that foreigners had to pay to get seats. Seeing as how we were the first group of foreigners the school has ever had, I was a bit skeptical on the legitimacy of this rule. Anyway, considering that they had waited until the last possible minute to tell us this and there was no way we could make other arrangements, we ended up paying it.
When we got to Qufu, we decided we should probably buy our train tickets back to Weifang as soon as possible so that they wouldn’t sell out. The only seats left were for the hard sleepers, which ended up being 85 RMB. The other transportation costs were from various busses and taxis we ended up taking throughout the week.
*Entry for Attractions: 275 RMB — $45 USD
Qufu (3 Kongs): 150
Mount Tai: 125
The entry fees for the various sites were obviously set prices. In Qufu, you could either pay 70 RMB to see any of the individual Kongs or 150 RMB for all three. There was also an entry fee to get into Mount Tai as well as a fee for the various cable cars and busses that take you to the top of the mountain.
*Dining: 750 RMB — $120 USD
Dining obviously cost me the most and yet, that was probably the thing that stayed closest to the budget. However, I still can’t really boast that it was “ridiculously cheap”. Yes, you could find food carts or lower end restaurants that are on the cheaper side, but what you save there you may make up for at another place when you go to buy a coffee or a drink later. The coffees and cocktails that I ordered throughout the trip were actually comparable to what I would pay in the US (5$ for a coffee, 8$ for a cocktail), which means they were pretty damn expensive by Chinese standards. I think I maybe bought 3 cocktails during the whole trip. I mainly stuck with the local beer, Tsingtao, which was only 8 RMB. Being so utterly deprived of decent coffee, however, I was not willing to compromise or skimp on that. CJ and I went around both cities in search of a decent cup of coffee with varying degrees of (un)success. Unfortunately, China does not do coffee well.
In Qufu, we mainly ate at the hostel bar because it served really good western food. We also tested a few of the local restaurants (one had a sweet and sour chicken with pineapple that was really good.) All in all, I realize I probably could have cut down on expenses by eating at more local establishments, but at that point it wasn’t really much of a concern.
*Miscellaneous: 300 RMB– $50 USD
Rain Jacket/ Wind Breaker: 300
Finally, the last thing I ended up spending money on was a rain jacket for the mountain. I knew that I would be utterly miserable during the hike as there was a forecast of rain, so I ran down to the nearest athletic apparel store and bought myself a shell. It was definitely worth the investment.
*Total Spent: $2100 RMB–$340 USD
$55 USD/ day
So I actually ended up going over budget by about 600 RMB and needed to withdraw money halfway through. It ended up being a much more expensive holiday than I planned. Even though it doesn’t seem like a lot when converted back into USD, when you are making money in Chinese currency, you have to think in terms of Chinese currency to get a better indication of the value of things.