Travel in China: How to Exchange Money into RMB

(Last Modified: 2019-05-11 22:41:35    Author: jinyu)

All around the world, there is a common concern for travel abroad: money.

Going to an unfamiliar place means that the chance of unexpected incidents climbs higher. Not knowing much about the destination country, people normally tend to take as much money as possible, as if they are going to suffer from a crisis.

exchange currency into Chinese yuan

For visitors travelling in China, money can be a problem as most of the purchases are completed by local RMB. Although some of the transactions is available on-line, there are a lot of daily occasions where local payment are required (eating, accommodation, transport, socializing). Here are some common questions and answers:

1. Where can I get my currency exchanged into RMB?

If you are still in your country, you can find banks supporting RMB exchange in your city. If you do so, the bank will offer money according to offshore exchange rate, which is fluctuating and is generally a little bit lower than that from China mainland.

If you are already in China, just go to any bank you find on street. Most of them are commercial banks and is supporting foreign currency exchange. Some banks need time to be approved for bulky amount, but most of them are available for instant exchange of hundreds of dollars. Workers here can speak basic English.

exchange currency into Chinese yuan - bank

2. Is there a limit for the amount?

There is no explicit limit for foreigners exchanging USD to RMB, but our law do restricts the amount of carrying cash when you enter China. According to General Administration of Customs, the limit for cash is 5,000 USD (or any currency equivalent to that amount) per person.

Sometimes foreigners need to fill lots of forms or papers in the bank to get the procedures move on. Some of the forms ask for personal information or even business information, which may be the data source for the bank's future promotion. If you just need money and do not want to leave any private information, you can ask any Chinese friend for help in the bank.

3. What is the exchange rate?

You can check on Google for current exchange rate, but that result is not so accurate as actual situations (rate difference between Google and the bank is small). However, the online data is a good mirror for the trend or tendency of the rate. Statistical data will help you to choose the best moment to go to bank.

exchange currency into Chinese yuan - rate fluctuation

4. Are there any substitutions for going to bank in person?

Banks are crowded here. People are coming here withdrawing money, opening account, getting monthly statement, or buying financial products. For a foreigner who wants to change money here, you may get stranded among the crowd or get tired of long time waiting.

Here are some substitutions for going to bank:

  • Using phone Apps to make an appointment for foreign currency exchange. Nowadays, many of the major commercial banks have opened related service on their official Apps or online. People just need to register and reserve, and the whole process would be fairly easy.
  • Using Wechat Pay or Alipay. This 2 mobile payment Apps are popular around China. People just scan the barcode and pay. Even though it is not so friendly to foreigners when they want to bind bank cards onto their accounts, receiving balance transfer from elsewhere is simple.
  • Getting money from third party agent. In general, it's not safe to get money transferred from any third party, as the possibility of receiving forged money, shortage, or fraud increases. However, if the other party is officially authorized, like well-known agency, or is your friend, you can ask them for help on the basis of agreed exchange rate.

5. How much is the cost for daily life here?

It depends on your requirement. Here is a checklist for single person's daily expenses at normal level (in USD):

Daily cost in China
# Item Cost
1 Breakfast $1 - $5
2 Dinner (informal) $3 - $20
3 Hotel (luxury excluded) $50 - $200
4 Taxi (5 km) $5 - $8
5 Dress (casual) $10 - $50
6 Ticket for Spots $0 - $60
7 Doctor (normal problem) $10 - $100

6. Can I get more advices on money?

Sure. Here are some: 1) for most situations, giving tips to waiters is not necessary in China. 2) Do not give money to beggars as they are not real. 3) Bargaining is normal here, so sellers are always offering higher price for the first quotation. 4) Do not pay for anything under excessive promotion.