When you’re sourcing from China or doing business with a Chinese company, one thing you’re going to need to consider is the cost of sending someone to China. This is likely to be an essential step in any business deal with a Chinese company, especially when you’re having something manufactured by a factory in China. Estimating the cost of such a trip is quite a difficult task, so we’ve put together this breakdown based on our experience of China trips and operating in China.
We’ve broken down the estimated cost of sending an employee to China into discrete items to make it easier to customise the information for your specific situation. The cost of each item is given as a range, as is our estimated total cost at the end. The costs here are for one individual employee, but it’s likely you’ll be sending a small team or even attending yourself. This breakdown makes a useful starting point for those cases as well.
The cost of flights to China will of course vary massively based on your location and the time of year. For the lower end, we’ve assumed that your company will opt to save money and send employees on economy class tickets, and calculated a range of return prices from various English-speaking countries. For the higher end, we’ve considered the cost of business class flights from those countries.
Cost: $1400 to $4100.
The prices for flights given above are for international flights from your home country to China. It’s also likely that you’ll need to travel internally within China to meet different business partners or to visit different factories. The two best options for this are rail and air travel. Long-distance travel by road in China is cheaper but much less pleasant (it’s also somewhat more dangerous in terms of travel safety) so we wouldn’t recommend it for business trips.
China’s rail network is generally extremely modern and impressive, and constantly expanding. If you’re travelling between cities, chances are you can travel using the newest categories of train: gaotie and dongche. Prices for these are actually quite comparable to domestic air travel in most cases. Rail travel is of course slower, but air travel in China always carries quite a high risk of delay. Trains are generally reliable down to the minute in China. Overall, we’re inclined to say that rail and air travel in China are generally quite equivalent in price and convenience.
We’ve calculated cost for internal rail and air travel based on an average inter-city trip cost of $90, and given a range from one to five such journeys.
Cost: $90 to $450.
Once your employees are on location in China, taxis are likely to be the best choice for getting to meetings and factories. Avoid unmarked, ‘informal’ taxis and always ensure that the meter is being used (otherwise the journey is illegal). Printing addresses out to show to taxi drivers is highly advisable, and you certainly shouldn’t expect any English ability on the part of the driver, even for Chinese place names pronounced with an English accent. Temporary local staff will be extremely useful for navigation issues!
The cost of taxis varies quite significantly between different cities in China. In lower-tier cities, the initial fare may start at around $1.50 and increase at $0.25 per kilometre. In larger cities the initial fare will be around $2.30 and rise at around $0.50 per kilometre. These are rough prices at the time of writing (2013). Make sure you’re roughly aware of the conversion rate between your currency and RMB so that you’ll notice any attempts at a rip-off.
To calculate the cost of local travel by taxi, we’ve assumed a range of eight to fifteen taxi journeys for a short business trip, between two and ten kilometers per journey, with the price ranges given above.
Cost: $15 to $75.
To visit factories that aren’t within reach of city taxis, hiring a car and driver may be a good option. We wouldn’t recommend informal longer distance taxi services for this, as you can never be sure exactly what you’re getting into (literally and figuratively). Hiring a car and local driver may cost around $120 a day at a minimum. We’ve used this and a trip duration of three to seven days to calculate the cost range for a car and driver.
Cost: $360 to $840.
As with many other expenses, the cost of accommodation varies significantly between different locations in China. Different levels of quality also vary in cost, of course. A minimum cost may be around $100 per night for reasonable accommodation, and up to $300 per night higher grade accommodation. Higher quality accommodation is available all over China, but we’ve used these reasonable price ranges and trips of three to seven days to calculate accommodation costs.
Cost: $300 to $2100.
We’ve repeatedly mentioned hiring temporary local staff, as this is often a very advisable choice to take. Local staff can help with language issues and navigation, and also with avoiding being ripped off or otherwise misled whilst on a business trip in China. Acquiring this knowledge for yourself or your employees would take a huge investment of time and money, so hiring local staff instead is often a viable option.
Again, the cost of this will vary a lot depending on location and requirements. Hiring a recent college graduate with reasonable English skills to accompany your staff as an informal assistant for one working day may cost around $70. More formal translators or guides will cost significantly more. We’ve continued with the trip duration of three to seven days used above to calculate the cost of hiring one informal local assistant for a business trip.
Cost: $210 to $770.
Your company may decide to provide some sort of training for employees who are going on a business trip to China, ranging from a basic briefing to more in-depth training involving cultural and language lessons. Be aware that gaining any headway in Mandarin Chinese is going to require a serious investment of time and effort, so a short course will only allow for basic niceties and perhaps some essential short dialogues. For one-off or occasional business trips to China, it will probably make sense to hire temporary local staff to handle language issues for the duration of the visit (see below).
We’ve used an estimated average cost for training and briefing of 40 USD an hour. We’d say reasonable timings range from nothing to five hours, depending on your goals for the training.
Cost: $0 to $200.
Depending on where you’re travelling to in China and the healthcare system in your country, you’ll incur a variety of preparatory medical costs. Various vaccinations will be necessary for travel to any region of China, potentially including vaccination against hepatitis A & B, rabies, malaria, typhoid, tetanus and yellow fever. If your home country offers travel vaccinations as part of its national healthcare system, the costs will be minimal or even non-existent. Otherwise, the vaccinations could cost around $40 each.
It’s also advisable to purchase a variety of basic medicines before travel to China, to avoid any issues with locating or acquiring them once you’re over here. We’ve estimated the cost of these to be around $30.
Cost: $30 to $310.
Insurance may not be an issue for your company if your general policy includes business travel, or if employee medical insurance covers them abroad. If not, a separate business travel policy will be required to cover your staff whilst they are in China. China is generally categorised in the more expensive zone for business travel insurance policies, and the price of policies does of course vary based on coverage and details about the individual being covered.
Cost: $60 to $130.
Aside from the core, predictable expenses listed above, there will of course be a whole host of other expenses for staff on a business trip in China. Food can be covered very cheaply if staff are willing to eat like locals, but more familiar food could be significantly more expensive. Various other daily costs are also unavoidable. We’ve used a rough estimate of $20 to $50 a day for one person, on a trip of three to seven days.
Cost: $60 to $350.
Using the above estimates, we’ve arrived at a rough total cost of $2510 to $9250 USD for a single person, three to seven day business trip to China. For all of the estimations used, we tried to stick to the lower end – it wouldn’t be surprising if the costs of a real business trip to China climbed higher than this range. Higher costs would be especially likely for a first-time trip to China when your company lacks experience of arranging such visits.
The above items should generally cover the cost of a reasonably frugal business trip to China, but it’s also wise to consider the cost of the time employees spend away from your office and also away from their own homes. This can be significant to your business operation, and also to employee wellbeing.
Our Chinese company reports can help you minimise the cost of sending someone to China by helping you assess and select the companies you really want to visit. Each extra company on your list will increase costs, as well each extra day spent in China. By using one of our affordable and convenient Chinese company reports, you can eliminate companies from your list and spend your valuable time in China with the ones that seem genuinely worthwhile. Read more about our company verification reports →
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