International Studies Abroad ®est. 1987


Culture Corner


The Chinese currency is the Yuan Renminbi (RMB or ¥), known colloquially as kuai. One yuan is divided into 10 jiao or colloquially "feathers" (mao). One jiao is divided into 10 fen.

Currently, the only currency being produced by the Chinese government comes in paper denominations of ¥1, ¥5, ¥10, ¥20, ¥50 and ¥100 and coins in the amounts of ¥0.1, ¥0.5, and ¥1. However, there are still older paper bills in circulation in the amounts of ¥0.1, ¥0.2, ¥0.5.

Conversion Rates

The exchange rate is linked to the US dollar and so does not fluctuate much compared to other currencies. As of this publication, 1.0 USD = 6.156 RMB. For current exchange rate information, visit

Cost of Living

The cost of living in Shanghai is not pricy, especially considering the size of the city. Meals, transportation, and entertainment will all cost much less than what Americans are used to. While credit and debit cards are commonly used in Shanghai, many smaller shops, cafes, and street vendors will only take cash. ATMs are readily available, but be sure to always have a backup option as well.

Due to the change in exchange rates and vast differences in individual spending habits, we can only give you estimated figures. However, most students seem to spend around $200-$250 per week. This figure does not include extra traveling, heavy shopping, or frequent restaurant dining. Please keep in mind that some students spend less and others spend more.When budgeting, keep in mind that it is always better to overestimate than to underestimate. To give you an idea of common approximate expenses and commodities a typical student will incur, please see the brief list below.

  • Single metro fare: $0.50 - $1.5
  • Public Transportation: $35/week (by taxi) and $12 (by bus and metro)
  • 3 Meals per day: $15 - $20
  • Dining Out: $70/week
  • Groceries: $30/week
  • Cafés/Coffee: $2-8/cup
  • Laundry: $20/month ($2/time in the dorm)
  • Local Calls: $5-10/week
  • International Calls: $10-20/week
  • Nightlife: $10-50
  • Entertainment: $10-20/movie, $40-180/concert
  • Most museum entrances: $4 - $8
  • Hostel: $20-50/night
  • Hotel: $40 - $90 per night
  • Gym Membership: $30/month (off-campus gym)
  • Basketball/football/badminton on campus: $3 - 7/time

Additional Estimated Expenses

The ISA program cost includes items such as tuition and fees, housing, insurance, and more. To view what is included in your program price, please visit the "What's Included" section of the ISA Shanghai program page.

The Additional Estimated Expenses sheet in the Accepted Students section of the ISA website is a great resource to judge what additional expenses may come up. Some additional estimated expenses include:

  • Airfare
  • Books & Supplies
  • Meals
  • Passport (new/renewal)
  • Student Visa
  • Personal Travel


The ISIC card is an internationally recognized student ID card that gives students thousands of discounts worldwide from travel to cinema, meals and more. ISA students who purchase a flight through STA are eligible to receive an ISIC card.

For students who do not book their ticket through STA, it is recommended that they look into purchasing an ISIC card for their studies in Chile. To find out how to get an ISIC card, visit Once there, you can find information on discounts in Chile, and what is needed to obtain an ISIC card.