Travel Money Guide: China, Hong Kong and Macau

Nieh hau or hello? Find out the best way to take and spend money in Hong Kong, Macau and China.

China is a huge country with an even bigger history, emerging as one of East Asia’s must-see travel destinations. On the tips of Southern China lay Hong Kong and Macau, two special administrative regions of China. Hong Kong is the financial hub of Asia and Macau is known as the Vegas of the East. The Renminbi is the official currency of mainland China, Hong Kong dollars (HKD) is the currency of Hong Kong and Macanese Patacas (MOP) is the currency of Macau — though you can also use HKD in Macau.

This travel money guide for China and Hong Kong will give you the information you need to make an informed decision about which types of travel money you should take on your trip. Read about which cards to take on a trip to China, Hong Kong and Macau so you can spend for less in the Pearl of the Orient and beyond.

Compare travel cards for China

I want to send

to

Min. Transfer Amount Transfer Speed Online Transfer Fee Rate Amount Received Description CTA Details
GBP 250 - - Go to site Show details
GBP 1 GBP 0.00 8.164 CNY
4,082
With over 240 stores, Debenhams offers travel money, money transfer and money exchange services. OFFER: Get £5 off £20 spend voucher; load your leftover currency on to a Debenhams gift card, and get an extra 20% free. Go to site Show details

Compare up to 4 providers

I want to send

to

Min. Transfer Amount Transfer Speed Online Transfer Fee Rate Amount Received Description CTA Details
GBP 100 GBP 0.00 8.094 CNY
4,047
Prepaid card – Travelex Group is a foreign exchange company based in London. It's the biggest foreign exchange bureau in the world. Go to site Show details

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I want to send

to

Min. Transfer Amount Transfer Speed Online Transfer Fee Rate Amount Received Description CTA Details
GBP 300 GBP 6.50 8.386 CNY
4,138
Cash via post – Griffin Financial is a specialist dealer in foreign currency and can offer some of the most competitive rates around. Go to site Show details
GBP 300 GBP 5.00 8.462 CNY
4,189
Cash via post – Travel FX Ltd is a specialist dealer in currency providing an alternative to banks and bureaux de change. Go to site Show details

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Which should I choose: a travel card, debit card or credit card?

How much currency do I need for my trip to China/ Hong Kong/ Macau?

Hong Kong’s status as an international city puts prices on par with London, Sydney, Paris, New York and so on. Although Hong Kong is expensive compared to other Asian cities, like London, a trip to Hong Kong can be as expensive as you want it to be as well as offering prices to suit travellers on a shoestring — if you know the right places to eat and you’re willing to share a room with other travellers in a hostel.

Hong KongBudgetMidrangeExpensive
to-sleepHostel dorm
£8 – £45 per night
2 Star Hotel
£35 – £120 per night.
5 Star Hotel
£180 – £600+ per night
to-eatTsim Chai Kee Wanton Noodles from a street stall
£3 (or less)
SuperStar Seafood Restaurant
£10 – £20 per dish
5 Star Dining at Island Tang
£60 + a head
to-seeMuseum of Tea Ware, Railway Museum, Lei Cheng Uk Han Tomb Museum
Free entry
Hong Kong half day guided tour
£30 per person
Private full day tour to Macau from Hong Kong
£180 per person

*Prices are approximate and subject to change.

The official currency of China is called the renminbi. The renminbi is made up of yuan. When referring to the name of the Chinese currency we use the title renminbi, which means ‘the people’s currency’ in Mandarin. Holiday prices in China are a little cheaper than other developed nations in the region such as South Korea and Japan; however, expenses can easily balloon if you’re on a 5 star holiday.

BeijingBudgetMidrangeExpensive
to-sleepHostel dorm
£6 – £12 per night
2 star hotel
£12 – £90 per night
5 star hotel
£90 – £350 per night
to-eatYang rou chuan’r (street food lamb kebab)
£0.50
Midrange restaurant
£6 – £12 per person
High class restaurant experience
£35 per person
to-seeVisit and hike on The Great Wall of China
£3.50 – £5
1 day Forbidden City tour
£30 per person
Beijing photography tour
£180 per person

How each travel money option works in China, Hong Kong and Macau

Using a travel prepaid card

Using a debit card

Using a credit card

Debit and credit card exchange rates

Withdrawing funds once you get to China is a popular way of getting your hands on some cash. The Visa and Mastercard foreign exchange rate applies when you use your credit card or debit card to make an over-the-counter purchase or to withdraw cash. The rate offered by Visa and Mastercard is similar to the interbank rate and may be better than what’s offered by Chinese banks and licensed exchange offices.

Using a traveller’s cheques

  • Tip: You will need photo identification to cash traveller’s cheques.

Paying with cash in Hong Kong, China

Using ATMs in China, Hong Kong and Macau

Find an ATM in China, Hong Kong and Macau

Exchanging cash

Hong Kong

British pounds can be changed at banks and exchange offices in Hong Kong and Macau. Banks give the best rates of exchange, it will pay to shop around till you find a rate you’re happy with. Hang Seng Bank, Wing Lung Bank and the Bank of China are popular for changing cash due to low commissions and better rates.

hong-kong-dollar-banknotes

  • Tip: You’ll pay more to exchange cash at international hotels: convenience comes at a price. Money changers in the tourist districts (Tsim Sha Tsui) are likely to provide a poor rate of exchange and charge a higher commission.

China

You shouldn’t have any trouble finding a bank or licensed exchange office that can exchange GBP for CNY. The renminbi is regulated by the Chinese government. The rate you get at the airport is the same as the rate you get at banks and at official exchange offices.

chinese-yuan-banknotes

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Shirley's Hong Kong & China holiday

OurTeam_ShirleyBefore joining her family in mainland China, Guangzhou for Chinese New Year, Shirley was keen to travel to Hong Kong with her friends.

Where could you use your cards?

Shirley says there were no issues with card acceptance when she tried to use her debit card. She used cash most of the time. She says in rural areas of China, card acceptance would have been a problem.

What about ATM withdrawals?

Shirley didn’t use ATMs when she was in Hong Kong.

Do you have any travel money tips?

Shirley says if you’re travelling during the Lunar New Year expect all the banks to be closed for as long as two weeks straight, so have your money already exchanged beforehand. She also says the Octopus Card is a popular option; while she didn’t get one, a friend of hers did. It simplifies the payment process on public transport and many retailers take the Octopus card too.

Bargaining in China

If you’re shopping for tourist items, haggle for a price you think is fair. The point is to come to an agreement over what the item is worth. Remember that haggling is a friendly and social interaction and should always be approached with a smile. There are no hard or fast rules about haggling, but keep these tips in mind when you’re hunting for the best price:

  • Shop around. The same item is often sold at different shops and stalls. Visit a few places to find the best deal before you make a purchase.
  • Don’t be afraid to walk away. If you don’t like the price, smile and say thank you and move on to the next place.
  • Don’t feel bad. The vendor isn’t going to sell something for a loss. Don’t think the price you’re paying is too low if the vendor agrees to a sale.

Buying currency in the UK

The best way to get foreign cash is to make an ATM withdrawal in the airport when you arrive at your destination. You’re subject to the Visa / Mastercard exchange rate, which is the best everyday consumers can get, and if you’re using a no currency conversion and no international ATM fee product to avoid the lion’s share of international ATM withdrawal charges, it’s the cheapest way to get foreign cash. If you do want to purchase foreign currency in the UK, consider these financial institutions.

Why you’ll need a combination of travel money options.

China is still largely a cash economy. You can use your card to make payments at major department stores, hotels and restaurants. Taxi drivers, guides, any merchant on the street and most shops outside big cities accept cash only. Spread your travel money across a number of products (including cash) to ensure your holiday to the South of China will go off without a (financial) hitch. A select few prepaid travel cards are suited for this part of the world. As always, a line of credit for emergencies can be essential for a trip overseas, so look out for a credit card that doesn’t charge for currency conversion to save on fees.

If you have any questions about travel money options for China, Hong Kong or Macau get in touch with us using the form at the bottom of the page.

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