Chinese Currency Exchange Guide

China is incredibly diverse and fascinating, making it an excellent tourist destination. From the ancient wonders of Beijing and the modern metropolis of Shanghai to the Great Wall to the Terracotta Warriors, this gem is home to some of the most breathtaking scenery in the world. And with such a long history, there is an incredible amount of culture and heritage to explore. So whether you’re looking for adventure, culture, or a relaxing holiday, China is the perfect place to visit.

General Chinese Currency Information

What is the currency of China?

The official currency in China is the Chinese yuan renminbi (CNY or RMB),

What do China notes & coins look like?

china notes

China has a long and rich history, and its currency reflects this. Chinese notes and coins are some of the most beautiful in the world. The notes are brightly coloured, with intricate designs that tell a story. The coins are also beautifully designed, with different images on each side. Many of the designs on both notes and coins are based on traditional Chinese symbols and motifs. This makes them not only visually stunning but also culturally significant.

Chinese banknotes feature the portrait of Mao Zedong (also known as Chairman Mao), the founder of the People’s Republic of China, on the obverse. While on the reverse side, various famous Chinese landmarks are featured, such as:

  • 100 yuan – The Great Hall of the People, Beijing

  • 50 yuan – The Potala Palace, Lhasa

  • 20 yuan – The Li River, Guilin

  • 10 yuan – The Yangtze Three Gorges, Central China

  • 5 yuan – Mount Tai, Shandong Province

  • 1 yuan – West Lake, Hangzhou

As for 1 and 5 Jiao notes, their designs feature the emblem of the PRC (obverse) and Chinese minorities (reverse).

china coins

Chinese coins feature various flowers on the reverse, with the coin’s value on the obverse. The most common coins are:

  • 1 yuan – Chrysanthemum

  • 5 jiao – Lotus

  • 1 jiao – Orchid

As for 1, 2, and 5 fen coins, their designs feature a star (obverse) with the coin’s value on the reverse.

Economy

As the 2nd largest economy in the world, with USD $18.32 trillion in GDP, China’s currency is also the 8th most traded on international markets. Since they began to open up the Chinese economy and reform in 1978, GDP growth has averaged over 9% a year. In addition, 800 million Chinese citizens have lifted themselves out of poverty during this time. Furthermore, access to health services, education opportunities, and other amenities has significantly increased since then.

Brief currency history

China began to use currency in the form of sea shells, which then led to the establishment of a barter system. Eventually, bronze coins were created as substitutes for those objects. This material was chosen for minting coins because China had already used it extensively.

The increasing trade and development of markets during the era before the Qin dynasty resulted in different types of currencies being used, such as fabrics (bu bi), knives (dao bin), shells carved in bronze (daiming tongbei) and round coins (huan qian). The shapes, instruments and tools that these currencies were based on varied depending on the region or city. This was due to the rapid economic growth market traders experienced then.

At its peak, the Han dynasty saw a rise in trading activity. As a result, people were allowed to mint their own coins. However, this led to two major issues: counterfeiting and poorer-quality coins.

Currently, the yuan or renminbi is the current legal tender in China. This currency was established with the foundation of the People’s Bank of China (China’s Central Bank) by the Chinese government and issued for the first time shortly before the Chinese Communists won the Civil War in 1949. After taking control, one of the government’s earliest tasks was to end the hyperinflation during the Kuomintang rule’s final years.

Taking Travel Money to China

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What currency should I take to China?

If you’re travelling to China, you’ll need to exchange your Australian dollar (AUD) for the Chinese yuan renminbi (CNY/RMB). Read more in our AUD to CNY exchange guide.

Is it cheaper to convert currency in Australia or China?

Buying CNY in Australia is generally a cheaper and more convenient option than buying it in China. Since you’re not short on time, you have the luxury of being able to shop around for the best deal. Plus, you’ll be able to see exactly how much CNY you have, so there’ll be no nasty surprises when you’re trying to pay for things in China.

How much can I take to China?

You can take up to $5,000 or 20,000 RMB in cash when you travel in and out of China. This limit applies to both locals and foreigners. If the amount is under this threshold, then customs will not need to be notified.

Where to convert currency?

Looking for a place to exchange your currency? Then go to one of our 50 Crown Currency Exchange stores across Australia. With us, you’ll get the best exchange rate on your CNY with no commissions or hidden fees. For nearly 20 years, we’ve been helping Aussies get their travel money sorted in over 80 foreign currencies before they go overseas.

Is tipping customary in China? How much is expected?

Tipping is not a local custom in Mainland China, which differs from many Western countries where it is common to tip waiters, taxi drivers, and hotel staff. If tips are offered in China, they may be refused or cause embarrassment.

Although tipping is not customary in China, there may be a few instances where it would be appropriate to do so. Doing some research beforehand can avoid any potential cultural missteps while travelling in China. Here are a few potential scenarios where tipping might be expected:

Restaurants: Tipping is not common practice in China, so you won’t need to worry about leaving a gratuity for your waiter or waitress. However, if you’re dining at a restaurant that offers exceptional service, feel free to leave 10-15% of your bill as a tip.

Hotels: As with restaurants in China, you’ll find that hotel employees provide great service without expecting anything extra in return. Unless you’re staying at a traditional Chinese-style hotel where hospitality and room service are taken to a whole new level, then tipping might be appreciated. If you choose to give a tip, do so discreetly to avoid any awkwardness. RMB50-100 should be sufficient.

Taxis: Taxi drivers in China don’t expect tips, but you may want to round up the fare to the nearest Chinese renminbi or yuan to show appreciation for their services. It’s important to agree on your fare with the taxi driver before you start your journey, especially if you’re not using a ride-hailing service like Didi.

Tour guides: If you’re taking a tour of China led by a local guide, giving them a small token of appreciation at the end of your trip is customary. RMB200-300 per person per day is a reasonable amount to tip your tour guide.

Spa: Pamper yourself with a traditional Chinese massage or reflexology treatment during your stay. Tipping is not expected. Instead, it’s considered good manners to simply tell your therapist that you enjoyed your experience.

Keep in mind that the amount you tip should be based on your level of satisfaction with the service you received. In China, it’s more about the gesture than the actual monetary value of the tip.

Can you bargain in China?

Absolutely! Bargaining is a way of life in China, and you’ll find that it’s expected in most situations where prices are not fixed. This includes markets, shops, and even some restaurants. Haggling is commonplace in Beijing’s silk markets and Shanghai’s Yatai Xinyang market– two locations frequented by tourists. If you don’t haggle, you’ll probably end up spending more Chinese money than necessary.

It’s important to stay calm and be respectful during the bargaining process. Have fun with it, and don’t take things too seriously. After all, it’s all part of the Chinese shopping experience!

What is ATM access like in China?

While in China, you will find that there is an ATM on almost every street corner. However, not all ATMs are equipped to handle foreign transactions. You will want to look for either a Bank of China, China Merchant’s bank or ICBC ATM, as these will likely have the ability to process your withdrawal.

What should you budget per day?

Budget

If you’re looking to spend less than RMB 285-300 (AUD $61-65) daily, you’ll need to be resourceful. This budget is only suitable for backpackers or those happy to rough it a bit. With AUD $80, you can expect to eat street food, take public transportation, and stay in a hostel or dormitory-style accommodation. Mainly, you must cook your own meals, do your own laundry, and be very strategic about where you spend your money. You can still enjoy a few basic activities and attractions, but your choices will be limited.

Moderate

You can expect to spend between RMB 700-1,000 (AUD $150-215) daily for a more comfortable budget yet still a reasonable price. This is a happy medium for many travellers as it allows you to eat out occasionally, take taxis when necessary, and enjoy some of China’s attractions without worrying too much about the cost. You can also afford to stay in a nicer hotel or hostel and enjoy some creature comforts that make travel more enjoyable.

Luxury

A budget of more than RMB 1,500 will let you live quite lavishly during your time in China. You’ll be able to eat at the best restaurants, stay in luxury hotels, and enjoy VIP treatment at many of the country’s attractions. Of course, this spending level is unnecessary– you can have an amazing time in China while sticking to a more moderate budget. It all depends on your preferences and travel style.

Currency details

Currency:

Renminbi

Currency code:

CNY or RMB

Currency symbol:

¥, CN¥

Central bank:

People’s Bank of China

Nickname:

Redback

Currency sub-unit:

Jiao = 1/10 of the yuan | Fen = 1/100 of the yuan

Bank notes:

¥0.1, ¥0.5, ¥1, ¥2, ¥5, ¥10, ¥20, ¥50, ¥100

Coins:

¥0.01, ¥0.02, ¥0.05, ¥0.1, ¥0.5, ¥1.

Must-do's while you are in China

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1. Take a stroll along the Great Wall of China

Regarded as one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Great Wall of China is an absolute must-see during your time in the country. The wall stretches for over 21,000 kilometres, making it the longest man-made structure in history. Visitors can explore the wall by hiking, biking, or even camping overnight.

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2. Startle yourself at the Terracotta Warriors in Xi'an

The Terracotta Warriors are a life-size army of over 8,000 soldiers, horses, and chariots buried with China’s first emperor in 210 BC. The warriors were designed to protect the emperor in the afterlife, and they remain one of China’s most iconic historical landmarks.

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3. Shop till you drop at the Silk Street Market in Beijing

The Silk Street Market is a busy and vibrant market located in the heart of Beijing. Visitors can find almost anything they could possibly want, from souvenirs and trinkets to clothing and electronics. bargaining is expected, so be sure to hone your haggling skills before heading to the market.

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4. Take in the skyline from atop the Shanghai World Financial Center

The Shanghai World Financial Center is one of the tallest buildings in the world, standing at 492 metres tall. Visitors can take in stunning city views from the building’s observation deck, which is located on the 100th floor.

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5. Cruise down the Li River to Yangshuo

Fell in love with China’s landscape? Then be sure to take a cruise down the Li River to Yangshuo. The river winds through karst mountains, providing visitors with stunning countryside views. The cruise is a relaxing way to spend a day and the perfect way to escape the hustle and bustle of China’s cities.

Now that you know more about travelling to China, it’s time to start planning your trip! Remember to budget carefully, and be sure to visit some of the country’s most iconic landmarks. With a little planning, you’re sure to have an amazing and unforgettable experience.

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