Extortionate admission fees for tourist attractions in China

January 31, 2012Jing Gao6 Comments, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

From NetEase

Magazine The Economist introduced the Big Mac index in the last century based on the theory of purchasing-power parity: it benchmarks many countries’ prices of a Big Mac burger sold at the local McDonald’s against the U.S. average Big Mac price and thereby enables a comparison between many countries’ currencies. We’ve borrowed the idea to compare entrance fees entrance fees charged by some tourist attractions home and abroad. By calculating how many Big Macs is the admission ticket worth in the country in which the tourist attraction is located, we want to give a more realistic view of how much the ticket cost the country’s average citizens, as the pricing of a Big Mac burger has taken into account many factors, such as food prices and local wages.


For original infographic, see here.

In the same way it has the most toll roads and toll stations in the world, the Middle Kingdom is sprinkled with scenic spots and places of interest that charge an extortionate admission fee. The natural landscape has been divvied up, exploited, annexed and enclosed by local governments as a ready source of money. For example, the renowned Jiuzhai Valley Natural Reserve in Sichuan province charges 220 yuan as admission. However, inside the natural reserve, you will need to pay additional fees: 90 yuan for the sightseeing car, and 120 yuan for a round-trip aerial lift. Or, if you visit Qufu, the hometown of Confucius, the greatest philosopher in Chinese history, you will find that tickets for Confusius Temple, Confucius’ Home, and Confucius Mausoleum are priced respectively at 110 yuan, 75 yuan and 50 yuan. We cannot refrain from sighing over the fact that it costs us an arm and a leg to even visit places inside our own country.

In contrast, ticket prices for tourist haunts abroad are set to match the median income of its citizens. Many attractions are open to the public for free. Some charge a nominal fee. The British Museum, for all its priceless collections, charges no admission fee. Taj Mahal in India charges foreign visitors a 750-rupee entrance fee, whereas an Indian national only has to pay 20 rupees (40 cents). The Grand Canyon in the United States makes the list of World’s Natural Heritage, but the entrance fee is as low as US$25 per vehicle (covering all passengers), and the ticket is 7-day pass. You can even buy an annual pass at 80 dollars for access to over 300 National Parks and Federal recreation sites.

Some people may contend that high entrance fee is a good mechanism for limiting the number of visitors and better preservation of the scenery. However, because of the exclusiveness and scarcity of tourism resources, even if the ticket price were raised from 50 yuan to 500 yuan, a visitor would have the “now-or-never” mentality and suck it up. Look at the National Day Holiday in 2011 (from October 1 to 7). Forbidden City received 130,000 visitors per day, the Great Wall, 64,500, and Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, 50,000. High Prices have clearly failed to serve as a deterrant swarms of sightseers from visiting. (Read: What tourist attractions in China look like during the National Day Holiday)

An incomplete list of ticket prices for tourist attractions in China in the order from the highest to the lowest

Jiuzhai Valley, Sichuan province 310/160 yuan (Tourist season/dull season)

Wuyi Mountains, Fujian province 250 yuan (for three days)

Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, Hubei province 245 yuan

Yellow Mountain, Anhui province 230 yuan

Huanglong Scenic Area, Sichuan province 200 yuan

Potala Palace, Tibet 100 yuan

Mount Jiuhua, Anhui province 190 yuan

Huangguoshu Waterfall, Guizhou province 180 yuan

Mount Lu, Jiangxi province 180 yuan

Mount Everest, Tibet 180 yuan

Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, Yunnan province  160 yuan

Mogao Grottoes, Gansu province 160 yuan

Shaolin Monastery, Henan province 150 yuan

The Ancient City of Pingyao, Shanxi province 120 yuan

Lake Tai, Jiangsu province 105 yuan

Three Gorges Dam, Hubei province 105 yuan

Mount Hua, Shaanxi province 100/50 yuan (Tourist season/dull season)

Terracotta Army, Shaanxi province 90 yuan

Forbidden City, Beijing 60/40 yuan

Badaling section of the Great Wall, Beijing 45/40 yuan (Tourist season/dull season)

Selected comments from NetEase

时代精神运动 [网易上海市嘉定区网友]:2012-01-29 19:10:00 发表
Boost my ass! It (the money) all goes to LD (note: slang for “leaders,” or officials) for keeping mistresses.

网易山东省临沂市莒南县网友 [Lv愤怒的青年] 的原贴:1
Swindler! But it can boost the local economic development as well. Just put up with it. Try viewing the pictures at home instead.

阿土土仔 [网易中国网友]:2012-01-29 19:53:24 发表
You know what experienced the biggest price hike in the past three decades since Reform and Opening? Tickets to tourist attractions, exactly! Take Suzhou’s classical Chinese gardens as an example. In 1985, Humble Administrator’s Garden’s ticket was 0.1 yuan, now, 60 yuan, a 600-fold increase; Master of Nets Garden’s ticket was 0.02 yuan, now 30 yuan, a 1500-fold increase; Huqiu Tower’s ticket was 0.05 yuan, now 80 yuan, a 1600-fold increase. Needless to say. Just do the math.

网易江苏省南京市网友 [食疗客] 的原贴:1

All these tourist attractions and places of interest are state-owned and belong to the people. The management is institutionalized. Ticket prices are so high. Yet part of the sales revenue is used for maintenance and preservation, another part for personnel expenses. What about the rest? Has the tax collection department ever investigated into it? Has the price control and regulation department ever investigated into it? Some tourist attractions charge admission at the first gate, second gate and even gate after gate. It is really an entrapment for the people.

点解点解0 [网易广东省深圳市网友]:2012-01-29 19:32:08 发表
So proud~~ Finally we lead foreigners by one step~~

石门一只眼 [网易河北省网友]:2012-01-29 19:30:05 发表
It is said that Yasukuni Shrine is free. (Note: Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, Japan honors the Japanese war dead, including war criminals from the Second World War. Thus, visiting Yasukuni Shrine is often seen by Chinese people as an outrage.)

liufei9294 [网易北京市网友]:2012-01-31 13:52:25 发表
Being expensive has its reason. Being cheap has its cause. If 1/10,000 of China’s population went to visit Mount Huang, that amounts to 130,000 people. If 1/10,000 of Russia’s population went to visit the Kremlin, it is only 14,000 people. As long as there are visitors, that means the ticket prices are in conformity the market law of supply and demand. Don’t complain. And if you insist on complaining, complain about having been born in the Heavenly Kingdom.

网易陕西省咸阳市网友 [微小男性职工] 的原贴:2
Last August, entrance fee for Mount Hua was 180 yuan. Why here it still says 100/50 yuan? Uh…

jzh555 [网易上海市闵行区网友]:2012-01-31 13:47:29 发表
Went to Jade Dragon Snow Mountain in 2008. If you go there as an individual (as opposed to going in a group), entrance fee plus maintenance fee for the Old Town, aerial lift fee, transportation fee, it was 330 yuan per head. You can’t even enter the mountain if you don’t pay the maintenance fee for the Old Town. You can never go up the mountain if you don’t pay the aerial lift fee.

网易福建省厦门市手机网友 ip:211.97.*.*2012-01-31 13:12:58 发表
Have been taking the ferry to and fro Gulangyu Island for more than a decade. This year, it is about to increase from a few bucks to 100 yuan. I feel so complicated!

yangjun446 [网易陕西省西安市网友]:2012-01-31 13:09:05 发表
Those are places where civil servants belong.

网易上海市网友 ip:180.169.*.*2012-01-31 13:12:37 发表
Like the Grand Buddha at Lingshan in Wuxi, it does not even have any good scenery, but the ticket costs 210 yuan nonetheless.

网易辽宁省沈阳市网友 [看客也惊慌] 的原贴:1
All of you guys missed the point! Local economy aside, just think about how many “idlers” are there in China! How many are there in the United States. In China, for all its high prices, tourist attractions are still seas of people. Trash and garbage are littered all over the place. If they were open to the public for free, I dare say, considering the ever declining quality of character of our countrymen, on each day, there would be more than 500 trampling accidents, causing a casualty of at least dozens of thousand; all these renowned places of interest would be ruined by 3 p.m. The Forbidden City will be razed to the ground with half an hour. All rivers and lakes will be filled with garbage and plastic bags…Just think about it. It is definitely not an alarmist talk. The beautiful landscapes would all be destroyed within a moment!!!!!!

网易云南省昆明市网友 ip:221.213.*.*2012-01-31 12:25:52 发表
A slew of vested interest groups feed on admission tickets.

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6 comments to “Extortionate admission fees for tourist attractions in China”

  1. Joseph Miller | February 1, 2012 | Permalink Reply

    This is a very interesting article. When I was co-leader of a group of American high school teachers on three-week tour of China in July 2001, I had no clue of the various ticket prices, as these costs were included in the foundation funding of the tour group.

  2. Chad | February 7, 2012 | Permalink Reply

    That’s a rather selective list. West Lake in Hangzhou, for example, is completely free (except for a few optional sights) and is beautiful.

  3. ThinkBlue | February 10, 2012 | Permalink Reply

    A lot of those tourist places in China are jam packed with people already. You can’t complain about the price of the ticket AND the amount of people there. Its a bit of a dilemma: rising ticket prices higher to deter too many people from coming would feel unfair, yet lowering the ticket price might be a disaster. I would say putting a system in place to sell tickets for specific time periods or online or cheaper to rural visitors, but I could see people taking advantage of the system or corrupting or cheating it. Its not easy.

  4. Hamid | February 20, 2012 | Permalink Reply

    That are the prices for locals, right?

    Taj Mahal Cost is more than 15 USD for foreigners:

    For foreigners, the entrance fee to the Taj Mahal consists of a 250 rupee Entry Tax (Archeological Society of India) and 500 rupees Toll Tax (Agra Development Authority). Indian nationals only pay is 20 rupees (50 cents). Children younger than 15 years are free. Night time tickets cost 750 rupees for foreigners and 500 rupees for Indian nationals, for half an hour’s admittance. These tickets must be purchased 24 hours in advance from the Archaeological Survey of India office on Mall Road.

  5. [...] Netease.com article borrowed the Big Mac index idea to compare entrance fees charged at Chinese tourist attractions [...]

  6. [...] Entry fees to tourist attractions were one of the things we found expensive in China. After the many free museums in South Korea, we were shocked to pay about $10 for the Forbidden City and about $18 for the Longmen Caves!  Many of the top-level scenic areas (mountains, recreations areas, parks) charge over 100 yuan (about $16) just to get in, with additional fees if there are cable cars shuttles, etc. There’s a good article on the subject, with comparisons and a fun Big Mac Index infographic on the Ministry of Tofu blog. [...]

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