A Mini Guide to KTV in China

For some people, China seems to be a very conservative and traditional country where people hardly do crazy things such as partying. Well, this statement couldn’t be further from the truth. Chinese know how to have fun drinking cages of beer and wine!

Chinese people in KTV singing and eating
Our team in KTV on Friday night

People keep asking us:

“What are you guys up to at the weekends in China?”

“Do Chinese know how to party at all?”

“Where do you go on Friday’s nights?”

A boy holding a beer in hands in Chinese KTV
Cez enjoying his beer in KTV

One word answers all of these questions – KTV.

What’s KTV?

It’s a word Chinese use for karaoke. KTV is a place (kind of bar or club) where Chinese go to have fun on week days as well as weekends. They book fancy looking rooms with huge TV screens on the walls, order plenty of appetizers (grilled chicken legs, dry fruits, nuts, various smoked meat and fish, spicy veggies) and at least two cages of beer.

All KTV clubs look glamorous inside
All KTV clubs look glamorous inside
Massive TV screen in Chinese KTV
Massive TV screen

Karaoke: How it works in China

If you have ever been to any karaoke club in your home country, you know that people sing songs on a stage in front of strangers. It’s completely different in China. Karaoke clubs consist of private rooms you can book for a minimum time (from 1 hours onward) . There are different sizes of rooms depending on the number of your friends.

Chinese are having fun in KTV

Dark rooms and its purple lighting make you feel very comfortable and relaxed. There is a huge leather sofa in the middle of the room with a table and small chairs around.

a chinese girl smiling
Coco, our workmate

All KTVs are full-service. You can order some Chinese snacks as well as alcoholic drinks. For those who don’t drink alcohol, there is a great variety of Chinese teas (jasmine, red, green), coffees (black, cappuccino, latte) or fizzy pops (sprite, coke). You can eat and drink while singing songs throughout the affair.

Chinese beer in KTV
Chinese beer we had that night in KTV

Drinks and snacks are much more expensive than in local restaurants (at least double the price). If you don’t want to overspend, bring your own food and hide it under the table so the staff can’t see it :).

food in KTV More beer, popcorn and sunflower seeds
More beer, popcorn and sunflower seeds

The food is served on small plates and it is decorated with some flowers. Glamorous look of everything is a must.

A plate of pork meat
A plate of pork meat

Chinese go to KTVs in the evening. Many clubs in big cities are open 24/7 so it can be any time and any day activity. Some Chinese go there on a date (because the first date should not be a 1 on 1 type) :).

Singing songs is the fun part. Everyone selects some songs and wait for their turn to sing. There is a huge selection of Chinese as well as English songs so you can have a go as well.

Karaoke screen
That’s how you select songs

What we love about KTVs is that you don’t need to be a professional singer to have fun. Everyone tries and has fun, people dance and cheer for you.

Chinese girls are singing songs in KTV
Everyone’s having a great time

Chinese girls singing songs in KTV

Chinese girls singing songs in KTV
Me and my workmates

Prices

Booking a room for one hour usually costs RMB 100-300 ($16-$50) depending on the size. Drinks and food are very expensive. A case of beer (12 bottles) costs between RMB 100 -300 ($16-$50), a small plate of meat should be around RMB 30 ($5). When in KTV, you should be extra careful of what you are ordering. If you get drunk and go overboard on food you can end up paying more than RMB 600 ($100) per night and I guess it’s way too much. You can split the costs between your friends as well. The good news is we never paid for it as Chinese treated us and the bill was always on them. We had fun and were treated like guests without spending a yuan (perks of being foreigner in China) :).

Chinese girls singing songs in KTV

Do’s 

  • Make sure you can speak some Chinese before you decide to go to KTV on your own to book a room. Otherwise, Chinese might try to get the last yuan out of you and you will not even notice it.
  • Make sure you keep an eye on your bill if you know you are going to pay it.

A blond girl smiling in KTV

  • Make sure the club has some English songs if you are planning to sing.
  • Be ready to get drunk as there are plenty of toasts involved.
  • Ask  the staff or one of your friends to explain to you how to operate the song system (typically there’s a way to search for songs alphabetically).

Don’t’s 

  • Try not to turn down the “KTV night out” offer if your friends invite you – in Chinese culture it may be considered rude and impolite.
  • There are some KTV clubs where you can order Chinese girls to “help you entertain yourself”. Don’t do that. Firstly – it’s very expensive, secondly – you can end up being blackmailed for raping a girl (cameras are in every room and gangsters are the “calm” type, a friend with such experience told us) and thirdly – these girls are often forced to have sex with customers so I guess you wouldn’t want to get involved.
  • Don’t order any food or drinks without checking their prices.
  • If everyone is having fun and you feel bored, wait till it is all over, don’t leave the room as first – it might be perceived as rude.
  • Don’t be shy and sing as well!
two girls one chinese one polish are singing a karaoke song
Me and Coco singing Chuan Qi song

To go or not to go?

To sum up, KTV is a great idea to spend an interesting and full of fun and laugh night out with your friends. You can experience authentic Chinese culture, listen to some traditional Chinese music, drink as much as you want and try some Chinese food, more ofthen than not – for FREE! :). I wouldn’t ask for more, would you?

People are having fun in Chinese KTV

Video of our last visit to KTV

Last time we have recorded a video of our experience in KTV. Just a warning: we speak in Polish for the first 20 seconds or so, because it’s for our Polish YouTube Channel – eTrampy. Afterwards, you can see first hand what it’s like to be there.

What do you think of this kind of entertainment?

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46 Comments

  • I LOVE KTV! But maybe that’s because I am a massive show off :P
    We have RTV here which is restaurant KTV, so you have a proper meal (not just snacks like it seems you had in the photos) as well as the singing and drinking!
    My Chinese teacher loves it so much they all went during the day yesterday ;)

    • You are like Cez – he loves being a center of the universe sometimes and he is definitely a massive show off :):). To be honest, I’ve never heard of RTVs. Are they any good? Sounds nice. I bet it’s more expensive though as you need to pay for the proper meal and the karaoke room. I’m so jealous! I will talk to my workmates so maybe we can go there as well next weekend :P

  • As much as I dislike karaoke as soon as I saw the title of this post I just had to read it. KTV is very much part of Chinese culture and they love it. I totally agree that it has to be experienced when visiting China. The one I visited didn’t have any English songs (which was a blessing as I really cannot sing!)

    • Hahahaha I’m a hopeless singer as well. Every time I try to sing something Cez asks me to shut up :), but I love KTVs. Nobody cares if you can sing or not, it’s all about having fun. I know two Chinese songs by heart so if there are no English songs available I can choose to sing one of them :-)

  • We totally skipped KTV but I wish we didn’t! I seems so much fun. And ofcourse there are sunflower seeds. We were addicted to those things when we were in China!

  • Wow, this was nothing like what I had imagined karaoke to be like! I’m really shy when it comes to singing in front of others, but perhaps in this setting it would be easier to since the rooms are much more intimate. I was also surprised to see a tiny tot in the room–who knew this activity could be so family friendly?! Oh, and I loved how there were people roller-blading around the KTV building!! Very cool, Agness!

    • Thanks Cassandra. I would normally be a bit shy to perform in front of others as well, but I felt amazingly comfortable there. They keep encouraging you to sing and they don’t laugh when your voice sucks :-).

  • Great info! I’m currently living in China and love doing KTV. It can be a lot of fun. Most of the other foreigners in my small city aren’t too big into it, but it’s a good way to do something my Chinese friends enjoy.

    • Thanks Emily. Whereabouts in China are you? If you live nearby Dongguan/Guangzhou area we would be more than happy to meet you! :-). Our Chinese friends are crazy about weekend nights out.

      • Sadly, I am quite far from the Dongguan/Guangzhou area. I’m in Chengde, which is NE of Beijing. If you venture up to Beijing at any time, please let me know and I’d go to meet you guys! How long are you planning to stay in China?

      • Yes, it’s pretty far from Dongguan. We are staying in China till January next year but we are constantly travelling inside and outside China so we hope to meet you in person soon.

  • How neat! I’ve never been to a karaoke setting like this! This looks so fun and your video is great. Thanks for the insight into this fascinating world of Chinese entertainment. I knew this was big in Japan but didn’t realize it was huge in China too. Big pluses for it being family-friendly too :)

    • I knew you would like the family-friendly environment Mary :):). Is it huge in Japan? That’s something I didn’t know about so thanks for telling me!

  • All the karaoke bars in Japan do the private room thing too. It’s harder to avoid taking a turn singing when you’re in a small room with only a dozen people! It’s still fun, but definitely different from karaoke bars back home in Canada.

    • As a foreigner it’s nearly impossible to avoid singing in KTV here, and I believe the same applies in Japan. I think it’s also much easier though. Have fun in Japan!

  • Karaoke is always an entertaining evening. Was at an event last night. (Oh my thick head) Your video showed how important it in Asia. Really enjoy it.

    • Thanks Steve! Do you often go to karaoke clubs in England? We haven’t done it when living there.

  • I’m guilty of committing the first “Don’t” on you list many, many times. I got dragged to karaoke once in Japan and really didn’t like it (actually, I loved the food, drinks and the little room–I just didn’t like all the bad singing). By the time I got to China I already knew I had no interest in trying it again. Luckily I lived in Shanghai where there were plenty of other things to do at night.

    • Ouch, you should have tried it! I bet it would be different from your Japanese karaoke experience! I agree, the food and drinks are always great in KTVs :)

  • This looks like a lot of fun and a great evening out !
    I only have one problem, I cannot sing at all :)
    Nice one Agness ! Where you singing in Chinese? wow impressive.

    • I know one Chinese song by heart and always sing it when I’m in KTV. My voice’s horrible as well but I don’t care!!! Fun is fun! :)

  • You have been having an incredible time in China. Both of you! I’m planning on visiting China next year and KTV experience is so high on my list! Thanks for that.

    • Yes, China’s been treating us very well and yes, you should definitely go for KTV while being in China – so much fun and an unforgettable experience.

  • My voice sucks so I hate karaoke, but I would love to experience Chinese hospitality and free drinks though LOL :)

    • My voice sucks as well and it’s not about how good or bad you can sing. It’s all about having fun with a bunch of Chinese fellows.

  • Sounds like fun! Cool they’re open 24/7 ;-)

    I wouldn’t have thought the food and drinks to be much more expensive than other dining places… then again, I guess that’s their best way of making money, no?

    • Hey guys! So happy to hear from you. Just read your blog and I see China’s been treating you very well :). The Gold Rider beer has no taste, it’s like a water so don’t bother to try it :-/.

  • Karaoke in Indonesia is pretty much similar to that in China. We rent a private room for an hour or more, and spend a lovely time singing with our friends :-) and sometimes the machine will score us after a song is finished
    Now I’m curious to experience it in Western countries where people sing on a stage and in front of strangers. I guess that takes more courage LOL. I’m also very curious to go to a Japanese karaoke club. In Japanese movies & manga I’ve always seen people getting drunk, singing and wearing silly properties there!

    • Hey Halida. Thanks for stopping by. So nice to hear karaoke in Indonesia is pretty much the same. I will definitely experience it when I finally make it there :). Western karaokes are also cool, bit different but still loads of fun. Yes, we do get drunk to feel confident enough to sing LOL :-)

  • Haha almost the same here in the Philippines! In some cases though, the food and beverage prices are quite reasonable. Filipinos love to sing and in a lot of instances worldwide, the Filipinos are known as the best singers in the karaoke :)) Hope they’ve stored enough english songs there :D

    • Thank you, so nice of you. Thanks a lot for the kind words. I always associated KTV with China only :)

  • Karaoke is not chinese. Is relatively new compared to korea or japan.
    Also not as huge. Go to korea or japan,
    There’s karaoke rooms every corner and every building.
    Also karaoke machines ares not too good. Mainly chinese songs, most of them don’t even have remotes

  • Hi, good article! You made a lot of informative suggestions and I definitely agree with being careful if you go alone to any KTV as a foreigner, as they will try to overcharge you any way they can. But, they’d also do that in SE Asia, so it’s not just a China-thing. But, that is so awesome that many locals are so charitable with foreigners and offer to treat them to drinks. That’s definitely a big plus!

  • Hello Agness,

    We just wanted to sing a little in a Shanghai Karaoké, and we learned that it works by room reservation. Not at all like at home.

    Now we are in Beijing. Is there a way to have the Karaoké experience by dropping in a room somewhere? We don’t want to be only two in a room – we need an audience! :)

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