Central Shanghai is divided into two main areas – Pudong on the east of the Huangpu River and Puxi on the west.
Historical attractions as well as the city trendiest nightspots and restaurants can be found in Puxi, whilst Pudong has a more industrial feel to it with a majority of the city’s modern businesses centred here.
Shanghai is China’s most expensive city, so you can end up paying the same as in western countries for products and services here, if not more, with a huge chunk of your expenses going towards accommodation.
Getting around Shanghai
It is fairly easy getting around Shanghai as it has an extensive and efficient network of public transportation. There are plenty of fascinating places in the city that are worth exploring on foot, such as Xintiandi, but generally, walking around is quite an uncomfortable experience due to the dust and city pollution, as well as dangerous traffic conditions.
Boarding a bus around town can be quite a confusing experience, with inconsistent stop points and routes, plus, the buses are likely to be fully packed during rush hours, which happen around 07:00 to 09:30 and 16:00 to 18:30.
Taxis are fine as long as you avoid travelling during rush hours. The best bet for getting around is Shanghai’s Metro system, which is super efficient.
Although often packed, especially during peak hours, buses are by far the cheapest way to travel around the city. There are more than 1,100 bus lines serving the various routes in Shanghai. The main hubs for the city’s bus network are at the Shanghai Railway Station, People’s Square, Xujiahui and Zhongshan Park. Rush-hour buses are preceded by the number ‘2’, night buses are preceded by the number ‘3’ and tourist/double-decker buses are preceded by the number ‘9’.
As a rule of thumb, buses preceded by the number ‘1’ operate from five in the morning to 11 at night. Fares range from one to three Yuan, depending on the route’s distance and whether the bus is air conditioned or not (air-conditioned buses are indicated by a snowflake symbol next to the bus number).
Shanghai’s Metro System works like a dream and is perhaps the most convenient way to zip around town. Serving four main lines – Shanghai Railway Station/Xin Zhuang, Zhongshan Park/Zhangjiang Gaoke, Shanghai South Railway Station/Jiangwan Town and Nan Shan Road/Da Mu Qiao Road - it is fast, efficient and inexpensive. Incorporating both subway and elevated light railway lines, the Metro currently consists of eight lines and 162 stations, and is still growing.
Covering 225 kilometres of railway tracks, it is at present the longest light rail transit network in China, exceeding Hong Kong’s MTR. Fares are based on distance and range between three Yuan to eight Yuan. Payment for journeys on the Metro is via Shanghai Public Transportation Card, which can be purchased for a refundable value of 30 Yuan or a non-refundable value of 20 Yuan. The card can also be used as payment for travels on other modes of public transport, such as the taxi or the bus.
Taxis are plentiful in Shanghai and fairly easy to get. A registered taxi should always use a meter and have the taxi license displayed clearly on the dashboard, so watch out for those that don’t to avoid from being cheated. Be extra careful when hailing a taxi at Pudong International Airport and outside the Maglev terminal at Longyang Road Metro Station.
A registered taxi should always run its meter and have a license displayed on the dashboard. Daytime fares start from 10 Yuan for a distance of up to three kilometres, after which two Yuan per kilometre is chargeable up to 10 kilometres, and three Yuan per kilometer is chargeable thereafter. Nighttime prices (23:00-05:00) start from 13 Yuan for a distance of up to three kilometres, after which 2.6 Yuan per kilometre is chargeable up to 10 kilometres, and 3.9 Yuan per kilometer is chargeable thereafter.
More than 20 ferry lines serve the Pudong and Puxi areas in Shanghai. A flat-rate fare is applicable at one Yuan per person, 1.3 Yuan per bike and two Yuan per motorcycle. A high-speed ferry service departs three times daily from the port of Luchaogang, south of Shanghai (at 09:30, 10:00 and 15:30).
How to Get to Shanghai
Two major airports serve the Shanghai route from international destinations: Pudong International Airport and Hongqiao Airport. If you can’t fly direct from where you are, you can always fly to Shanghai via Beijing or Hong Kong.
On land, there are many railway and ferry connections to Shanghai from anywhere in China, as well as buses and boats along the coast.
The weather in Shanghai is similar to that of the southeast coast of the United States, except that its summer is much, much hotter. Spring (mid-March to mid-May) is generally mild with occasional rain, and Summer (mid-May to mid-September) is stiflingly hot and humid. Winter (mid-November to mid-March) is damp and chilly, with temperatures dropping to below zero although it seldom snows, and Autumn (late-September to late-October) is the most pleasant season of all, with the weather being neither too hot nor too rainy, although heavy monsoon rains can strike every now and then. April to mid-May is probably the best time to visit Shanghai, as well as during the autumn. Summer can be too hot and humid for comfort, so it’s best to avoid travelling here during that time, when temperatures can soar up to 40 degrees Celsius in July and August. The rainy season is between June and September, with occasional rain falling throughout the year.
Good to Know
Money & Taxes
Money changing services can be found in almost every hotel, and credit cards are accepted at most major business establishments. Any money changing transaction involving foreign notes into Chinese currency (Yuan) comes with a money-exchange voucher as a record of the transaction. This voucher needs to be presented when changing any remaining Yuan back into the original foreign currency. It is advisable to change any remaining Yuan back into foreign currency before leaving China, as it can be a problem doing so outside the country.
Most ATMs accept foreign cards, but to be on the safe side, it is advisable that you withdraw your cash at a Bank of China or ICBC (Industrial and Commercial Bank of China) branch; many of which are scattered around town. Citibank and HSBC ATMs are available 24 hours and accept most foreign cards.
As a general rule, all four- and five-star hotels and most high-end restaurants add a 10-15% service charge to the bill.
Putonghua or Mandarin Chinese is the nation’s official language, while Shanghainese is widely used by the locals here. The Shanghainese language belongs to the Wu dialect, a more ancient form of the Chinese language.
Most of the locals here are able to understand and converse in both languages. English is not generally spoken in the city, except in international or tourist-orientated establishments. Knowing a bit of Mandarin does not only help make your way around town quicker and easier, but it also earns a certain degree of respect from the locals.
Mandarin-English and English-Mandarin electronic and hard copy dictionaries are widely available in major department stores and foreign-language bookshops.
Shanghai’s national holidays include New Year’s Day (January 1), Spring Festival/Chinese New Year (first and second day of the Lunar calendar), Labour Day (May 1) and National Day (October 1), with Spring Festival or the Chinese New Year being the most important holiday. The Chinese New Year is officially a five-day nationwide holiday, so expect banks, businesses and offices to be closed during the first three days.
Water QualityTap water throughout China is generally unsafe for drinking without boiling first. In certain parts of the country, it is even unsafe to brush teeth with. To be on the safe side, only use bottled water which can be obtained anywhere. When ordering drinks, try not to order them with ice, as it might be made from tap water which has not been boiled.
Air quality in the city can be quite bad. Smog from vehicles and dust from construction sites can affect asthma sufferers and those allergic to dust particles, so those suffering from such conditions should carry extra medication with them. It is also useful to carry a bottle of eye drops with you, particularly contact lens wearers, as the polluted air can irritate the eyes.
TippingGenerally, tipping isn’t a common practice in Shanghai, but in the hospitality industry it has become quite commonplace, especially where butlers, bellhops, tour guides and tour bus drivers are concerned. But you’re not obliged to tip under any circumstance; only tip if you’re satisfied with the service given. If in doubt, it’s safer not to tip at all, as it can be misconstrued as insulting, offensive and embarrassing to some. If you’d like to show your appreciation to someone who has helped you along the way, it is a better idea to do it with a small gift as a token of appreciation.
Money-changing scamsRefuse any offer by lone individuals or unlicensed establishments for currency exchange services. Not only is this illegal, it is also highly risky as you might end up with fake notes. Be aware of the black-market money touts that can be found loitering outside banks.
Maps in English can be obtained from the Foreign Languages Bookstore, major hotels and some street newsagents. The bi-lingual Shanghai Tourist Map, produced by Shanghai Municipal Tourism Administration, is available free of charge at most hotels and any Tourism Information Centre around town. Maps are also available at the Tourist Information booth at Hongqiao Airport’s International Arrivals Hall, and at Shanghai Information Centre for International Visitors.
- Foreign Languages Bookstore : 390 Fuzhou Road
- Tourism Information Centre : 561 East Nanjing Road (near Century Square)
149 Jiujiaochang Road (near Temple of the Town Gods)
1699 West Nanjing Road (across the road from Jing’an Temple)
- Shanghai information Centre for International Visitors : No. 2 Alley 123, Xingye Road, Xintiandi
Customs & Local Culture
- Elders are highly regarded in a Chinese society. It is considered rude to talk back to an elderly, or to ignore them. Treating an elderly person with disrespect or disregard is seen as a reflection of a poor upbringing.
- In Chinese society, it is common social practice to introduce the junior to the senior, and the familiar to the unfamiliar.
- Public displays of affection are often considered inappropriate in conservative China. When greeting the Chinese in public, it is advisable not to get too physical, so gestures such as backslapping, hugging or kissing – even if it’s just a peck on the cheek – are to be avoided.
- When visiting the Chinese at their homes, it is considered common courtesy to bring a gift or a token for the host. Never come empty-handed. But take extra care in choosing the appropriate gift. Wine, high-quality tea, cigarettes, sweets, fruits, cakes and pastries are the safest bets. Giving clocks, watches and any time-telling device are to be avoided as it signifies one’s life slowly ticking away. The number ‘four’ is to be avoided at all costs as it is considered bad luck; the number when read in Chinese sounds like ‘death’. Wedding gifts and gifts for the elderly are always in pairs as it is believed that blessings often come in pairs. The colours black and white are to be avoided as they signify sorrow. Shoes are to be removed before entering the house. Gifts should be presented and received with both hands.
- Avoid causing offense to anyone, especially causing someone to lose face in public. Do not lose your temper or raise your voice to anyone in public, and do not publicly challenge or contradict anyone. If you have complaints about the service that you have received, take up the matter privately with a superior.
- When eating and drinking, there are several basic points of etiquette to observe. Try to master the use of chopsticks if you can, but if you can’t, it is alright to ask for fork and spoon from the host instead. Food is often eaten family-style where several dishes are being shared amongst a group. Guests will be served first, so if you happen to be the guest, accept graciously what is being offered to you. Then, reciprocate the gesture by serving the host in return.
- If a particular food is not to your taste or liking, never openly show your displeasure, and never complain about the food. Try to leave a little bit of food in your bowl and not empty it altogether, as an empty bowl signifies that the host does not provide enough for you to enjoy. It is also customary to lightly tap three fingers on the table when the food is being brought to you and placed on the table – the gesture is equivalent to thanking the person bringing the food.