Shanghai (上海 Shànghǎi) , with a population of more than 18 million (and over 5.8 million migrants), is one of the most populous and most developed cities in the People's Republic of China.

Shanghai was the largest and most prosperous city in the Far East during the 1930s, and has remained the most developed city in China.


Shanghai is a fascinating mix of East and West. It has historic shikumen (石库门) houses that blend the styles of Chinese houses with European design flair, and it has one of the richest collections of Art Deco buildings in the world. As there were so many concessions (designated districts) to Western powers during the turn of the 20th century, at times the city has a cosmopolitan feel. From classic Parisian style, to Tudor style buildings that give an English flair, while the 1930s buildings put you in New York or Chicago.

In the beginning of the 1990s, the Shanghai government launched a series of new strategies to attract foreign investments. The biggest move was to open up Pudong, once a rural area of Shanghai. The strategies succeeded, and now Pudong has become the financial district of Shanghai, with numerous skyscrapers.

Today Shanghai's goal is to develop into a world-class financial and economic center of China, and even Asia. In achieving this goal, Shanghai faces competition from Hong Kong, which has the advantage of a stronger legal system and greater banking and service expertise. Shanghai has stronger links to the Chinese interior and to the central government in addition to a stronger manufacturing and technology base. Since the handover of Hong Kong to the PRC, Shanghai has increased its role in finance, banking, and as a major destination for corporate headquarters, fueling demand for a highly educated and cosmopolitan workforce.

Shanghai is one of the least polluted major cities in China, but that's only because of the sorry state of environmental protection in China in general and its air quality can still be quite poor. Individuals with asthma or respiratory issues should be prepared when visiting Shanghai as well as other Chinese cities.

Getting there

Shanghai is one of China's main travel hubs and getting in from pretty much anywhere is easy.

By plane

kianghai has two main airports , with Pudong the main international gateway and Hongqiao serving most domestic flights. Be sure to check which one your flight is leaving from, and allow at least one hour, preferably 1.5 hours, to transfer if needed!

Domestic airplane tickets are best booked in advance at one of the many travel agencies, but can also be bought at the airport on the day of departure. Fares are generally cheap, but vary depending on the season; figure on ¥400-1200 for Beijing-Shanghai. When backpacking, it may often be cheaper to book a flight along a big traffic line (Shanghai-Beijing, Shanghai-Guangzhou, Shanghai-Shenzhen, etc.) and travel the rest by bus or train.

Pudong airport is one of several airports serving destinations to Taiwan.

Pudong International Airport

Pudong (浦东机场, IATA : PVG, ) is Shanghai's main international airport, located 40 km to the east of the city. Arrivals are on the first floor, departures on the third, and the airport has all the features you'd expect. There are two gigantic terminals (T1 and T2), so check which one you're going to. A free shuttle bus service connects the two in case walking a few minutes (or using the conveyor belts) are too cumbersome.

The most convenient, but also the most expensive way to get to central Shanghai is by taxi, but figure on ¥130 and about an hour to get to the center of the city (Renmin Square). Head for the official taxi line to the far right of the arrival terminal. Taxi drivers seldom speak any English, but you may want to check that they know where you would like to go and the estimated cost to get there. Estimates are also posted near the exit doors on the first floors near the pick-up area and bus station area. Ask an attendant at the info desk to write down the name of your destination in Chinese for you to show the driver. It is not advisable to follow any person inside the terminal claiming to be a taxi driver, unless there are two of you and someone speaks good Shanghainese or Mandarin. Use extreme caution and double check the charges as some will try to charge up to 10 times the normal fare. Never allow the driver to pick up a "friend" or any other second passenger. It is against local law to pick up other passengers not affiliated with your party.

Airport buses are considerably cheaper (¥15-30), but take up to an hour and a half and run more infrequently starting at 11PM. There are a number of routes, but two particularly convenient ones connect to the Airport City Terminal on Nanjing West Road (#2, ¥19) and Shanghai train station (#5, ¥18). Budget travelers may also consider buses stopping at Longyang Road (1#/5#, ¥12) from where you may transfer to Metro Line No. 2. For a link to lines 3/4, #6 (¥20) goes to Zhongshan Park station (actually a few blocks off- change to the local 947 bus and take it one stop if you can't walk that distance for whatever reason).

The quickest way to get to either downtown Pudong or connect to the Metro is via, the Transrapid Maglev train. It shuttles from the airport to the middle of Pudong in 8 minutes flat at a blazing speed of 433kph (270mph) (300kph during certain afternoon and evening periods). If your final destination is Pudong, a short subway or taxi ride remains; however, if you're looking to go further west into Puxi, plan on 20 minutes or more on the Metro to People's Square. On the 2nd floor of the airport you can purchase Maglev tickets from the ticket counter (or the 2nd floor of the Maglev station if coming from the city). The wait for one train is typically no longer than 15 mins. Once you're at the end of the Maglev line, you can walk down the stairs and in about 1 minute arrive at the Longyang Lu Metro station (Line 2). Chinese and foreigners alike often whip out cameras to take photos while aboard the Maglev, marveling at the speed of the train. Depending on traffic, it may be just as quick to take the Maglev and Metro combination to western areas of Shanghai rather than risk traffic congestion in a taxi or airport bux. Some minor inconveniences aside, it's definitely worth the experience for the cost (compared to the airport bus). The train is very clean, easy to find, and extremely fast! Services currently operate from 6:45AM-9:30PM daily and cost ¥50 one way (¥40 if you have a flight ticket) or ¥80 for a round-trip ticket (good for up to 7 days from date of purchase). You can also opt to pay double for "VIP Class", which gets you a soft drink and bragging rights. Note that between the baggage claim and the Maglev station, several people will tell you that the Maglev is "broken" or "shut down because of weather" but they would be happy to take you in their taxi. Pay them no mind, upon arriving at the station you will see the trains are running.

Hongqiao Airport

Shanghai's older airport Hongqiao (虹桥机场 IATA : SHA) services domestic flights, the only exception being the city shuttle services to Tokyo-Haneda and Seoul-Gimpo. 12 km away from the city center, a taxi can manage the trip in 20 minutes on a good day but allow an extra 30 minutes for the taxi queue, especially when arriving after 7PM.

The 'Hongqiao Airport Special Line' bus (机场专线) goes directly to Jing'an Temple every 10-30 minutes for ¥4. Due to the long taxi queues this is by far the quickest option, albeit at times crowded. There is no sign posting in English so it is advisable to print out the Chinese characters and then consult one of the airport staff, or look for one of the buses without a bus number (only Chinese Characters). Tickets are purchased inside the bus shortly before it departs, once departed there are no stops until arriving right in front of Jing'an Temple subway station on Line 2.

Bus: Although Hongqiao airport has fewer airport bus lines than Pudong, more public bus lines are linked to Hongqiao. No. 806: These buses run from Hongqiao airport to the Lupu Bridge between 6AM-9:30PM at intervals of 5-15 minutes. The line also has a stop at Xujiahui, and the whole trip costs ¥5. No. 807: These buses operate between 6AM-9:30PM from Hongqiao airport to the Zhenguang New Village in Putuo District. ¥4. No. 925: Most of the route is along Yang'an Road and the buses link Hongqiao airport and People's Square between 6AM-9PM. ¥4. No. 938: These buses run from Hongqiao airport to Yangjiadu in Pudong at intervals of 5-15 minutes, and the one-way fare is ¥7. This service operates from 6am until the arrival of the last passenger flight. No. 941: Linking Hongqiao airport and Shanghai Railway Station, the line runs from 6:30AM-8:30PM. ¥4. Interval between services is 10-12 minutes.

The queue for taxi usually takes 20-30 mins waiting.

By train

Shanghai has several train stations.

  • Shanghai Railway Station (上海站). Shanghai's largest and oldest, located in Zhabei district, on the intersection of Metro Lines 1, 3 and 4. Practically all trains used to terminate here, including trains to Hong Kong. However southern services are being shifted out to the new South Station.

  • Shanghai South Railway Station (上海南站). A new, greatly expanded terminal opened in July 2006 and and is set to take over all services towards the south. On Metro lines 1 and 3.

Train tickets are also conveniently booked in advance at one of the many travel service agencies. If urgent, they could also be directly booked at the train stations and the Shanghai Railway Station even has an English counter. Unfortunately be prepared that almost all information even in Shanghai Railway Station will be only in Chinese characters and even at the English counter you will face problems to communicate. It is advisable to prepare the paper with your destination displayed in Chinese characters. Unfortunately, this is further complicated by the fact that some tickets aren't sold at the main ticket office, this includes tickets to Hong Kong (Jiu Long), for that you need to go to a similar ticket office near the main ticket office. To get there, exit the main ticket office and go left (towards one of the metro exits and parallel to the train station), the ticket office is just across the road after the metro exit. You have to pass through a security check to get to the ticket office.

  • Beijing (北京)- There are a number of brand new night sleep trains running daily from Shanghai to Beijing, starting at 7PM in 10 minute intervals to 8PM and arriving at 7-8AM in Beijing. Fare is around ¥500 for a softsleeper, but they are very clean and the four-person cabins are quite comfortable. In the same new train, normal hardseaters are available for around ¥250. Food is now served when traveling in both directions, and there is a drinks and snacks trolley that comes past occasionally that you can purchase snacks from. For a regular normal sleeper in a standard train, which takes 13 hours from Shanghai to Beijing, expect to pay ¥200-300 with no food either.

  • Hong Kong (香港)- The T99/T100 train to and from Hong Kong runs every other day (alternating between Shanghai->Hong Kong and Hong Kong->Shanghai) from Shanghai Railway Station (T99 leaves here at 5:15PM, T100 arrives here around noon), arriving at Hung Hom station in Kowloon(T99 arrives here around noon, T100 leaves here at 3:15PM). If traveling alone, expect to pay ¥800 each way for the soft sleeper, but discounts are given for group purchases (¥364 each way per person in a soft sleeper if purchased in a group of 4, for instance). Unless you are on a very tight budget, try to get the 'Deluxe Soft Sleeper' which fascilitates compartments of 2 beds and a private mainland-style mains socket (but with the introduction of new train cars, the regular soft sleeper also has a private mains socket for each room as well as one in the corridor of each car). Spaces are limited, so book well in advance. Keep in mind that you will still have to go through Customs and thus need a new visa for reentry into mainland China (unless you have a multiple-entry visa). However, going through Customs at the train station is much quicker than Customs at the airport; also, many restrictions present on air travel (liquid restrictions, baggage, etc) are not present on the train.

The new fast (200+ km/hr) CRH trains go South from Shanghai to Hangzhou, West to Suzhou and Nanjing, and North to Qingdao. These are very comfortable and convenient. Look for the separate "CRH" ticket counters.

Additionally, tickets for some sleeper trains are now being officially discounted (discount varies by distance, maximum discount is 50%) up to July 1 so for now there is more incentive for taking the train for some trips.

By car

In recent years many highways have been built, linking Shanghai to other cities in the region, including Nanjing, Suzhou, Hangzhou, etc. It only takes 2 hours to reach Shanghai from Hangzhou.

By bus

There are several long-distance bus stations in Shanghai. You should try to get the tickets as early as possible.

  • Beiqu Long-distance Passenger Station - 80 Gongxing Road

  • Hengfeng Road Express Passenger Station 270 Hengfeng Road

  • Zhongshan Beilu Long-distance Passenger Transport Station 1015 Zhongshan N. Rd

  • Xujiahui Passenger Station 211Hongqiao Road

  • Pudong Tangqiao Long-distance Passenger Station 3842 Pudong S.Rd

By boat

There are ferry services from Shanghai to Kobe, Osaka (Japan) weekly and Hong Kong.

  • The Shanghai Ferry Company has once a week service from Shanghai to Osaka and vice versa. Takes two nights.

  • The Japan-China International Ferry Company has similar service as The Shanghai Ferry Company but alternates each week with Osaka and Kobe as the Japanese depart / arrival city.

  • Suzhou-Shimonoseki: Shanghai-Shimonoseki Ferry, 083-232-6615 (Japan) or 0512-53186686 (China), thrice weekly service. ¥15,000+.

Traveling around

If you intend to stay in Shanghai for a longer time the Shanghai Jiaotong Card (上海公共交通卡) can come in handy. You can load the card with money and use it in buses, the metro and even taxis. You can get these cards at any metro/subway station, as well as some convenience stores like Alldays and KeDi Marts. These come in regular, mini, and "strap" size (the latter being made for hanging on mobile phones), with various limited editions available for each. Only regular-sized cards can be loaded at machines (with a few exceptions, mainly at line 6/8 stations which have a special type of recharge machine made to take all sizes of cards) and only in multiples of 50 or 100 RMB (this applies to the big blue machines- certain smaller machines mostly located in line 8 stations will accept any bills the service counter will as well as most sizes of SPTC). Most likely you will need to go to the service counter to recharge if you have an irregularly-shaped card or you want to recharge in multiples of 10 or 20RMB.

Also, this card allows you to transfer lines at Yishan Rd, Shanghai Train Station, and Hongkou Football Stadium stations, as well as discounts for bus<->bus and metro<->bus transfer (the fare is discounted 1RMB each time you transfer).

By metro

The fast-growing Shanghai Metro (website in Mandarin) network now has 8 lines with another 4 under construction. The trains are fast, cheap, air conditioned and fairly user-friendly with most signs also in English, but the trains can get very packed during rush hour. Fares range from ¥3 to ¥9 depending on distance. Automatic ticket vending machines take ¥1 or ¥0.5 coins and notes. Most stations on lines 1-3 will also have staff selling tickets, but on the newly-completed lines 6, 8, and 9 ticket puchasing is all done by machine (in both Chinese and English) with staff there only to assist in adding credit to cards or if something goes wrong. You can now transfer between lines freely with a single ticket (except at Shanghai Railway Station, Hongkou Football Stadium, and Yishan Rd where a subway pass/Shanghai Public Transportation Card is required for transfer). The metro can use Shanghai's public transportation card (non-contact). Be careful; certain stations exist on two different lines with the same name but are located in different places (Yishan Rd- Line 3/9 and line 4 are separate stations- transfer between these stations is only possible with a subway pass; Pudian Rd- line 4 and line 6; go to either Century Ave. or Lancun Rd. to transfer between these lines; Hongkou Football Stadium, Line 3 and Line 8- transfer is only possible with a subway pass).

If there are seats available but more passengers boarding than seats, be prepared to see a mad dash (literally) for the available seats. It's no use scolding anyone as everybody behaves like that, so just go with the flow. Pickpockets are likely to strike at this moment, so be careful.

By bus

If your Chinese is good enough and you're trying to go somewhere the metro doesn't without resorting to taxis you can use the public bus system. The bus system is much more extensive (and always cheaper) than the metro, and some routes even run past the closing of the Metro (well, more like "start running past the closing of the Metro"- route numbers beginning with 3 are the night buses that run past 11PM). is a handy list of bus routes and stops in English. Buses that charge by distance have a conductor selling tickets; tell them your destination and they will tell you the price for that distance. Hand your money to the conductor and you'll get a little paper ticket (and change, if any). Other buses do not have a conductor; they have a fixed price for the route, usually 2 RMB as the buses are air-conditioned(1.5RMB on some routes running on old buses without air-con- you can tell by the singpost at the bus stop; it will show the fare system for a given route and whether it is air-conditioned or not). Prepare exact change beforehand as the fare is dropped into a container next to the driver; if you need a bill broken up the unofficial solution is to state your situation to the driver, who will ask the next few people to hand you their fare as you drop your bill into the container (example- you have a 10 and you're riding a bus with a fare of 2RMB- you would kindly explain your situation and have the next 4 people hand you their fare as you drop the 10 into the farebox). If you change buses with an SPTC you will get a 1RMB discount on your second bus fare (and all subsequent transfers; there is a 90-minute window to do this on so if you're not spending too much time at the destination your transfer discount will apply to the start of your return journey too).

By taxi

Taxi is a good choice for transportation in the city, especially during off-peak hours. It is affordable (¥12 for the first 3km, 2.3RMB/km up to 10km, and 3.5RMB/km after) and saves you time, but try to get your destination in Chinese characters or available on a map as communication can be an issue. As Shanghai is a huge city, try to get the nearest intersection to your destination as well since even addresses in Chinese are often useless. Drivers, while generally honest, are sometimes genuinely clueless and occasionally out to take you for a ride. The drivers are very good about using the meter but in case they forget, remind them. It's also the law to provide a receipt for the rider but if your fare seems out of line, be sure to obtain one as it's necessary to receive any compensation. If you feel you have been cheated or mistreated by the driver, you (or a Chinese-speaking friend) can use the information on the printed receipt to raise a complaint to the taxi company about that particular driver. The driver will be required to pay 3x the fare if ordered by the taxi company so normally they're very good about taking the appropriate route. The printed receipt is also useful to contact the driver in case you have forgotten something in the taxi and need to get it back.

If you come across a row of parked taxis and have a choice of which one to get in to, you may wish to check the driver's taxi ID card that is posted next to or near the meter on the dash in front of the front passenger seat. The higher the number, the newer the driver, thus the likelihood that your driver will not know where he or she is going. Taxi driver ID numbers between 10XXXX and 12XXXX are likely to be the most experienced drivers (just make sure to match the picture on the ID card with that of the driver). A number of 27XXXX to 29XXXX is probably going to get you lost somewhere. Another way is to check the number of stars the driver has. These are displayed below the driver's photograph on the dashboard in front of the passenger seat. The amount of stars indicates the length of time the driver has been in the taxi business and the level of positive feedback received from customers, and range from zero stars to five. Drivers with one star or more should know all major locations in Shanghai, and those with three stars should be able to recognize even lesser-known addresses. Remember that it takes time to build up these stars, and so don't panic if you find yourself with a driver who doesn't have any - just have them assure you that they know where they are going and you should be fine.

If you need to cross from one side of the Huangpu River to the other by taxi, especially from Pudong (浦东) to Puxi (浦西), you may want to make sure your driver will make the trip, and knows where he or she is going. Some drivers only know their side of the town and will be as lost as you are once they leave their side of town. Taxis are notoriously difficult to get on rainy days and during peak traffic hours, so plan your journeys accordingly. As the crossings between Pudong (浦东) and Puxi (浦西) are often jammed with traffic, taking a taxi may be a more expensive and less time-efficient alternative to using the Metro to cross. It may be better to take the Metro between both sides, and then catch a taxi on the side that your final destination is on.

Taxi colors in Shanghai are strictly controlled and indicate the company the taxi belongs to. Turquoise taxis operated by Dazhong (大众), the largest group, are often judged the best of the bunch. Another good taxi company, "Qiangsheng" (强生), uses gold-colored taxis. Watch out for dark red/maroon taxis, since this is the 'default' color of small taxi companies and includes more than its fair share of bad apples. Also private owned taxis (You can recognize them easily as they have an 'X' in their number plate and may not be the standard Volkswagen Santana used by most taxi companies) are among them. The dark red/maroon taxis will also go "off the meter" at times and charge rates 4x-5x the normal rate - especially around the tourist areas of the Yuyuan Gardens. Bright red taxis, on the other hand, are unionized and quite OK, furthermore there are more 3-star and above taxi drivers working for this company. The dark-green taxis cover suburban areas only and are not allowed within the "city" area, but their meters start at ¥9 so they're somewhat cheaper if you're not trying to get downtown (rule of thumb- if you're trying to go somewhere within the Outer Ring highway, don't get one, but if your journey ends just within it you may be able to find a driver willing to bend the rules).

Always try to avoid using ¥100-bills to pay for short rides. Taxi drivers are not keen on giving away their change, and it is not uncommon to get counterfeit smaller notes for change. Taxis are very hard to come by during peak hours and when it's raining so be prepared to wait for a while or walk to a busy pick-up location. Non-Chinese might be disgusted at the "lack" of courtesy or lines while waiting for a taxi, so don't be afraid to "jump in" and get one.

By sightseeing bus

There are several different companies offering sightseeing buses with various routes and packages covering the main sights such as the Shanghai Zoo, Oriental Pearl TV Tower, and Baoyang Road Harbor. Most of the sightseeing buses leave from the Shanghai stadium's east bus.

On foot

Shanghai is a good city for walking, especially in the older parts of the city across the Huangpu from Pudong but be aware that this city is incredibly dynamic and pavements are often blocked due to construction. With many roads also being closed off in some sections, expecially along the Bund, crossing the road can be difficult, if not impossible in some places. Look for subways as these are usually open despite the roadworks. Of course,given the large population, you should expect heavy concentrations of pedestrians and vehicles, but that is part of the excitement. Crossing large roads in particular, can get hairy and it's advisable to follow the locals. Be sure to bring an umbrella for rain as it is quite common. If you don't feel like carrying one around, you can easily find one at many small market shops or stores for about 15RMB.

By car

Driving is definitely not recommended in Shanghai, especially in downtown areas. Not only do you have to cope with seemingly perpetual traffic jams, but also Chinese driving habits which can be described as atrocious at best. Bicycles and pedestrians are also all over the place and with every driver swerving left and right to avoid them, especially at junctions, the traffic situation is very chaotic. It is also not unheard of for cyclists, motorcyclists or pedestrians to suddenly dash in front of a car without any warning. Driving anywhere in China is not for the faint hearted and even more so in Shanghai. In short, do not drive if you can help it and make use of public transport instead.


Where to go in Shanghai depends largely on your time period. See Shanghai for the first-timer for a sample itinerary.

  • For a feel of the China of yesteryear, check out Yuyuan Gardens, which is loaded with classical Chinese architecture. A lot of history resides in this little garden and temple. They were commissioned in 1559, built over the course of 19 years, destroyed in 1842 during the first Opium War, and later rebuilt and reopened to the public in their current incarnation in 1961. Pathways wind through rock gardens and bamboo stands, and stone bridges cross pools filled with bright carp. The word "yu" translates to "peace and health"—and the park was certainly designed with tranquility in mind. To gain entrance to the actual garden one needs to wind through hoards of tourists savoring local food favorites or buying trinkets or gifts. ¥40 for the garden.

  • For a taste of 1920s Shanghai, head for the stately old buildings of the Bund. Or pay a visit to The French Concession, in Xuhui District (徐汇区), generally bound by Shan Xi Road to the East, Jian Guo Road to the South, Hua Shan Road to the West and Chang Le Road (长乐路) to the North. Some of the best sections are along Hu Nan Road (湖南路), Fu Xing Road (复兴路), Shao Xing Road (绍兴路) and Heng Shan Road (衡山路). The area is fast becoming famous for boutique shopping along Xin Le Lu, Chang Le Lu and An Fu Lu (安福路), all of which also have interesting restaurants.

  • For 21st-century Shanghai, cross the river to gawk at the skyscrapers of Pudong. The area surrounding the People's Square is also great for skyscrapers, as well as Nanjing West Road (南京西路).

  • To get away from the frenetic pace of Shanghai, the Longhua Temple. It takes a while to get there from city center but it's not as busy as the Jade Buddha Temple and the experience is fulfilling. You can also have a nice vegetarian Buddhist meal in both temples.

  • For Shanghai's modern cultural innovations and a look into the hot contemporary art scene, head to the Tai Kang Road creative enclave. People from all walks of life converge amongst the traditional Shikumen that's home to design stores, fashion boutiques and cafes representing the best of Shanghai creativity. Unique local brands such as Vervia are amongst the most interesting, combining Eastern and Western influences to be at the forefront of modern Shanghai design. Although the clothing stores are more mainstream, Xintiandi's restaurants and cafes offer some unique offerings. This area is about 3 blocks east/west and north/south in size, about a 5-minute walk from Times Square.

  • Shanghai Museum, 9AM-5PM, People's Square, on the south side, Probably the best museum in China. The Ancient Bronze exhibit is particularly impressive. Audio guides available. Also, there are often volunteer guides providing free service. Some of them speak English, although most will be Chinese only.

  • Take a ferry ride for the amazing price of 5 euro cents. Walk from .

Things to do

  • Take a tour of Shanghai on a vintage 1930's sidecar motorbike. They are flexible on the tours you want to do: I chose the changing architecture of Shanghai. Afternoon tour is better.

  • Visit Shanghai's many tea houses, including Tang Yun tea house (199 Hengshen Lu, Hengshen Lu stop on Line 1.) Tang Yun serves many varieties of tea along with traditional Chinese delicacies. Many of the snacks served with the tea are gratis. Be careful, not to order too much food.

  • Shanghai Happy Valey , 888 Linhu Road, Songjiang, Shanghai 201602 (上海松江区林湖路888号 邮编:201602), Similar to Disneyland

  • Jinjiang Amusement Park is located in No. 201 Hongmei Road in Xuhui District in southwest Shanghai. It can be reached by taking Shanghai Metro Line 1 to Jinjiang Park station.


Shanghai's cuisine, like its people and culture, is primarily a fusion of the forms of the surrounding Jiangnan region, with influences sprinkled in more recently from the farther reaches of China and elsewhere. Characterized by some as sweet and oily, the method of preparation used in Shanghai, it emphasizes freshness and balance, with particular attention to the richness that sweet and sour characteristics can often bring to dishes that are otherwise generally savoury.

The name "Shanghai" means "upper harbour"/"above the sea", but paradoxically, the local preference for fish often tends toward the freshwater variety due to the city's location at the mouth of China's longest river. Seafood, nonetheless, retains great popularity and is often braised (fish), steamed (fish and shellfish), or stir-fried (shellfish). Watch out for any seafood that is fried, as these dishes rely far less on freshness and are often the remains of weeks' old purchases.

Shanghai's preference for meat is unquestionably pork. Pork is ubiquitous in the style of Chinese cooking, and in general if a mention refers to something as "meat" (肉) without any modifiers, the safe assumption is that it is pork. Ground pork is used for dumpling and bun fillings, whereas strips and slices of pork are promulgated in a variety of soups and stir-fries. The old standby of Shanghainese cooking is "red-cooked (braised/stewed) pork" (红烧肉), a traditional dish throughout Southern China with the added flair of anise and sweetness provided by the chefs of Shanghai.

Chicken takes the honorable mention in the meat category, and the only way to savor chicken in the Chinese way is to eat it whole (as opposed to smaller pieces in a stir-fry). Shanghai's chickens were once organic and grass-fed, yielding smaller birds offering more tender and flavorful meat than its hormone-injected Western counterparts. Unfortunately, these hormones have found their way to China, and today most chickens are little different from what can be found elsewhere. Still, the unforgettable preparations (drunken, salt-water, plain-boiled with dipping sauce, etc.) of whole chickens chopped up and brought to the table will serve as a reminder that while the industrialization of agriculture has arrived from the West, the preservation of flavor is still an essential element of the local cooking.

Those looking for less cholesterol-laden options need not fret. Shanghai lies at the heart of a region of China that produces and consumes a disproportionately large amount of soy. Thinking tofu? There's the stinky version that when deep-fried, permeates entire blocks with its earthy, often offensive aroma. Of course there are also tofu skins, soy milk (both sweet and savory), firm tofu, soft tofu, tofu custard (generally sweet and served from a road-side cart), dried tofu, oiled tofu, and every kind of tofu imaginable with the exception of tofurkey. There's also vegetarian duck, vegetarian chicken, and vegetarian goose, each of which looks and tastes nothing like the fowl after which it is named but is rather just a soy-dish where the bean curd is expected to approximate the meat's texture. Look out also for gluten-based foods at vegetarian restaurants, which unlike tofu, do not come with the phyto-estrogens that have recently made soy controversial within American vegetarian circles. If you are vegetarian, do be conscious that tofu in China is often regarded not as a substitute for meat (except by the vegetarian Buddhist monks) but rather as an accompaniment to it. As such, take extra care to ensure that your dish isn't served with peas and shrimp or stuffed with ground pork before you order it.

Some other Shanghainese dishes to look out for:

  • xiao long bao (小笼包, lit. buns from the little steaming cage, or little dragon buns). Probably the most famous Shanghai dish: small steamed buns - often confused for dumplings - come full of tasty (and boiling hot!) broth inside with a dab of meat to boot. The connoisseur bites a little hole into them first, sips the broth, then dips them in dark vinegar (醋 cu) to season the meat inside.

  • sheng jian bao (生煎包, lit. raw fried buns). Unlike xiao long bao, these larger buns come with dough from raised flour, are pan-fried until the bottoms reach a deliciously crispy brown, and have not made their way to Chinese menus around the world (or even around China). Still popular with Shanghainese for breakfast and best accompanied by vinegar, eat these with particular care, as the broth inside will squirt out just as easily as their steamed cousins.

  • dazha xie (hairy crabs). Best eaten in the winter months (Oct-Dec) and paired with Shaoxing wine to balance out your yin and yang.

  • xiefen shizitou (蟹粉狮子头, lit. crab powder lion heads). Actually pork meatballs containing crab meat.

  • You Tiao (油条, lit. oil stick). Long, deep-fried donut. One kind of breakfast that is very popular in Shanghai. Typically consumed in the morning with soy milk (dou jiang 豆浆).

For cheap Chinese eats, head for the alley known as Wujiang Road. For fancier food in nicer surroundings, try the upmarket restaurants of Xintiandi.

Vegetarians should not miss Vegetarian Life Style (258, Fengxian Road and 77, Songshan Road) where you can experience nice, affordable and organic vegetarian food resembling real meat or fish dishes in a fancy atmosphere.

Shanghai Food Tours - Make the most of Shanghai's myriad food culture with Edible Shanghai. Seek out culinary gems and organic farms, or take a self guided Shanghai culinary tour. No "canned routes," and no limits, grab your chopsticks or slip on your hiking boots - this is your adventure.


Drinking Tap water should be avoided but safe when boiled, however tap water is also said to contain high amounts of heavy metals. Bottled water is widely available.

The prices of drinks in cafes and bars in Shanghai vary depending on the location and target customers. They can be cheap or be real budget-busters, with a basic coffee or beer costing anything from ¥10 to ¥40 and up if ordered in the "wrong" place.

When buying bottled water, you will come across a whole range of mineral water. Of course you could go for the "Evian", "Volvic", but you could also get yourself a bottle of the locally produced Nestle, Coca Cola, or Pepsi varieties. They will cost you about 2.5 RMB, 1.5 RMB respectively and are available nearly everywhere. Convenience stores have inundated Shanghai and there seems to be a few on every street corner. If you intend to stay for a longer period, you may want to buy yourself one of those plastic water dispensers. Those you can mount with those 8-10 l water tanks, which can be ordered via phone. Clean those units with a bottle of white vinegar. That way you can keep your machine free of any germs.

Tsingtao beer and Snow beer are widely available, and both are considered to be China's best all-around options. Brands like Budweiser, Heineken, and Carlsberg are brewed either locally or somewhere else in China and are also relatively inexpensive. There is also a local brew known as REEB (beer spelled backwards). A large bottle of any of these (640 ml) anywhere from 1.95 to 6 RMB.

Shanghai is filled with amazing nightlife, complete with both affordable bars and nightclubs that pulsate with a city energy.


Accommodation in Shanghai is generally on the expensive side, by both Chinese and Western standards. There are two kinds of hotels: Western-style luxury hotels catering to international business travelers, and smaller hotels for local Chinese travelers. A few backpacker style options have cropped up, mostly in the older parts of town near The Bund.


Medium-price hotels do exist within walking distance the Bund. The Xinkaifu Dajiudian on North Sichuan Road is an excellent three star hotel for under US$50, including breakfast. The Silk Road Hotel offers a Central Asian theme and caters to Western travelers.

In Pandong,The H Hotel has rates around $45USD has cosy, chic, modern rooms. Suites have themes such as Audrey Hepburn, Beatles, Channel and other themes.


There are plenty of options in the upper price bracket, which for Shanghai tends to mean at least US$100. High end hotels include the Marriott International and the Grand Hyatt are located in Pudong, which is convenient for business but perhaps not so good for tourism. For a taste of 1930s Shanghai, try the stately Peace Hotel Peace Hotel (closed for renovation), the Gothamesque Park Hotel Park Hotel, Rui Jin Guesthouse on Ruijin Road, and Donghu Hotel on Huaihai Road.


Shop until you drop on China's premier shopping street Nanjing Road (南京东路), or head for the Yuyuan Bazaar for Chinese crafts and jewelry not far from the Bund. Nanjing Road is a long street. The more famous part lies in the east near the Bund (Nanjing Road East), with a 1-km long pedestrian boulevard (Metro line 2 at Nanjing Road East station, formerly called Henan Road station) lined with busy shops. The wide boulevard is often packed with people on weekends and holidays. The shops are often targeted to domestic tourists, so the prices are surprisingly reasonable. Local people often look down on Nanjing Road and shop at Huaihai Road (another busy shopping boulevard with more upscale stores) instead.

For the high end boutiques, go to the west end of Nanjing Road West (南京西路) near Jing'an Temple. Several large shopping malls (Plaza 66 aka Henglong Plaza, Citic Plaza, Meilongzhen Plaza, and others being built) house boutiques bearing the most famous names in fashion. No. 3 on the Bund is another high-end shopping center featuring Giorgio Armani's flagship store in China.

For those interested in boutique shopping, head to the French Concession Streets Xinle Road (新乐路), Changle Lu (长乐路) and Anfu Lu (安福路) starting from east of Shaanxi Road (陕西路) (nearest metro station is South Shan Xi Road on line 1). This section of low rise building and tree-lined streets bustles with small boutiques of clothing and accessories, where young Shanghainese looking for the latest fashions shop.

The infamous Xiangyang Market was finally shut down for good in June 2006. The biggest "replacement" market is in the metro station (Line 2) at the Shanghai Science & Technology Museum (上海科技馆). The most common name for the market is "A.P. New XinYang Fashion Market." There are a number of variations, and the name really doesn't even matter. The easiest way to get there is by metro and there you can purchase all your knock-off products. The place is much more overrun by foreigners than Qipu Lu (below), and as such the prices are much higher.

The horrendously crowded Qipu Lu clothing market is a mass of stalls jammed into a warehouse sized building which would take the casual stroller most of a day to look through. You'll find the cheapest clothes in the city here, but even the trendiest styles are clearly Chinese. Bargain hard, in Chinese if you can and make friends with the shop owners. Many of them have secret stashes of knock-offs in hidden rooms behind the stall "walls." Avoid this place on weekends at all costs.

Another option is the Pearl Plaza located on Yan'an Xi Lu and Hongmei Lu as well as the unassuming shopping center located on the corner of Nanjing Xi Lu and Chongqing Lu. Haggling can be fun for those who are accustomed to it, but those sensitive to the pressure might want to steer clear. Not only can it be stressful to haggle, but just walking in to the buildings can bring a horde of people upon you trying to sell you bags, watches, DVDs and all assortment of goods.

But rather than pursuing knock-offs of Western brands, one of the more interesting things to do in Shanghai is to check out the small boutiques in the French Concession area. Some of these are run by individual designers of clothing, jewelry etc and so the items on sale can truly be said to be unique. Visitors from overseas should expect the usual problem of finding larger sizes.

Shanghai Foreign Languages Bookstore (Shanghai Book Traders) at 390 Fuzhou Road (near People's Square) offers a lot of books in English and other major languages, especially for learning Chinese. Just around the corner at 36 South Shanxi Road you will also find a small but well-stocked second-hand foreign-language bookshop. If you're searching for computer or business related books, head to the biggest store in Fuzhou Road: Shanghai Book Town (上海书城). You'll find special editions targeted at the Chinese market. The only difference to the original version is the Chinese cover and the heavily reduced price. Fuzhou Road is also a good street to wander around and find stationary and Chinese calligraphy related shops.

Those interested in DVDs of movies and television shows have a wide variety of options. Aside from the people selling DVDs out of boxes on street corners you can also find a good selection of movies at many local DVD shops in most neighborhoods. Perhaps the best way to score a deal with a shop is to be a regular. If you provide them repeat business they are usually quite happy to give you discounts for your loyal patronage. Typically DVDs can cost anywhere from ¥5 for standard disks to ¥10-12 for DVD-9 format disks.

However, if you are short on time in Shanghai and don't have the means to form a relationship with a shop, many people recommend the Ka De Club. An expat favorite for years, they have two shops: one in 483, Zhenning Road and the other one in 505, Da Gu Road (a small street between Weihai Road and Yan'an Road). While the selection at the Ka De Club isn't bad the downside of this store's popularity is that with so many foreigners giving them business, you tend to get somewhat higher prices than at local shops and haggling and repeat customer bargains are pretty much non-existent.

Antiques, jade and communist China memorabilia can be found in Dongtai Road Antiques Market, where you must bargain if you want to get a fair deal. Yuyuan Gardens is another good option for antiques as well as all manner of cheaply made and priced souvenirs (teapots, paintings, "silk" bags, etc.). There are two basement markets. You will have to hunt for them, but they are worth the effort. As with any market in China, don't be afraid to bargain to get a fair price.


Xujiahui metro station is the place to go if you're after game consoles (the Wii is available here in relative abundance), computers, computer accessories, or the like. You'll find pretty much everything electronic there, but the cellphone selection is a bit lacking.

If you're after a new cellphone, go to the Shanghai Railway Station. You can find good deals on secondhand phones as well as new phones (the selection is a mixed bag; you'll find Chinese off-brands mixed with reliable big-name brands like Samsung and Nokia as well as cutting-edge Japanese phones; if you live in North or South America be careful about buying the off-brand phones as most do not support the necessary frequencies for use there. Also, in the secondhand section of the market some of the phones are of dubious origin; CDMA phones may have their ESNs blacklisted in their home countries, but for GSM/3G phones the only issue is an ethical one. Be careful about prices that are too good to be true.

  • Bu Ye Cheng Communications Market (不夜城), 10am-6pm, Shanghai Railway Station, exit 4 from line 1 side, turn left and it's the large gold building, This is the one of the best-known open-style market for cellphones in Shanghai. 1F/2F for new phones (two-way radios too), 3F for various collectibles. They have pretty much everything under the sun from new Japanese phones to Chinese no-names or knockoffs. Any reputable vendor that sets up shop here will allow you to try before you buy- if they don't, leave. Best way to get a good (or uncommon) phone for cheap.

Tailored clothes

  • Shanghai South Bund Material Market: 399 Lujiabang Road (陆家浜路) You can take bus #802 or #64 from the Shanghai Railroad Station and stop at the final stop: Nanpu Bridge Terminal or you can take the Metro Line 4 to the Nanpu Bridge (南浦大桥) Station (exit from gate #1, make a left from the exit and then left again on the light. You will see it to your right after walking about 200 to 250m. Hrs: 10 am to 6 pm. Three floors of tailors and their materials including silk, cashmere, merino wool. Have items measured, fitted and finished within two days or bring examples, samples or pictures. Bargain hard with the friendly tailors.

  • A smaller and less crowded tailor market can be found under the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum (Metro line 2).


The language of the streets is Shanghainese, part of the Wu group of Chinese dialects, which is not mutually intelligible with Mandarin, Cantonese, Minnan (Taiwanese/Hokkien) or other Chinese dialects. However, with Shanghai having been the commercial centre of China since the 1920's, Mandarin is understood and spoken fluently by almost everybody, including most of the elderly.

While you are more likely to encounter an English speaker in Shanghai than in any other mainland Chinese city, they are by no means common so it would be wise to have your destinations and hotel address written in Chinese so that taxi drivers can take you to your intended destination. Likewise, if planning to bargain at shops, a calculator would be useful.


Foreigners are recommended to keep their passport with them at all times. If you plan to be in Shanghai for a longer period and are not comfortable carrying your passport everyday, remember to at least keep a copy of your photo and visa page. Consider jotting down the local number to your embassy on the passport copy as well.

Shanghai is a safe city, and violent crime are very rare even in the poorest neighborhoods. However, the ever-increasing divide between the haves and have-nots has created its fair share of problems. Petty crimes like pickpocketing are on the rise, and sexual harassment is common on crowded subway trains and buses.

Just like any major city, pick-pocketing can be an issue in crowded or heavy trafficked area. Use a money belt and do not flash large sums of money.

Various tourist-oriented scams, long practiced in Beijing, are unfortunately spreading to Shanghai as well. Be cautious if you meet a group of overly friendly students or attractive women who insist on dragging you along to an art gallery, tea shop or karaoke parlor - you're unlikely to be physically harmed, but the bill may well be more than you bargained for. Police can help to recover some part of your money. "Students" claiming to be from Beijing are also common as they will try to get you to buy art. These people are especially present around People's Square near the entrances/exits of the museums and art galleries.

Never trust "instant friends" who introduce themselves and want to go for a drink/coffee. If you do decide to go along, if your new "friend" orders a selection of small snack items for the table it is a rather sure sign of the scam soon to come. Get out while you can seeing as the few pieces of watermelon alone could cost you over 50 dollars! A fairly good test of would-be friends is to immediately suggest going to a place of your choosing - not theirs. If they are hesitant and insist on one particular place, then you can be pretty sure some scam is involved.

Foreign males often attract unsolicited attention from female sex workers at many nightspots.

Be careful of people who approach and offer to polish your shoes, even if they are obviously a type which don't need polishing. Often when you refuse they'll squirt some hard-to-remove substance on them.

Hawkers are a nuisance, particularly in areas such as the Old Town and the Science Museum in Pudong where there are shops in the subway selling fake designer goods. The most effective way to deal with them is to ignore them: don't reply to them or even look at them. Otherwise they will continue to bark an ever-increasing list of goods at you. Shouting a rude "Bu yao!" ("I don't want it!") at them sometimes helps.


Shanghai is split in two by the Huangpu River (黄浦江 huángpǔ jiāng). On the west bank is Puxi (浦西 pǔ xī), the older city center, while the brand new development on the east side is called Pudong (浦东 pǔdōng).

Areas within Puxi:

  • The Bund (外滩 wàitān) - The colonial riverside of old (and reborn) Shanghai. The Bund has dozens of historical buildings lining the Huangpu River, which once housed numerous banks and trading houses from Britain, France, the U.S., Russia, Germany,and many other countries. A building boom at the end of 19th century and beginning of 20th century led to the Bund becoming a major financial hub of East Asia.

  • Former French Concession District - Comprises Luwan District (卢湾区; Lúwānqū) and Xuhui District (徐汇区; Xúhuìqū). This leafy district once known as the Paris of the East, includes the refurbished shikumen houses of Xintiandi. The blending of architecture styles, bustling street life, and wealth of international Shanghai fusion culture make the former French Concession area one of Shanghai's most rich and vibrant neighborhoods. You would be well advised to spend many a day (and night) here enjoying the pleasures of life.

  • Jingan District (静安区; Jìngānqū)- Commercial area on Nanjing Road West, most upscale shopping malls in the city. Nanjing Road, one of China's most famous shopping streets, passes Jing'an (静安 jìng ān), leading to People's Park (人民公园 rénmín gōngyuán) and The Bund.

  • Old City (南市; Nanshi)

  • Huangpu excluding the Old City (黄浦区; Huángpǔqū)

  • Putuo (普陀区; Pǔtuóqū)

  • Zhabei (闸北区; Zháběiqū)

  • Hongkou (虹口区; Hóngkǒuqū) - Home for famed writer Lu Xun, now including a Memorial Park and a museum, as well as a football (soccer) stadium. Once home to Shanghai's substantial Jewish population in the first half of the 20th century.

  • Yangpu (杨浦区; Yángpǔqū) - Where the famous Fudan University and Tongji University are located. Also contains the excellent and spacious GongQing forest park (共青森林公园 gòngqīng sēnlín gōngyuán).

  • Changning (长宁区; Chángníngqū)

Across the river:

  • Pudong - The skyscraper-laden new financial and commercial district on the east bank of the river

Outlying districts:

  • Northern Suburbs

  • Southern Suburbs

  • Chongming (崇明县; Chóngmíngxiàn)


Shanghai urban development is all about the 'five year plan'. Visit the Urban Planning Museum in People's Square for a fascinating look into Shanghai's colourful past, and learn about development strategies for the future. There is a heavy focus on eco-friendly satellite cities with spacious public centres and loads of greenery. The trip is worth it just for the scale model of Shanghai in ten years. All is located on the fourth floor, including a virtual tour of up-and-coming large scale public projects, which encompasses the World Expo 2010 site. It is located just across from the Shanghai Museum.


For visitors unused to travel in China the language barrier is likely to be the biggest obstacle, as English ability tends to be very limited in all but the largest tourist draws and establishments that cater specifically to Westerners. Mandarin-learners need to be aware that Shanghainese, a Wu dialect, is the language of the streets and very different from Mandarin, although most Shanghainese under the age of 50 speak Mandarin to one degree or another. The use of Shanghainese as the de facto 'first' language of the city has been discouraged by the government and its use is decreasing both due to the effect of the paramount use of Mandarin in mass media and by the large-scale influx of out-of-town Chinese moving to Shanghai to work in recent years.

In addition, Shanghainese speakers have a particular accent when speaking Mandarin. Mandarin is heavily tone-based and speakers from Beijing can easily be understood (most textbooks are based on their accent or an approximation). Shanghainese speakers, as second-language learners of Mandarin themselves, have appropriated some of the features of the Shanghainese language onto their Mandarin (think of a Frenchman speaking English or someone from the U.S. speaking Spanish). While in other languages this would not be a problem, given the phonemic and tonal nature inherent to Mandarin, the slightest shift in pronunciation can make it much more difficult to understand. The best thing to do is say "Shuo man yi dian" which means "speak a little slower".

Also, many unskilled laborers from western China, where local languages dominate ("dialect" in government jargon) and Mandarin level is sometimes adequate at best, have moved into Shanghai. They often suffer as do foreigners visiting Shanghai as these laborers ("country-side people, as the Shanghainese call them) have problems with Mandarin, speak little to absolutely no English, and coincidentally, often are in the streets selling.

Rudimentary Chinese and/or pattern matching ability for character recognition will help, as will getting your destination and some simple directions to it written in Chinese characters, particularly when traveling by taxi. Some taxi drivers know English, but not much. Make sure to not waste time with difficult grammatical constructions and pleasantries such as "Oh I was wondering if you could help me find..." It is too confusing. Just say "The Bund" or "Nanjing West". Though it may seem rude to an English speaker, this is EXACTLY how Chinese would say it in Mandarin and is much more effective.

Pushing in subways is the rule, especially the chaotic People's Square Station 人民广场站 where lines 1, 2, and 8 intersect. Just dig in and push, don't feel sorry. Bumping into people in streets is commonplace and should not be a reason to get angry. For those who have been to Tokyo, do not assume that Shanghai is anything like it.

Visa extensions

  • Entry-Exit Bureau, 1500 Mingsheng Road, Pudong District, A modern and efficient building where you can extend your visa. Tip Most shops and restaurants have business cards, which are written on in Pinyin and Chinese characters. Collect them whenever you go anywhere, just make a note on it what the place was, and then all you have to do to return to the place is show the card to the taxi driver.

Several other major Chinese cities are near Shanghai and conveniently reachable on the new high speed (over 200 km/hr) trains. These are comfortable and reasonably priced and except at holidays, are not too crowded since other trains are cheaper. Look for the separate ticket windows with "CRH" on the signs.

  • Hangzhou 杭州, about 75 minutes away by CRH, is China's number one domestic tourist attraction featuring the famous Xihu Lake.

  • Suzhou 苏州, a historic town under an hour away from Shanghai by train. The city has long been lauded by emperors, ancient poets, and scholars alike for its beauty and vitality. Due to its many canals and bridges, Suzhou has also sometimes been referred to as the "Venice of the East". Suzhou has many gardens that are worth visiting. The "Venice of the East" parts of Suzhou have all been over run with agressive beggars and pan handlers. Reserve Suzhou if it can be combined with a tour of other historic areas.

  • Nanjing 南京, about two hours away, is a great place to escape the pace of citylife. It's also a great place to get a Chinese history lesson. From the city walls to the Presidential Palace, its a walkable, friendly place with a variety of hotels for all budgets. Well worth the effort. It is also home to the tombs of three prominent figures in Chinese history.

  • Shaoxing 绍兴, about three hours away, is traditional Chinese tourist attraction featuring the famous fish and rice hometown. The ancient quarry of Keyan is an incredible site. Be sure to take a trip on the local rowboat on the lake surrounding the rocky cliffs. The Jianhu Lake is another beautiful area. Lan Ting is a nice park with lots of stone monuments engraved with historical Chinese calligraphy. The Dayu Ling (Tomb of the Great Yu) is nice although feels disappointingly unauthentic.

  • Wuzhen is one of the water towns close to Shanghai, easy to reach on a day trip. Busses depart e.g. from Shanghai Stadium. Go and see how daily life was/is - weaving and coloring fabric, pottery, the Shadow Puppet Theatre is a great spectactle as well, with traditional Chinese stories and music played on traditional instruments. Well worth a visit, though it can be crowded at weekends..Wuzhen (乌镇) is located on the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal and also around a net-work of other smaller canals and rivers. The town has numerous bridges, ancient harbors and water-side pavilions, and makes an excellent complimentary side-trip for visitors staying in nearby Hangzhou. Buses ply the route from Hangzhou to Wuzhen.

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