Shanghai

Travel Guide Asia China Shanghai

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Introduction

Creepy Crawlies

Creepy Crawlies

© missyjoyme

Shanghai (上海) is a colossal city with over 18 million (official) inhabitants in the core city, making it China's largest city and the world's eighth largest urban area with around 23 million inhabitants. It's the biggest city proper in the world. Not surprisingly, it is at the forefront of China's economy and symbolises the rapid modernisation and urbanisation of Chinese society.

Shanghai is split in two by the Huangpu River (黄浦江 Huángpǔ Jiāng), into Puxi (浦西 Pǔxī) west of the river and Pudong (浦东 Pǔdōng) east of the river. Both terms can be used in a general sense for everything on their side of the river, including various suburbs. However, they are more often used in a much narrower sense where Puxi is the older (since the 19th century) city center and Pudong the mass of new (since 1990) high-rise development right across the river from there.

History has shaped Shanghai's cityscape significantly. British-style buildings can still be seen on the Bund, while French-style buildings are still to be found in the former French Concession. What was once a racetrack on the edge the British area is now People's Park, with a major metro interchange underneath. Other metro stops include the railway station at the edge of what was once the American area, and Lao Xi Men and Xiao Nan Men, Old West Gate and Small South Gate respectively, named for two of the gates of the old Chinese walled city.

Suzhou Creek (Wusong River) is more a small river than a creek, a tributary which flows into the Huangpu at the north end of the Bund. It starts near Suzhou and is the outlet for Lake Tai. Within Shanghai parts of it form the boundary between Huangpu and Jing'an districts to the south and Hongkou and Zhabei to the north.

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History

Shanghai was only a small fishing village in the mid 19th century but after the first and second opium wars it exploded into a massive trading port. In the 19th century it began to symbolize all the bad and good aspects of colonialism. It was one of the first places to fight foot binding but was also the center of the opium trade and prostitution. As its wealth grew so did its insanity by being known as the pearl and as the whore of the Orient at the same time.

Heavily damaged during the revolution, being the center of the communist and the nationalist campaigns during the 1920s and 1930s it was even more destroyed during the Japanese occupation. Although many Jews and White Russians found sanctuary in Shanghai fleeing Stalin and Hitler. After the war life seemed to turn back to normal until the communist took over. The bankers in Shanghai welcomed the communist at first because the nationalist just kept taking their money and not paying them back.

The city grew during the first few years of communist rule but mellowed out during the heavy years of communism during the 1960s and early 1970s. When Deng Xiao Ping started his campaign to open up and modernize China, the Shanghainese took to the forefront and made their city back into an economic power house. Today Shanghai has exploded as the economic, fashion and pop culture center of mainland China. Not quite a Tokyo or Singapore yet, Shanghai will be at the same level as those Asian Tigers in only a matter of decades.

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Districts and suburbs

Shanghai Municipality has 16 administrative districts, all with at least a few hundred thousand people, and Wikivoyage has separate articles for most of them. Here we try to split them up in a way that will make sense for travellers. The historic core of Shanghai, it includes both the old Chinese city and the area of the International Settlement which began in the 1840s and lasted until the 1930s. It can be called Puxi (浦,西), downtown Shanghai (上海市区) or the city center (市中心). Today this area is still the core of the city. Most of the tourist attractions and many hotels are here, and many metro lines run through it.

The four downtown districts are:

Huangpu - The most central district of Shanghai with the Bund (a riverside boulevard that was the center of commerce in the colonial era), People's Park (often considered the center of the city), and many other attractions.
Old City - This area was a walled city for nearly a thousand years before modern Shanghai developed around it; the wall is long gone, replaced by a ring road. The area has quite a few traditional Chinese-style buildings including some of the city's most important temples, and a fine classical Chinese garden, It also has much tourist-oriented shopping and is a major draw for both Chinese and foreign tourists, less so for Shanghai residents.
Jing'an - The center of this area is a magnificent Buddhist temple more than 1500 years old; today there is a major metro station under it. The area is now one of the most built-up in the city with much upmarket shopping and extensive highrise development — commercial, residential and office — including many of the foreign consulates.
French Concession - With a fine Catholic cathedral and other interesting older buildings, now also with many up-market highrise residential and office buildings and several large malls. The area has much of the city's shopping — including high-end international brands, boutiques for local designers, and outlets for artists and craftspeople — and much of its nightlife as well.

Directly across the river from (east of) downtown, Pudong is a major center of recent development (since about 1990) as a skyscraper-filled financial center. Pudong is listed here separately from the older downtown area on the Puxi side, but it might be described as an extension of the downtown core, or even as the new center of the city. Pudong is a highly developed area with more skyscrapers than New York, several of the world's tallest buildings, and plenty of facilities catering to business travellers or well-off tourists. Budget travellers might want to see some of Pudong's sights or splurge in one of its bars or restaurants, but in general they will spend more time in the older downtown across the river.

The inner suburbs all (except Yangpu) have direct borders with the downtown core, are all quite built up, and all have good metro service. All are primarily residential areas, but most have considerable industry and many offices as well and all have some large shopping malls. These districts have some tourist attractions and several have hotels that are cheaper than those downtown but still convenient for sightseeing or shopping. Several have universities, and nearby areas tend to have many low-priced restaurants and bars catering to the student market. Hongqiao Airport and Hongqiao Railway Station are in this area, on the border between Changning and the northern tip of Minhang.

Yangpu - Northeast of downtown, where Fudan University and Tongji University are located. It has many moderately-priced bars and restaurants catering to the student market. For shoppers, it has the huge Wujiaochang (五角场) mall.
Hongkou - North and a bit east of downtown, where the former Japanese concession was located, home of Lu Xun Park and a football stadium, had many of Shanghai's substantial Jewish population in the first half of the 20th century. Mostly residential.
Zhabei - Zhabei is an older district north of downtown with the Shanghai Railway Station and the Shanghai Circus. In 2017 it was merged into Jing'an district for administrative purposes.
Putuo - Northwest of downtown, mainly a residential district. For travellers, it has some decent youth hostels near the metro.
Changning - West of downtown; the Shanghai Zoo is in this area. Changning is a very large, primarily residential district but in recent years has seen more commercial and entertainment hubs develop, especially in the area around Zhongshan Park.
Minhang - West and south of downtown, includes the water town Qibao. Metro line 5 runs north-south through much of it. Two universites, Shanghai Jiaotong U and East China Normal U, are in its southern part.

The outer suburbs wrap around the southern, western and northwestern sides of the city. The sea is on the east and south, while the Yangtze River is on the northeast. All of these areas still include some farmland but large parts of them are already covered with residential and industrial suburban development and the trend shows no sign of stopping. What were once rural villages serving nearby farms have become towns, often fairly interesting ones that preserve some of the traditional buildings, but also often with new high-rises and malls. As of 2018, nearly all of these outer suburbs have metro connections and planned extensions to the metro system will reach the rest by 2020. In the meanwhile, there is bus service to all of them; see the district articles for details. The areas along the seacoast at the southern edge of the municipality — Fengxian, Jinshan and Nanhui — have beaches that are popular as a weekend getaway for Shanghai residents.

Baoshan - North of downtown, with some coastline on the Yangtze.
Jiading - Northwest of downtown, bordering Suzhou. Metro line 11 passes through Jiading and is the only line that extends beyond Shanghai Municipality; as of early 2018 it reaches Kunshan and planned extensions will connect it to the Suzhou metro.
Qingpu - On the western edge of the municipality. At its western tip is the water town Zhujiajiao.
Songjiang - Southwest of downtown, bordering Minhang, not on a municipality border.
Jinshan - At the southwest corner of the municipality, includes the water town Fengjing.
Fengxian - On the southern edge of Shanghai Municipality.
Nanhui - At the southeast corner of the municipality, administratively part of Pudong New Area. Has the Shanghai Disney Resort.

Finally, Chongming Island in the Yangtze plus a couple of smaller islands nearby make up Chongming District, the most northerly, most remote and least developed area in Shanghai Municipality. As of 2018, it is reached by ferry from Baoshan or a highway from Pudong; a metro connection is planned for 2020. It has the largest land area of any district and is considered relatively rural compared to the rest of Shanghai, even though it has about 700,000 people.

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Sights and Activities

The busy Bund

The busy Bund

© loubylou

  • The Bund (Wàitān 外摊) was the center of colonial Shanghai. This long stretch of colonial buildings along Suzhou Creek is one of the strongest icons in all of Shanghai. It also has some of the best views of the Pudong.
  • Yu Gardens and Bazaar (Yùyuán 豫园) is a nice traditional garden and tourist market. Also the area around the gardens are nice and worth the time to explore, especially the more traditional parts that most tourists never see.
  • Xintiandi (Xīntiāndì 新天地) is an area with many traditional Shikumen buildings, which have been restored. Shikumen houses had a stone supported front door, and the homes were made of brick, there is a museum which shows the history of these houses. There are many restaurants and luxury shops in this area.
  • Jing'an temple (Jingan Si 静安寺) is an interesting temple. On the eastern outer wall of the temple there is a vegetarian noodle restaurant. The restaurant is only open till 2:00pm. The temple is located on line 2 at the Jing'an Temple stop.
  • Jinmao Tower (Jīnmào Dàshà 金茂大厦) is home to the world's tallest hotel. Remember the bar, Cloud 9, has a strict dress code and a 150RMB per person spend requirement.
  • Jade Buddha Temple (Yùfó Sì 玉佛寺) is a nice traditional temple with the amazing Jade Buddha Statue.
  • East Nanjing Road (南京东路) is the shopping 'hub' of Shanghai. At night it's a light with neon and a spectacular sight. Touts on this road can be particularly annoying and watch out for the little 'train' cars which can almost run you over if you aren't paying attention!
  • West Nanjing Road (南京西路) is also another shopping street more geared to higher end mails and boutiques. If your looking for the latest Gucci, Prada or any other high end designer this were to go. It is also the location of many nice hotels and the side streets are the home to many bars.
  • Duolun Lu Cultural Street (Dūolún Lù Míngrén Jiē 多伦路名人街).
East Nanjing Road at night

East Nanjing Road at night

© loubylou

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Events and Festivals

The Shanghai Jazz Music Festival

The Shanghai Jazz Music Festival (爵士上海音乐节) is usually held during the third week of October and features numerous national and international performancers. Check the website for the latest news, artists, prices and where it is exactly held.

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Weather

Shanghai has four definite seasons, with the most pleasant to travel in being spring and autumn. It is hot and humid in summer, and cold and humid in winter. May and October are the nicest times of year to be in Shanghai, with clear blue skies, warm days, and little rain. Unfortunately, these months also coincide with two of China's "Golden Week" vacations. Generally, however, roughly the same number of Shanghairen (Shanghainese) evacuate the city for these holidays as outsiders come to visit, so avoid tourist sights such as Nanjing Dong Lu and the Yu Gardens and the crowds will be tolerable.

Spring still tends to be cool until May, when average daily temperatures are around 23 °C. A lot of rain also tends to fall around April.

Average temperatures for summer are around 31 °C, with the hottest month generally being July. It is not uncommon to have days around 36 °C, and the heat is compounded by air-conditioners pumping hot air into the streets, traffic, and rank smells that worsen with the heat. If you are in Shanghai for summer, do as the locals do: carry an umbrella and paper fan with you everywhere - an umbrella drops the temperature by a few degrees, and a fan will help keep the sweat at bay.

Autumn is generally warm up until November, with averages of 27 °C and 22 °C in September and October respectively.

Winter temperatures in Shanghai average 7 to 11 °C during the day. Since Mao's time, anywhere south of the Yangtze River was considered "warm", so there is no central heating anywhere in Shanghai. Double-glazed windows are also rare, so it is not uncommon to still require jumpers, long-johns, hats and gloves while sitting inside in front of a highly ineffectual reverse-cycle air-conditioner. The air is humid, so will chill you to the bone, and wind will cut through any number of layers. Global warming seems to be doing its job, however, as the 2006-2007 winter was unseasonably warm. If you are in Shanghai during the winter, again, do as the locals do: wear long-johns and every item of clothing you own and shed them as required.

Source: Weather.com

JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Avg Max7.7 °C8.6 °C12.7 °C18.6 °C23.5 °C27.2 °C31.6 °C31.5 °C27.2 °C22.3 °C16.7 °C10.6 °C
Avg Min0.5 °C1.5 °C5.1 °C10.6 °C15.7 °C20.3 °C24.8 °C24.7 °C20.5 °C14.7 °C8.6 °C2.4 °C
Rainfall39 mm59 mm81 mm102 mm115 mm152 mm128 mm133 mm156 mm61 mm51 mm35 mm
Rain Days91013131314121012987

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Getting There

By Plane

Arriving by plane into Shanghai can be a little confusing. If coming in from an international flight you will arrive at the new Shanghai Pudong Airport (PVG) which is far away from the city centre. If leaving on most domestic flights, but not all domestic flights, you will leave from the older Hongqiao Airport (SHA) which is close to the city centre. Although it might soon get more complicated as both airports are starting to serve more domestic and international flights.

  • Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport (SHA) is located 20 minutes west of the city making it very easy to get to by taxi and the cost is usually between RMB30 and 40. There are also several reasonably priced buses that go to and from the airport from many different areas of the city including the North Train Station, South Train station and Jing'an Temple. Be warned that late at night the taxi line can be quite long. The Hongqiao Airport is now connected to the city's metro network. A stop on Line 2 was opened at the new Terminal 2 of the airport on March 16, 2010. In October 2010, Shanghai Metro Line 10 will connect to the airport as well, with stations at both Terminal 1 and Terminal 2. Hongqiao Airport mostly has domestic flights, with international destinations being Tokyo , Taipei and Seoul.
  • Shanghai Pudong International Airport is located about an hour away south and west of the city and making the taxi ride cost around RMB200. Although if you take the Maglev the trip can be shorter though the downside is the Maglev is at the last subway stop on the green line making for an additional long subway journey into the city centre. There are also several reasonably priced buses that go back and forth from several stops in the city including the North Train Station, South Train Station and Jing'an Temple. The metro (Line 2) to Pudong airport operates until about 10pm, however you need to change trains about 15 mins before the end of the line. Some of the main destinations include Moscow, London, Istanbul, Paris, Delhi, Toronto, Sydney, Bangkok, Chicago, Hong Kong, Beijing, Vancouver, New York City, Melbourne, Los Angeles, Taipei, Manila, Dubai, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Amsterdam, Brussels, Frankfurt, Jakarta and Hanoi.

By Train

Shanghai - Maglev train

Shanghai - Maglev train

© Gelli

Shanghai is now home to one of the world's fastest trains, the Maglev. The train runs from Longyang Road Station to a stop nearby the Pudong international airport.

  • Shanghai Train Station (上海火车站) is also known as the Shanghai North Train Station and is located slightly north of the city centre in Zhabei District. Shanghai Train Station can be accessed by metro lines 1, 3 and 4. This train station has trains to almost every city in China and many direct high speed trains (T trains) to several major cities.
  • Shanghai South Train Station (上海南站) is the new and gorgeous train station located in the Xuhui District and can be accessed easily by metro line 1 or 3. This train station mainly services areas south of Shanghai but also has trains going everywhere in China.
  • Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station (上海虹桥站) (on metro lines 2 and 10) - A huge new station located in the same building complex as Hongqiao Airport. The connecting metro stop shares the same name, Hongqiao Railway Station, and is one stop beyond the Hongqiao airport stop. High-speed trains to Beijing, Tianjin, Jinan, Qingdao, Zhengzhou, Kunshan, Suzhou, Wuxi, Changzhou, Zhenjiang, Nanjing, Hefei, Wuhan, Jiaxing, Hangzhou, Hefei and other smaller stations use this station.
  • Shanghai West Railway Station (上海西站) / Nanxiang North Railway Station (南翔北站)/Anting North Railway Station (安亭北站) - Some high-speed train to Nanjing direction stop at these smaller stations. In addition, there are a few trains to and from Shanghai Station for connections to other trains. Shanghai West Station is on metro line 11.

Purchasing Train Tickets:
There are several locations to buy tickets in the city other then the train station itself such as at the corner of Wanghang Lu and Beijing Xilu just north of Jing'an Temple.

By Car

In recent years many highways have been built, linking Shanghai to other cities in the region, including Nanjing, Suzhou, Hangzhou, Ningbo, etc. It only takes 50 minutes to reach Shanghai from Hangzhou, or 2.5 hours from Ningbo, via the 36-kilometre long Hangzhou Bay Bridge, the world's longest sea-crossing bridge.

Few people drive their own cars or rent cars in China, as its almost impossible to arrange all the permits and it is not recommended to drive yourself either. Certainly not to big cities like Shanghai.

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 Lu
  • Hengfeng Road Express Passenger Station (恒丰路客运站) 270 Hengfeng Lu - This is one of the largest and is just north of the main railway station. It serves most destinations in Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces as some more remote cities such as Beijing and Guangzhou. It's well organized but can be a little hard to find - particularly with the major rebuilding of the North Station Square. From Shanghai Railway Station (North) metro station (Lines 3 & 4) take exit No. 1. You'll come out in the middle of a construction site. Head left and keep walking straight and eventually (after an unpleasant 10-minute walk) you'll find it. Motorcycle-taxis will loiter around the station exit and will take you there for around ¥5 if you bargain hard - however they can be pushy and aggressive.
  • Zhongshan Beilu Long-distance Passenger Transport Station 1015 Zhongshan Bei Lu
  • Xujiahui Passenger Station 211 Hongqiao Lu
  • Pudong Tangqiao Long-distance Passenger Station 3842 Pudong Nan Lu

By Boat

From the international ferry port you can get ferries to Japan and South Korea. There are weekly ferries crossing the sea between Shanghai and Kobe and Osaka in Japan. The ferry's destination alternates each week between Osaka and Kobe and the journey takes two days. Another line travels weekly as well between Shanghai and Osaka only. And everyday Thursday, there are ferries between Shanghai and Nagasaki.
Ferries also serve several domestic destinations including islands as far south as off the coast of Zhejiang.

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Getting Around

By Car

It is possible to hire a car (usually with a driver) in Shanghai, but because it is such a high-density city, other forms of transport will usually suffice. International driver's licences are not valid in China, and the traffic is a bit crazy so you probably would not want to drive anyway. If you are taking trips outside of Shanghai, trains are usually faster and cheaper.

By Public Transport

The Shanghai transport card acts like a credit card for buses, metros, taxis and even McDonald's purchases. You can buy them and add credit to them at metro stations and convenience stores. You pay a 30 RMB deposit, and then you can add credit as required. There is a picture of a lightning strike at metro turnstiles, taxi dashboards, and at bus doors. Simply swipe your card on the picture and it debits the correct amount. Personalise your card to prevent sneaky switching by dishonest taxi drivers.

The metro system is clean, fast, cheap and user-friendly. Most tourist sights are close to a metro line, so it is probably the most convenient method for sight-seeing. Line 1 and 2 are the best lines to be near. The metro also lets you avoid the traffic, which is particularly horrendous at peak hour, though the metro is invariably crowded at these times. Trips range from 3-5 RMB, and you can buy single trip tickets at vending machines or ticket booths in the stations.

Taxis are also relatively cheap and clean, though drivers rarely speak English (it's wise to carry a bilingual map with you so you can point, or download Shanghai Taxi App if you have a smartphone). Flag fall is 14 RMB, and goes up 2.3 RMB for each kilometre after the first 3 kilometres. A trip from Pudong International Airport to inner Puxi will cost about 150 RMB. If you are staying in Puxi, most places of interest can be reached in less than a 30 RMB taxi ride. It can be almost impossible to find a taxi in peak hour, and once you do you will just get stuck in traffic. Taxis are also scarce when it rains.

Buses can be daunting to the new-comer as all signage is in Chinese. Once on the bus, however, announcements are made in Chinese and English. They are cheap, mostly air-conditioned, and go to places the metro does not reach. Air-conditioned buses are usually 2 RMB per trip (maybe one or 2 RMB more for longer routes), while non-air-conditioned buses are 1 RMB (less comfortable and no English announcements). Some useful routes include the 911, which goes all the way along Huaihai Lu from Huangpi Lu, and out along Hongqiao Lu. The 925 leaves from People Square and goes to the Hongqiao Airport (Note: the 925B does not go to the airport).

Ferries are available to cross the Huangpu from the Bund to Lujiazui. If you get the passenger only ferry it costs 2 RMB, but if you go on the ferry that also takes bikes (including pedal, electric, motor and some small tuk tuks) it is only 1 RMB, but you end up a bit further away from the Bund.

By Foot

Shanghai is a great city to walk in. See all the knick-knack shops up close, watch people slurping their lunchtime noodles, dodge the vegetable vendors on the sidewalk, and peer down quaint laneways. Walking through the leafy French Concession allows you to appreciate the European architecture and how it has been incorporated into Chinese life. The Old Town (south and west of the Bund near the Yu Gardens) also has fascinating narrow streets filled with vendors, food stalls and interesting shops. Shanghai isn't a destination for "sights" as such, but walk just one street a day and you are guaranteed to see a hundred things you have never seen before.

By Bike

Shanghai Pickup

Shanghai Pickup

© bobrk607

At first it may seem that riding a bike in Shanghai is equivalent to suicide, but it is actually another great way to see the city. Cars, pedestrians and bikes all move slower in Shanghai, cars usually give a wide berth to cyclists and there are often bike lanes, so it is quite a safe way to get around. Some hostels will offer bike hire. You can also buy a new bike for just 300 RMB from most supermarkets, so it may even be worthwhile to buy one and then donate it to one of the many bike thieves in the city at the end of your trip. Few people wear helmets (even on motor scooters). Keep your eyes wide open, obey the road rules, and ride slowly and you'll have a great time.

Bohdi Bikes offers excellent mountain biking trips in the greater Shanghai area at a very good prices. They also rent and sell bikes for personal use. Bodhi Bikes is located at Suite 2308, Building 2, 2918 North Zhong Shan Road, Shanghai 200063 (上海市中山北路2918号2号楼2308室), Phone: 021- 5266 - 9013, Mobile: 139 - 1875 - 3119.

Trek stores also offer bike hire at both daily and weekly rental ras. Stores are located in Jinqiao, Pudong and also in Puxi.

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Language

The native language of most locals, Shanghainese or Wu dialect, is not mutually intelligible with Mandarin, Cantonese, Minnan (Taiwanese/Hokkien) or any other forms of Chinese. 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 use of Mandarin in mass media and because Shanghai has many migrant workers from other parts of China who do not speak Shanghainese. As with elsewhere in China, Mandarin is the lingua franca. As Shanghai has been China's main commercial centre since the 1920s, all locals who can speak Shanghainese can also speak Mandarin, so you will have no problems speaking Mandarin to locals. Nevertheless, attempts to speak Shanghainese are appreciated, and can help endear you to local people.

Wu 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 have appropriated some of the features of Wu onto their Mandarin. 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 "说慢一点" (shuō màn yī diǎn) which means "speak a little slower".

As English is compulsory in Chinese schools, an increasing number of people know at least basic English. You will probably find that most people in the tourist industry have a rather good command of it, and so do many in service positions, i.e. in shops, gastronomy and even sales clerks at metro stations. English is probably better understood than spoken by many, and the Chinese are notoriously afraid of shaming themselves in public, so make sure your questions are clear and can be easily answered.

Two traits of Shanghai residents are of assistance - one is the traditional Chinese hospitality, with most people genuinely wanting to help when asked, and the Shanghainese robustness. When necessary, do not be afraid to approach even the unlikely elderly person with an arsenal of well-thought-through and clear hand gestures, notes in Chinese, maps or photos. In the worst case, look for a younger person and/or somebody in a senior position, as both are more probable to have better English knowledge and will feel more confident when dealing with a foreigner.

Everyday spoken Chinese is a rather simple language, so most people will not be offended if you dispose of pleasantries in your English as well and focus on the most important parts of your message, e.g. "Where is subway station?" will probably work better than "Would you be so kind and direct me to the nearest subway station if you will?".

For bargaining in stores, calculators are often used to "discuss" prices. Savvy shop owners in tourist-frequented areas equip their personnel with them, but do not be afraid to pull up one (or a calculator app on your phone) for the purpose if the other party doesn't. Remember that "4" is an unlucky number and prices containing it should be avoided, which you can use to your advantage (e.g. proposing "39" instead of 40-whatever).

Do note that taxi and Uber drivers are often either elderly or recruit from the working class or migrant populations, and thus, as a group, have lower than average English knowledge. Therefore it is recommended to have your destinations and hotel address written in Chinese for them. Some hotels even provide small brochures with both the hotel name and address and those of the key landmarks written in both English and Simplified Chinese for the purpose.

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Eat

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 "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. Minced 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 savour 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 but tender and flavourful birds. 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 flavour 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. 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. 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 minced pork before you order it.

Local food is usually quite cheap, and readily available. Street food is usually pretty safe, as it is usually cooked at a high temperature, and right in front of you. Look for places or stalls with a queue and it usually guarantees quality. Almost every cuisine is available in Shanghai - especially in the expat-dense areas, such as Jinqiao in Pudong or the French Concession in Puxi.

Some favourites include:

  • Din Tai Fung - number of locations, dumpling chain, speciality Xiaolongbao
  • Di Shui Dong - Maoming Road, French Concession - Hunan cuisine, quite spicy, but cheap, cheerful and delicious!!
  • Lost Heaven on the Bund - Yanan Road, near the corner of Zhongshan Road - Yunnan cuisine. Exquisite food and delightful combinations. Pricy.
  • Element Fresh- number of locations, Western Salads, Sandwiches and Pastas, small choice of Asian sets. Midrange price
  • Wagas and Baker&Spice - number of locations, Western cuisine, Salads, Sandwiches and Pastas - finally we get great bread in Shanghai!

Fantastic service in Shanghai called Sherpas, which home (or hotel) delivers from an extensive list of restaurants, priced the same as going to the restaurant plus a 15 RMB delivery charge. Brochures are found in most restaurants.

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Drink

The traditional alcoholic drink of choice for the Shanghainese is Shaoxin rice wine, and this can still be found in most restaurants.

Western-style cafés and bars have also become commonplace. Prices of drinks in cafés and bars vary like they would any major metropolis. They can be cheap or be real budget-busters, with a basic coffee or beer costing ¥10-40. In a high-end hotel bar, one basic beer may cost as much as ¥80. There are internationally-known chains, like Starbucks and Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, as well as popular domestic and local java joints to satisfy those looking to relax. Hong Kong-style tea cafes are also common, as are Asian "pearl milk tea" or "bubble tea" bars. Some traditional tea houses can still be found, especially in the Old City.

Tsingtao, Snow and Pearl River beer are widely available. Major foreign brands are produced domestically and smaller brands are typically imported. There is also a local brew known as REEB (beer spelled backwards). A large bottle (640 ml) of any of these costs anywhere from ¥2-6.

In Shanghai any booze hound can find fun. From swanky clubs and discos to drinking beer on the street while eating meat on the stick, there is something for everyone in Shanghai. Although places come and go very quickly (or change English names) in Shanghai there are some classics that never seem to go away. For more information and up to date information on bars check out Smart Shanghai.

Bar Streets

  • Tongren Lu is one of the main bar streets and is just south of the Nanjing Xi lu and Tongren lu intersection. Be careful because many of these bars are fronts for prostitution or talk-talk bars.

Bars

  • The Hut bar is located at 385 Yongjia Lu and is a nice chill bar that is good for grabbing an early night drink or late night cap after clubbing. A big glass of Carlsberg only costs 20 RMB and there are several week day specials.
  • Jwow Wine Bar is a swanky wine bar located in Xuhui district. This wine bar has an excellent selection of wines and a nice outdoor area in the back. There is a good happy hour between 5pm and 7pm. The address for Jwow bar is 515 Jianguo West Rd (建国西515号).
  • Windows Scoreboard is a member of the windows family of bars, meaning watered down drinks and loud music, but with a sports bar twist. This is a good place to go if you just want to get loud and rowdy during a sports match, but not to be able to hear the people next to you. The bar is located on the second floor of 681 Huaihai Zhong Lu 3/F(淮海中路681号).
  • Windows Tembo is a member of the windows family and is a cross between a chill bar and dance club. By far the best of the windows bar, attracting the least annoying people. This place can get pretty loud, but if you get tables near the front or upstairs you're ok. Windows Tembo attracts a slightly older crowd then compared to Windows Too. As with all windows locations drinks are all around 10-20 RMB. Windows Tembo is located at 66 Shanxi North Rd (陕西北路66号).
  • Atanu Bar - No1 Zhongshan Dong Rd, for excellent evening views of the Bund and river.

Dance Clubs

  • Windows Too is the dance club of the windows family. If you are looking for the constant university party this is the bar to go to. Most of its clients are around young 20 somethings studying abroad looking for cheap drinks and load pop music. 104, Jing'an si (静安寺104号).

Night Clubs

  • Attica is an expensive night club on the Bund with techno and R&B rooms. The main feature of this bar is the excellent outdoor lounge between the two main dance areas with a great view of the Pudong District across the river. The major downside is that drinks here cost more then they do in bars in the west, with most mix drinks over a 100 RMB and small bottles of beer costing 75 RMB on top of the 100 RMB cover charge. The majority of clients are foreign expats that like to live the big life style. Attica is located on the Bund at 11F, 15 Zhongshan Dong Er Lu (中山东二路15号,靠近金陵东路).

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Sleep

ShangHai

ShangHai

© Tangying

You can use the form below to search for availability (Travellerspoint receives a commission for bookings made through the form)

Booking.com

Accommodation in Shanghai can be rivalled by few cities in China, in terms of both variety and services. There are establishments for all types of travelers, from backpacker options for the weary to top of the line hotels and serviced apartments for those wishing to be spoiled. Puxi has both new and old hotels with class architectural styles and charm, some of them described in stories when Shanghai may have been the only place in China known to much of the rest of the world, while modern amenities commonly found in Pudong rival many hotels in Asia and beyond.

For more information on the best areas to stay, read through this page.

Budget

  • Captain International Youth Hostel is located in an art deco building on the Bund with a great roof top bar looking at the Pudong, No. 37 Fuzhou Road. (福州路37).
  • Etour Youth Hostel is located at No 55 Jiangyin Road.
  • Hiker Youth Hostel is located at No 450 Middle Jiangxi Road
  • Le Tour Shanghai Youth Hostel is located at 136 Bailin Road, Putuo District, (普陀白兰路1447).
  • Shanghai Koala International Youth Hostel is located at 1447 Xikang Rd, Putuo District (普陀西康路1447).
  • Backpacker Homestay is located at Jiangning Rd and Haifang Rd, Jing'an District, just 3 minutes walk to Jade Buddha Temple.

These accommodations and others including travellers ratings are:

Mid-Range

Old House Inn - No16, Lane 351, Hwa Shan Rd, French Concession, Ph: 62486118.
Green Court Serviced Apartment (碧云花园服务公寓), 55 Beijing Xi Road, Huangpu district, ☏ +86 21 2308-6666, fax: +86 21 2308-6688, ✉ enquiry.china@the-ascott.com. This apart'hotel is located in People's Square, close to the Shanghai Municipal Government Building, Huaihai Road shopping district and Shanghai Museum. Each apartment, ranging from studios to two-bedroom apartments has a kitchen, living room, fitted bathroom, and Wi-Fi access. Daily rates starts from ¥699.
Jin Jiang East Asia Hotel, 680 Nanjing E Rd, ☏ +86 21-63223223. Offers 164 refurbished rooms, all of which have air-conditioning, satellite TV, and high-speed Internet access. Some of its amenities include The Magnolia Hall that can accommodate up to 50 guests theater-style; business center that offers copy service, courier, fax, printing; and concierge that assists in airline, car rental, and tour inquiries.
Magnificent International Hotel, 381 Xizang S Rd. The hotel offers 182 rooms, of which 13 are suites, this hotel has of one of the best locations in the Huangpu District. It's a 15-min walk from the Huang Pi Road Subway Station, and is within proximity of business and conference venues, shopping districts, and cultural attractions such as The Bund and the Yuyuan Garden. From ¥300.
Metropole Hotel Jin Jiang, 180 Jiang Xi Rd (Middle) 上海市黄浦区江西中路180号. This splendid 1930 Art Deco hotel offers 137 rooms and has facilities such as a Chinese restaurant, a lobby bar, and number of conference and meeting facilities. Centrally located, just 0.5 km (0.3 mi) away from The Bund, and easily accessible from Shanghai International Convention Center.
Nanjing Hotel Shanghai Jin Jiang, 200 Shanxi S Rd, Huangpu District, ☏ +86 21-63222888. It offers 165 air-conditioned guestrooms, all of which have mini-bar, cable TV, and room safe. Their restaurant called Shanghai Town serves Beijing and Shanghai cuisines. Best rates on official website start at ¥300. edit
Pacific Hotel, 108 W Nanjing Rd, ☏ +86 21-63276226. Offers air-conditioned rooms, all of which have room safe, telephone with voice mail, and high-speed Internet access. Some of its amenities include Jinmen Club (spa and beauty salon), badminton and swimming facilities, and free shuttle bus to and from Hongqiao Airport.
Shanghai Hundred Centuries Hotel, 1528 Nan Xizang Lu, ☏ +86 21-51503777. Offers 94 air-conditioned rooms with mini bar, television, telephone, and free high speed Internet access. ¥397.81.
Shanghai Yinbo Hotel (上海金波大酒店), 135 Tiantong Rd 上海市虹口区天潼路135号, ☏ +86 21-63256999, fax: +86 21-63257555. Typical nondescript mid range hotel located across the bridge on the north side of the Bund. Singles ¥338.
The Topsun on The Bund, 36 Huimin Rd, ☏ +86 21-65456999. Four-star hotel, situated north of the bustling business area where many of Shanghai’s largest financial establishments, businesses, and foreign consulates can be found. ¥267.

Upscale

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Work

Shanghai has over 200,000 foreign residents, most of whom are working, and the range of jobs and professions is huge. The largest groups are English teachers and expatriate employees sent by foreign companies to work in Chinese branches or factories, or to deal with suppliers or partners. There are also significant numbers of other teachers at every level from kindergarten to university, foreign employees of Chinese companies, contractors doing design work on anything from clothing to automobiles, diplomatic staff at the various consulates, artists and musicians, independent professionals such as lawyers and architects, and people running their own export businesses or even factories.

As a general rule, the English teachers are paid less than the other groups, though still quite well by local standards. To some extent the range of Western bars and restaurants reflects this; some of the high-end places cater mainly to expatriates with high salaries or generous expense accounts. These places also get some tourists and prosperous Chinese, but the typical foreign teacher (let alone most Chinese or low-budget backpackers) cannot afford them.

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Learn

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Keep Connected

Internet

Wangba (联网) means internet bar in Chinese. Almost every town will have an internet bar or gaming center. The best way to spot an internet bar is to look for the 网(ba) character, which means net, and large digitized images of computer game characters. Often, there will be a sign saying Green Power in English at the entrance. Most gaming centers cost about RMB3 an hour. You prepay at the main desk and are then given a plastic card or a piece of paper. Once you are done you return the card or piece of paper and get reimbursed for the money you didn't spend. Be prepared for a place that might be dingy, basic and messy. Internet bars in China tend to get crowded starting in the late afternoon to the late evenings.

Some hotels provide access from the rooms that may or may not be free; others may provide a wireless service or a few desktops in the lounge area.
Also, quite a few cafes provide free wireless Internet service. Some cafes, even provide a machine for customer use.

Phone

See also: International Telephone Calls

The country calling code to China is 86. To make an international call from China, the code is 00.

When making international phone calls it is best to buy an IP card. They typically have a value of ¥100 but sometimes can be had for as little as ¥25. The cards have printed Chinese instructions, but after dialing the number listed on the card English-spoken instructions are available. As a general indication of price, a call from China to Europe lasts around 22 minutes with a ¥100 card. Calls to the U.S. and Canada are advertised to be another 20% cheaper. There is no warning before the card runs out of minutes.

If you already have a GSM 900/1800 cellphone, you can roam onto Chinese networks, but calls will be very expensive (¥12-35/minute is typical). If you're staying for more than a few days, it will usually be cheaper to buy a prepaid Chinese SIM card; this gives you a Chinese phone number with a certain amount of money preloaded. Chinese tend to avoid phone numbers with the bad-luck digit '4', and vendors will often be happy to offload these "unsellable" SIM-cards to foreigners at a discount. If you need a phone as well, prices start around ¥100/200 used/new. Chinese phones, unlike those sold in many Western countries, are never "locked" and will work with any SIM card you put in them. China's two big operators are China Mobile and China Unicom. Most SIMs sold by the two work nationwide, with Unicom allowing Hong Kong/Macau/Taiwan usage as well. There is usually a surcharge of about ¥1/min when roaming outside the province you bought the SIM, and there are some cards that work only in a single province, so check when buying.

Post

China Post (中国邮政) is the official postal service of the People's Republic of China, operated by the State Postal Bureau of the People's Republic of China (website in Chinese only), and has more details about price to send letters, postcards and parcels, both domestically as well as internationally. The Chinese postal service is very good. Remember that in more remote places usually only one post office in a city can handle sending international boxes or letters. Also many times it might be worth having the name of the country you are trying to send to in Chinese characters, because small town people might not know what Estonia is in English. Post offices have a striking green logo and can easily be found everywhere in the cities. They are mostly open every day (including weekends!) from 8:00am to 6:00pm, though small offices might have shorter opening times, while the bigger ones in central and touristic areas are sometimes open during evenings as well.

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Quick Facts

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Coordinates
  • Latitude: 31.247709
  • Longitude: 121.472618

Accommodation in Shanghai

We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in Shanghai searchable right here on Travellerspoint.

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Shanghai Travel Helpers

This is version 120. Last edited at 2:13 on Jun 4, 20 by Kwoa. 91 articles link to this page.

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