Shanghai is one of China’s international gateway cities and is served by planes and boats from around the globe, as well as by domestic flights, trains and buses.
International flights use Shanghai’s impressive new international airport on Pudong, which is connected to downtown by shuttle buses (¥30), taxis (¥120-150) and the super-speedy Maglev train (¥50 one-way, ¥40 with an air ticket for that day), although for the latter you’ll have to change to the subway or taxi at Pudong’s Longyang Lu station.
The old airport at Hongqiao is still used by domestic carriers and is more convenient for downtown, linked by shuttle bus and taxi (around ¥50). Pudong and Hongqiao are also connected to one another by shuttle bus. You can buy flight tickets through travel agents in most hotels and at the airport
Routes from Hongqiao
Beijing (45 daily, 2 hrs); Chongqing (14 daily, 2 hrs 30 mins); Guangzhou (23 daily, 2 hrs 25 mins); Guilin (2 daily, 2 hrs 10 mins); Hong Kong (23 daily, 2 hrs 20 mins); Huangshan (3 daily, 1 hr 10 mins); Shenzhen (23 daily, 2 hrs 25 mins); Xi’an (17 daily, 2 hrs); Yichang (1 daily, 2 hrs).
Routes from all over the region, and indeed the country, converge on Shanghai and it’s generally pretty simple to arrange tickets, although for longer journeys it’s worth buying tickets as far in advance as possible.
Shanghai has three stations but, unless you’re coming from Inner Mongolia, you’re likely to end up at the main terminus, Shanghai Train Station, not too far northwest of the center. On arrival, turn left out of the exit for the subway and taxis (which can be found down some steps in the center of the train station square), or turn right for city buses.
Taxis should cost around ¥12-15 for Nanjing Dong Lu, ¥30 to Pudong, ¥150 to Pudong airport or ¥50 to Hongqiao. As you look at the station the ticket office is on the right (east) side, while departures are from the central waiting halls, unless you have a soft class ticket which means you can enjoy the greater comfort of the soft waiting rooms at the far right of the station, just beyond the ticket office. There’s also a soft class ticket office just west of the station.
Trains head to locations all over the country
Beijing (8 daily, 12-21 hrs); Chongqing (1 daily, 41 hrs 50 mins); Guangzhou (3 daily; 23-28 hrs); Guilin (2 daily; 26-27 hrs); Hangzhou (15 daily; 2-4 hrs); Hong Kong (every other day, 26 hrs); Huangshan (1 daily, 11 hr); Shenzhen (1 daily, 24 hrs 50 mins); Suzhou (10 daily, 40-50 mins); Xi’an (2 daily, 14-16 hrs 30 mins); Yichang (1 daily, 28 hrs).
Shanghai has a number of bus stations, but the one used most often is just west of Shanghai Train Station. Transport to and from the center is the same as for the train station. There are buses to:
Hangzhou(24 daily, 2 hrs 30 mins), Huangshan (1 daily, 5 hrs), Suzhou(20 daily, 1 hr 30 mins).
Shanghai’s location has made water an important means of transport through the ages, but today this has mostly been superseded by rail, road and air. Nevertheless, cities in Japan, including Kobe and Osaka (¥1,300), are served from the International Passenger Quay at 1 Waihongqiao Lu, a 10-minute walk from the northern end of the Bund. Tickets can be bought at the terminal and from the China-Japan International Ferry Company on the 18th floor of Jin’an Dasha, 908 Dong Daming Lu (tel. 021-6325-7642).
Shanghai sits on the banks of the HuangpuRiver. The city center stretches west of the river and south of the oily black waters of Suzhou Creek. Shanghai’s fabulous colonial riverside promenade, the Bund, runs along the west bank of the Huangpu and meets the city’s main shopping street, Nanjing Dong Lu, which runs west for over a mile before arriving in Renmin Square.
Many of the city’s hotels are found along Nanjing Dong Lu and its westerly extension, Nanjing Xi Lu, as well as around Renmin Square.
Southwest of here is one of the city’s most interesting districts, the Old French Concession, which has some of the best restaurants and nightlife hidden in its tree-lined streets. Just to the east, Xintiandi is one of the trendiest areas, an evocative mix of new and old with its warren of restored (and rebuilt) 1920s Chinese shikumen houses, many of which function today as bars, cafés, restaurants and shops.
East from here, the Old City centers on the Yu Gardens, an area that has been revamped to draw in tourists, though there are still pockets of genuine antiquity close by.
Shanghai’s newest district, Pudong, on the east bank of the Huangpu, is also its most prominent and you can see the Pearl Oriental TV Tower from all over the city. Pudong is the city’s new business district and contains many upscale restaurants and hotels, including the world’s tallest, the Grand Hyatt. The new international airport is also on Pudong, while its predecessor west of the city in the expat hub of Hongqiao operates domestic flights. Out in the southwest, suburban Xujiahui offers a few sights of interest, including the Botanical Gardens and the lively Longhua Temple.
Shanghai’s ultra-modern subway currently has four lines. Of most use are lines #1 and #2. Line #1 runs from Gongfu Xincun in the far northwest, past both train stations to Xinzhuang in the southwest. Line #2 starts at Zhangjiang in the southeast of Pudong and heads northwest to Lujiazui, close to the Oriental Pearl TV Tower, before continuing under the river, along Nanjing Lu, past Renmin Square and terminating in westerly Zhongshan Park. Services run from and tickets cost from ¥3.
There are announcements and signs in English and even videos encouraging courteous conduct on the subway!
Completed in 2004, the 19-mile stretch of track from Longyang Lu subway station on Pudong to the airport can now be covered in as little as eight minutes, and the train reaches some 267 miles an hour, although it has been tested at speeds up to 310 miles per hour! The train achieves these incredible speeds by the use of magnetic levitation.
A system of powerful magnets controls the train and keeps it elevated a third of an inch above the rails, reducing friction to almost zero. This technology comes at a price though – US$1.2 billion, although tickets cost only ¥50 one way or ¥80 for a same-day round-trip.
The line was built in partnership with a German consortium, Transrapid, who are also involved in the construction of new Maglev lines out to Hangzhou and Beijing. Although the system is environmentally friendly and produces no emissions, some feel that the tremendous investment could have been better spent on other projects. But whatever you think, the Maglev is here and is a taste of the China to come!
There are hundreds of bus lines across Shanghai, but while they are useful for some sights, buses get crammed to capacity during peak times and the language barrier can be a problem – you’ll need to know the route number and the name of your destination in Chinese. Thus, if it’s an option, the subway is far easier and, given the reasonable price of taxis, buses are best avoided, unless you’re just in it for the experience. A couple of useful routes include bus #1 from Shanghai train station to Renmin Square and #6 from Renmin Square bus station to Pudong. Fares are ¥1 and ¥2 for air-conditioned buses.
Taxis are abundant. Minimum rate is ¥11 (¥14 at night) for the first two kilometers (1.2 miles) and ¥2 for each additional kilometer (0.6 miles). In addition to taxi ranks at key points around the city, there are also request stations, where you push a button and a car should arrive within a few minutes. Few drivers speak much English so take your destination written in Chinese. According to the rules and regulations for cab drivers posted in the back seat, if a taxi driver spits during your journey you are entitled to a free ride!
Shanghai’s busy streets make cycling a scary option in many areas of the city, but there are exceptions to this, notably parts of the French Concession and Pudong. You can rent bicycles from the Captain’s Hostel (¥20 for up to four hours, ¥30 for up to a day; ¥500 deposit) on Fuzhou Lu.
Ferries aren’t the most convenient way to get around, but they are cheap at ¥0.5 for the 10-minute trip from the wharf at the southern end of the Bund (or farther south at Shilipu) across to Puxi.
Shanghai Travel guide
The Bund, Renmin square, Jade Buddha Temple
The French Concession, Xintiandi, The Old city
Pudong, Xujiahui, Longhua Temple, Water Towns
Shopping, Nightlife and Festivals
maps of Shanghai
Travel guide to Suzhou
Cities and regions of China homepage
China Travel Guide homepage