Getting there & around
Shànghǎi is simple to get to. It is China’s second-largest international air hub (third-largest if you count Hong Kong) and if you can’t fly direct, you can go via Běijīng or Hong Kong. With rail and air connections to places all over China, and buses to destinations in adjoining provinces and beyond, Shànghǎi is also a handy springboard to the rest of China; note that flights, tours and rail tickets can be booked online at www.lonelyplanet.com/travel_services.
Shànghǎi itself is not very easy to navigate. Although it’s fascinating to stroll around certain areas, Shànghǎi’s sheer size and staggering sprawl makes foot-slogging useful only for brief trips.
The best way to get around town is either by taxi or on the metro. The rapidly expanding metro and light railway system works like a dream; it’s fast, efficient and inexpensive. Rush hour on the metro operates at overcapacity, however, and you get to savour the full meaning of the big squeeze. Taxis are ubiquitous and cheap, but flagging one down during rush hour or during a rainstorm requires staying power of a high order. With a wide-ranging web of routes, buses may sound tempting, but that’s before you try to decipher routes and stops or attempt to squeeze aboard during the crush hour. Buses also have to contend with the increasing solidity of Shànghǎi’s traffic, which can slow movement to an agonising crawl.
Shànghǎi is hurling money into transport infrastructure like a city possessed, but with everyone and his dog wanting a car, vehicle ownership is undergoing parabolic growth. It’s a war of attrition between road builders and gridlock, with minor victories for the transport department swiftly wrested back by the expanding mass of vehicles. The metro is spearheading Shànghǎi’s best offensive against the transport quagmire. Plans to extend the celebrated MagLev line – bringing Pǔdōng’s blindingly fast hover train rocketing into central Shànghǎi – may one day get off the drawing board, but don’t hold your breath.
To the untrained Western eye, the traffic in Shànghǎi can seem totally anarchic. The roads can be lethal (especially to pedestrians), with unpredictable swerving, sudden lunges, weaving manoeuvres. Every square metre of tarmac is fought for, tooth and nail. Take a cab and see how often the driver hits the brakes. It’s also worth noting that drivers travel more slowly than their Western counterparts, as other vehicles are driven erratically. Traffic rules are, however, widely ignored. Indicators are often shunned in favour of the sudden and unexpected manoeuvre.
Unpopular and unloved, Shànghǎi’s 8000 whistle-blowing crossing guards man intersections across the city, preventing pedestrians from crossing into oncoming traffic. Wearing ill-fitting uniforms and armed with no more than a whistle, crossing guards do their best to keep Shànghǎi’s increasingly gridlocked roads open.
Come rush hour (from around 7am to 9.30am and 4pm to 6.30pm) it’s every frail old man for himself. Cool aggression and elusive speed, along with a friendly smile, keep things from getting ugly.
If you are making more than a fleeting trip to Shànghǎi, it’s worth investing in a transport card (jiāotōng kǎ). Sold at metro stations and some convenience stores, cards can be topped up with credits and can be used on the metro, on most buses and in taxis. Credits are electronically deducted from the card as you swipe it over the sensor, equipped at metro turnstiles and near the door on buses; when paying your taxi fare, hand it to the taxi driver who will swipe it for you. Credits are automatically deducted.
Shànghǎi has around 45,000 taxis. Most are Volkswagen Santanas, though some are Volkswagen Passats and there’s a fleet of Mercedes-Benz taxis.
Shànghǎi’s taxis are reasonably cheap, hassle-free and easy to flag down outside rush hour, although finding a cab during a rainstorm is impossible. Few taxis come with rear seatbelts, so sit up front. On many taxis the rear left-hand door is locked, so board by the doors on the right side. Flag fall is Y11 for the first 3km, and Y2 per kilometre thereafter; there is no need to tip. A night rate operates from 11pm to 5am, when the flag fall is Y14, then Y2.6 per kilometre. Note that taxis can’t take the tunnel to Lùjiāzuǐ in Pǔdōng from 8am to 9.30am and 5pm to 6.30pm.
Most taxi drivers (mostly male) are surprisingly honest, though you should always go by the meter. Pay by cash (xiànjīn) or use a Transport Card. At night you can tell if a taxi is empty by the red ‘for hire’ sign on the dashboard of the passenger side. The driver should push this down to start the meter when you get in the cab. It’s always worth asking for a printed receipt, as this gives not only the fare but also the driver and car number, the distance driven, waiting time and the number to call if there are any problems or if you left something in the taxi.
Taxi drivers are not London black-cab drivers: many are immigrants and can be astonishingly inept at finding their way around, even to the most obvious of places. Many stick to the main roads and have little grasp of shortcuts. To avoid total novices, examine (if you have a choice between taxis) the number of stars below the driver’s photo affixed to the dashboard; stars range from one to five in order of expertise (and English-language skills). If you don’t speak Chinese, take a Chinese character map or have your destination written down in characters or pack a business card for your destination. Alternatively, use your mobile to phone your local contact in Shànghǎi and ask him or her to give instructions to the driver. It also helps if you have your own directions and sit in the front with a map, looking knowledgeable (to deter circuitous, looping detours).
Shànghǎi’s main taxi companies include turquoise-coloured Dazhong Taxi (96822), Qiangsheng (6258 0000) and Bashi (6431 2788). For taxi complaints, phone 962000.
Motorcycle taxis wait at most intersections and metro stations to whisk travellers off to nearby destinations. Most trips cost less than Y10.
The closest thing to revolutionary fervour in Shànghǎi today is the rush-hour bus ambush. During rush hour and on the weekend, the scrum of passengers fighting to board the same bus resembles a world record challenge.
Despite impressively running over 1000 routes, the bus system repels many foreigners as it is torturous for non-Chinese passengers to use and is often a traumatic way of getting from A to B. Bus-stop signs and routes are in Chinese only and drivers and conductors speak little if any English, although on-board announcements in English will alert you to when to get off. The conductor will also tell you when your stop is arriving, if you ask. Added confusion can occur when you want to get off. Bus stops are widely spaced and your bus can race past your destination and on to the next stop up to a kilometre away. In general try to get on at the terminus (thus guaranteeing you a seat), avoid rush hours, and stick to a few tried-and-tested routes. Be alert to pickpockets, especially during the rush-hour squeeze.
Air-con buses (with a snowflake motif and the characters alongside the bus number) cost Y2 to Y3 and are a godsend in summer. Older buses have no air-con and cost Y1. The swipeable Transport Card works on many but not all bus routes. Private minibuses (Y2) serve some routes on the edges of town. Passengers over 6ft tall may have to stand in the stairwell of double-decker buses as the ceilings are painfully low.
Suburban and long-distance buses don’t carry numbers – the destination is in characters. Buses generally operate from 5am to 11pm, except for 300-series buses, which operate all night.
Travelling by bus is not a very useful way to leave or enter Shànghǎi. Buses to Běijīng take between 14 and 16 hours, and it is faster and more comfortable to take the 12-hour express trains to the capital.
The huge Shanghai Long-Distance Bus Station (Shànghǎi Chángtú Qìchē Kèyùn Zǒngzhàn; 6605 0000; 1666 Zhongxing Rd; 1666) north of Shanghai Train Station has buses to destinations as far away as Gānsū province and Inner Mongolia. Twenty buses per day run to Sūzhōu (7am to 7.40pm) and almost thirty buses per day run to Hángzhōu (6.50am to 8.30pm). Buses also run to Zhōuzhuāng (three per day), Nánjīng (; 10 per day, 7am to 7pm) and Běijīng (one per day, 4pm).
A useful long-distance bus station is the Hengfeng Road Bus Station (Héngfēng Lù Kèyùnzhàn; 6353 7345; 258 Hengfeng Rd; 258), near the Hanzhong Rd metro station. Buses leave for Běijīng (5pm), Sūzhōu (every 20 minutes from 7.10am to 8pm), Nánjīng (every 50 minutes from 8am to 7pm) and Hángzhōu (every 40 minutes from 7.30am to 7.20pm). A plethora of other destinations around China are also served.
The huge Shanghai South Long-Distance Bus Station (Shànghǎi Chángtú Kèyùn Nánzhàn; 5435 3535; 666 Shilong Rd; 666) has buses largely to destinations in south China. Destinations include Sūzhōu (28 per day, 6.30am to 6.50pm), Nánjīng (nine buses per day, 7.20am to 7.30pm), Wūzhèn (7.45am and 4.25pm), Hángzhōu (36 per day, 6.40am to 8.20pm) and Níngbō (21 per day, 6.30am to 7pm).
Buses to Nánjīng (Y88) depart daily from the Shanghai Sightseeing Bus Centre (Shànghǎi Lǚyóu Jísàn Zhōngxīn) at Shanghai Stadium, where you can also join tours to Sūzhōu, Hángzhōu, Tónglǐ, Mùdú, Zhūjiājiǎo, Nánxún, Lùzhí, Mògānshān and other destinations around Shànghǎi.
Several ferries cross the Huangpu River between Pǔxī and Pǔdōng. The most useful one operates between the southern end of the Bund and Pǔdōng from the Jinling Donglu Dukou (6326 2135; 127 East Zhongshan No 2 Rd; 127). Ferries run every 12 minutes from 7am to 10pm for the six-minute trip (Y2). Tickets are sold at the kiosks on the pavement out front.
China Eastern Airlines operates out of Shànghǎi; Shanghai Airlines is a smaller airline, with limited international routes.
For domestic and international flights on Chinese airlines, the baggage allowance for an adult passenger is 20kg in economy class and 30kg in 1st class. You are also allowed 5kg of hand luggage, though this is rarely weighed. The charge for excess baggage is 1% of the full fare for each kilogram over the allowance.
Airline information in Chinese is available at 6247 5953 (domestic) and 6247 2255 (international). Departure tax is now included in the air ticket price.
Domestic air travellers can conveniently check in baggage at the airport city terminal (Chéngshì Hángzhàn Lóu; 3214 4600; 1600 West Nanjing Rd; Jing’an Temple) just east of Jing’an Temple, before proceeding to Hongqiao airport by bus (from the terminal basement) or the nearby metro.
Daily (usually several times daily) domestic flights connect Shànghǎi to every major city in China. Minor cities are less likely to have daily flights, but chances are there will be at least one flight a week, probably more, to Shànghǎi. Domestic flights are from Hongqiao Airport and Pudong International Airport, so check when you buy your ticket as it is generally more convenient to fly from Hongqiao airport, which is closer to downtown. You can buy tickets from hundreds of airline offices and travel agencies (including hotel travel agents) around town (few take credit cards); try to book several days in advance of your flight. Tickets are typically substantially discounted so shop around, although prices quoted in this book are the full fare. Discounts can be harder to come by during the main holiday seasons (Chinese New Year, first week of May and October) and at weekends.
Business-class tickets cost 25% over economy class, and 1st-class tickets cost an extra 60%. Babies pay 10% of the adult fare; children aged two to 12 are charged 50% of the adult fare; those over 12 pay the adult fare.
Cancellation fees depend on how long before departure you cancel. On domestic flights, if you cancel 24 to 48 hours before departure you lose 10% of the fare; if you cancel between two and 24 hours before the flight you lose 20%; and if you cancel less than two hours before the flight you lose 30%. If you don’t show up for a domestic flight, you are entitled to a refund of 50%.
China Eastern Airlines has many sales offices, as well as ticket sales counters at most major hotels.
Air China (Guóháng; 5239 7227; www.airchina.com.cn; 600 Huashan Rd; 600)
China Eastern Airlines (Dōngháng; 95108; www.ce-air.com; 200 West Yan’an Rd; 200; 24hr) There is also a branch at the Shanghai Train Station.
Shanghai Airlines (Shàngháng; www.shanghai-air.com in Chinese;) French Concession; South Shanxi Rd; Jing’an (6255 0550, 800-620 8888; 212 Jiangning Rd)
International airlines in Shànghǎi include the following:
Air Canada (6279 2999; Room 3901, United Plaza, 1468 West Nanjing Rd; 14683901)
Air France (4008-808 808; www.airfrance.com.cn; Room 3901, Ciro’s Plaza, 388 West Nanjing Rd; 3883901)
Air Macau (6248 1110; www.airmacau.com; Room 104, Hotel Equatorial, 65 West Yan’an Rd; 65104)
British Airways (800-810 8012; www.ba.com; Room 703, Central Plaza, 227 North Huangpi Rd; 227703)
Dragonair (6375 6375; www.dragonair.com; Suite 2103-4, Shanghai Plaza, 138 Central Huaihai Rd; 1382103-4)
Lufthansa (5352 4999; www.lufthansa.com.cn; 3rd fl, Bldg 1, Corporate Ave, 222 Hubin Rd; 22213)
Northwest Airlines (6884 6884; www.nwa.com; Suite 207, Shanghai Centre, 1376 West Nanjing Rd; 1376207)
Qantas (800-819 0089; www.qantas.com.au; KWah Center, 1010 Central Huaihai Rd; 1010)
Spring Airlines (5115 2599, 6252 0000; 1558 Dingxi Rd; 1558)
United Airlines (3311 4567; www.united.com; 33rd fl, Shanghai Central Plaza, 381 Central Huaihai Rd 38133)
Virgin Atlantic (5353 4600; www.virgin-atlantic.com; Room 221, 12 East Zhongshan No 1 Rd; 12221)
All international flights (and a few domestic flights) operate out of Pudong International Airport, with most (but not all) domestic flights operating out of Hongqiao Airport on Shànghǎi’s western outskirts. If you are making an onward domestic connection from Pudong it is essential that you find out whether the domestic flight leaves from Pudong or Hongqiao, as the latter will require at least an hour to cross the city. Your ticket should indicate which airport you are flying to or from; Pudong’s airport code is PVG, Hongqiao’s is SHA. If you do have to transfer, taxis and a regular shuttle bus link the two airports. Getting a taxi from Pudong International Airport is simple, but can be far more fraught at Hongqiao Airport.
Pudong International Airport (Pǔdōng Guójì Jīchǎng; 6834 1000, flight information in English & Chinese 3848 4500) is located 30km southeast of Shànghǎi, near the East China Sea.
The well-designed and impressive airport is simple to navigate. Departures are on the upper level and arrivals are on the lower level, where you can find a tourist information counter. The middle level is dedicated to restaurants and parking; try to dine beforehand as the airport restaurants are uniformly bad and overpriced.
Money can be changed at the Bank of China branch (8.30-11.30am & 2.30-10.30pm) at the international end of the upper level. The Shanghai Pudong Development Bank, at the international end of the lower level, will cash travellers cheques and give Visa credit-card cash advances. ATMs can be found in the arrivals hall.
Baggage storage (3hr storage Y30; 6am-9.30pm) is available in all arrivals and departures halls. There are post offices in both departures halls and in the domestic arrivals hall. You can get online at the China Telecom office in the international terminal.
A short-stay hotel on the middle level charges Y60 per hour for passengers in transit. It is accessible only after pre-flight check-in or before customs clearance on arrival. If you have to stay the night, the two-star Jinjiang Inn (; Jǐnjiāng Zhīxīng; 6835 3568; d from Y238) is a Y10 taxi ride away.
Buses to Hángzhōu leave from the airport.
Hongqiao Airport (Hóngqiáo Jīchǎng; 6268 8899, 6268 8918; www.shairport.com) is shaped like a horseshoe, with arrivals on the ground floor and departures above. Buses to surrounding cities (such as Sūzhōu and Hángzhōu) depart from the long-distance bus station west of the McDonald’s.
The tourist office (10am-9.30pm) can be of use, booking discounted accommodation, providing free maps, offering advice on transportation into town and writing the Chinese script for a taxi. Avoid the hotel and taxi touts. A post office is located in the departures hall. Public telephones take coins or phonecards, for sale at the tourist information office. A Citibank ATM taking international cards is at door 5 in the departures hall.
Luggage storage (8am-9.30pm) is available in the departures hall and also in Hall A of arrivals. Bags must be locked, a passport or ID is required, and the maximum storage period is 30 days.
As you need a residency permit to drive in Shànghǎi, short-stay tourists are effectively barred from hiring cars in the city. This is not as tragic as it sounds, as Shànghǎi’s roads are lethal for novices. To drive in Shànghǎi, you will need a Chinese driving licence and a residency permit. Residents can apply for a Chinese license at the Shanghai Transport Bureau (6516 8168; 1101 North Zhongshan No 1 Rd; 1101). You will also need to take along your passport, international driving license and health certificate, have your driving licence translated into Chinese and sit a written test. For most visitors, it is more advisable to hire a car and a driver. A Volkswagen Santana with driver and petrol starts at around Y600 per day.
Car rental (for residents) is available at Hertz (800 988 1336 countrywide; www.hertz.net.cn). Other car rental agencies include Dazhong (6318 5666), and most of the taxi companies listed in the Taxi section. Prices start at Y320 a day for a Santana and Y540 for an Audi, without a driver.
A limited variety of boats depart Shànghǎi for destinations around China. Slow overnight ferries to the Buddhist island of Pǔtuóshān (Y105 to Y329, 12 hours, departs 8pm) leave from Wusong Wharf (Wúsōng Mǎtóu; 5657 5500; 251 Songbao Rd; 251). To reach Wusong Wharf, take sightseeing bus 5 from Shanghai Stadium, bus 51 from Baochang Rd in Hóngkǒu or the Baoyang Wharf Special Line bus that runs from Shanghai Train Station. The wharf is almost at the mouth of the Yangzi River – just south of Wúsōngkǒu on the western bank.
A high-speed ferry service (Y225, four hours, departs 9.30am, 10am and 3.30pm) departs three times daily from the port of Lúcháogǎng () south of Shànghǎi. Buses (price included in ferry ticket, two hours) run to Lúcháogǎng from Longyang Rd metro station and Nanpu Bridge (by the bridge). Boats leave Pǔtuóshān daily at 4.30pm daily for the return trip to Shànghǎi.
Tickets for both boats can be bought from the Shanghai Port Wusong Passenger Transport Centre Ticket Office (Shànghǎi Gǎng Wúsōng Kèyùn Zhōngxīn Shòupiàochù; 59 East Jinling Rd; 59) in the centre of town.
Currently under construction in the North Bund area is the magnificent new Shanghai Port International Cruise Terminal , aiming for a 2008 completion date.
China’s rail service is gargantuan, excellent and more than a little mind-boggling. The Chinese have travelled by train for decades like total naturals, but the contemporary passion for trains wasn’t love at first sight. Railways were strongly resisted in the 19th century, as people feared they would disturb ancestors’ graves and obstruct feng shui; Běijīng was also concerned that railroads would accelerate the military domination of China by foreign powers. China’s first railway (1875) ran from Shànghǎi to Wúsōng at the mouth of the Yangzi River, operating for a few brief years before it encountered stiff local resistance and was torn up and shipped to Taiwan. No such qualms exist these days, as passenger trains trundle through every province except Hǎinán Island; even the high-altitude bastion of Tibet has been finally breached by rail engineers. If any nationality travels by train, it’s surely the Chinese, with up to 155 million souls taking to the railways during the Chinese New Year. Chinese train travel is a marvellous subculture and if you have time to travel around China after a visit to Shànghǎi you should try to incorporate at least one train journey into your itinerary.
Work was due to commence in late 2007 on the planned high-speed rail link between Shànghǎi and Běijīng. When completed, the 1300km railway will whisk trains between the two cities in five hours, seven hours less than the fastest trains running today.
Although procuring tickets for nearby destinations (Sūzhōu, Hángzhōu etc) is more straightforward, never assume you can casually stroll to the train station and hand over your credit card for a hard-sleeper ticket for a same-day departure, or expect an English-capable automated machine to spit out your ticket with minimum fuss. For most long-haul trips, you will need to pre-purchase your ticket at least 24 hours or if possible a few days before your departure date. Reservations for Z-class express trains can be made up to 20 days in advance, and most other types of train tickets can be reserved up to 10 days ahead of departure (as long as the train begins its journey in Shànghǎi).
There are several options for getting hold of train tickets in Shànghǎi. There’s the Chinese way – joining the surging masses at the train station ticket office – but prepare for battles with uncomprehending staff and queue barging; stress can take on a whole new meaning. There are two ticket offices (shòupiàotīng) at Shanghai Train Station, one in the main building and another to the east (ticket office No 10 claims its staff are English speakers). There is also a useful soft sleeper/seat ticket office with short queues near the west end of Shanghai Train Station.
Alternatively, your hotel will be able to obtain a ticket for you, albeit sometimes for a hefty surcharge. Tickets can also be purchased for a small surcharge from travel agencies.
Hard-seat and hard-sleeper train tickets can also be purchased from the Train Ticket Office (Huǒchēpiào Yùshòuchù; 230 East Beijing Rd; 8am-5pm). Soft-seat or soft-sleeper tickets can be bought at the Train Ticket Office (Huǒchēpiào Yùshòuchù; 121 South Xizang Rd; 8am-10pm) or at one of the numerous other small train ticket offices throughout town, such as on East Zhongshan No 1 Rd and Xinhua Rd (417 Xinhua Rd; 417; 8am-8pm). Train information is available over the phone in Chinese only (6317 1880, 6317 9090).
Buying train tickets is very difficult during the set holiday periods of the Chinese New Year and during the first week of May and October. Try not to make any travel plans at this time.
Most trains depart and arrive from the main Shanghai Train Station (6317 9090; 385 Meiyuan Rd) and Shanghai South Train Station (9510 5123; 200 Zhaofeng Rd) but some use the Shanghai West Train Station. Be sure to find out beforehand which one you should leave from. Trains for Běijīng, Sūzhōu and Hong Kong (T99, 5.09pm, every other day) depart from Shanghai Train Station. Trains for Hángzhōu depart from Shanghai South Train Station, although some depart from Shanghai Train Station. For details about train times and tickets prices for trains to Sūzhōu and Hángzhōu. Left-luggage facilities exist at all train stations.
Very comfortable overnight express (zhítè) to Běijīng trains do the trip in 12 hours. Train Z2 (7.21pm), Z6 (7.15pm), Z8 (7.44pm), Z14 (7.32pm) and Z22 (7.06pm) depart daily for Běijīng from Shanghai Train Station (soft-sleeper lower/upper bunk Y499/478); departure times can slightly vary, so check. Alternatively, fast (tèkuài) train T110 departs Shànghǎi at 8.42pm, arriving in Běijīng at 9.42am the next morning. Fast train T104 departs Shànghǎi at 8.36pm, reaching Běijīng at 9.36am the following morning. Berths go quickly on this popular line so book at least a couple of days in advance.
If you can handle the fumes and menace of Shànghǎi’s vicious traffic, biking is an excellent way to get around town, especially if you occasionally link it in with public transport. Despite being shunted down the transport ladder by the mushrooming number of cars, nine million bicycles whisk their owners about town. Come sunny summer, cyclists sport a wide array of sun shields, from wide-brimmed hats resembling lampshades to vast sun visors that could pass for welding masks.
Bikes have been banned from major roads for several years now, so you may have to join cyclists surging pell-mell down the pavements of busy streets. Remember you will be on the lowliest transportation device in town, and buses, lorries, taxis, cars and scooters will ceaselessly honk at you, in that pecking order (just ignore them). Cars will give you little room and will turn into your bike without a second thought; if you’re new to the roads of Shànghǎi, allow a few days to adjust to the swing of things. Note that cyclists never use lights at night and Chinese pedestrians favour dark clothing, so eat a lot of carrots and cycle carefully. In a sign of the resurgent love affair with the bike, bicycle lanes are due to be massively expanded by 180km over the coming years.
Purchase is straightforward and you can pick up a trashy mountain bike for as little as Y250 at supermarkets and hypermarkets such as Carrefour. Bikes need to be taxed, with a disc (obtainable at bike shops) displayed. At the Shanghai Stadium, Giant (6426 5119; 666 Tianyaoqiao Rd; 10am-9pm) has a good collection of bikes. For fold-up bicycles, Oyama (6426 5218; 666 Tianyaoqiao Rd; 10am-10pm) next door has lightweight bikes starting from Y498 and kicking off from around 8.5kg. Bicycle repairmen litter the side streets of Shànghǎi, charging around Y1 to pump your tyres up.
Around 130 bikes are stolen every day in Shànghǎi so make sure that you have your own bicycle cable lock. It’s a good idea to leave your bike at bike parks (available at most shopping areas and subway stations for Y0.50), as an attendant will keep an eye on your wheels.
Several hostels around town, including the Captain Hostel can rent you bikes.