Shanghai is one of the fastest growing cities in East Asia and certainly the most international and cosmopolitan in Mainland China. It is a very safe city and it is easy to get around and enjoy the city without breaking the bank.
To get everywhere we recommend as well as find new places and other tips and tricks, please use these resources:
Wikitravel Shanghai, a concise overview of how to navigate Shanghai and the city’s most popular tourist attractions; Explore Shanghai, a metro map website with a fantastic smartphone app; Smart Shanghai and CityWeekend, city guides that will help you find places to eat and play; and ShanghaiExpat, an eclectic forum with enthusiastic users ready to answer any questions you may have.
Between those five links, you should be able to find answers, addresses, taxi print-outs, and guides to questions you may have. Now, for our short list of tips:
Shanghai’s methods of transportation are neatly unified by the Shanghai Public Transportation Card. You can purchase/add money to one of these cards at some convenience stores and at all subway service stations. These cards will let you pay for your subway, cab, and bus fare with a simple swipe and without having to worry about having exact change.
The city center is where you will spend most of your time, learning, eating, and going out. Most locations are accessible by taxi, with fares starting at RMB 15 (~$2.5) for the first few kilometers. Unless you’re traveling out to the boonies, expect cab fare to cost no more than RMB 50 (~$7.81). Most taxi drivers do not speak English, so either know the Chinese names of the cross-streets or have the address printed out or on your cell phone in Chinese. Or bring a Chinese friend. Cab drivers occasionally do not give you all of your change, so make sure you count before you exit the taxi.
The Shanghai Metro subway system is also clean, efficient, and safe. Line 2 runs closest to the STA campus and will get you to all the major entertainment complexes and shopping centers. Most major tourist attractions in Shanghai also have dedicated subway stations. It is very easy for a non-Chinese speaker to use the subway. It costs approximately RMB 4 ($.62)
The bus is a riskier method for a first-time visitor to Shanghai, but it is the cheapest method at RMB 2 per ride. Do this if you’re with someone who knows where they’re going and can speak Chinese.
Shanghai is packed full of shops, new and old, to satisfy your every curiosity. The biggest international luxury brands can be accessed along the Nanjing Road shopping district. Be wary, as some luxury brands charge more in China than they do in the US because of a luxury tax on their goods.
For neat curios and more artistic items, you should visit Tianzifang, a series of gentrified, back-alley shops that feature more thoughtful gifts. Often, more than one store will have a particular item, so comparison shop for prices.
When not in the big name-brand stores, all prices are negotiable in China. Since you’re a Westerner, most shopkeeps here will want to overcharge you. Either take a Chinese friend to help you negotiate or, when given a price, offer them about a third of that number and work from there. Some people are better at this than others.
For buying knock-offs, try the area around the Shanghai Science and Tech Museum (it has a stop on Line 2 on the subway). You can find name-brand clothes here for a fraction of the price, though be careful because the quality of the fakes varies. Again, these shopkeeps are here to extract as much money from you as possible, but it is possible and necessary to bargain with them to get more value for the money.
Shanghai is full of rich cuisines, local, regional and international. Our recommendations. Miss them at your peril:
Yang’s Fry Dumpling at Nanjing Xi Lu and Maoming Lu, 3F
Din Tai Fung in trendy Xintiandi
Charmant in the beautiful French Concession
Kota’s Kitchennear Shanghai Stadium (make reservations!)
Bar Rouge is Shanghai’s most glamorous club in the most glamorous part of the city
M2 is where you dress to impress, and dance like you mean it.
Glamour Bar is a beautiful space that is also home to the Shanghai International Literary Festival
Kaiba is a great place to go for a more relaxed environment