The Metro in Shanghai is clean, runs like clockwork and can be completely manic. Rush hour is generally considered to be between 8-10am and 5-7pm. Try to avoid these times, especially with kids. Overall, it’s a quick, easy and affordable way to get around the city and the announcements are all in English. Plus kiddos shorter than 1.2m ride for free.
Learning the lines and where you can transfer is like a puzzle at first. Download ExploreMetro’s app ‘Explore Shanghai’, which is available offline, has a route planner, GPS and is available in Chinese and English.
There’s a color theme in the city - the lighter the taxi the better it is. So, the white and gold cabs – Dazhong and Qiangshen - are supposedly the best. Native Shanghainese will avoid the red ones like bird flu as they’re notorious for having bad drivers, old cars and meters which have been tampered with.
Usually, if the top light is on, they’re available - light off, they’re taken. Key word: usually. Most of the taxis will have the back door on the driver’s side locked so avoid looking like a rookie and get in on the passenger side. If you’re travelling alone, it’s normal to take the front seat - a great opportunity to practice your Mandarin.
Know where you’re going before you get in. Either print out your destination (in Chinese characters, not pinyin) or have the Chinese address pulled up on your smartphone. One of our favorite apps is ‘Hi Shanghai’, which is a database of thousands of places in the city and shows the Chinese address when you turn your phone horizontally. Before exiting, always take the receipt (fappiao) - if you leave any belongings behind you can trace the car down with it.
If you’re lucky enough to have been provided a driver by your company, congratulations! Your life just got a lot easier. The convenience of having an air-conditioned, dry, trustworthy vehicle that knows where to take you at your beck and call is invaluable – but if you’re footing the bill, it comes with a price tag. For a driver plus the car expect to pay 7,000 -20,000RMB/month. If you have the car and just want the driver, prices range from 2,000-8,000RMB/month, depending on age, experience and driving record. You’ll pay a premium for an English speaking driver too.
Once you’ve gotten a feel for the roads and traffic patterns, or lack thereof, you might want to brave a bicycle. Faster and cooler than walking, above ground, and free –they’re a great way to take it all in, and get from point A to B.
Beware though, that vehicles tend to rule the road and you must drive defensively and stay aware of your surroundings at all times. Helmets, lights, child seats and other safety equipment are essential and the Decathlon store on North Zhongshan Road is a great place to get it all.
Forget the phrase ‘pedestrians have the right of way’. Vehicles trump walkers, so walk at your own risk. Wait for the green man to light up, try to cross the street with the herd and remember that even when there’s a red light for the traffic, cars can still turn right. Many cars also run the red lights so just look left, right, left, right, and hey, why not, left again. Basically, don’t get run over - be cautious.
All the destinations, maps and announcements on Shanghai buses are in Chinese so if you have a sense of adventure, pay your RMB2 and see where you end up. If you read Chinese, then it’s a great way to get to some farther flung places the Metro don’t reach. Within the city though, there are better options for getting around which aren’t as cramped or confusing.
Ferries from Pudong to Puxi can cost as little as half a kuai for pedestrians and it’s a gorgeous little trip across the Huangpu River which gives a whole new perspective on the towering skyline. There are around 19 different ferry lines and over 40 ferry stations along both sides of the river so you’re spoilt for choice. You can use your Shanghai Public Transportation Card on the ferryboats and the cost varies depending on whether you want an air-conditioned boat or not. You’ll also pay a bit more if you want to take on a bike or motorbike.
The two international airports that serve Shanghai are Pudong International and Hongqiao International. Both are easily accessible by Metro (both line 2), taxi, shuttle bus or, for people traveling from Pudong, the Maglev. Know if you’re going to terminal one or two before you go.
The Maglev combines the ease and comfort of a train with a colossal, adrenaline-inducing top speed of 431kmh - basically like being on a really comfortable theme park ride. Any child shorter than 120cm has to be accompanied by an adult, but they also travel for free, so the shorter the better.
The train runs from Pudong International Airport to Longyang Lu Station on the outskirts of Pudong and the journey takes a mere eight minutes. Present your air ticket – paper or electronic – on the same day of your flight and you’ll also get 20 percent off your Maglev ticket. A single is 50RMB with a return coming in at 80RMB,and there are all sorts of fancy VIP options too.
***MANDARIN PHRASES BOX***
• Subway 地铁 Dìtiě
• Metro station 地铁站 dìtiě zhàn
• Which exit leads to ____? 哪个出口到_____？ Nǎge chūkǒu dào
• Taxi 出租车 chūzūchē
• Intersection (brief description of how to tell the driver the intersection) 路口 lùku
• Turn left 左拐 zugui
• Turn right 右拐 Yòu guǎi
• Turn around掉头 diaotou
• Go straight 一直走 Yì zhí zǒu
• Stop here 停这里 Tíng zhèlǐ
• Airport 机场 Jīchǎng