Planning a trip to Shanghai can be quite daunting for some (I was pretty overwhelmed when I first started) so I have listed a few hopefully useful tips for all who are interested bearing in mind that I am no expert and that all I had was a short weekend there. If this can be improved, I’d like to hear from you so that we can come up with something better! Read more about my weekend in Shanghai in this LINK.

Here is a step by step guide to aid in planning a trip to Shanghai!

1. Know the city (nutshell below)!
Shanghai is split up into 18 districts each with its own distinct character and feature. For most of us tourists, we only need to know that Shanghai is split into two areas – (1) Puxi and (2) Pudong. This division is facilitated by the meandering of the Huangpu River. Puxi would fall on the west side of the river and Pudong on the east. Pudong is known as the central business district and is characterised by the mass of modern skyscrapers. Puxi on the other hand is the older, more cultured brother.If you are visiting Shanghai for leisure, chances are, you’d be spending more time in Puxi. Most of the tourist attractions are in Puxi and on the west side of the Huangpu river. I’ll further break this down for you.
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2. Figure out what attractions interest you!
Whether this is something cultural, modern, ancient, fun, natural, for the kids, there is always something for everyone in China. Do a quick google and read up of the attractions in Shanghai and list those you’d like to visit.

3. Find out where these attractions are!
Using the attraction map below, you can roughly map out where you’d be at each point and so proceed to item (4) below!

4. Map them out into areas and plan to visit one cluster at a time.
Perhaps you’d like to visit a couple of attractions north of Puxi. You can allocate a day to explore these attractions North of the city and do likewise for attractions in the South or West or East of central Shanghai

5. If you happen to be a foodie, pencil in the restaurants in whichever cluster you have scheduled yourself to be in for the day
Here I list for your ease of reference the attractions in Pudong and Puxi so you can get a rough idea where things are and how you can go about in grouping them together.


Tourist Attractions in Pudong
Tourist Attractions in Puxi
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How to Travel to and Around Shanghai?


–   to Central Shanghai from Shanghai Pudong Airport


(1) Airport Shuttle Bus
There are 10 shuttle buses that can take you from the airport to various parts of the city. The price ranges from 20 to 30 RMB and it can take from 70 to 90 minutes to get to the city. I’ve also listed these bus routes below.
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(2) Maglev

This is a much quicker and expensive option compared with the subway but it gives you the opportunity of riding in the fastest train in the world. It takes around 8 minutes to get from Shanghai Pudong to Longyang Road Station. The only thing about the Maglev is that you do not get to ride in style into central Shanghai. You are still required to hop onto the Subway Line 2 or 7 at Longyang Road Station to get to People’s Square. It takes approximately 20 minutes for you to get from Longyang Road Station to People’s Square (total journey time: 30 mins). It will cost you 50 RMB for the Maglev and another 7 RMB for the Subway.


(3) Subway Line 2
Shanghai subway Line 2 is the cheapest option, costing a mere 9 RMB to get from Shanghai Pudong to People’s Square. It takes roughly 70 mins and requires you to make a transfer at Guanglan Road Station (just a quick hop onto the other platform). I would say to go with this option unless you are short of time and afraid of being lost.(4) Taxi

Taking a Taxi is reasonably cheaper in Shanghai compared to many other European cities. From Shanghai Pudong Airport to for example People’s Republic Square, it costs roughly 150 RMB (24 USD) and it takes around 50 minutes to get to central Shanghai. You can go with this option if you would like to quickly get to your hotel, settle down and slowly acclimatise to the pace and the smog of this city.


– Around Shanghai
Given the size of this city, it really is not difficult to get around Shanghai. The city is generally pretty well connected and given the density, it would be fair to expect congestion when taking a bus or a taxi from point to point. That said, as highlighted in my previous post, I would recommend all who are visiting Shanghai to take some time to understand the subway system. It is cheap, convenient and generally faster than traveling on the roads.


– Out of Shanghai

The city of Shanghai can be overwhelming for some and getting out of the city can be quite a treat. You can acquaint yourself with something old, something more cultural and something different. I would also say that one should alter their expectations because China is huge and although it is huge, it is also very commercialised. Getting out of Shanghai can sometimes feel like a wasted trip because you may find the places you visit just as crowded and commercial.  Below you will find listed, a few options for day trips out to neighbouring cities and towns (they are by no means exhaustive and I chose them based on convenience and interest bearing in mind the fact that they are commercial and busy too):

1.   Qibao Watertown

This is by far the closest and most accessible town to the city (only 20 minutes away) and is good for a half day trip out of the city. For more, check out my post in this link HERE.

2.   Zhuzhajiao Ancient Town

If you have more time and would like to visit a old water town, you can consider going to Zhujiajiao instead of Qibao. Its much bigger compared to Qibao and there is more to see. The downside is that it is also more commercialised and touristy. It takes around 90 minutes to get to Zhuzhajiao from central Shanghai.

3.   Hangzhou

Famous for its natural beauty and immortalised by many artists and poets. Hangzhou is the cultural centre and the capital of Zhejiang. You will find the West Lake Cultural Landscape which has been listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site. It takes 50 mins on a high speed train from Hongqiao Station (80RMB).

4.   Suzhou

Known to many as the Venice of the East or the City of Gardens, like Qibao and Zhuzhajiao, its an old city with a network of beautiful canals integrated into the life of the locals there. It takes 30 – 40 mins on a high speed train from Shanghai Railway Station (30 RMB) or a 90 minute bus of about the same price.

When to go?

March – May (Spring), September – October (Autumn). Hotels are slightly more expensive during these periods and lower during the shoulder seasons.

Avoid Public Holidays such as Chinese New Year (usually in January or February, also known as the Spring Festival) and the week-long holidays beginning on Labor Day (May 1) and National Day (Oct 1). Be prepared for huge crowds everywhere and if you do have to travel, plan and make necessary bookings way ahead!

Where to stay?

There are numerous options in Shanghai and while the cost is generally higher than those of the other cities in China, it is still much cheaper than finding a place to stay in Europe.

When choosing a hotel or airbnb apartment, travelers should consider the rating, location and price. After deciding on an area to stay, ideally, one should look for a accommodation conveniently located and close to a subway station. After narrowing these down, compare the hotels and prices in the area of choice and book away.

What to eat?

It is impossible to starve in China. There is food aplenty round every corner and every street. The only thing possibly would be trying to communicate with the locals and actually ordering the right dishes.

One might find Shanghainese Cuisine to be too greasy, to be too salty and to be to waxy. But one thing is for sure, I have not had a single bad meal (be it eating off the streets or at a proper restaurant) in this amazing city. There is so much to say about eating in Shanghai that I am considering writing a full post on Shanghainese cuisine. Watch this space.

Staying connected?

Wifi is generally found in most hotels and are mostly free (check before going!). Also, it is possible to get free Wifi at places such as the Bund, Yuyuan Garden and Xin Tian Di. Am not sure if there are more locations added to the free Wifi list as of the date of this post (I highly suspect so).

I highly recommend getting a data sim card for your smart phone (good for last minute googling and/or googlemaps). These data sim cards can be found at most convenient stores however it can be quite cumbersome trying to communicate with the store keepers who probably will not speak much English. The alternative would be going to the China Unicom booth at Shanghai Pudong Airport to ask them for help (expect to pay a premium for this service).

For more details, check out this link HERE!

Parting Note:

You can read my previous post on my weekend in Shanghai for more tips that will hopefully come in handy. Another piece of advice I would give is to avoid trying to cram too much in. Shanghai is a big, diverse city and it can be quite the intriguing and exciting place to be.

Written by wherewassarah

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