Getting Around Shanghai

The best way to get around Shanghai is the metro. Immune to traffic (though crowding is inevitable), the metro is a fast and cheap way to travel within the city, and its extensive reach will put you close to all the top attractions and hotels. Taxis are another convenient and useful option, but they'll cost you a bit more. Buses will take you for a wild ride through the streets, so consider opting for the metro instead. Walking through Shanghai is an awe-inspiring experience and the only way to familiarize yourself with individual neighborhoods. That said, conquering the entire city on foot is an impossible feat. Biking through downtown Shanghai may seem like a death wish to some, but others find it to be a cheap and thrilling means of getting around.

Most international travelers arrive through Shanghai Pudong International Airport (PVG), while the city's main domestic hub is Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport (SHA). PVG is located on the eastern edge of the city. Most visitors coming through this airport either take a cab or the Shanghai Maglev train into downtown. SHA is stationed just west of downtown; metro line 10 services this airport.

Bike In Shanghai, you'll see bikes swarming the city streets. The adventurous few who dare to join the two-wheeled masses will be rewarded with a cheap and convenient way to get around town. While bike rentals are difficult to come across, you can purchase a well-worn set of wheels for around 300 CNY (roughly $47 USD) or less at local stores or marketplaces. This cost means that you should only invest in a bike if you're in Shanghai for several days. You may also recoup some of the expense by selling the bike back to a shopkeeper.

Shanghai's extensive metro network is the best way to get from point A to point B. While it can get very crowded during rush hour, you'll avoid street traffic by choosing this option. Also, travelers find the metro particularly easy to navigate because the signs, maps, and station announcements are in both Chinese and English. The metro runs from 5:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. every day. Fares are calculated by distance traveled. You can purchase a ticket from the ticket office or from the automated machines found in metro stations. If you're staying for a few days, consider acquiring a Smart Card, a rechargeable pass. The base fare is 3 CNY (about $0.50 USD). For more information, consult the Shanghai Metro's official website.

Bus Buses are the cheapest form of transportation, but unfamiliar travelers may incur some disastrous results (i.e. complete disorientation in a foreign city). Often described by previous visitors as "traumatic," the rush-hour ride offers passengers the unique experience of feeling like canned sardines. While gasping for breath, you're likely to miss your stop as the signs are in Chinese and most drivers don't speak English. Oh, also there are over 1,000 bus routes, so be sure to pick the correct one. Please take our advice and avoid this option. Should you decide to tempt fate, you'll need a Smart Card (the universal method of payment for public transportation). Expect to pay 2 to 3 CNY (about $0.30 to $0.45 USD) for air-conditioned buses and only 1 CNY (about $0.15 USD) for less-advanced buses. 

You'll see taxis all over Shanghai—but finding a free one is tricky. When rush hour hits and the metro experiences overcrowding, you will feel the urge to flag down a cab; however, none may come to your aid as you won't be the only one with that inclination. Outside of rush hour, taxis are an inexpensive option. The meter starts at 11 CNY (about $1.75 USD) for the first three kilometers (about two miles) and increases 2 CNY (about $0.30 USD) every additional kilometer. Between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m., the rates are slightly higher. There is no need to tip your driver.

Entry & Exit Requirements

In addition to a U.S. passport that's valid for at least six months from your arrival date, Chinese authorities require you to have a government-issued visa indicating the length of your stay. Visas are only available at Chinese embassies and consulates and must be obtained prior to departure. Appointments are not required, and you do not need to show up in person. However, if you are unable to get to the consulate, you must have someone hand-deliver your materials. Several regions, like Tibet, are restricted to tourists and require special travel permits, which cost extra. For more information, check out both the U.S. Department of State's website and the Embassy of the People's Republic of China's website.

Next Steps: Shanghai

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