Shanghai Travel Guide

China  #15 in Best Places to Visit in Asia

Courtesy of zorazhuang/Getty Images/iStockphoto

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. And although buses are abundant (the city boasts nearly 1,000 lines), some lines are marked in Chinese only. Whichever form of transportation you choose for your travel, don't forget to do a little bit of walking. Strolling through Shanghai's larger-than-life cityscape is an awe-inspiring experience and the only way to familiarize yourself with individual neighborhoods. But that doesn't mean walking should be your only way of getting around. Shanghai is China's biggest city and conquering its streets entirely on foot is an impossible feat. 

Most visitors arriving from overseas travel through Shanghai Pudong International Airport (PVG). The city's main domestic hub is Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport (SHA). The Shanghai Pudong International Airport is located on the eastern edge of the city, nearly 30 miles northeast of the city center. Most visitors coming through this airport either take a cab or the Shanghai Maglev train into downtown. The Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport is stationed just west of downtown; metro line 10, which goes to downtown Shanghai, services this airport.


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. Metro hours vary by line, but generally expect trains to be running between 5 a.m. to 11 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 and are planning on using public transportation as your primary means of travel, consider a three-day metro pass or the rechargeable Public Transportation Card, or jiaotong ka, that can be used on the metro, bus, ferry and airport maglev trains. The base fare is 3 yuan (about $0.45). For more information, consult the Shanghai Metro's official website.


Buses are the cheapest form of transportation, but unfamiliar travelers may find it difficult to successfully get around. Unlike the metro, not all buses in Shanghai offer English translations. Some buses don't even have numbers, just Chinese names, and you're more likely to run into transit operators that don't speak much English. There's also about 1,000 bus routes operated by numerous different companies. Should you decide to board, you'll need a Public Transportation Card (the universal method of payment for public transportation). Expect to pay 1 to 2 yuan (about $0.15 to $0.30) for buses.


You'll see taxis all over Shanghai – but finding a free one can be tricky depending on the time of day. 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 readily available and an inexpensive option. There are multiple cab companies that service the city, so make sure you're climbing into a licensed cab before you embark on your journey. All licensed cabs have a logo on top of the car, a transparent shield separating the driver and passenger, a meter and illuminated vacancy disk on the dashboard. The meter starts at 14 yuan (about $2.10) for the first 3 kilometers (about 2 miles) and increases 2.5 yuan (about $0.30) for every additional kilometer. Between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m., the rates are slightly higher. There is no need to tip your driver.

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