Historic, glamorous, mysterious and exotic, we share everything you need to know before visiting in this Shanghai Travel Guide.
High rise buildings stand aside rich cultural temples and gardens, creating an incredible hybrid that draws tourists in.
There are some gorgeous temples and buildings to visit as well as great shopping opportunities. Each neighbourhood shows a unique side to the economic capital, whilst there are some great day trips from Shanghai too.
Budget:¥50 – ¥70 for dorm beds, ¥200 for double rooms per person.
Midrange: ¥250 to ¥650 for double rooms in great locations.
Luxury: ¥650+ with some great options for those who want to splash the cash.
Transport: Air-con buses cost ¥2 to ¥3 to travel around the city whilst the metro is the fast, cheap and easy transportation method; costing ¥3 to ¥15 depending on distance.
Average cost of food:
Street and food markets serve up traditional dishes from ¥30.
Local restaurants serving lunch and dinners from ¥100-¥200.
Excellent upscale restaurants and popular American chain restaurants charge upwards of ¥300.
Cost of Travel in China full guide
Best time to visit Shanghai
As a central city in China, Shanghai doesn’t experience extreme winters, so you can visit here in November through to February to experience a colder but quieter city.
July and August in Shanghai is busy and hot, whilst rainy season runs from June to September.
The best time to visit Shanghai is March, May, June and October. We would include April, but because of the many conventions that often run throughout the month, the city can be particularly busier. Plus, these months offer pleasant weather, low pollution and moderate rainfall.
Whilst planning your trip, you also need to avoid the Chinese national holidays – Golden Week runs during the first week of October and Chinese New Year lands around February, with a handful of long weekends throughout the year.
If possible, aim to visit Shanghai just after a national holiday – locals all return back to work so attractions and sites are much quieter.
Where to stay in Shanghai
The Shanghai Fish Inn Bund is a favourite of mine, with private rooms starting at ¥145 and just a short walk from Time Square and metro station.
Another popular spot for budget travellers is the Shanghai Chi Chen Hostel dorm beds starting at ¥72 and just a few metres from Xiaonanmen subway station.
The Modena Putuo Shanghai is ideal for those wanted some extra room and luxury. Offering deluxe studios at ¥520 with kitchen, dining and lounge area and balcony, this is great value for money.
The Astor House Hotel is ideal for those interested in the history of the city; located a 2 minute stroll from Waibaidu Bridge and a short walk from The Bund Historical Museum and Huangpu Park. Rooms start at ¥490.
SSAW Boutique Hotel Shanghai Bund is a highly rated hotel in Shanghai, with rooms starting at ¥650 in an ideal location next to Shanghai Old Street and Yu Gardens.
Oozing luxury, the Grand Central Hotel is a stunning and vast hotel that is perfect for a night or two if you want to treat yourself. Rooms start at ¥850 and this is definitely a place I will be spending a night or so at next time we visit Shanghai.
Save money in Shanghai
China is a relatively cheap place to visit in the world but there are still ways that you can save even more money in the country, allowing you to travel for longer.
- Visit off peak – As we mentioned above, the Winter isn’t too cold and it is off-season, so you can save money on hotels and travel during this time.
- Book in advance – There are some great hotels in Shanghai as well as a vast selection of hostels and budget hotels to choose from. Book in advance to get the best budget deal.
- Eat locally – Stick to the local food; this is predominately the only option but don’t be afraid of trying the food.
- Don’t tip – it is not expected in China.
- Use CTrip – CTrip is an app and website which compares hotel prices. Generally, you can find cheaper prices on this app than any other comparison site for China.
- Stay on the outskirts – Train and taxi travel is cheap in Shanghai but accommodation in the city centre is expensive. Choose a place further out and commute in and out to see the sights.
- Use the public Transport – Shanghai has an excellent metro with 16 lines that take you all over the city. The average trip costs 4RMB and you can reach most landmarks from a subway station.
- Bargain – When visiting the fake markets around the city (Qipu Lu Clothing Market, Fenshine Fashion Plaza or AP Plaza Fake Market in Pudong), make sure you bargain. Offer 10% of the sellers price and settle somewhere between 10% – 40% of the original price. Walking away can help persuade sellers.
- Nightlife – Check the happy hours and drink coupons (available in some nightclubs) to save money on nights out.
How to get to Shanghai
Fly – Shanghai is China’s second largest international air hub with flights inbound from around the world. Flights from the USA (West Coast) work out at 13/14 hours whilst flights from London take about 11 hours.
Domestic flights connect Shanghai to every major city in China. Be aware that there are two international airports; Pudong and Hongqiao, so check which airport your departure flight goes from.
Bus – The unpredictable traffic makes travelling by bus an unpopular choice. The Shanghai South long-distance bus station serves cities in the south of China but can be difficult to get to.
Train – The only international train arriving in Shanghai is the T99 from Hong Kong but there are some great options to travel by train from other parts of China. The city has three main stations; Shanghai Railway Station, Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station and Shanghai South railway station. Speed trains are available to and from Beijing, Guangzhou (which is a short 2 hour train ride to Hong Kong), Nanjing, Hangzhou and Suzhou.
How to get around Shanghai
The best way to get around the city is the fast and inexpensive Metro; although avoid during rush hour when it can packed.
Buses can be confusing; with unusual routes and busy traffic.
Taxis are a good choice for those wanting a bit more space but use the Didi app to save time and money.
Cycling or walking is only really possible when moving between neighbourhoods.