Public Transport in Shanghai
Shanghai’s public transportation system is quite good with the centerpiece being an outstanding subway network. Already the largest subway system in the world (and the fourth busiest), the Shanghai subway network is constantly. Although more expensive than elsewhere in China, taxis in Shanghai are still very cheap by Western standards and remain the most convenient form of transport outside of the subway.
If you’re staying in Shanghai for an extended period it might be worthwhile to buy a Jiaotong card. Similar to London’s Oyster card or Hong Kong’s Octopus card, it can be used to pay for the subway, buses and some taxis as well as some convenience stores. The card can be bought at subway stations for a refundable ¥30 deposit plus however much credit you want to add to the card. Credit can be added at top-up machines in subway stations and some convenience stores.
Be sure to take the time to do some walking around Shanghai. While it’s not a practical means of moving between sights, there are some fascinating areas of the city to explore. The French Concession is, of course, one such area, but of arguably more interest are the alleys north of People’s Square and around Suzhou Creek.
Getting Around Shanghai By Subway
The excellent Shanghai subway system will meet the needs of most visitors to Shanghai. The system is modern, clean and easy to navigate. All the stations have English signs and there are announcements in English on the trains telling you the name of the next station. The first trains start from the ends of the lines a little before 6am while the last ones leave around 11pm. Trains arrive every 2-7 minutes.
Fares range from ¥3 to ¥9, depending on the distance traveled. For the purposes of tourists, who will mainly be traveling in the inner-city, the fare will usually be ¥4 for most trips. Buying tickets is a straightforward affair as stations are stocked with touch-screen ticket machines in Chinese and English. The machines accept coins and notes up to ¥20. You can break larger notes at the Customer Service Center without having to utter a word. A single journey ticket takes the form of a plastic card, which you place on the scanner when entering a station and deposit in the slot at the barriers upon exit.
The Shanghai subway system covers most of the major tourist attractions, entertainment districts, the train stations, and both Hongqiao and Pudong airports. Expansions to the system are constantly being made.
Getting Around Shanghai By Taxi
Taxi is the most convenient way to get around Shanghai when the subway isn’t an option or when you can’t be bothered fighting the underground crowds. Taxis are plentiful, though it can be very difficult to get one during peak hours or in bad weather. There are dedicated taxi stands around the city, but you can usually hail a cab from anywhere. To avoid communication problems, take the name of your destination written in Chinese and show it to the taxi driver. Make use of the “Show the taxi driver” notes beneath every place mentioned in our guide to Shanghai. It will make getting around Shanghai by taxi much easier.
Shanghai taxis are expensive compared to other Chinese cities, but still very cheap by Western standards. Flagfall for taxis in Shanghai is ¥11, which covers you for the first 3km. Each additional kilometer costs ¥2.1. At night flagfall is ¥14 for the first 3km and ¥2.7 for each additional kilometer.
Try not to pay a small taxi fare with a ¥100 note. Apart from the whinging the driver will do, it is not uncommon for drivers to palm off counterfeit ¥50 notes as change.
Getting Around Shanghai By Bus
With such a good subway system there is no real reason to bother with buses. They are crowded, slow and the routes are difficult to decipher. If you do want to take public buses you will usually pay ¥1 or ¥2, though the fare varies depending on the distance.
Getting Around Shanghai By Bicycle
You’re not in Beijing. Shanghai isn’t made for cyclists.