Area Codes -- China's country code is 86, and Shanghai's area code is 021. In mainland China, all area codes begin with a zero, which is dropped when calling China from abroad. The entire area code can be dropped when making local calls.
Business Hours -- Offices are open Monday through Friday from 9am to 6pm, although some still close at the lunch hour (about noon-1:30pm); a few maintain limited Saturday hours. Bank opening hours are Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm. Sights, shops, restaurants, and transportation systems offer the same service 7 days a week. Department stores are typically open from 10am to 10pm. Restaurants outside of hotels are generally open from 11:30am to 2pm and 5 to 9:30pm, while those catering to foreign visitors usually stay open later. The official closing time for bars is 2am, though some stay open later on weekends.
Doctors & Dentists -- Shanghai has the most advanced medical treatment and facilities in China. The higher-end hotels usually have in-house or on-call doctors, but almost all hotels can refer foreign guests to dentists and doctors versed in Western medicine. The following medical clinics and hospitals specialize in treating foreigners and provide international-standard services: With multiple branches around town, Parkway Health Medical Center (formerly World Link Medical Center), Nanjing Xi Lu 1376, Shanghai Centre, Ste. 203 (24-hr. hot line tel. 021/6445-5999; www.parkwayhealth.cn), offers family medical care, 24-hour emergency services, a 24-hour hot line, Western dental care, OB-GYN services, and inpatient care (Danshui Lu 170, second and third floors; tel. 021/6385-9889). Walk-in hours at the main clinic at Nanjing Lu 1376 are Monday through Friday 9am to 7pm, Saturday and Sunday 9am to 5pm. Call for times at other clinics. Hua Shan Hospital, Wulumuqi Zhong Lu 12, Jing An District, has a Foreigners Clinic on the eighth floor of Building 1, and a 24-hour hot line (tel. 021/6248-3986). A representative office of International SOS (Hongqiao Lu 3, 2 Grand Gateway, Unit 2907-2910; tel. 021/5298-9538) provides medical evacuation and repatriation throughout China on a 24-hour basis.
Dental care to foreign visitors and expatriates is provided by Parkway Health Dental Centers Monday to Saturday from 8:30am to 6:30pm , and by DDS Dental Care, Huaihai Zhong Lu 1325 (at Baoqing Lu), Evergo Plaza, B1-05 (tel. 021/5465-2678; www.ddsdentalcare.com). DDS Dental Care has multilingual Western-trained dentists and its own lab.
Drinking Laws -- There are no liquor laws in Shanghai worth worrying about (in other words, no legal drinking age). Bars keep irregular closing hours, some not shutting down until well after the official 2am closing time. Supermarkets, hotel shops, and international restaurants sell imported and domestic beer, wine, and spirits. Inexpensive domestic beer and liquor can be bought anytime at the 24-hour neighborhood convenience stores.
Drugstores -- In general, bring any and all of your own prescription medicines, and your favorite over-the-counter pain and cold remedies. A limited selection of Western amenities like cough drops, toothpaste, shampoo, and beauty aids are available in international hotel kiosks, and most reliably at Watson's Drug Store, which has branches throughout town, including at Huaihai Zhong Lu 787-789 (tel. 021/6474-4775; 9:30am-10pm). If necessary, prescriptions can be filled at the Parkway Health Medical Center, Nanjing Xi Lu 1376, Shanghai Centre, Ste. 203 (tel. 021/6279-7688). Chinese medicines (as well as some Western remedies) are dispensed at the Shanghai No. 1 Pharmacy, Nanjing Dong Lu 616 (tel. 021/6322-4567, ext. 0; 9am-10pm).
Electricity -- The electricity used throughout China is 220 volts, alternating current (AC), 50 cycles. Except for laptop computers and most mobile-phone chargers, other North American electrical devices will require the use of a transformer. Outlets come in a variety of configurations, the most common being the flat two-pin (but not the three-pin or the two-pin where one is wider than the other), and also the round two-pin, the slanted two-prong, and slanted three-prong types. Most hotels have a variety of outlets and can supply a range of adapters. Transformers and adapters can be purchased in department stores.
Embassies & Consulates -- The consulates of many countries are located in the French Concession and Jing An districts several miles west of downtown. Visa and passport sections are open only at certain times of the day, so call in advance. The consulates are open from Monday to Friday only, and are often closed for lunch (noon-1pm). The Consulate General of Australia is in CITIC Square at Nanjing Xi Lu 1168, 22nd floor (tel. 021/2215-5200; fax 021/2215-5252; www.shanghai.china.embassy.gov.au). The British Consulate General is in the Shanghai Centre, Nanjing Xi Lu 1376, Ste. 301 (tel. 021/3279-2000; fax 021/6279-7651; www.uk.cn). The Canadian Consulate General is in the Shanghai Centre at Nanjing Xi Lu 1376, West Tower, Ste. 604 and 668 (visa section, tel. 021/3279-2800; fax 021/3279-2801; www.shanghai.gc.ca). The New Zealand Consulate General is at Changle Lu 989, the Centre, Room 1605-1607A (tel. 021/5407-5858; fax 021/5407-5068; www.nzembassy.com). The Consulate General of the United States is at Huaihai Zhong Lu 1469 (tel. 021/6433-6880; fax 021/6433-4122; http://shanghai.usembassy-china.org.cn), although the American Citizens Services Unit is at Nanjing Xi Lu 1038, Westgate Mall, eighth floor (tel. 021/3217-4650, ext. 2102, 2103, 2114).
Emergencies -- The emergency phone numbers in Shanghai are tel. 110 for police (English operators available), tel. 119 for fire, and tel. 120 for ambulance, though no English is spoken at the last two.
Etiquette & Customs -- Appropriate attire: The Shanghainese have a long-held reputation of being fashion-conscious and are, on the whole, a comparatively well-dressed bunch. For the worldly Shanghainese who've seen it all, foreigners tend to get a pass when it comes to attire anyway, so wear whatever you find comfortable. Chances are, you'll be out-dressed (or under-dressed in some cases) by the trendy fashion plates. When in doubt, err on the side of modesty even if some of the younger locals don't. Business attire is similar to that in the West.
Gestures: The handshake is now commonplace, as is the exchange of business cards (ming pian), so bring some along if you have them. Cards and gifts should be presented and received with both hands. Speaking a few words of Mandarin will go a long way in pleasing your host; you'll be told you speak very well, to which the proper reply should be a self-effacing denial, even if you are fluent. When invited to someone's house, never go empty-handed; always bring a small gift, even if it's just some fruit picked up at the last minute at the corner store.
Avoiding offense: Causing someone to lose face is the surest way to offend, and should be avoided as much as possible. This means not losing your temper and yelling at someone in public, not calling public attention to their mistakes, and not publicly contradicting them, no matter how great the grievance. Instead, take up the matter privately or complain to a superior, when appropriate.
Eating & drinking: If possible, master the use of chopsticks before you go. Chinese food is eaten family-style with everyone serving themselves from several main dishes. As the guest, you'll be served first; accept graciously. Then reciprocate the gesture by serving your host in return. Use the communal serving spoon(s) or chopsticks provided. Eat with your chopsticks, but don't leave them sticking out of the bowl. Never criticize the food in front of your host. Your cup of tea will be constantly topped up. A Cantonese custom that has started to catch on in Shanghai is to acknowledge the pour by tapping your fingers lightly on the table. Feel free to top up other people's cups of tea every now and then, though it's likely that after the first time, your host will remove the teapot from your reach. If you're invited to eat at someone's home, always bring a small gift (fruit is always a fail-safe gift) and take off your shoes at the entrance even if your host/hostess demurs. They're merely being polite. If you're invited to a banquet, expect a great deal of drinking. Toasts are usually made with baijiu (potent Chinese spirits), often to the tunes of "gan bei" (literally dry glass, the equivalent of "bottoms up"). If you can't keep up, don't drain your glass (for it will be filled up again quickly, sparking another round of drinking), but do return the toast, if necessary with beer, mineral water, or tea.
Hot Lines -- The 24-hour Shanghai Call Center (tel. 021/962-288) should be able to handle most tourist queries in both English and Chinese.
Insurance -- Check your existing insurance policies and credit card coverage before you buy travel insurance. You may already be covered for lost luggage, cancelled tickets, or medical expenses. The cost of travel insurance varies widely, depending on the cost and length of your trip, your age and health, and the type of trip you're taking, but expect to pay between 5% and 8% of the vacation itself. You can get estimates from various providers through InsureMyTrip.com. Enter your trip cost and dates, your age, and other information, for prices from more than a dozen companies.
Trip-cancellation insurance: This will help you retrieve your money if you have to back out of a trip or depart early, or if your travel supplier goes bankrupt. Permissible reasons for trip cancellation can range from sickness to natural disasters to the State Department declaring a destination unsafe for travel. Insurers usually won't cover vague fears, though, and travelers have not been given refunds for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)-related cancellations.
Note: Many tour operators, including those catering to China, include insurance in the cost of the trip or can arrange insurance policies through a partnering provider, a convenient and often cost-effective way for the traveler to obtain insurance. Make sure the tour company is a reputable one; however, some experts suggest you avoid buying insurance from the tour company you're traveling with, saying it's better to buy from a "third party" insurer than to put all your money in one place.
Medical insurance: Check with your individual health plan to see if it provides coverage for travel to China. In any event, consider purchasing travel insurance that includes an air ambulance or scheduled airline repatriation, but be clear as to the terms and conditions of repatriation. With several advanced clinics staffed by foreign doctors in Shanghai, travelers can expect a fairly high quality of health care, though avoid, if possible, regular Chinese hospitals. In the latter, you'll have to pay your (more than likely substantial) bill upfront and in cash, and then only submit your claim after you've returned home. Be sure you have adequate proof of payment.
If you require additional medical insurance, try MEDEX Assistance (tel. 410/453-6300; www.medexassist.com) or Travel Assistance International (tel. 800/821-2828; www.travelassistance.com; for general information on services, call the company's Worldwide Assistance Services, Inc., at tel. 800/777-8710).
Language -- Mandarin is the official language throughout China. However, while many Shanghainese speak Mandarin, you're just as likely to hear locals conversing everywhere (shops, businesses, restaurants) in Shanghainese, which is as different from Mandarin as Cantonese is from English. Written Chinese, however, follows one standard script. Outside of international hotels, restaurants, and shops, English is still seldom spoken, though compulsory English classes from primary grade one was implemented in local schools in 2003. Many younger urbanites should recognize at least a smattering of English words and phrases.
Legal Aid -- If you end up on the wrong side of the "still evolving" law in China, call your consulate immediately.
Lost & Found -- Be sure to tell all of your credit card companies the minute you discover your wallet has been lost or stolen, and file a report at the nearest police precinct. Contact the PSB (see "Police") for this. Your credit card company or insurer may require a police report number or record of the loss. Most credit card companies have an emergency toll-free number to call if your card is lost or stolen; they may be able to wire you a cash advance immediately or deliver an emergency credit card in a day or two. In China, the emergency toll-free numbers for lost or stolen credit cards are as follows: Visa (tel. 010/800-440-2911 or 021/6374-4418); American Express, which will also replace lost or stolen traveler's checks (tel. 021/6279-8082 or 010/800-610-0277); and MasterCard (tel. 010/800-110-7309). Diners Club members should call Hong Kong at tel. 852/2860-1800 or call the U.S. collect at tel. 001/416/369-6313. If you need emergency cash, you can have money wired to you at many post offices and a few Agricultural Bank of China branches throughout China via Western Union (tel. 800/325-6000; www.westernunion.com). The loss of your passport should be immediately reported to your consulate. For other personal items, contact the site where you think you lost it, then report the loss to your hotel staff or the police, but don't expect much sympathy, let alone results.
Mail -- Sending mail from China is remarkably reliable. Most hotels sell postage stamps and will mail your letters and parcels, the latter at a hefty fee, so take your parcels to the post office yourself, if possible. Overseas letters and postcards require 5 to 10 days for delivery. Current costs are as follows: overseas airmail: postcard ¥4.20, letters under 10g ¥5.40, letters under 20g ¥6.50. Domestic letters are ¥1.20. EMS (express parcels under 500g/18 oz.): to the U.S. and Canada ¥180 to ¥240; to Europe and the U.K. ¥220 to ¥280; to Australia and New Zealand ¥160 to ¥210. Normal parcels up to 1kg (2.2 lb.): to the U.S. and Canada by air ¥102, by sea ¥20 to ¥84; to Europe and the U.K. by air ¥142, by sea ¥22 to ¥108; to Australia and New Zealand by air ¥135, by sea ¥15 to ¥89. Customs declaration forms in Chinese and French are available at post offices. When sending parcels, bring your package to the post office unsealed, as packages are often subject to inspection. Large post offices will sell packaging material.
The main Post Office (youzheng ju) (7am-10pm daily) is located at Bei Suzhou Lu 276 (tel. 021/6325-2070), at the intersection of Sichuan Bei Lu, in downtown Shanghai just north of Suzhou Creek; international parcels are sent from a desk in the same building, but that entrance is actually around the corner at Tiantong Lu 395. Other post offices where employees can speak some English are located at Shanghai Centre, Nanjing Xi Lu 1376, lower level (tel. 021/6279-8044), and at Huaihai Lu 1337.
International parcel and courier services in Shanghai include FedEx, Shilong Lu 411, no. 28 (tel. 021/5411-8333); DHL-Sinotrans, Jinian Lu 303 (tel. 021/6536-2900); and UPS, Lujiazui Dong Lu 166, China Insurance Building, 23rd floor (tel. 021/3896-5599). Pickup and delivery can usually be arranged by your hotel.
Measurements -- China uses the metric system.
Police -- Known as the PSB (Public Security Bureau, gong'an ju), the Shanghai police force has its headquarters at Fuzhou Lu 185 (tel. 021/6231-0110 or 021/6854-1199). Known as jingcha, the police are no more keen to get involved in your business than you are to contact them. Ideally, any interaction with them should be limited to visa extensions. These are handled at the Foreign Affairs Section at Minsheng Lu 1500 in Pudong (tel. 021/2895-1900, ext. 2; Metro: Shanghai Kejiguan/Science and Technology Museum, exit 3). The emergency telephone number for the police is tel. 110.
Smoking -- China has more smokers than any other nation, an estimated 350 million, accounting for one of every three cigarettes consumed worldwide. About 70% of the men smoke. Recent antismoking campaigns have led to laws banning smoking on all forms of public transport (including taxis) and in waiting rooms and terminals, a ban, which has, surprisingly, been largely observed (except on long-distance buses). Top hotels provide nonsmoking rooms and floors, and a few restaurants have begun to set aside nonsmoking tables and sections. Still, expect to encounter more smoking in public places in China than in most Western countries.
Taxes -- Most four- and five-star hotels levy a 10% to 15% tax on rooms (including a city tax), while a few restaurants and bars have taken to placing a similar service charge on bills. In the case of the latter, you can almost be assured that the service will not justify the charge. There is no sales tax. Airport departure taxes are now included in the price of your airline ticket.
Time -- Shanghai (and all of China) is on Beijing time, which is 8 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT + 8), 13 hours ahead of New York, 14 hours ahead of Chicago, and 16 hours ahead of Los Angeles. There's no daylight saving time, so subtract 1 hour in the summer. For the current time in Shanghai, dial tel. 117.
Tipping -- There is officially no tipping in China, but the reality is that it has become quite commonplace in Shanghai's hospitality industry, especially where bellhops (four- and five-star hotels), tour guides, and tour bus drivers are concerned. Though you may feel pressured to do so, only tip if you feel truly inclined to or for exceptional service. Restaurant waitstaff and taxi drivers usually do not expect tips, and will return any change due you.
Toilets -- For hygienic restrooms, rely on the big hotels, restaurants catering to foreigners, new malls, and fast-food outlets, in that order. There are, of course, hundreds of public restrooms in the streets, parks, cafes, department stores, and tourist sites of Shanghai, but most of these consist primarily of squat toilets (a trough in the ground), are not always clean, and do not provide tissues or soap as a rule. Some public restrooms charge a small fee (¥.50) and will give you a rough sheet of what passes for toilet paper. Look for WC or TOILET signs at intersections pointing the way to all public facilities.
Water -- Tap water throughout China is not safe for drinking (or for brushing teeth). Use only bottled water, widely available almost everywhere (supermarkets, convenience stores, neighborhood shops, vendors' stalls), and also provided in most hotel rooms.
Weather -- The China Daily newspaper, CCTV 9 (China Central Television's English-language channel), and some hotel bulletin boards furnish the next day's forecast. You can also dial Shanghai's weather number, tel. 121.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.