Given the size of Shanghai and the overcrowded condition of its public buses, taxis and the subway become indispensable for any sightseer. Fortunately, both are relatively inexpensive. Unfortunately, the number of vehicles on the street has multiplied at a much faster rate than roads are being built, so you are likely to be caught in a few traffic jams. Allow for extra time to get to your destination. An adventurous alternative is to travel as many Shanghai residents do: by bicycle.
In the months leading up to the Shanghai Expo, the city's subway (ditie) system (www.shmetro.com), an inexpensive and fast way to cover longer distances, began a massive expansion. At press time, there are 12 lines in various stages of operation, with another 10 lines projected for completion by 2020. Despite the expanded number of lines, the original Metro Lines 1 and 2 are still quite overburdened, especially during morning and evening rush hours and on weekend afternoons. With the recent expansion of the subway system, stops and lines can also get a little confusing. A useful online interactive subway aid can be found at www.exploreshanghai.com/metro.
Operating from 5:30am to midnight daily, the subway currently has 12 lines, but for tourists, Lines 1, 2, 4, 7, 9, and 10 are the most useful. Metro Line 1, the red line, winds in a roughly north-south direction connecting the Shanghai Railway Station in the north, through the French Concession and on down Hengshan Lu to the Shanghai South Railway Station and points southwest. In the future, the northern terminus of Metro Line 1 will be Chongming Island. Metro Line 1 connects with Metro Line 2, the green line, at People's Square (Renmin Guangchang) near Nanjing Xi Lu. This is the busiest subway station in the city as Metro Line 8 also connects here. Metro Line 2 runs in an east-west direction from Hongqiao Railway Station and Hongqiao Airport in western Shanghai across downtown, under the Huangpu River, and through Pudong's most developed areas all the way to Pudong Airport.
Metro Line 3, actually more of an aboveground light rail, encircles the western outskirts of the city and also links Shanghai's main railway station with the South Station, though it is seldom useful for sightseeing except for its stop near Lu Xun Gongyuan (Hongkou Stadium Station) and Duolun Lu cultural street (Baoxin Lu Station) north of downtown. Metro Line 4, the purple line, forms a ring around the city and connects Pudong to the Shanghai Railway Station. Metro Lines 5 and 6 run in the far southwest reaches of the city and in the eastern part of Pudong respectively, and are not useful for most tourists. Metro Line 7 connects northwest Shanghai with the western French Concession before hitting the Expo stops and Longyang Station in Pudong. Metro Line 8 runs up Xizang Lu all the way from the main Expo stop in Pudong through downtown into Hongkou, while Metro Line 9 can take visitors all the way from Pudong out to Qibao and Sheshan in Songjiang District via stops in the southern part of the French Concession. Metro Line 10 provides a convenient connection between Hongqiao Railway Station and Hongqiao Airport in the west and the heart of the French Concession before heading northeast to Hongkou. Metro Line 11 serves the northwestern suburbs of Shanghai. At press time, the post-Expo plans for Metro Line 13, which operates only inside the Expo Park, had not been verified. See the map on the inside back cover for all stops. Note: There are plans to rename some of these subway lines, though hopefully not during the life of this edition.
Navigating the subway is relatively easy. Subway platform signs in Chinese and English indicate the station name and the name of the next station in each direction, and maps of the complete Metro system are posted in each station and inside the subway cars as well. English announcements of upcoming stops are made on trains. Fares range from ¥3 for the first few stops to ¥10 for the most distant ones. Tickets can be purchased from the ticket vending machines (in both English and Chinese). Note: Hang onto your electronic ticket, which you have to insert into the exit barrier when you leave.
If you are going to be riding the subway a fair amount, consider purchasing a rechargeable Shanghai Public Transportation Card (Jiaotong Ka), which costs ¥20, onto which you can add more money, and which can be refunded (but only at certain stations like Jiangsu Lu). Instead of inserting your ticket into the slot, simply hold your card over the sensor on the barriers. The card, which can be purchased at Metro stations and convenience stores throughout the city, can also be used to pay for bus, ferry, and taxi rides, with your fare being automatically deducted from the amount remaining on the card.
With more than 45,000 taxis in the streets, this is the most common means for visitors to get around Shanghai, though as in any urban metropolis, available taxis can be almost impossible to find during rush hour or when it rains. Taxis congregate at leading hotels, but can just as easily -- and indeed, should preferably be -- hailed from street corners. The large majority of vehicles are fairly clean, air-conditioned, and reasonably comfortable Passat or Santana sedans (both built in the local Shanghai factory by Volkswagen). In recent years, overall service has improved noticeably (at least at the top companies), and some cars have recorded messages in English greeting you and reminding you to take all items when you leave.
By and large, most Shanghai taxi drivers are honest. If there's a commonly heard complaint, it's less about the dishonesty of taxi drivers than about their inexperience (some drivers may have arrived in town around the same time as you), and their lack of familiarity with local streets. I've sometimes had drivers ask me how to get to my destination, though that is unlikely to happen to you. Instead, you'll just be driven around in circles, the driver unwilling to admit to a foreigner that he or she doesn't know the way. To minimize the chances of this happening to you, stick with the top taxi companies, though it must be said that even then, such an experience may sometimes be simply unavoidable.
Your best bets for service and comfort are the turquoise blue taxis of Da Zhong Taxi (tel. 800/6200-1688 or 021/6258-1688), the yellow taxis of Qiang Sheng Taxi (tel. 021/6258-0000), and the blue taxis of Jin Jiang Taxi (tel. 021/6275-8800). The fare is ¥12 for the first 3km (2 miles) and ¥2.40 for each additional kilometer. After 11pm, flag-fall rises to ¥15 for the first 3km (2 miles). Expect to pay about ¥15 to ¥25 for most excursions in the city and up to ¥60 for longer cross-town jaunts. Carry smaller bills (no larger than ¥50) to pay the fare. If you anticipate a fair amount of taxi travel and don't want to be burdened with cash, you can purchase a taxi/subway card (Jiaotong Ka) at ticket counters in subway stations. Cards come in denominations of ¥50 or ¥100, and are easily rechargeable. The fare is automatically deducted from the balance on your card. You can also use this card on the subway. Finally, for taxi service complaints, call tel. 021/6323-2150; you may not get your money back, but you might be helping future riders.
- Never go with taxi touts or individual drivers who approach you at airports, railway stations, tourist sights, or even outside your hotel. The general rule is never go with a driver who asks you your destination before you even get into the cab.
- In general, always hail a passing cab if possible, as opposed to waiting for taxis that have been waiting for you. Opinions differ on the following point, but if you're staying at an upmarket hotel in Shanghai, it is generally safe to go with the taxis called by the doormen, usually from a line of waiting cabs. It sometimes occurs that drivers give kickbacks to the doormen for being allowed to the head of the queue, but in my experience, I have not had, nor have I heard of, problems with hotel-hailed taxis. Some top hotels will give you a piece of paper with the taxi's registration number on it in case of complaints, though there's no guarantee of redress, of course. Some hotels restrict their waiting taxis to those from the Da Zhong Taxi Company, which has the best reputation in Shanghai for honest and efficient service.
- Always have your destination marked on a map or written down in Chinese, as well as a business card from your hotel with the address in Chinese so you can show it to the taxi driver when you want to get back.
- Check to see that the supervision card, which includes the driver's photo and identification number, is prominently displayed, as required by law. If not, find another cab.
- If the driver's identification number is over 200,000, there's a good chance that the driver is newly arrived in town and may not be familiar with the streets, which is reason enough to find yourself another cab. Caveat emptor: This is not a foolproof way of weeding out inexperienced drivers since a number of new arrivals actually "share" the taxis of more experienced drivers, even if this is against the law.
- Make sure the meter is visible, and that you see the driver reset it by pushing down the flag, which should happen after the taxi has moved off. You should also hear at that time a voice recording in Chinese and English welcoming you to take the taxi. If the driver fails to reset the meter, say, "Qing dabiao," and if that fails, find yourself another cab.
- If traveling by yourself, sit up front and take out your map so you can follow (or at least pretend to follow) the taxi's route.
- On the rare occasion that the taxi driver refuses to honor your request after you're en route, make a big show of taking down the driver's identification number and suggesting, by any means available, that you intend to file a complaint. This can sometimes scare the otherwise recalcitrant driver into complying.
- If you're unwittingly riding with a driver who doesn't know the way (and you only realize this after you've been driving in circles or if the driver has had to stop to ask directions), it's best to find yourself another cab. Unfortunately, even if you have every "right" to not pay the fare, this can sometimes lead to more inconvenience than it's worth (the driver will likely complain loudly or create a scene). At such times, it may be more practical to pay the fare or a portion of it, but, as in the previous example, make a show of taking down the driver's identification number and notifying him/her of your decision to lodge a complaint.
- At the end of the trip, pay the indicated meter fare and no more. Tips are not expected. It's a good idea to carry smaller bills (¥100 notes can sometimes be changed, but don't count on it) to pay your fare.
- Be sure to get a receipt (fa piao) with the phone number of the taxi company and the taxi driver's numerical identification, should you need to file a complaint or retrieve lost items. All the legitimate taxis are now equipped with meters that can print receipts.
Tourists are forbidden to rent self-drive cars (or motorcycles or scooters) in China because a Chinese driver's license is required (available only to foreigners with an official residency permit). Of course, major hotels are only too happy to rent chauffeured sedans to their foreign guests by the hour, day, or week, at rates that will make you never complain about car rental prices back home again. With a multitude of other transportation options available to tour the city, we do not recommend this method unless time is an issue and cost is not.
Public buses (gong gong qi che) charge ¥2, but they are considerably more difficult to use, less comfortable than taxis or the Metro, and for the truly intrepid only. Some buses have conductors, but others only have money slots in the front of the bus with no change given. To figure out which bus number will get you to your destination, ask for help in your hotel. Bus nos. 20 and 37, for example, run between People's Square and the Bund; bus no. 16 connects the Jade Buddha Temple to Old Town; bus no. 65 travels from the Bund to the Shanghai Railway Station. Be prepared to stand and be cramped during your expedition, and take care with backpacks and purses, as these are inviting targets for thieves, who frequently seek out foreign visitors on public buses.
If you've always dreamed of joining in the dance that is millions of Chinese riding their bicycles, Shanghai is not the ideal place to fulfill that dream. The huge economic wealth generated in the last decade has resulted, predictably, in an exponential increase in the number of cars on the road and the concomitant decline in popularity of the bicycle (since 1990, sales have dropped from one million to 500,000 bikes per year). Wide avenues and small streets these days are much more likely to be taken up by honking vehicles spewing exhaust, making bicycle-riding appear even more hazardous and intimidating. That said, the bicycle is still the main form of transportation for millions of Shanghai's residents. Unfortunately for the visitor, most hotels don't rent bikes (you may get some daft looks if you inquire), and even the Captain Hostel, which used to rent bikes, has since stopped. Those with their hearts set on seeing Shanghai on two wheels can rent a basic city bike starting at ¥80 for a day at China Cycle Tours (Huaihai Zhong Lu 358, no. 52; tel. 0/1376-111-5050; www.chinacycletours.com; daily 9am-6pm) near the Huangpi Road (S) Metro station in the French Concession. Another option is Bodhi Bikes (Zhongshan Bei Lu 2918, Building 2, third floor, Ste. 2308; tel. 021/5266-9013; daily 8:30am-5:30pm), near the Caoyang Lu Metro station in the northwest part of town. The shop rents bikes at ¥150 a day with a deposit of your passport or ¥2,000. Alternatively, if you plan on doing a significant amount of cycling, consider buying a bicycle (average cost is around ¥400) for a very basic bike without flashy accessories. One of the better places to purchase bicycles is a supermall like Carrefour.
Whether you rent or buy, be sure the brakes and tires are in good working order. You'll also need a bicycle lock. Helmets are not required in Shanghai -- few use them -- but they are advised for the neophyte China bike rider. In general, stick to a few general principles, namely: Ride at a leisurely pace, stay with the flow, and use the designated bike lanes on the big streets. Should you have a flat or need a repair, there are sidewalk bicycle mechanics every few blocks, and they charge low rates. Always park your bike in marked lots (identifiable by the forest of bikes outside a park, attraction, or major store) watched over by an attendant, and lock your bike or it will be gone by the time you get back. Parking usually costs around ¥.50.
By Bridge, Boat & Tunnel
To shift the thousands of daily visitors between east and west Shanghai across the Huangpu River, there is now a multitude of routes. Three are by bridge, each handling around 45,000 vehicles a day: the 3.7km-long (2 1/3-mile), harp-string-shaped Nanpu Daqiao (built in 1991), and the Lupu Daqiao, both in the southern part of town; and the 7.7km-long (4 3/4-mile) Yangpu Daqiao (built in 1993) northeast of the Bund. A fourth route (and the cheapest) is by water, via the passenger ferry (lundu) that ordinary workers favor. The ferry terminal is at the southern end of the Bund around Jinling Lu on the west shore (ticket price: ¥2), and at the southern end of Riverside Avenue at Dongchang Lu on the east shore. Other routes across the river make use of tunnels, with motor vehicles using the Yan'an Dong Lu Tunnel, the Fuxing Lu Tunnel, the Renmin Lu tunnel, the Dalian Lu tunnel, the Xinjian Lu tunnel, and the Dapu Lu Tunnel, with at least two additional tunnels under construction; Metro Line 2 is filled with German-made subway cars, while Metro Line 4 and Metro Line 8 also make the crossing; and there is also the Bund Sightseeing Tunnel (Waitan Guanguang Suidao) equipped with glassy tram cars that glide through a subterranean 3-minute light show with music and narrative (daily 8am-10:30pm [11pm Fri-Sun, 10:30pm May-Oct]; ¥55 round-trip; ¥45 one-way).
The best way to see Shanghai's sights and experience life at street-level is on foot. Much like downtown New York or Tokyo, Shanghai's streets can be almost impossibly crowded at times, but they are always fascinating to stroll. Doing so requires a bit of vigilance, of course, as Shanghai pedestrians are distinctly second-class citizens to the motorists who rule the road. Shanghai drivers, who drive on the right side of the road, have never been known to give pedestrians the right-of-way; at red lights, vehicles seldom stop when making a right turn, whether pedestrians are in the crosswalk or not. Drivers don't pay much attention to lane markings and will always rush to fill an empty space wherever they can find one, even if it's where you happen to be walking. Besides a sea of humanity, Shanghai pedestrians also have to contend with bicycles, scooters, and motorcycles on sidewalks. Happily, there are now surly brown-clad, whistle-blowing traffic assistants at the major roads and intersections to make sure both pedestrians and motorists obey the traffic lights. Jaywalkers who are caught may be fined up to ¥50. In general, whether crossing large avenues or small lanes, look every which way before you cross, take your cues from locals, and you should be just fine.
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.