Everything you need to know to get by in China's most cosmopolitan city

One Awesome Shanghai Video

A Haiku about Shanghai


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Eat, shop, drink, repeat

Speak Like a Local

Shanghainese speak Mandarin, but also Shanghainese, the local Chinese dialect.

Chat Like a Local

By far, the most popular chat app in China is WeChat. Only a small minority of locals use WhatsApp.

All About that Cash

The official Chinese currency is renminbi (RMB, CNY or ¥, roughly ¥6 to US$1). You might also hear the word kuai when referring to money; it's the equivalent of the English word "bucks".

Street-side noodle shops sell basic meals for as little as ¥10. 

Best Time to Visit

Visit in the spring or fall if you can--summer is blazing hot (up to 40 degrees Celcius) and winter is deceptively cold.

Is It Safe?

Yes. Very.

You may encounter streetside hustles like the "tea scam"; just walk away if you're approached.

A select few police officers speak English, but if you get in trouble you can always call the 24-hour tourist hotline at 962288.

Need to Know

Many websites, including Google, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and New York Times, are blocked by the "Great Firewall of China". To access them, you'll need to use a VPN. Astrill is our favourite paid option; some free options are listed here.

If you need to search the web and don't have a VPN, try Bing or local favourite Baidu.

One Crazy Fact

Shanghai has the world's longest Metro system, with 14 lines and 337 stations covering 548 kilometres.

Main Districts

Shanghai has a defined city center but is divided up into many districts. Most pertinent to visitors are:

- The Bund, the glitzy waterfront

- The Former French Concession, leafy and historic

- The Old City, Shanghai's gritty core

- Jingan, shiny and modern

- Huangpu, the physical heart of the city

- Pudong, on the "other side" of the river and home to the country's tallest skyscrapers

Tallest Building

Shanghai's tallest building, the spiraling Shanghai Tower, is due to open in 2017 (though its exterior is already finished). It's 650m tall. These guys climbed it.

Getting In and Out

Shanghai has two main airports:

- Hongqiao (SHA):  ~¥50 / 30 minutes downtown by taxi

- Pudong (PVG):  ~¥150 / one hour downtown by taxi

Both are international, accessible by Metro and have two terminals. Hongqiao is relatively closer to the center of town, but traffic can add up to 30 minutes to the trip. Pudong can also be accessed by a Maglev (pictured above) train on the Metro network that rockets up to over 400km/h.

There are three main train stations: Shanghai Railway Station, Shanghai South Station and Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station. You will need ID to purchase a ticket; train routes labeled D or G are the fastest.

Getting Around

Getting around Shanghai is relatively easy. Though Chinese predominates, road signs also have English and directional markings included on them.

Common forms of transportation include:

- Walking

- Metro: Extensive, fast and easy. We like the Explore Shanghai map but stations are also marked on Google Maps.

- Bike and/or Scooter: Some bike rental options like China Cycle Tours are available, though it can be dangerous!

- Car: Rentals are available but you'll need a Chinese driver's license.