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For a trip to the huge Chinese empire you may need some travel tips. We were traveling with friends who live in Shanghai and therefore could benefit from their knowledge of the city.
Shanghai is China for beginners. The city is very similar to a western city and is well suited to take first steps in China.
Only the application for the visa is quite expensive. But we also found a good solution for that.
All information in this article has been researched and checked to the best of our knowledge and belief. Of course, an error can always creep in or circumstances can change. Therefore, before investing money and time, always check the official information about rules and conditions concerning the Chinese visa rules and the application procedure.
We wrote a whole article about entry, visa and departure. Click here to get to our 144 hour visa Shanghai post..
In principle, you do not need any special health precautions for entering Shanghai and China.
Make sure your standard vaccination is up to date. Of course, if you come from a yellow fever country, you need the yellow fever vaccination.
Of course, vaccinations against Hepatitis A and B are always useful.
Never rely on third-party advice regarding your health, but always get the information out of the hands of professionals. Consult a doctor or travel physician.
From the airport to the city center you can either take the metro, the Transrapid Maglev or a taxi. The metro is the cheapest option with less than one Dollar. The Maglev costs a few Dollars and shoot you with a speed of 300 kph in seven minutes to the city center. The taxi probably needs the longest and is the most expensive.
When you arrive in the city, the best way to get around is by metro. Efficient, cheap and clean, it will bring you quickly to your destination. Download the app Explore Shanghai, because you always have a Metroplan map and other useful stuff with you.
Walking is always an option in Shanghai. The sidewalks are well developed and safe. Beware of the scooter riders when crossing the crosswalks. They don’t care about the red phase.
Another option is Didi - a taxi service similar to Uber or Grab. To our knowledge, you need to WeChat with a connected bank account, but you only get this bank account with a permanent residence permit. So no option for the common tourists.
You can get cash in Shanghai everywhere. Locals mainly pay by mobile phone. Nevertheless, cash always works.
The currency in China is called Yuan or Reminbi (RMB). As shops or restaurants often do not accept credit card, cash is not a problem. Just withdraw cash at every corner at the numerous ATMs.
Tipping is not common in restaurants, taxis and elsewhere. With especially good service you can of course show generousity.
You can buy SIM cards at the airport just before the exit at several booths. In this case, we declined to buy one, because our stay was quite short and our friends as "locals" were sufficiently equipped.
WiFi is available everywhere in Shanghai. But keep in mind that you can not use many of the American services like Facebook, Instagram or Google in China. They are simply blocked.
As a search engine, BING works very well. Apple maps runs, Google Maps doesn´t. The free app Maps.Me also works great offline. But you have to download the corresponding maps first.
Highly recommended is the Chinese map app Lost Laowai.
You can of course access the blocked services with a VPN client, which is basically not allowed in China and elsewhere. VPN works, but in the public WiFis it usually doesn’t.
And always remember that everything you say or write might not only be heard or read by the recipient.
In our opinion, Shanghai has one main attraction: Its skyline with Pearltower, Jin Mao Tower and Shanghai Tower - the second tallest structure on the planet.
The view of the skyline is best from the opposite side of the Huangpu River, the Bund.
The French Concession is also a real eye-catcher with its luminous colonial-style buildings.
Enjoy the best views of the Bund, the river and the rest of the city from the visitor platform of Shanghai Tower. Admission ist 180 RMB, which is a good twenty Dollars.
What else to do in Shanghai? We recommend to stroll around, walk the city and let yourself drift in the daily life. Take a walk through the French Concession or stroll through Tian Zi Fang and watch the merchants hawk their belongings.
Treat yourself to a walk through one of the many parks or gardens, such as the park on Huahai Middle Road with its many dancers and musicians or the Yuyuan Gardens.
In China, the variety in cuisine is as big as the country itself. Each region has its own cuisine and taste. In Shanghai - as a hotspot in China - all kitchens of the country are represented.
In the restaurant Lost Heaven we ate different meat and fish dishes with delicious sauces and side dishes from the Yunnan kitchen.
In the restaurant Din Tai Fung we had a delicious selection of Xiao Long Bao. These are delicious dumplings with meat or vegetable filling.
At our last evening in Shanghai, we tried the hellish spicy Sechuan cuisine at Yasmine's Hot Pot. A pot is served with two boiling broths. Than you order various vegetables, best meat and super fresh fish. Boil these things for a few seconds and then dip in delicious sauces. That was the most fun and tasted the best.
Shanghai has left us speechless in many ways.
On the one hand the superiority in the technical sense, in terms of infrastructure and speed. You can book and pay with your smartphone. A cashless - if glassy - world.
In addition, the city is very clean and tidy.
On the other hand, the cultural hurdle between the western and Chinese worlds is incredibly high.
You won´t get far with English.
In addition, the Chinese look a bit rude from Western eyes and sometimes do not show their best face in terms of manners. Public spitting, choking, belching and farting in China are nothing to be ashamed of. From our point of view, this was very irritating, but in their culture, this is completely normal. Keep this in mind, before you judge.
The temperatures in Shanghai are very high in summer. 40 degrees Celsius with high humidity are no exception. Occasionally Shanghai is also hit by typhoons - then caution is required.
In the winter months, temperatures fall around the freezing point with high humidity.
October is generally considered a very good month for travelling. Temperatures in the low twenties and no typhoons make sightseeing especially enjoyable.
We did not notice the smog problem and the bad air quality during our time in Shanghai. That was probably luck.
It can be very hazy. Smog is basically more of a problem during the winter months.
To be fair, the city is doing a lot to improve the air quality in Shanghai. The city is very green. Many parks and lush plantations with trees and shrubs purify the air.
The prohibition of scooters and mopeds with internal combustion engines as well as a large number of hybrid or electric vehicles already show in which direction this is being thought and optimized.
It was incredibly interesting for us to get to know the culture in Shanghai.
A first glimpse of China and a few days of Shanghai's incredible skyline and unlimited culinary possibilities have made us want more.
With October as our month of travel, we certainly did not do anything wrong.
Visiting Shagghai with the 144-hour visa or better said 144-hour transit visa-free option is great. Skip the expensive Chinese visa and its demanding application procedure and experience Shanghai and a bit of China. With the possibility outlined in our 144 hours visa article realizing a China round trip with several 144 hours of interlinked transits, even more is possible here.