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Things to Know for a Self-organized Shanghai Trip

Last updated by meimeili at 2013/12/11; Destinations: Shanghai

When visiting any city or destination, there are always some tips to keep in mind for a safe and successful trip. Here are our tips to keep in mind when arranging your independent trip to Shanghai.

Main Neighborhoods and Zones

•    The Bund – borders the Huangpu River and one of the best places to see Shanghai’s skyline
•    Changning – mainly residential but also hosts Hongqiao International Airport, Shanghai Zoo, and Zhongshan Park
•    French Concession Area – affluent area with old shikumen homes, entertainment areas, Xintiandi, and Shanghai Stadium
•    Huangpu – the traditional center of Shanghai with the People's Square, People's Park, Shanghai Museum, Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Hall, City Hall; nearby is East Nanjing Road pedestrian mall
•    Old City – the historic corner of Shanghai home to Yu Garden, the City God Temple, and Huxingting Tea House

Getting Around

•    The Shanghai Jiaotong Card (also known as the Shanghai Public Transportation Card) comes in various sizes and is a must if staying in Shanghai for more than a few days. The credit on this card can be used on the public buses, metro, and most taxis. They can purchased and recharged at any transit station and also in some convenience stores.

•    Metro/Subway: There are 12 lines with 7 more coming in the future. Almost all of them run underground. This is a modern, affordable, convenient, and comfortable way to get around Shanghai. You can ride using your Shanghai Jiaotong Card or using a one-day card. Be careful of which stations you use as some have the same or similar names on different lines.

•    Bus: Traveling by bus in Shanghai is even cheaper than by metro and with more flexible and extensive schedules. However, it is generally slower due to road traffic. For most buses today, you can use your Shanghai Jiaotong Card, although some buses still require cash transactions with the driver; be sure to bring exact change.

•    Ferry: A nice ferry runs between the Bund just south of Nanjing Road and Lujiazui financial district in Pudong near the Oriental Pearl TV Tower and Lujiazui metro station. Ferry is the cheapest way to cross the river and offers a very comfortable and beautiful ride, taking about 5 minutes. Tokens may be purchased at the ports.

What to Wear/Pack

•    Summer (April to October) – During the Summers, Shanghai is often regarded to as one of the ovens of China. Although there may be rains, an umbrella would be more prudent than a confining rain jacket or coat due to very high humidity. However, sweaters or a lightweight jacket might be useful in highly air conditioned spaces such as buses, metros, shopping malls, and restaurants. Keeping in mind that the cities of China tend to be extremely fashionable and contemporary, you can either bring your own clothes from home or just purchase cheaply when you are there! Comfortable, closed toe shoes are best for walking around the city as it can be wet and/or dirty. For women, tampons should be brought from home as they are difficult to find in Shanghai.

•    Winter (October to March) – As hot and humid as it can get in Shanghai during the summer, winters in this city are equally cold. A thermal jacket is a must, as well as warm layers. Boots are handy as well, but sneakers will be able to do the trick. Thick socks and gloves, scarves, and hats will also be useful in keeping safe from the elements. Again, try to keep fashion in mind in order to fit in with the locals.

What to See

•    The Bund – Every major city in the world has a major sightseeing point and in Shanghai, this is called the Bund. This pedestrian corridor along the Huangpu River offers a very scenic stroll and entertainment area. The Bund is also unique for its 52 European style buildings that line the waterfront, dating back to the early 20th century. Although most of the buildings no longer serve their original purposes (administrative centers, banks, etc), they make for picturesque views.

•    Oriental Pearl TV Tower – This is one of the tallest TV towers and structures in the world. From atop, it is possible to see Shanghai from a vantage unlike any other. It is best to experience the views in both the daytime and nighttime.

•    The People’s Square – The traditional public gathering place in Shanghai is known as the People’s Square. This immense green park and urban space is surrounded by the Shanghai Urban Planning Museum, Nanjing Road, Jingan Temple, Shanghai Museum, Shanghai Art Museum, and more. In other words, it is very much like Central Park is to NYC, a most central point of orientation in Shanghai and for sightseeing.

•    Yuyuan Gardens – The very touristic area around Yuyuan Gardens is always bustling with action. The gardens themselves are very beautiful in a classical Chinese style. In the nearby markets, you are free to browse the countless selections of traditional Chinese crafts and souvenirs to take home to your loved ones.

•    Shanghai Museum – The Shanghai Museum hosts an impressive collection of ancient Chinese art. The ancient bronze showcases are particularly interesting. There are 11 galleries in total presenting paintings, jades, calligraphy, sculptures, and more. This museum is a must-see in Shanghai.

•    Jinshan Donglin temple – Found in the town of Zhujing, the temple is more than 700 years old and has survived (sometimes barely) the worst of natural and human history. It has since been restored and renovated and is known worldwide as a place of high artistic value. The world’s tallest indoor statue which is of bodhisattva Guanyin is found here, as well as the tallest Buddha Cloisonné and tallest bronze door.

•    Shanghai Urban Planning Museum – Shanghai may be impressive as a city today, but there is still so much more to come. At the Shanghai Urban Planning Museum right in the People’s Square, visitors are welcome to peek into the future as envisioned by the minds of the urban planning organizations. There is also an immense 3D model map where you can see Shanghai as it is today with models of its future offerings.

•    Nanjing Road – Whether or not shopping is your passion, an experience on Nanjing Road cannot be missed. This is one of the premier shopping destinations in the world where shoppers can find items that range the entire spectrum of selection, prices, and quality. Of course, some of the world’s top fashion and product brands have their shops here.

What to Eat

•    Sweet and sour dishes
•    Seafood from the Huangpu River
•    Pork in any of its varieties
•    Freshly prepared chicken
•    Soy products such as tofu in its many varieties
•    Small steamed Shanghai buns filled with meat, dipped into dark vinegar
•    Small pan-fried Shanghai buns filled with meat, dipped into dark vinegar
•    Shanghai hairy crab, especially in the beginning of winter (October to December)
•    Shaoxing wine

Where to Stay

As an immense city of incredible variety, there are hotels and accommodations of all quality levels and prices to be found in all areas of Shanghai. However, the most centrally located and interesting and pleasant areas for visitors to stay in are around the Bund, Yuyuan Gardens, The People’s Square, and Nanjing Road.