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How to Plan a Shanghai Tour

shanghai nightviewShanghai night scene

Shanghai is a modern city with a highly-developed business sector and convenient transportation. If you are planning a tour of Shanghai, read on to get the best from your time, and some tips on planning the itinerary.

When to Go

The Best Times: March–May, September–November

These two periods have moderate temperatures, and are best for enjoying outdoor activities.

Summer — Rainy, Becoming Hotter

Mid June to early July is the rainiest period in Shanghai. Prepare rain gear if you travel during this period.

The hottest time in Shanghai is from July to August. The temperature can be up to 35°C (95°F).

Winter — Cold and Damp

Though it seldom snows, the cold and wet wind will make you feel freezing. 

Inconvenient and High-Price Periods

Chinese New Year (usually in January or February) and the week-long holidays beginning on International Labor Day (May 1) and National Day (Oct 1). Be prepared for huge crowds at the airports, tourist sights, shopping areas, restaurants, and hotels during these periods.

What to Visit

The Oriental Pearl TV Tower

The Oriental Pearl TV TowerThe Oriental Pearl TV Tower

The Oriental Pearl TV Tower is the icon of Shanghai. Its height is 468 meters. There is a revolving teahouse and a sightseeing platform in the tower. You can get a panoramic view of the Bund and Huangpu River. And it's better to visit at night for the spectacular night view. 

Time needed: 2–3 hours

The Bund

The Bund is the most famous place in Shanghai and a good place to relax and appreciate the architecture. There are many buildings in Greek, Renaissance, and Baroque styles. A spacious walkway for sightseeing runs atop a 771-meter-long retaining wall on the Bund, paved with colorful tiles and dotted with flower beds and lighting. You can have a walk there at night for the beautiful night view.  

Time needed: 1–2 hours

Yu Garden

Yu gardenYu Garden

Yu Garden is located in the center of Shanghai's Old City, a few blocks south of the Bund. It used to be a private garden in the late Ming Dynasty (400 years ago). It's famous for the exquisite layout, beautiful scenery and the artistic style of the garden architecture. There are lots of things to see in the garden, e.g. flower exhibitions, stone exhibitions, painting exhibitions, tea ceremonies and lantern exhibitions.

Time needed: 2–3 hours

Tianzifang

Tianzifang is a tourist shopping and café area. It's actually an old lane, and a famous painter named it Tianzifang, pronounced the same as an ancient Chinese painter's name. There are lots of art shops where you can see beautiful paintings and photos. You can enjoy a quiet coffee there, but the price is quite high.

Time needed: 2–3 hours

Water Towns Nearby

The Main Bridge Of Tongli

If you are tired of the high buildings and cars in Shanghai, the water towns nearby are nice places to visit. There are several water towns near Shanghai and each is about 1–2 hours' drive. You can boat on the waterway, eat local snacks, and appreciate the ancient architecture.  

Time needed: half a day – 2 days

If you are interested, see our guide to choosing from the water towns near Shanghai.

Recommended 3-Day Shanghai Tour

  • Price: From $219
  • Depart: Daily

Day 1. Shanghai Arrival

Your private guide and driver will transport you to your hotel and help you check in.

Evening activities: You can ask your guide for recommendations on places to go in your evening free time.

Day 2. Discover Shanghai

After breakfast at your hotel, you will begin your tour by visiting the Oriental Pearl TV Tower. Then go to Yu Garden to appreciate traditional Chinese landscaping and culture. At Shanghai Museum discover ancient Chinese art.

Special experience: If you don't want to travel Shanghai in a private car/van, you can try a sidecar, a fancy and cool way to discover Shanghai.

Day 3. Shanghai Departure

Your driver and tour guide will be waiting at your hotel to get you to the airport/station on time. They will help you check in and escort you to the correct security gate.

If this has sparked your interest, read a more detailed intro to this 3-Day Shanghai Tour; or get started with a Shanghai tour inquiry (our consultancy is free)…

Your Tour Can Be Tailor-Made...

If the above tour isn't what you're looking for, just tell us your interests and requirements and we will help tailor-make a unique Shanghai tour to suit you.

Shanghai is 3-Day Visa Free!

Shanghai is now 72-hour visa free. Travelers from 51 countries with an onward flight from Shanghai to a third country/region are able to benefit from this policy. To make the best of your time in Shanghai, please see our well-designed Shanghai day tour packages for inspiration.

How to Get to Shanghai

By Plane

shanghai pudong airportShanghai Pudong International Airport

Shanghai has two international airports: Pudong and Hongqiao.

Shanghai Pudong International Airport

Shanghai Pudong International Airport is the primary international airport serving Shanghai. It is in Pudong New District, about 30 kilometers (18 miles) east of downtown Shanghai, but the Maglev train will cover that in 8 minutes!

Hongqiao International Airport

Hongqiao International Airport is the main domestic airport serving Shanghai, with limited international flights. It is situated in the western suburbs of Shanghai, about 13 kilometers (8 miles) from the city center.

By Train

Shanghai is a China railway network hub. Trains run to ALL the major cities of China, e.g. Beijing, Xi'an, Guangzhou, and as far away as Lhasa, Urumqi, and Harbin!

There are four train stations in Shanghai. To make sure you go to the right one, see more information about Shanghai's train stations.

Public City Transport

Shanghai subwayShanghai subway

Shanghai's underground will get you within a block of most places, and is easier to understand and use than the hundreds of bus numbers, with their thick web of routes. Taxis are plentiful (except in rush hour and when it rains) and some drivers even speak some English.

China Highlights' Private Transfer Service

China Highlights offers private chauffeured transport as a more comfortable and convenient alternative to public transportation. Our private tours come with a private vehicle and driver suited to your group size, and an English-speaking tour guide for all your communication needs.

Where to Stay

The largest city in China, Shanghai is one of the top economic, finance, trade, and shopping centers in the world. There are numerous accommodation options in Shanghai, but the price is generally higher than elsewhere in mainland China.

First choose where you want to stay, and then compare the hotels and prices there. China Highlights offers a hotel booking service. Below are some recommended hotels in Shanghai.

Best Five-Star Hotels:

Waldorf Astoria Shanghai on the Bund Ranked #2 on Trip Advisor

The Puli Hotel and Spa Shanghai Ranked #3 on Trip Advisor

The Langham Xintiandi Shanghai Ranked #4 on Trip Advisor

Fairmont Peace Hotel Shanghai Ranked #5 on Trip Advisor

The Peninsula Shanghai Ranked #6 on Trip Advisor

Best Four-Star Hotels:

Hotel Indigo Shanghai on the Bund Ranked #9 on Trip Advisor

Les Suites Orient, Bund Shanghai Ranked #13 on Trip Advisor

Andaz Xintiandi, Shanghai Ranked #14 on Trip Advisor

Grand Central Hotel Shanghai Ranked #25 on Trip Advisor

Best Boutique Hotels:

The Yangtze Boutique Shanghai Ranked 26 on Trip Advisor

URBN Hotel Ranked #61 on Trip Advisor

More on Shanghai Accommodation Guide

Shanghai Home Stay

Shanghai Caoyang Village Home Stay A twin-bed bedroom in Shanghai Home Stay.

Shanghai's home stay option, in the well-developed Caoyang Village area, offers you the opportunity to interact with local people. There will be a welcome party organized by the local people at the Neighborhood Community Services Center. Then your host will show you to their house, where you will stay in a twin-bed bedroom.

You will have the opportunity to learn how to make dumplings and enjoy dinner with the family. On the second day, you can have Chinese breakfast with this family and join in local people's morning exercises. You can also visit a local food market with the host and get to know how the host prepares for lunch.

China Highlights offers the home stay if you book a China tour with us.

Dining in Shanghai

shangahi Pan-Fried Bun Shanghai Pan-Fried Bun

Shanghai has a wide range of restaurants, which not only serve local cuisine, but also dishes from all over China and all over the world. So you can easily find a restaurant in Shanghai to fit your tastes. Our Shanghai Restaurants recommendations include Western restaurants, vegetarian restaurants, and Muslim restaurants.

Shopping in Shanghai

Shanghai, hailed as a "Shopping paradise", is one of the most prosperous cities in the world. There are many shopping centers, malls, department stores, markets, and shopping streets. Shopping in Shanghai is very convenient. You can purchase anything you want there. Read our Shanghai Shopping page to find places to buy souvenirs, qipaos, silk, etc.

Nightlife in Shanghai

Shanghai has mainland China's most colorful nightlife, with a wide variety of bars, clubs, cinemas, theaters, restaurants, cafes, and so on.

If you stay in Shanghai, one thing you cannot miss is the nighttime beauty of the Bund. When the lights on the Bund go on for the evening, the city's partiers emerge to begin the night. Many clubs and bars usually stay open until 4am and later. Read Shanghai Nightlife to find a club or bar to experience Shanghai's nightlife.

Travel Individually or Travel with a Travel Company?

Transportation in Shanghai is very convenient, and you can travel like most locals do by taking the subway, buses, taxis, biking, walking, etc., but you may encounter many unforeseen troubles, like the language barrier and getting lost.

If you want no hassles, we recommend you travel with a professional travel company, who will take care of getting you where you want to go. Then you can enjoy a comfortable and relaxing tour.

China Highlights has been specializing in tailor-making China tours since 1998. Contact us, and our travel experts will be glad to help you arrange your tour based on your requirements.

Practical Advice

Greeting Someone in Shanghai

have fun with Chinese kids

It is a good idea to take a large quantity of business cards with you, and if possible have the text translated into Chinese on the reverse. When you are introduced to a local, take out your card, bow slightly, and present it with both hands. They will probably reciprocate in a similar manner, most likely holding their card English version uppermost. It is at this point considered good manners to pass a polite comment on the appearance of the other's card, whilst tucking it carefully within the confines of your wallet.

Don't get flustered if, when meeting a group of people, they start clapping when you arrive. This is simply a form of greeting and you may respond by clapping also.

Learn Some Chinese

When in Shanghai, it’s quite helpful and practical to learn some usful Chinese phrases, since English is not widely spoken. More on learning Chinese.

Business Hours

Chinese government stipulates a five-day workweek, from Monday to Friday, with no more than 8 hours a day. The normal business hours are generally from 8am to 6pm, with a break from 12pm to 2pm.

Restaurants: 11am–2pm, 6–9pm, in general

Tipping

Tipping used to be very rare in China, but now, no doubt through Western influence, the idea is catching on. In restaurants a 3% tip is standard, bellboys and room service staff expect roughly $1 or $2. You can tip in U.S. dollars.

Toilets

Toilets in China are normally of the squatting type. Now airports and hotels all have Western toilets, and many public toilets have both Western style and squat style. Always carry tissues with you, just in case you need to go to the toilet (because most public toilets don't provide toilet paper).

More on How to Use a Squat Toilet in China.

Electricity

Electricity in China is 240 Volts, alternating at 50 cycles per second.A transformer may be necessary if you bring electric devices. It can be bought in China. As the shape of a socket varies between countries, a portable plug adaptor may also be necessary.Some hotels can provide adaptors for guests, but we suggest visitors bring one. Adaptors can also be purchased from electronics stores in China.

Communications

Internet: Most hotel rooms in China offer internet cables and Wi-Fi for laptops. Some public areas like airports, Starbucks, SPR, and a number of cafes and restaurants also provide free Wi-Fi. China Highlights offers Portable Wi-fi Rental so that you can surf the internet anytime and anywhere while traveling in China.

Telephone: China's country code is 86 and Shanghai's code is 021.

Making a Phone Call from China to Another Country

First you must dial "00" (international prefix), then dial the country code, then the area code and local number. E.g. if you want to call 434-5678 in California (area code 760) in the USA (country code 1), you need to dial 00-1-760-434-5678.

Making Long Distance Calls in China

Landline: first dial the area code, and then dial the local phone number. E.g., if you call the number 123-4567 in Guilin (area code is 0773), you need to dial 0773-123-4567

Cell call: First dial 0 (national prefix), then the cell phone number. China Highlights offers Cell Phone Rental to help you keep in touch (and save money on local offers).

Shanghai Useful Phone Numbers

  • Area Code: 021
  • Fire Emergency: 119
  • Police: 110

Medical Emergencies

In Shanghai there are a number of International hospitals and clinics with modern medical facilities and English speaking staff. They can offer medical services to foreigners.

CanAM Int'l Medical Center, Shanghai Pu Xi Clinic

  • Address: 20F, 966 Huaihai Zhong Road (by Shanxi Nan Lu)
  • Tel: 5403 9133
  • Fax: 54038978

Shanghai International SOS

  • Add: Units 2907-2901, 2 Grand Gateway, 3 Hongqiao Road, Xuhui District
  • Tel: 52989538
  • Fax: 52989539

America-Sino OB/GYN Service

24 Hour Emergency Service

  • Add: 14F, Complex Building, Huashan Hospital, 12 MiddleUrumqi Road (near Changle Road)
  • Tel: 62493246
  • Hours: 8am–8pm

Huashan Worldwide Medical Center

  • Add: 12 MiddleUrumqi Road (Out-patient Clinic: 8F, Building 1; Night Emergency: 15F, Building 6)
  • Tel: 62483986/62489999

Bioscor Shanghai Clinic

Headquartered in Melbourne, Australia, Bioscor now has 20 branches in 12 countries. Bioscor Shanghai Clinic has Australian, American, and Chinese doctors specializing in plastic/cosmetic surgery, medical skin treatment and cosmetic dentistry.

  • Add: 5, Lane 89, Xingguo Road
  • Tel: 64318899
  • Fax: 64713888
  • Web: www.bioscor.com.cn

Shanghai United Family Hospital and Clinics

  • Address: 1139 Xianxia Road (General and Cosmetic Dental Center)
  • Tel: 51331900
  • Emergency call: 5133 1999
  • Fax: 51331919

Shanghai United Family Clinic-Minhang-SRC

  • Address: Lane 555, Jinfeng Road, Huacao Town, West Suburbs
  • Tel: 22010995
  • Web: www.unitedfamilyhospitals.com

World Link Medical Center Portman Clinic

  • Address: Suite 203 West, Shanghai Center, 1376, West Nanjing Road
  • Tel: 62797668/ appointments: 62798678
  • Fax: 62797698

World Link Medical Center Hongqiao Clinic

  • Address: Unit 30, Mandarine City, 788 Hongxu Road
  • Tel: 6405 5788
  • Fax: 6405 3587

International Medical & Dental Center (IMDC)

  • Address: 1111 Xian Xia Road (near Bei Hong Road), Changning District
  • Tel: 62909558

Sino-United Health American International Center at Shanghai Center

  • Address: Room 1376, Nanjing Road West
  • Tel: 62798920
  • Fax: 62798921

Currency Exchange

Currency exchange service is available at most hotels, and all large banks. Credit card is widely acceptable as a means of payment in hotels, department stores, and boutiques. The credit cards commonly accepted in China are Visa, MasterCard, and American Express.

Main Banks in Shanghai

Shanghai Pudong Developing  BankShanghai Pudong Developing Bank
  • Shanghai Branch of Citibank: Floor 20, China Shipping Building, 1, Pudong Main Street, 58791200
  • Shanghai Branch of Overseas Chinese Bank: Floor 23, 710, Oriental Road, 58200200
  • Yangpu Sub-Branch of Shanghai Branch of Huaxia Bank: 1207 Kongjiang Road, 65709961
  • The Shanghai Headquarters of Bank of Communications: 18 Xianxia Road, 62751234
  • Shanghai Pudong Developing Bank (Headquarters): 50 Ningbo Road, 63291188
  • Shanghai Bank: 476 Xianxia Road, 62955327

Post Offices in Shanghai

  • Lujiazui Post Sub-Office: 365 Shangcheng Road
  • Post Service Center in New Century Square: 501 Zhangzhang Road
  • Oriental Pearl Tower Post Office: 2 Fenghe Road (260 meters from the Oriental Pearl Tower)
  • Post Service Center in the Sight-Seeing Hall of Jinmao Tower: Floor 88, The Sight-Seeing Hall, Jinmao Tower

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