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The Complete Guide to Your Layover in Shanghai

One of China's "layover cities", Shanghai has one of China's most important airports, Shanghai Pudong International Airport, making Shanghai one of the main arrival/departure cities for the country.

This guide helps you plan a layover tour in Shanghai. If you use Shanghai as a gateway city for China visits, you could discover Shanghai in a series of mini trips.

Things to Know Before Leaving the Airport During a Shanghai Layover

1. Do You Need a Visa for a Shanghai Layover?

Shanghai municipality offers the Transit Without Visa (TWOV) policy, which lets you visit Shanghai visa-free for up to 144 hours. See How to Make the Most of Your 144-Hour Stay in Shanghai.

A separate policy was extended to neighboring Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces in 2016. For details, see our China Visa-Free Transit Policy page.

2. Time Needed: at Least 6 Hours

Stopover in shanghai Pudong AirportShanghai Pudong Airport

A journey between the airport and the Shanghai urban area takes about 1hour, which means that you need at least a 6-hour layover to get out of the airport, see a central Shanghai attraction, and get back with time to check-in for your flight.

  • 30–45 minutes for the arrivals process and to get out of the airport (assuming that your luggage is checked through and that you already have your next boarding card)
  • 1 hour to get from the airport to the city center
  • 2 hours to see one or two attractions at a fast pace
  • 1 hour to get back to Shanghai Pudong International Airport
  • 1½–2 hours to get back though immigration and security

3. Steps to Leave Shanghai Airport on a Layover

Layover at Shanghai

For a layover, instead of going to your next gate like a normal transfer, go through immigration and the airport exit. Here are the steps, for reference:

  • 1. Pass through immigration with your passport and visa if needed.
  • 2. Store your luggage, if any, for a burden-free visit.
  • 3. Get your boarding pass for your connecting flight if you are traveling with two different airlines.
  • 4. Exchange some cash.
  • 5. Leave the airport and head to the attractions.

4. Luggage Storage

There are five luggage deposit offices in Terminal 1 and Terminal 2 at Shanghai Pudong International Airport.

In Terminal 1: They are situated between Gate 4 and Gate 5 and between Gate 10 and Gate 11 in the Departures Hall, and between Gate 6 and Gate 7 in the Arrivals Hall. The telephone number is 021-6834 6324.

In Terminal 2: They are located near Service Counter A and near Service Counter M in the Departures Hall, and near the International Arrivals exit. The telephone number is 021-6834 0076.

We suggest you leave your luggage in your departure terminal building. The price for leaving large items of luggage is 50 yuan per day (small luggage may be cheaper).

5. Currency Exchange

As international credit cards are still not widely accepted,some cash in yuan is necessary for transportation and restaurants. It is easy to find a currency exchange service inside the Arrivals Hall at Shanghai Pudong International Airport.

Top Things to Do During a Layover in Shanghai

If your stopover in Shanghai is less than 6 hours, you are not recommended to leave the airport. Shanghai Pudong International Airport has free Wi-Fi, restaurants, and duty-free shops. You will be fully entertained. What can you do in Shanghai for a long layover?

Here are some of the best things to do if you have 6-hour, 8-hour, 12-hour, or an overnight layover in Shanghai. We have listed the top things to do in Shanghai and have selected the best things for you. 

1. 6-Hour Layover in Shanghai

The Bund is a must-see if you stopover in Shanghaithe Bund is a must-see if you stopover in Shanghai.

If you have 6 hours in Shanghai, you only actually have about 2 hours to do sightseeing, so select one or two small sites among the most popular attractions in Shanghai. Here is a sample itinerary covering the Bund and Nanjing Road:

Nanjing Road is Shanghai's premier pedestrian street for shopping and eating. About 20 minutes is enough to walk the mile (1½ kilometers) of Nanjing Road.

The Bund, the heart of Shanghai, is a landmark with colonial buildings and skyscraper views. The night scenes of the Bund are extremely eye-catching. There are many cafés and restaurants there. It takes half an hour to shoot some pictures and takes about 2 hours for an in-depth discovery tour.

You can go straight from the airport to Nanjing Road by taxi, private transfer, or Metro Line 2. After spending some time shopping and eating in Nanjing Road, you can walk down to the Bund, which is at the end of Nanjing Road. 

2. 8-Hour Layover in Shanghai

Layover in Shanghai to Visit Yu GardenYu Garden

If you have about 8 hours to spare before your connecting flight, you can consider exploring one or two larger sites, such as Yu Garden and the Oriental Pearl TV Tower.

Yu Garden, built more than 400 years ago, is a classic Chinese garden with an exquisite layout and beautiful scenery. You can taste Shanghai food in the adjoining Shanghai Old Street.

If you want to have a bird's-eye view of Shanghai and a meal at the top of the Oriental Pearl TV Tower, you need about 2–3 hours. There is a revolving restaurant in the tower. Now, the Shanghai Tower and other nearby towers offer other bird's-eye viewing options.

3. 12-Hour Layover in Shanghai

If you have a 12-hour stopover in Shanghai, three or four activities a day is about right. For attractions far from central Shanghai (such as the ancient water towns), one attraction a day is more suitable.

Plan A: One Day Tour in Downtown Shanghai

Here is a sample day trip in Shanghai, for reference:

Layover in Shanghai to Visit the Shanghai TowerThe Shanghai Tower in the Background

In the morning, have a full view across the city of Shanghai from the highest building - the Shanghai Tower. Then visit Yu Garden. Try some xiaolongbao (steamed buns) for lunch in a local restaurant.

Our guides about Shanghai food and Shanghai restaurants can offer you some suggestions on choosing where and what to eat.

In the afternoon, explore the French Concession and learn about the colonial past of Shanghai, appreciating the elegant residences. Afterwards, walk along the Bund and experience the prosperous Nanjing Road.

See the detailed itinerary and quotation of our One-Day Shanghai Highlights Tour.

Plan B: One Day Tour in a Water Town Near Shanghai

A must-see for passengers layover in shanghai: Zhujiajiao Water TownZhujiajiao Water Town

There are several ancient water towns near Shanghai. You may be puzzled about which ancient water town to go to. Check out our special report on the Top 10 Ancient Towns Around Shanghai - Which Should I Go To?

Zhujiajiao Water Town is the nearest water town to Shanghai and it takes about 40 minutes to drive there.

Walk along the bridges and by the river, and relax in a rowing boat. This lovely town will make you forget that you are by a big city.

See our Shanghai tour with Zhujiajiao Water Town

4. Overnight Layover in Shanghai

If you have an overnight layover (24-hour layover) in Shanghai, you should take the opportunity to explore Shanghai's nightlife.

Apart from enjoying Shanghai's skyline at the Bund or from the top of a skyscraper, there are many more things to do at night. Here are some ideas, for reference:

  • Cruise along the Huangpu River, which is the best way to see Shanghai's skyline.
  • Walk and shop along Nanjing Road.
  • Watch an acrobatic show at Shanghai Circus World.
  • Relax in a bar at Xintiandi.

See details on How to Spend a Night in Shanghai: Top 10 Things to Do. We have just developed an exclusive experience for discerning visitors, admire Shanghai night view in a private convertible jeep

5. If Traveling with Kids

Shanghai DisneylandShanghai Disneyland

If you're traveling with kids, these activities can enrich your stopover in Shanghai:

  • Enjoy your time at Shanghai Disneyland. It is quite near Shanghai Pudong International Airport.
  • Have fun at Shanghai's 3D Magic Fun House.
  • Spend 1hour or so in Shanghai Ocean Aquarium.
  • Visit Chocolate Happy Land where you will see Hello Kitty, the Transformers, and many cartoon characters made of chocolate.

See our 4-Day Shanghai Family Tour with Disneyland

Hotel Options for Your Layover

Recommended hotels near Shanghai Pudong International Airport:

  • 5-star: Royal International Hotel Shanghai
  • 4-star: Ramada Plaza Shanghai Pudong Airport

Recommended hotels in the city center:

  • 5-star: Les Suites Orient, Bund Shanghai
  • 4-star: Narada Boutique Hotel Shanghai Yu Garden (SSAW Boutique Hotel Shanghai Bund)

Travel from Shanghai Pudong International Airport to Downtown Shanghai

The metro is convenient for passengers layover in shanghaiThe metro in shanghai

Shanghai Pudong International Airport is situated about 30 kilometers east of the downtown area. It is very convenient for you to get to and from the airport to the city center by the Shanghai Maglev, metro, taxi, or private transfer.


You can take Line 2 (indicated in green on the subway maps) to People Square's, Nanjing Road, and Lujiazui. Lujiazui Station is about 400 meters from the Oriental Pearl TV Tower.

Trains run every 8 minutes from the airport between 06:00 and 22:00.Traveling to People's Square takes about 68 minutes and costs 7 yuan.


The maglve in shanghaiThe Shanghai Maglev

To shorten your journey, and to the experience the world's fastest train, you can ride the Shanghai Maglev.

The trains run at its maximum speed of 430kph and takes only 7–8 minutes to travel from the airport to Longyang Road Station, where you can transfer to Metro Line 2 or 7 to central Shanghai.

It takes an extra 20 minutes to reach People's Square. It costs 50 yuan for a single trip and 80 yuan for a round trip. The train operates from 07:00–21:30.


It takes 40 minutes to 1 hour by taxi and takes 1½–2 hours during rush hours. It costs about 180 yuan for a one-way trip to the city center. You can find taxis outside the arrivals halls of both terminals.

Private Transfer

We offer a secure, reliable, and fast private transfer service from Shanghai Pudong International Airport and other ports, starting at a cost of 18 USD. It is the best option for those who are looking for a hassle-free journey with efficiency and flexibility. See the details about our service.

Customize a Hassle-Free Shanghai Layover Tour

Enjoy a hassle-free Shanghai layover tour.Enjoy a hassle-free Shanghai layover tour.

It consumes a lot of your time and energy when you travel independently in Shanghai. To maximize your stopover time, you are recommended to take a private tour.

Just tell us your interests and requirements. One of our specialists will take care of the rest, from tailor-making a unique tour to waving goodbye to you at the airport.

Here are two sample Shanghai itineraries for inspiration:

Start planning your tailor-made tour with 1-1 help from our travel advisors. Create Your Trip

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