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How to Plan a Beijing and Shanghai Trip (Itinerary, Cost, Transportation)

How to Plan a Beijing and Shanghai Trip (Itinerary, Cost, Transportation)

Written by Chris QuanUpdated Aug. 28, 2023

Beijing and Shanghai are two important cities in China that serve as international gateways and showcase the country’s rich history, culture, and modernity. Here are some useful tips on how to plan your itinerary for a Beijing and Shanghai trip.

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How Long to Spend in Beijing and Shanghai

Typically, a classic Beijing and Shanghai itinerary takes about 1 week, with 4-5 days spent in Beijing and 2-3 days in Shanghai.

Beijing has richer tourist resources than Shanghai, with more attractions to explore. There are also more opportunities to immerse yourself in the Chinese culture, such as taking a tai chi class or learning to write Chinese calligraphy. Therefore, we recommend spending more time in Beijing.

How Long to Spend in Beijing

Beijing has many historical and cultural sites to explore. You could spend 2 to 3 days exploring the essence of Beijing, such as the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, and the Temple of Heaven.

If you want a more authentic experience of local life and Chinese culture, such as watching Peking opera, you can add one or two more days to your itinerary. See our 1-Day Beijing Hutong Tour (walk into a family's house in a hutong and watch a classical drum performance) and our Beijing Food Tour.

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How Long to Spend in Shanghai

Shanghai’s main attractions are the Bund and Yu Garden. One day is enough to explore the highlights.

If you want to learn about Shanghai’s colonial history or even lesser-known stories, such as about the Jews and Shanghai, take half a day or one day to explore the French Concession or a Jewish ghetto.

Water towns are also a feature of the area around Shanghai. If you have the time, you could spend half a day visiting Zhujiajiao Water Town.

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A Classic Beijing and Shanghai Itinerary

  • Day 1: Arrival in Beijing with free time to explore
  • Day 2: Visit the Forbidden City and enjoy a hutong tour, where you can visit a local family and learn about Beijing from their perspective.
  • Day 3: Go to the Temple of Heaven, where you can join in with the local elderly people's morning activities and then visit the Great Wall.
  • Day 4: Visit the Summer Palace, a former royal retreat, and then depart to Shanghai.
  • Day 5: Explore Shanghai (a walking tour in the Bund, a Huangpu River ferry tour, and a visit to Yu Garden, etc.).
  • Day 6: Departure (or add a half-day trip to Zhujiajiao Water Town).
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If you have an extra 2 or 3 days, you could extend your trip to nearby Hangzhou and Suzhou where you can see more exquisite garden scenery and experience the traditional water village life. You can also learn about the Chinese tea culture by visiting a tea plantation in Hangzhou to see the process of making tea. See our 5-Day Yangtze River Delta Bullet Train Tour

All our tours can be adjusted or customized based on your needs. Just contact us.

Choices of Transportation

Flying and taking high-speed trains are the two most popular ways to travel between Beijing and Shanghai. We recommend taking the bullet train which takes about 4½ to 6 hours. Taking the train is also a more convenient and flexible option.

The flight time takes about 2½ hours. However, the road to the airport could be crowded. Considering the time spent in traffic jams and the waiting time at the airport, the whole process is similar to taking a high-speed train, although it could take even longer.

Beijing to Shanghai or Shanghai to Beijing

Both Beijing and Shanghai are the most convenient and major ports of entry and exit, with abundant international and domestic flights. It doesn't make much difference whether you go from Shanghai to Beijing or from Beijing to Shanghai. Choose your preferred route according to the most convenient departure/arrival times, ticket prices, and travel dates.

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Costs for a Trip to Beijing and Shanghai

Beijing and Shanghai are first-tier cities in China in terms of consumption and economic level. For a private tour, the average cost per day is about US$220–350 per person, including flights/trains within China, 4- or 5-star hotels, lunches, attractions, guides, and private transport.

In the peak season, the prices of hotels and airfares can go up by 50 to 100%. When you book with us, you'll receive a 100% refund of any payments made to China Highlights if you cancel up to 3 weeks before departure (more details here⇒).

Accommodation Choices in Beijing and Shanghai

In Beijing, if you prefer a more central location for entertainment and shopping, then you can choose a hotel in the Wangfujing area. If you want a more unique accommodation experience, we recommend a hutong-style hotel.

In Shanghai, hotels around the Bund and Nanjing Road are popular choices if you prefer a bustling vibe and a great nighttime view. If you want a relatively quiet surrounding with an old colonial vibe, we recommend you choose to stay near the French Concession.

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Best Times to Visit Beijing and Shanghai

Weather-wise, the best time to visit Beijing and Shanghai is in autumn, especially in September and October. These months have the most comfortable weather, which is warm, sunny, and dry.

The rainy season usually lasts from May to August, but it doesn't rain much in Beijing. Shanghai, located in the south, experiences more rain. However, the rain doesn't last continuously for long periods of time. In case of rainy weather, we will adjust the itinerary to make sure your travel experience is not affected.

Moreover, the main attractions in Beijing and Shanghai are mostly cultural sights. So they are not affected much by the weather.

No matter what season you are visiting in, we will plan the itinerary with suitable activities according to your preferences or your family’s preferences.

Insider tips: The first weeks of May and October are peak times, followed by the summer holidays. If you plan to travel during these periods, please book at least 6 months to 1 year in advance.

Click here to plan your tailor-made tour now. Your 1:1 travel consultant will reply within 1 working day.

Visa Policy

You need to apply for a China visa to visit both Beijing and Shanghai. 

Although you can enjoy a 144-day visa-free trip in Beijing or Shanghai, the policy is not available when traveling from Beijing to Shanghai and vice versa. You cannot apply for your China visa in Beijing or Shanghai if you are going to visit both cities so you should apply for it in your country.

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