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Shanghai Travel Tips: 10 Things to Know Before You Go

Planning to visit one of the best cities in the world? Look no further. We at China Highlights have compiled the most important list of things you need to know before you confirm your plans. Our list includes a variety of Shanghai travel tips that will ensure that you make the most of this city.

1. The best time to visit Shanghai

Shanghai skyline on a blue sky day The Shanghai skyline on a blue sky day

Shanghai experiences all the seasons, right from fiery heat of summer, to a breathtaking spring, to autumn and a chilly, sometimes snowy winter with a regular dose of rains thrown in. 

The best seasons to visit Shanghai are definitely spring (March–May) and autumn (September–November). In Spring, the days are warm, sunny and the evenings are cool to chilly. While autumn has it’s own charm when the weather is starting to cool down and people enjoy the city the most.

However, if you are the a fan of winters, Shanghai is beautiful in December, through to February too. With no shortage of mulled wine to keep you warm and festive. For more details on Shanghai weather, we have just the right information for you here.

2. What to see: Shanghai sights

Shanghai skyline at dawnThe Shanghai skyline at dawn

Shanghai is bustling with a lot of activity and events round the clock. Naturally, there is plenty to do and suit all kinds of interests, especially if you are traveling in a large group. In Shanghai, you can immerse yourself in quite a few things. There is theater and art, there are lots museums, parks, iconic sights such as the Bund and the Pudong skyline, old water towns like Zhujiajiao, historic temples like Jing'an Temple and the Jade Buddha Temple, tea houses, and loads and loads of food and shopping options all over.

Here is more on what you can do in the city.

3. What to do at night: Shanghai nightlife

The night view of ShanghaiThe night view of Shanghai

The city's Puxi district is also the perfect hub if you are looking for an action-packed nightlife. Below are hot spots you should check out to start off your night:

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This is the perfect party spot with lots of bars and restaurants to pick from. The choices will spoil you, right from New York Style pizza at Homeslice, craft beer at Little Creatures or Zapfler, Thai fix at Cyclo, Brazilian meat fest at Boteco, hip hop music with beer pong at Ballers, the hidden whiskey bar Alive, a raging and one of the biggest nightclubs in Shanghai called TAXX (popular with the young affluent) and much more. If you are in the mood, you could spend a couple of hours enjoying some magic at Blackstone or grab some tacos and tequila shots at El Luchador.

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This cluster of bars and restaurants follows the same formula but is more laid back, and has different options for a night out, including a beer van right at the entrance. Check out bars like Valpasso and Monkey 3.0 for some really strong cocktails and excellent bar-food.

Other popular spots

  • Union Trading Company: Award winning bar, one of the best in Asia in fact. You will leave here in happy spirits. Definitely try their scotch eggs! Address - 64 Fenyang Lu, near Fuxing Zhong Lu
  • The Nest: Very popular lounge and bar that also serves up some delicious gourmet food. Address - 6/F, 130 Beijing Dong Lu, near Huqiu Lu
  • The Cannery: By the same folks who brought us The Nest, this is a very large lounge area, good music, very good drinks. Perfect for conversations over seafood (they can their own meats). Address - 1107 Yuyuan Lu, near Jiangsu Lu
  • Bar Rouge: Shanghai’s most famous club with a view since 1994, good music and always lots of fun. Address - 7/F, 18 Zhongshan Dong Yi Lu, near Nanjing Dong Lu
  • UP: A new addition to Shanghai’s party scene, this has a huge bar, and a very fun dance floor that is the dining space a bit earlier in the day. Address - 688 Shaanxi Bei Lu, near Kangding Lu

It doesn’t end there... See more on Shanghai Nighlife.

4. Business hours in Shanghai

The Chinese government stipulates a five-day workweek, from Monday to Friday, at the general 8 hours a day. The normal business hours are generally from 9:30am to 6pm, with a break from 12pm to 2pm. Restaurants: 11am–2pm, 6–9pm, in general.

5. What to eat in Shanghai

Enjoy Shanghai snacksShanghai snacks

Food is a big part of Chinese (and Asian) culture. If you are coming to Shanghai, you must have a plan to try to all the best dishes and different Chinese cuisines, because this city offers it all. The food in China is rich in history and culture.

The top things that come to mind of course, are dumplings and noodles, which are available in plenty. But there is a whole world of dishes out there waiting for you to try! Priority foods include the famed xiaolongbao (soup dumplings), Hairy steamed crab, hongshao rou (Shanghainese braised pork dish), the quintessential baozi (steamed bready buns stuffed with veggies or meats — perfect breakfast), scallion pancakes, and more. We have a detailed list of the top 10 Shanghai dishes that must be tried.

Vegetarians need not worry. Shanghai, and China, have a huge variety of vegetable dishes that are mouth-watering and very satisfying. If you see any eggplant dish on the menu, try it! Here are the best vegetarian options in Shanghai for you.

We also have a list of some more restaurants you might want to eat at here.

If you are looking for healthy options so you don’t cheat on your diet, read here.

6. Getting around Shanghai

Shanghai Maglev TrainShanghai Maglev Train

The public cab availability in Shanghai has changed a lot in the last few years. If you haven’t heard of Didi (they pushed Uber out of China) then now is a good time to look them up. Download the Didi app on your phone and you will not have to worry about a thing when you arrive. Didi is everywhere, and super convenient and quick. You can connect it to your international credit card for instant payments and hassle-free commuting.

For your transport from the airport to your hotel, you can take the Maglev and then a local taxi or you could simply take a taxi at the airport — it is really very convenient as there is never a shortage of taxis at the airport.

The Shanghai subway or metro has 16 lines (and still growing) is one of the best ways to get around if you want to explore the city in a short amount of time, and walk around a lot. The metro system is super easy to use with directions in English and Chinese. The metro stations and the trains are very clean. You can get to all parts of the city, spending next to nothing.

See more on Shanghai Transportation.

7. How to greet people in Shanghai

Chinese foreigner conversation

At social gatherings, it is ideal to keep it casual with a friendly Ni Hao (Hello) and smile politely. At business events or while networking, it is 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. 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.

Exchanging business cards should be done as politely and deferentially as possible. 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. 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. Click to see Do's and Don'ts in China.

8. Where to go if you need medical help in Shanghai

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.

  • Parkway Health Address: Shanghai Centre, 2/F, 1376 Nanjing Xi Lu, near Xikang Lu Tel: 4008196622 Hours: 8am-7pm
  • CanAM Int'l Medical Center, Shanghai Pu Xi Clinic Address: 20F, 966 Huaihai Zhong Road (by Shanxi Nan Lu) Tel: 54039133 Fax: 54038978
  • Shanghai International SOS Address: Units 2907-2901, 2 Grand Gateway, 3 Hongqiao Road, Xuhui District Tel: 52989538 Fax: 52989539
  • American-Sino OB/GYN(24 Hour Emergency Service) Address: 14F, Complex Building, 800 Huashan Hospital, 12 Middle Urumqi Road (near Changle Road) Tel: 62493246 Hours: 8am–8pm
  • Shanghai United Family Hospital and Clinics Address: 1139 Xianxia Road (General and Cosmetic Dental Center) Tel: 51331900 Emergency call: 5133 1999 Fax: 51331919
  • World Link Medical Center Hongqiao Clinic Address: Unit 30, Mandarin 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

9. Currency Exchange & Banks in Shanghai

Shanghai Pudong Developing  BankShanghai Pudong Developing Bank

Currency exchange service is available at most hotels, and all large banks. The ones to look out for include China Merchants Bank, ICBC and ABC (Agricultural Bank of China). There are plenty of branches all over the city so ask your hotel for the nearest branch. You will need your passport for currency exchange.

Usually large malls and hotels and big restaurants will accept Visa, MasterCard, and American Express credit cards but don’t be surprised if they don’t. In Shanghai, and most of China, nearly all transactions are paperless, via Alipay or WeChat pay.

Make sure you carry cash with you just in case. ATMs are easy to find and most likely your Visa/ MasterCard debit card will work for your international bank account.

10. Other general China travel tips

Bring an adapter.Bring an adapter.
  • Tipping is not a thing in Shanghai, or most of China, except in the poshest places, of for private guiding services. Read more information about tipping in China.
  • 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.
  • Plug points in Shanghai look like this, so bring an adapter. If you can’t no worries, there are plenty of shops everywhere where you can pick one up. See more on China Power Supply and Adapters.
  • WiFi is everywhere, so don’t worry. All cafés, restaurants and bars will oblige you with their passwords and your hotel will have free wifi too. See more on The Internet in China.
  • Phone calls and emergency numbers, 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. Shanghai’s area code is 021. For a fire emergency, call 119. For Police, call 110. For an ambulace, call 112. See more on How to Phone in China.

See more China Travel Tips.

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