Shanghai's Maglev airport train shoots you across 30km at over 500 kph - the world's fastest. Take it for an experience rather than ease, unfortunately it doesn't take you right into the city centre but the station is well connected by taxis which wait around the station.
A one-way ticket is just around GBP5 so well worth the experience.
Not so much a recommendation but more of a warning... The airport Maglev train is great for the experience but please be warned that it doesn't go straight into the city. This may come as a surprise to newcomers to the city. You will have to transfer to a taxi once you arrive at the station and therefore make sure you know where you want to go (ie have your hotel's address in Chinese) once you get off.
At the airport
I've pulled together some of my top tips for Shanghai - I've categorised each tip into time periods so that you can pick and choose depending on how much free time you've got.
0-2 hours: Avoid! Bund Tourist Tunnel - 10 minutes
Crossing the Bund can be done by boat, car or underground, but don't waste your time on the rather retro (read tacky) Bund Tourist Tunnel. The name is apt as only tourists would be crazy enough to spend their money on a underground fair ride that is more likely to cause an epileptic shock than any degree of amusement. It is however, the quickest way to cross the river if you are on the banks on the Bund (and it's rush hour so the tunnel is blocked). Give a try... if you really must.
Xian dan di - 1-2 hours
Ironically housed in the former offices of the Communist party, this beautiful refurbished part of town could be accused of being rather faux in terms of its connection with real China life... but it's there and it exists and it is part of Shanghai ex-pat life. The clean streets, the trendy restaurants and the outrageous prices probably tell you that you are in a place for tourists and expats, however, it's worth a look around and for a pitstop.
Go to Starbucks - 30 mins to 1 hour
I kid you not, some would accuse me of sacrilege but there is a reason... please bear with me. A lot of the Starbucks in the city benefit from sitting in the most prestigious and ideally located positions in the city for great panoramic views. My personal recommendation would be the Starbucks situated on the East bank of the river overlooking the Bund just opposite the Shangri-La hotel. Grab yourself a Chinese tea and watch the sunset over the river. The glowing fuzz of the city ahead will warm you before you retreat to your hotel.
Enjoy drinks over the Bund - 1-2 hours
A visit to Shanghai will not be complete without a visit to the historic 'Bund' district, the colonial waterside developed on the west bank of the Huangpu River. Many of the bars/restaurants (I recommend 'M on the Bund' - www.m-restaurantgroup.com/) offer expansive views over the Bund and the tall skyscrapers in the Pudong district. The food's not bad either! English and Chinese menus are available. Other nearby highlights include the old HSBC building (no longer housing HSBC) and Huangpu Park.
Stroll along Nanjing Road (to buy the other half a gift) -
Home to Shanghai's main shopping street so be prepared to be greeted by tens of thousands of people. The shops range from the local to international with department stores dotted along the way. Be sure to stop by one of the many snack stores to take on board some of the delicious buns or dumplings that make China famous. Be sure you check the custom regulations for transporting goods though, be particularly careful with any foodstuffs.
Enjoy a river cruise along Huangpu River - 1-3 hours
One observation you will undoubtedly make whilst travelling in Shanghai is that the river is bustling with life. Container ships, tankers, passenger boats all zip up and down the river at a hectic speed. Board a river cruise boat from the ferry terminal at the south of the Bund district. Here you will be able to enjoy a one, two or even three hour river cruise. Take care though... Shanghai like many other Chinese cities is prone to a spot of smog. Try and pick a clear day. Try Huangpu River Cruise (239 Second Eastern Zhong Shan Road, Shanghai - tel +86 21 6374 4461). Nearest station - Wai Tan
Sleep in the clouds - 8 hours
Nope, I'm not talking about your business class flat bed on the way back home, I'm talking about the ever impressive Grand Hyatt Shanghai. Based in Pudong it's close to the financial centre and closer to the airport. Ask for a room overlooking the Pearl TV tower or over the park.
It's worth noting that before you leave the customs hall there is an HSBC ATM which accepts foreign cards, and at the custom hall's exit is a rack with transport info leaflets. The easiest way into town, but probably not fastest because of town centre traffic jams, is Shuttle Bus 5 to People's Square and Shanghai (main) Railway Station. The bus departs from the ground floor ("1st Floor" or "Level 1" in China) outside exit door 8. Pay on the bus.
The quickest way into town MAY be the Maglev train (upstairs, across a long bridge) which goes to Long Yang Rd tube (on metro Line 2, the green line) but the MAGLEV ONLY RUNS 08.30-17.30!
Cheaper and reasonably fast (and closer to Arrivals!) is Shuttle Bus No.3, also to Long Yang Road tube. This bus departs from outside exit door 7. Pay on the bus. Long Yang Rd tube will normally be the FIRST stop, after about 30 minutes, so make sure you don't miss it.
The Shanghai metro is a bit of a luxury for UK visitors to China, as it's bilingual Chinese/English (well, all signs/announcements - can't vouch for the staff...) Look for a little chart by the ticket machines which graphically indicates price according to destination - likely to need 4 or 5 one-yuan coins to go into the centre. If you have no change queue for the ticket office. If in doubt as to cost I think 5 yuan is the highest fare (June 2005) and that's still only about 30p. You're issued with a plastic 'ticket'. Make sure you take the train in the direction of Zhong Shan Park.
If you want Shanghai Railway Station change at People's Square and follow the long wide curving passage to Line 1 (the red line) and take the train towards Gong Fu Xin Cun. If you want to catch an overground train that departs from Meilong station, take the tube to Jin Jiang Park on Line 1. Then it's about 150 yards walk, including a very high footbridge, but no shortage of eager 'porters'. Meilong is one stop after Shanghai South station which is closed for reconstruction, hence the schlepp (so I heard...).
Airport Shuttle Bus 3 also goes to Xu Jia Hui. If this is by the metro station, this could be an easier way to get to Meilong station via metro Line 1 as it's only 4 stops from Jin Jiang Park.
Shanghai tube maps: while displayed everywhere in the tube system, I could not find one in printed form. The one at urbanrail.net is therefore very useful. If your final destination is not Shanghai but not too far, eg Hangzhou, consider getting a bus from the airport's long distance bus station. This may be less hassle than getting a train. Go out at the ground floor and look for the little old ticket office to the very right of the numerous bus stands. Whether train or bus, having your destination clearly written in chinese characters will help greatly!
Taxis: one I took TO the airport from a southern outer suburb of Shanghai (so it was closer) cost me 100 RMB. Always only use a metered taxi, no tip expected, and never accept a touting taxi that already has a passenger in - it will cost you double, not half! Taxis for short distances in China are cheap, and normally have a fixed charge for the first 2km.
Food at the airport: if you don't want the limited and very expensive (for China) 'tourist' food on the airport mezzanine level there's a 'normal' restaurant just outside in the middle of the bus area. One of the upstairs bridges towards the Maglev train has a lift/steps down to it. I haven't used it yet. Menus likely to be only be in Chinese.
About as weird as it gets in Shanghai, and that's saying something. It’s basically a ghost train that passes under the Huangpu river and transports you from Puxi to Pudong. The walls of the tunnel blink with psychedelic neon lights and the air fills with strange noises; there’s even a bit that’s meant to be a volcano. It might not be quite worth the cover charge but it’s five minutes of utter silliness in an otherwise business-obsessed city.
Enter across the road from The Bund (Waitan) - nearest station Henan Zhong Lu (Metro Line 2)
If coming to Shanghai for the Grand Prix check to see if there is a shuttle bus running from Shanghai Stadium (Metro Line 1). There was for the A1 Grand Prix in April. The circuit is on the outskirts of the city and although a taxi is quite cheap (100 RMB) not all the drivers know where the circuit is. Formula One is Eff ee in Chinese by the way. Say that and flash your ticket if you do decide to go by taxi.
There were plenty of people selling binoculars and fake Rolex watches but I only saw one person selling earplugs so bring your own if you can.
Always carry a card with the name and address of your hotel in Chinese just in case you get lost and want to jump into a taxi. Not many speak English but they will understand if you point to the card.
You can save money by sitting on the grass on one of the hairpin bends. There is plenty of action there but you may need a new lens for your camera as the action is a bit further away – but this can be paid for by the money you save on the ticket.
Take an umbrella. If Westerners get a cold here it lasts for three weeks when the locals shake it off in a couple of days.
Watch out for "robber" porters, if your taxi drops you in the underground carpark. They take your bags out of the boot and then try to extort a large sum from you to carry them up a short flight of stairs. I guess it's a matter of either avoiding this carpark, or being brave by outfacing the porters, or grabbing your bag first and running!
Well before London introduced the Oyster card, a similar system was up and running for Shanghai's public transport network. For an initial outlay of 30RMB (about £2) you have a swipe card that you can use on the metro, buses, ferries and taxis. Even for a short trip, the amount of time it saves you from queueing/pushing/arguing/scrabbling for change it's well worth it.
Available to buy and top up from Metro stations, some convenience stores and so on - look for the 'S'-shaped lightning symbol.
Not a particularly welcoming place, but a real sign of the times. It's worth spending a few minutes here marvelling at the new Chinese diaspora as poor farmers from the countryside arrive, often clutching all their worldly possesions in white hessian bags. Who knows what riches or despair they will find?
Ask for Shanghai Houche Zhan, or take the Metro (Lines 1 and 3)
"Welcome to Pudong International Airport SHANG! Haaaaaaiiii..." The excitable voice over the tannoy really makes sure you know how to pronounce the name of the place you've just landed in. The airport is yet another marvel of modern architecture: it looks like it's held up by ten-foot poles nailed through the roof. Then again, once you've checked in it's little better than a provincial bus station. There's not a lot to do or buy. A fanciful new Maglev train whisks passengers back and forth from Pudong proper, but it's cheaper and more convenient to take one of the city buses numbered 1 to 4.
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