Travel Guides

Home > Travel Guides

How Best to Navigate Shanghai

No megalopolis that stands on the precipice of 25 million persons can deliver on a promise of coherent logistical ease. And yet, on the whole, the likes of Seoul and Tokyo do a remarkable job. To this list we can safely and happily add Shanghai.

If not quite there yet, the primary hub of the People’s Republic of China has designs on becoming a public transport model for cities of the future to emulate. This is not a foolhardy, vanity-driven pursuit either (goodness knows, China has plenty of those). No, the master plan that awaits Shanghai, from the international airport’s revamp to the expansion of the city’s rapid transit system, is almost purely - and surely - a practical one. Something about ‘adapt or perish’.

With that, here’s the lowdown on how to get in and around Shanghai.


Shanghai has two airports. Pudong International handles, naturally, international carriers, while Hongqiao handles the domestic front. China’s airports are notorious for lags and delays - this is a bona fide certitude of which there is no escape at present. Once passengers touch down in Shanghai, however, the trip to the city is a relatively smooth one.

The East-West line of Shanghai Metro serves both Pudong International and Hongqiao, albeit at opposite ends. Maglev rail can cut down on travel time between the two and affords a chance to debark at Nanjing Road East and meander the Bund.

Railway Stations

Shanghai has several railway stations, some of which serve destinations as farflung as Lhasa and Hong Kong. The most important is Shanghai Hongqiao, which is located in the same complex as Hongqiao Airport. Railway stations enjoy access to Shanghai Metro lines and most self-serve ticket booths have English commands.

Shanghai Metro

For those who choose to stay in a Shanghai central hotel, either on business or pleasure, the massive Shanghai Metro system is the most convenient way to navigate the metropolis. That the network is one of the fastest rapid transit systems in development is no secret. But the sheer numbers are simply awesome. With several lines still under construction, the Metro stands at 303 stations, 468 kilometres and delivered, in 2012, 2.276 billion rides. On one day alone last March, close to 8.5 million people rode Shanghai’s subway.

Tickets are fairly straightforward to procure. More regular users may want to consider the Shanghai public transportation card, or SPTC. The re-chargeable cash card works with many of the city’s transport systems.


As Shanghai has become more cosmopolitan and expat-centric, the city’s taxi service has undergone dramatic improvements. Still, it is advisable to make use of a good taxi smartphone app, like Didi Dache, or, preferably, one that is English-compatible.

Ferry Terminal

A ferry terminal a few blocks south of Nanjing Road offers service between the Bund and Lujiazui financial district in Pudong. The terminal on the Pudong side is a short walk south of the Pearl Tower and Lujiazui station. While not necessarily the most convenient way to cross the river, the ride is much more affordable than the Bund Tunnel. Boats run every ten minutes or so and take just over five minutes to get across.

Bicycle and Electric Scooter Rentals

More and more ubiquitous in Shanghai, a city where bicycles were once prevalent. A word of caution about transport of the two-wheel variety, however: Be vigilant. In Shanghai, automobiles generally have the right of way.

On his recent Shanghai travel, Matthew has picked up many different tips for new travellers to the region. He hopes to share many different ones to ensure new visitors can make the most of their journey.

Special Note: To use the Google Map app in Shanghai, you might need to choose a VPN service that works in China, because Google map is blocked.

More to Read: