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How to plan a trip to Shanghai?

shanghai-bund area

Reading Guideline

Why visit Shanghai?

What to expect in Shanghai?

What to prepare for Shanghai Trip?

        Do I need a visa to visit Shanghai?

        Can I get visa on arrival in Shanghai?

        Which Chinese City Issue China Visa On Arrival?

        Do I need to purchase travel insurance?

        Do I need to buy some Chinese currency before arrive?

        How much will it cost roughly for a trip to Shanghai?

Where can I get cheap flights to China?

How difficult will it be if I decided to travel Shanghai on my own?

        Do I need to travel with a travel agency?

When to go to Shanghai?

How long to stay in Shanghai?

Where to stay in Shanghai?

Getting around in Shanghai?

        How to Get from Shanghai Airport to Your Shanghai Hotel?

Basic mandarin /Chinese you need in China

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Q: Why Visit Shanghai?

how to plan a trip to shanghai

Shànghǎi, 上海,namely means on the sea, locates at China’s east coast, is one of China’s earliest port city that has a deep connection to the world. Sitting at the entrance point where China’s mighty Yangtze River joins the sea, Shanghai witnesses the magnificent change and splendor history that China had been through in the past a few centuries and more. Few cities in the world enjoy such a history, glamour, mystique and exotic promise in its name alone. This ancient city is now a modern metropolis of both technological and financial center of China with its boutique history and travel sites attracting numerous tourists come for its beauty.

Shanghai is home to some of the iconic landmark architectures in Asian, the Oriental TV tower, Jinmao Tower and Shanghai Tower, they are among those architectures forming up Shanghai’s most picturesque skyline. Facing the east bank of Huangpu River, on the contrast, there is the bund, “a celebrity beauty” of Shanghai.

Apart from the skyscrapers and the bund, there is Yuyuan Garden, a classic Chinese southern style garden, the French concession, the Huaihai Lu and Nanjing Lu pedestrians where you can indulge yourself for an endless shopping tour. And the lòngtáng (laneway) and shíkùmén (stone gate) housing, completing themselves for your attention for its antique face of 1920s-1930s old Shanghai.When the night arrives, neon lights illumine the city for you with another view.

Q: What to Expect in Shanghai?

west lake

The Best Things to do in Shanghai can be listed as below:

  • Strolling at the Bund: the bund area mainly refers to the west bank of Huangpu River. Strolling along the bund area is a must do in Shanghai! If shanghai is a gorgeous woman, the bund is her glowing face.
  • Enjoy Shanghai's Night Views: enjoying Shanghai’s neon skylines at night let the neon light illumine both bank of Huangpu River and carry you away from the reality to a drift to colorful light off-bank world. What you must do is taking a cruise at Huangpu River at night to view the city on the river, this is truly the essence of the river cruise and you won’t regret it!
  • Having fun at Shanghai Disney resort: shanghai Disney resort is the first Disney resort in china main, there is one in Hong Long and this on in shanghai is three times than the Hong Kong resort. For many family travellers, Disney resort is definitely their must-go site!
  • Drifting in a Gondola through a Water Village near Shanghai: there are many picturesque "water villages" near Shanghai, they are Longli water town, Nanxun water town, Zhouzhuang water town and Wuzhen water town. You might have seen their views from any travel promotion videos of China or Shanghai because sitting in a boat and paddling through their water canals, arched bridges and quaint village houses is a classic experience in any Shanghai trip.
  • Appreciating the old French Concession: it locates at west part of shanghai city next to the Jing’an temple. Built in 19 century, today it is popular place for tourist wishing to see the French building style at that time and its history scent.

Q: What to Prepare for Shanghai Trip?

how to plan a trip to shanghai

Do I need a visa to visit Shanghai? --Yes.

Yes, foreign citizens are required to obtain a visa for travelling in China. One can apply Chinese visa through embassies on websites or through visa or approved international travel agencies.

Good thing is that Shanghai has several transit visa free policies. Generally speaking, if you are just transiting in Shanghai and can provide flight ticket to a third country, you can apply for:

Learn more about China visa application knowledge  and China Entry and Exit Tips.

Can I get visa on arrival in Shanghai? --Generally speaking, no!

Foreigners need to get visa before arrival at Shanghai. Only those who are invited by Chinese side for emergency matters can apply for visa on arrival. Such as invited by China for attend trade fair in a short notice or invited to install equipment or make rush repairs…etc. Learn more about China Visa at www.chinese-embassy.info

Which Chinese City Issue China Visa On Arrival?

China Visa Offices at port of entry which authorized by the Ministry of Public Security (China Police Ministry) are stationed at the following China cities: Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Chongqing, Dalian, Fuzhou, Xiamen, Xi'an, Guilin, Hangzhou, Kunming, Guangzhou (Baiyun Airport), Shenzhen (Luohu, Shekou, Huanggang), Zhuhai (Gongbei), Haikou, Sanya, Jinan, Qingdao, Yantai, Weihai, Chengdu, Nanjing, Changchun, Huichun, Hekou, Mohe.

Do I need to purchase travel insurance? --Yes.

Though any client choose to travel with us will be covered by our basic Travel Insurance from China Life Insurance Company and so does many other tourists go with other Chinese travel agencies, we would strongly recommend you to purchase a proper fully covered insurance in your own country before your Beijing trip.

Because the type of insurance is China Life Tourist Accident/Casualty Insurance, of which the policy only covers accidents that occur within China. According to our service experiences of all these years, it is always much easier and quicker for our clients to claim pension if they need to within their own country’s system.

For further information about what is our basic insurance actually covering please click here.

Do I need to buy some Chinese currency before arrive? --No need.

This is one of those most asked questions. Am I getting a better rate buying yuan in China than USA or UK..etc. The answer is usually YES! Buying yuan in China is usually cheaper than dealing the procedure in North American or European country. You can buy yuan at airport ATM machine or at a Chinese bank even at your hotel front desk. Many ATMs in China, especially these entrance cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hong Kong,  international MasterCard ,Visa cards, American Express are reasonablly accepted, saving the hassle to go for a Chinese bank window.

Most tourists will take out some yuan on an ATM at the airport for they need money to pay taxi ride to hotel before they can find a better rate at their hotel or with their travel agencies.


  • All you need to do before embarking on your journey is to inform your bank that you will be taking money out of China in case they block the transaction.
  • But if you feel “unprepared” without some Chinese cash before you go, buy small amount  like 8000 yuan including hotel deposit or 5000 yuan (without hotel deposit) will be enough to survive Shanghai for 2 days depending on your budget.
  • Be aware of that the ATM has a maximun limitation about how much cash it can withdraw each time.

Q: How much will it cost roughly for a trip to Shanghai?  A: 500 to 4000 yuan / 73$ to 584 $/ 63€ to 506 €/ 57£ to 453 £ a day (Rates on 22th Aug,2018)

This is a question that could have thousands answers depending different budgets people have and how you plan you see in Shanghai and in what way. Generally speaking, Shanghai is among those high cost super cities in China mainland if not the highest.

  • For visiting sites: Most of Shanghai’s travel site is free, such as Cheng Huang Miao, Shanghai museum and The Bund. Other sites like Yuyuan garden, Jing’an temple and some former residence of celebrity will change a couple of Yuan. But if you want to visit Disney and get in those skyscrapers for a bird view of the city, you are talking about hundreds.
  • For eating: Street snacks along those famous pedestrians are at an average cost of 20-30 each pack, while eating at the rotating restaurant in those skyscraper in a Michelin style can cost thousand.
  • For accommodation: Clean basic hostels are about 150 to 200 if in a good location; enconmy chain hotels are about 300-600; 4 to 5stars hotels deluxe hotels are above 600 to 1200 yuan and more mainly depending on location.
  • For getting around: Travelling in Shanghai the most efficient way is via metro, a metro ticket varies from 3 to 10 yuan depending on the distance you travel en route. The flag-fall price of shanghai taxi starting at 14 yuan. And taxi often get caught by rush hours traffic jams, so it is not recommended in fact.
  • Top-end everything: If you are staying in 5 stars hotels and eating top quality imported beef and wines in fancy restaurants with taxi rides to every place you go, you’re looking at 2500 to 4000 Yuan a day or more.
  • Economy: But for clean and economy 3 stars chain hotels near metro station and eat in local restaurants and you can get by on 700-900 Yuan a day.
  • Budget: Travellers on budge stay in hostels and eat basic food can survive on around 500 Yuan a day.

Q: Where can I Get Cheap Flights to China?

how to plan a trip to shanghai

You can get cheap flights on Expedia or any major airlines official website if you are lucky to find any seats on sale. Here in this article, we are also offering you some popular optional websites that Chinese are using when we travel domestically or abroad. You may find it surprisingly cheaper compared to the main western booking sites.

  • C-trip,  is a popular booking website that Chinese youth are using frequently today. It will show you the list of flight ticket price from the lowest to the highest according to your requests and it has almost covered all the major and minor airlines’ plane schedules in China and some of the South East Asia’s as well.
  • Except the booking site, go for some of the main airlines’ official websites can also be very beneficial sometimes. Because those bigger companies are operating a certain fixed schedule flights all the year round to those hot tourist destinations. And sometimes, especially when it’s shoulder season and low season, seats booking rate is not so profitable; they will release some seat on sale to cover fuel cost.
  • The major airlines in China are : China Eastern Airlines,  China Southern Airlines,  Hainan Airlines,  Xiamen Airlines.ect.  


When you are booking a discounted flight ticket, please make sure to check that you have enough luggage allowance attached to your ticket. Sometimes, cheap tickets don’t come with any allowance at all. And if that is the case, you can always purchase some on their official website in advance, in case being charged three times more at the check-in counter at airport.

China Domestic Flights Luggage Allowance Details:Type, size, weight,etc.

China Domestic Flight Liquid Baggage Restrictions

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China Electricity Voltage

Q: How Difficult will it be if I Decided to Travel Shanghai on my own?

Among those earliest port cities that have connection to the world in China, Shanghai is probably the most foreigner friendly city in China next to Hong Kong and followed by Beijing and Guangzhou. Most of the taxi drivers here can speak English and delivery you to those hot travel spot without any problems and the road signs in Shanghai equipment with English name below especially when it is near a travel site and not to mention the efficient metro system. They even got an smart phone app for you to check metro lines and purchase ticket and it is English yes, you will love it! So, pack a well written travel book in your bag and off you go, it is easier than you imagine and in fact travel Shanghai on your own is best way to discover its beauty.

Do I need to travel with a travel agency?  For time-pressed travellers, one day or two days arranged tour will save you a lot of time.

It is difficult to answer this question as it really depends on what kind of traveller you are. Staying in a costy city like Shanghai, saving time there means saving money. As a major Chinese online tour operator as we are—Top China Travel, we can save you a lot of time and hassle compared to drowning in the internet trying to search bits of information on your own. We have discounted price offered by hotels and scenic sites, transportation system, and experienced local guides who can show you the first–hand Shanghai in a most efficient way, it is a way to get a bigger deal by paying less in short.You can plan your trip on your own for it is manageable, but an arranged side tour to Shanghai's water towns or to its nearby cities like Hangzhou and Suzhou is both cost and time efficient.

how to plan a trip to shanghai

Q: When to go to Shanghai?

Shanghai is a city that has a clearly four seasons climate.The best time for a Shanghai trip will be around summer (June to August) and autumn (September to November).

  • Winter: December to February, the average temperature here will be just a few degrees above 0, plus the humidity, it can feel colder than you think. This is not the best for Shanghai and the accommodation price stays low as well.
  • Spring: March to May, time for flowers to sprout and weather comes warm again. Good time to see those nature sites and a side trip to water villages in Shanghai.
  • Summer: June to August, lots of rain in Shanghai, raincoat and umbrella are needed to be packed.
  • Autumn: September to November, best time for Shanghai and best time to try Shanghais crap delicacy.

However there are some national public holidays or golden weeks as Chinese describe them which are best to be avoided and they are listed as below:

  • The Spring Festival , or call it Chinese new year, goes with the Chinese lunar calendar usually falls on the beginning of February, during which time the whole country switches onto a transportation mode, people eager to come back home to visit their parents and loved ones for the festival.
  • The National holiday, a seven-day holiday falls on 1st of October every year. As Chinese don’t have much long holidays, this is the main opportunity for Chinese to travel inbound or outbound as a vacation.
  • The May holiday---the Labor’s Day, a three-day holiday falls on 1st of May every year. Chinese often take a short domestic vacation around this period.|

Q: How Long to Stay in Shanghai?

longli water town

Though Shanghai has many to see, most of the sites are collectively located near the both bank of Huangpu river. The bund area and the east bank skyscraper area. Generally speaking, 3-5 days are good enough for most visitors. For those sites in downtown city, Yuyuan Garden, The Bund, Nanjing Rd, People Square can be done in day 1, day 2 you can plan a bit further to the old French Concession ,Jing’An Temple, or Shikumen area. Day 3 can be a Disney trip for a whole day and day 4 and 5 can be a trip to water village nearby or a side trip Hangzhou or Suzhou.

Below is some well organized and highly suggested itineraries written by our experienced travel consultant for tourist who travels Beijing independently.

Independent One Day Tour to Zhujiajiao Ancient Town

Independent Shanghai Day Tour, Shanghai Day Tour for Solo Travellers

Independent One Day Shanghai Tour, Shanghai Discovery Tour

Day Tour to Huangshan from Shanghai, Huangshan Tour

Hangzhou West Lake Tour from Shanghai, Independent West Lake Tour

Independent Suzhou Day Tour from Shanghai

Here are some of our Popular Shanghai Packages for your recommendation:

3 Days Best Shanghai Visa-Free Tour

3 days best shanghai tour
3 Days Best Shanghai Tour

Jade Buddha Temple, the Bund, Yuyuan Garden, Oriental Pearl TV Tower, Nanjing Road

5 Days Shanghai and Hangzhou Tour

5 days shanghai and hangzhou tour
5 Days Shanghai and Hangzhou Tour

Jade Buddha Temple, the Bund, Yuyuan Garden, Nanjing Road, West Lake, Linyin Temple, Six Harmonious Pagoda, Qinghefang Street, Meijiawu Tea Village

5 Days Shanghai and Suzhou Longli Water Town Tour

5 days shanghai and suzhou tour
5 Days Shanghai and Suzhou Tour

Jade Buddha Temple, the Bund, Yuyuan Garden, Nanjing Road, Humble Administrator Garden, Silk Factory, Tongli water town

7 Days Shanghai to Huangshan Tour

7 days shanghai to huangshan tour
7 Days Shanghai to Huangshan Tour

Jade Buddha Temple, Yuyuan Garden, The Bund, Oriental Pearl TV Tower, Chenghuangmiao Street, Mt. Huangshan, Tunxi Old Street, Xidi Village, Hong Cun Village

Q: Where to Stay in Shanghai?

Want to know where to stay in Shanghai? The best locations to stay in Shanghai for tourists are :

In conclusion, the best location to stay in Shanghai depends on what you want to see in Shanghai. For tourists, we would suggest you to choose hotels in city center of Shanghai for the most convenience, which is marked as red square area in the photograph below.
most popular staying area suggested for shanghai tourists

Below is a tourist map of Shanghai which illustartes the districts of Shanghai and also with scenic spots marks on it.
tourist map of shanghai

Q: Getting around in Shanghai? 

Shanghai has an excellent efficient metro system, so as long as you are staying within walking distance of a metro station, you won't have any problems getting around in Shanghai. Below is an ultimately detailed Shanghai metro map for your referance (updated 2018-03-15).

metro map of shanghai

How to Get to Yangshan Port in Shanghai

How to Get to Pudong Airport from Hongqiao Airport

How to Get to the City Center from Shanghai Pudong Airport

How to Get to Huangshan from Shanghai

How to Get to Shanghai Disney

How to Get to Zhujiajiao Water Town from Shanghai

How to Get to Zhouzhuang Water Town from Shanghai

How to Get to Wuzhen Water Town from Shanghai

How to Get to Tongli Water Town from Shanghai?

How to Get to Xitang Water Town from Shanghai?

How to Get to Luzhi Water Town from Shanghai

How to get to Fengjing Ancient Town from Shanghai

How to Get to Nanxun Water Town from Shanghai

How to Get to Yiwu from Shanghai

Basic Mandarin /Chinese you need in China

Pinyin English Chinese
Nǐ hǎo hello 你好
Zǎo shàng hǎo good morning 早上好
Wǎn shàng hǎo good evening 晚上好
Xiè xiè Thank you 谢谢
Duì bù qǐ sorry 对不起
Qǐng wèn/bù hǎo yì si Excuse me 请问
Qǐng wèn wèi Shēng jiān zài nǎ lǐ Excuse me, where is the washroom please? 请问卫生间在哪里?
Wǒ yào qù jī chǎng/huǒ chē zhàn/jǐu diàn… I want to go to airport/railway station/hotel… 我要去机场/火车站/酒店..
Wǒ xiǎng yào yì bei kā fēi I would like a cup of coffee 我想要一杯咖啡
Duō shǎo qián ? How much? 多少钱?
Bú yào là jiāo no spicy 不要辣椒

Greeting in Chinese

Survival Chinese

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