Category Archives: Planning

Shanghai to Hangzhou via Hangzhou Bay Bridge?

The question reads:

Jian,

I have tried everywhere to find if we can do a trip from Shanghai to Hangzhou, staying overnight and coming back to Shanghai via the Hangzhou Bay bridge. Is it possible if we took an early D train to Ningbo and then made our way over the bridge by bus or cab? Any suggestions you have would be more than welcome.

The short answer is, you don’t to go over the Hangzhou Bay Bridge from Shanghai to Hangzhou. Actually, there is no need to use that bridge from any where in the world to get to Hangzhou.

Shanghai, Hangzhou, and Ningbo form a big triangle around the Hangzhou Bay. Hangzhou and Ningbo are on the east, and Hangzhou is on the west. The Hangzhou Bay Bridge connects Shanghai and Ningbo, by passing Hangzhou.

map-hangzhou.bay.bridge.png

So, if you want to go from Shanghai to Ningbo, the Bay Bridge is the best choice.

Daily Cost of a Tourist in Shanghai

Today, I am going to reply this reader’s email about how much does it cost as a normal budget tourist in Shanghai. Here was the email:

Hi Jian Shuo,

I can’t find anything on your blog about how much per day it would cost to enjoy a holiday on various budgets. Maybe you can only do it for Shanghai but it would be good to see how much to expect to pay per day when I am there in March/April this year. Obviously accommodation costs vary so that could be excluded (with a disclaimer). I am talking about food and travel fares and apporximate sightseeing costs in general. I was thinking about $40US per day would be more than enough for my low budget holiday expenses, again not including hostels and souvenirs.

Regards,

Luke

Here was my answer:

Hi Luke,

Thanks for your trust to ask me the question. It is obviously a FAQ – how much I need to plan to tour in Shanghai. Let me try to help.

As a normal tourist, you want to visit some places in Shanghai in a budget fashion. Let’s just try to describe what a day should look like for you, starting from breakfast.

Breakfast

If breakfast is included in your hotel plan, there are two possibility. Possibility #1: you stay in a five star hotel, like Shangri-la, or JW Marriott Shanghai… If it is the case, I don’t see any reason you continue reading this article. :-) Possibility #2: your hotel provide very cheap breakfast that they even don’t bother to charge, like a salt-egg plus some bread.

So, in most cases, let me assume that you need to buy yourself something to eat in the morning. You still have some options.

My suggestion for really curious visitor is to go to those eatery streets near where you stay, and eat as locals do. There are many places where vendors gather in the morning to sell breakfast – they normally share the same store-front with small local shops. When the shops open at around 10:00 AM, all the breakfast stores disappear. For example, my daily routine starts from the corner Tianping Road 天平路 and Guangyuan Road 广元路. If you are lucky enough to find them, 10 RMB (or 1.5 USD) can get you some nice delicious local food. You can buy some dupplings (Baozi 包子), or Toufu Milk (Duojiang 豆浆). You need to eat on the go – there is no place for you to sit down.

If you are not that adventous, find a local McDonald’s and the price for morning is also around 10-15 RMB. You know what you get. I would recommend KFC – the provide some varity from that you find in other countries in China.

In conclusion, budget 15 RMB for breakfast for budget travel. I bet that you can even save some money if you try.

Transportation

Then after you are full, and you start your day by looking at your first place to visit. If you want to save money, take bus. They are 2 RMB in average if your destination is in Shanghai (I mean within the outting ring – a very large area). If you want to go to nearby “cities”, or “town”, that is another story. Or you can take Metro – one way cost you 6 RMB at most if you do not go to places like Songjiang or Minhang, or even between them… Most of the attraction of Shanghai is along Metro: The Bund? Pearl Tower? Xintiandi? Xujiahui? Where do you want to go?

So, I would say 20 RMB per day for transportation is enough for you, if you want to explore the city of Shanghai, not surrounding areas – that means you can take 10 times of bus, or maybe 5-6 metro ride. (To tell you a secret, I walked at midnight from the north-east of Shanghai to southwest, it only took me 4 hours. You get the idea?

Tickets

Tickets are the major part of your day. Let me give you some example. To get to the top of Jinmao Tower, you need to pay 80 RMB. The higher WFC (Shanghai World Financial Center) cost you 150 RMB. Pearl Tower is 50 RMB. Most of the museums cost you 50 RMB (20 RMB is considered cheap).

So, let’s say, you want to visit two places in the morning, two in the afternoon, prepare 200 RMB in your pocket.

Lunch and Dinner

For lunch and dinner, you can try different styles. From the cheapest, visit any local noodle shop, and you can get a bowl of noodle at around 10 RMB. Be alerted that it is no way to the same service standard or cleaness standard of US. If you are adventous and want to try, please. That is a lot of fun.

If you want to be safe, and just want to have a cheap but nice lunch, visit the fast food stores. You already know McDonald’s, KFC, and almost all major brands in U.S (or international). They are likely to have an outlet in Shanghai. Or you visit the newer comers. My favorite is Ajisen Ramen. For all these fast food restaurants, their price is between 20-30 RMB.

There are of cause some decent restaurants that can easily charge you 150 RMB per lunch or 300 RMB per dinner (their entry level menu), but I think it is out of the scope of this article.

So, please 50 RMB for your lunch and dinner.

Anything else?

I don’t see any additional cost. You can always spend if you want, but besides food, and sometimes tickets, you don’t need to really pay too much.

Conclusion

A normal tour, as I described, cost you 265 RMB. For many people, I would just suggest you to take your time to walk on the Shanghai street. That is amazing, more engaging, and, free. I would not be surprised if a tourist tell me that he/she only spend 40 RMB per day for staying in Shanghai (excluding hotel). Believe me, the 40 RMB trip may be more rewarding than more expensive one.

Hope this helps, and I will publish my reply to my blog tonight.

Advise on visit to Beijing & Shanghai

Today, I am trying to help Sally about his/her Beijing & Shanghai trip. Here is the letter: (Again, for my readers who haven’t read my privacy policy, I reserve the right to publish any email you send to my email address (hotmail one) unless you instruct me not to do it. Also, when I publish any email, I will NOT include email address, unless otherwise noted in your email).

Dear Mr. Wang,

Wishing you and your family a Happy & Blessed 2008!

We have read your Blog and we enjoyed and appreciate the information/life stories you had posted. In particular, we are impressed by the information you shared on the Z5 TRain from Beijing – Shanghai as we are planning to make a trip to China in early March 2008. Hence, we would appreciate your advice on the followings:

  • Weather in Beijing & Shanghai in early March
    What are the clothing we should bring – thick winter clothing or just few sweaters? We are traveling with a child of 6 years. Is thermal wear for kids necessary?

Generally speaking, Shanghai is still pretty cold in March. Although Spring is coming, it may still be like winter. This year, for example, we are expecting freezing weather at the end of Feb, and even snow. This year in Shanghai is particularly cold. So, definitely bring your sweater, and other cloths to keep you and your family warm. Beijing is even colder than Shanghai, since it is 1000 km north of Shanghai. Hope the Weather section of my blog gives you more detailed, and more personalized feeling about what the weather looks like during March (especially the Spring section).

  • Hotel in Beijing & Shanghai
    We are considering staying at Harmony Hotel in Beijing (Suzhou Hutong) and Holiday Inn Downtown in Shanghai – could you advise if these are good choices (considering that we would like to go locals as much as we can i.e. taking MRT, buses instead of joining local tours)

I don’t know about Harmony Hotel in Beijing, but I know Holiday Inn is pretty good. Not sure which one though. The one near railway station is not that good, since it is very crowded nearby. The one in Xujiahui is much better.

  • Places of interest/Shopping
    Could you please help us to list where are the places of interest for us to visit?
    Shopping – is there a wholesale centre where we can get things are good prices for children’s summer clothings and accessories?

For attractions in Shanghai, I have about 100 articles in the attraction section. I am not an expert in Beijing (and don’t want to pretend to be).

  • Z5 Train versus Bullet Trains
    We are impressed with the article on the Z5 train from Beijing – Shanghai. But we have been told about a bullet train. Do you have any idea on the pricing/schedule etc. Do you think a 6-year old child would enjoy the train experience? We would certainly appreciate and grateful for any other relevant information that you could provide so that we can better plan our holidays and have a memorable trip this March.

    Thank you in advance for your time and efforts.

    Sincerely

    Sally Teo Singapore

I would suggest you to take the bullet train – it is newer, faster, and takes less time. However, as a traveler, Z5 is still attractive since it travels at night (leaving Beijing at night and arrives in Shanghai in the morning) while the D (Bullet) train travels at day time (10 AM to 9 PM). Choosing the Z5 train also means you save both time and one night cost of hotel. I believe your kid will enjoy the train, although 10 hour trip may be too long or boring for any kid. For the other information, if you want to invest the time, there are 2000 articles on this blog about this topic, and you can use the navigation menu to walk around in this blog.

P.S. I would appreciate questions that are new and never covered, and would appreciate questions that are specific. To be honest with you, a big portion of emails I got is basically one question: give me some suggestions about my trip to Shanghai. I am willing to help but I guess the 2000 articles help more than an email response.

Shanghai Guide in a Page

This is what I sent to the YLF participants. I just realized that I need a short simple page of necessary information (not a list of all my 2000+ articles on Shanghai) for visitors who stay just one night. Here it is:

One Page Guide

Hi, welcome to Shanghai! I am sure will try my best to help! I am based in Shanghai, so feel free to let me know if you need any help in advance, or during the trip.

Here are some of articles I wrote about Shanghai, and hope it helps you to prepare your trip to Shanghai:

http://home.wangjianshuo.com/archives/20041105_youth_hostels_in_shanghai.htm (on top of the Astor hotel we are staying)

Transportation in Shangahi

http://home.wangjianshuo.com/archives/transportation.htm

Everything you should know about Taxi in Shanghai:

http://home.wangjianshuo.com/archives/taxi.htm

Maglev (highly recommend to take a ride). You can take taxi to Astor hotel from Maglev Long Yang Road Station.

http://home.wangjianshuo.com/archives/maglev_train.htm

http://home.wangjianshuo.com/archives/20030809_pudong_airport_maglev_in_depth.htm

General Planning Tips about Visiting Shanghai

http://home.wangjianshuo.com/archives/planning.htm

West Meets East section – about culture shock you may observe.

http://home.wangjianshuo.com/archives/west_meets_east.htm

If you bring your phone, maybe this Phone and Mobile section helps:

http://home.wangjianshuo.com/archives/phone_and_mobile.htm

For information about the train you are going to take, check these entries:

http://home.wangjianshuo.com/archives/by_train.htm

These are some photos about the Z train from Shanghai to Beijing. I don’t have pictures about Shanghai to Nanjing train, but the newer train should be much more advanced than the train I show on the picture. So don’t worry about the train.

http://home.wangjianshuo.com/archives/20040801_train_from_beijing_to_shanghai.htm

Hope these tips can help.

See you in Astor Hotel lobby!

Jian Shuo Wang mailto:jianshuo@hotmail.com http://www.wangjianshuo.com

Difficulties as a Foreign Visitor

I am back from the chaos (happy chaos) brought by the baby boy, and getting back to the normal life. Well, you can never say its “normal” life again, since it is so different.

I am back to the top of “Events in Shanghai that affect my life”.

Here is this kind of topic.

What is the Biggest Headache to be a Foreign Visitor in Shanghai?

Zhao Ning from Shanghai Travel Times called and sent me an email about a topic: Foreign Visitors Facing Problems in Shanghai. In that article, the author listed many common problems foreign visitors face in Shanghai:

1. Pronounciation of the name of places and roads. (like Xujiahui, Puxi, Putuo are very hard to pronounce.

2. Cheap hostels

3. Booking travel package online.

Interesting article! These are really top issues people face in Shanghai.

You can Help!

So, Ning is asking me to recruit a foreign visitor in Shanghai, so she can interview, and write article and post it onto Shanghai Travel Times.

A little bit background of Shanghai Travel Time – the news paper is the official newspaper for the Shanghai Bureau of Tourism. I had the honor to chat with officials from the bureau, and they are doing really good job in listening to what tourists say.

If you are a

1. A foreign tourism in Shanghai in this week.

2. Have some tough problems when you visit Shanghai.

3. Feel comfortable to be interviewed

Please let Ning know by posting after this message. (It is OK to leave your email (or phone number in the same field in email). No other people except me can see it. You also authorize me to forward your contact information to Ning if need (this is only for this page).

Ning will arrange photographer and reporter to go with you to your favorite places in Shanghai, and take some pictures and interview you about the pain you experience as a tourist in Shanghai. Then the article will be posted to Shanghai Travel Times.

Interesting enough? You can sign up now to help make Shanghai a more tourist-friendly city.

P.S. A reader sent me his newly launched website at http://www.unisticky.com. I didn’t really check it out, but I think I should do him the favor to post at least a link. Enjoy it.

Areas to Visit in Shanghai

This is the typical day-to-day questions I got in my hotmail email box. You know what, I am going to pick this one and answer it publicly.

Hello Jian Shuo,

I have come across your bog and I’ve been reading it for hours. Thanks for sharing all that wonderful information about your country.

I apologise for taking the liberty to bother you with questions. But next week I will have the opportunity to visit china for the first time in my life. I will be spending 10 days in shanghai mainly for work, but before my work sessions start I have 3 free days, and I was wondering, since I will be spending the rest of the week in shanghai and surely visiting most of the city sites, what would be your recommendation for a 2/3 day trip.

I guess it’s a very general question, I understand shanghai is a very modern city, and after all I’ve read in your blog I was wondering what would be the one city or area you would recommend to visit from shanghai.

Thanks in advance for your time and attention.

Regards,

Name removed

This is not an easy question. Everyone has its list of “must-see” for a city. This is mine. I am trying to imagine what a new visitor in Shanghai may feel interesting about the places, so it may not be the same list I will give for the second time visitors, or visitors we enjoy exploring the city itself instead of site seeings.

So, here is my list.

  1. The Bund. The bund is must-see place in Shanghai. It is like the name card or the portrait of Shanghai (Every city has a partrait photo that is widely recognized in the world, like Eiffel Tower in Paris, or looking across the bay to Bank of China tower in Hong Kong). So go to the Bund first.
  2. The Lujiazui Area. You need to set food to Pudong, the Lujiazui area to claim that you see a complete Shanghai. You may want to try the Pearl Tower (visit the top) or the top of the Jin Mao Tower.
  3. Yu Garden. Most foregiens like Yu Gardern. That is the answer to the question: “Where can I find the best China element in this morden city?”
  4. Huang Pu River. Get to a boat and do cruise on the river. Highly recommended.
  5. Huai Hai Road, especially the area near Shaanxi South Road area. The shopping center.
  6. Xintiandi. The newly built area featuring old Shanghainese style lane houses, and bars. It is a tourism place now.
  7. Xujiahui. Either go there for shopping – best for computer parts, or for the villa area.
  8. Nanjing Road. Oh. I almost forget it. It is named the No. 1 Street in China, because of the concentration of shops.
  9. Bridges. There are many bridges like Nanpu Bridge or Yangpu Bridge. There are even climbing activities on Lupu Bridge

That seems a lot of a two day trip. This is the most popular places, that second time visitors may not be interested, but definitely worth a visit for the first time visitors. They are the iconic places in Shanghai.

Welcome to Shanghai!

Reasons of Bad Traffic in Shanghai

What are the reasons of bad traffic in Shanghai?

I believe among all the hundreds of reasons people can think of, “many people don’t know how to drive” is one – may be not the major one.

Personally, I follow the traffic rule much more after I learnt to drive. Why?

1) I started to understand how dangerous jaywalking is.

2) I started to learn traffic rules

3) I understand much better how annoying it is to stand in the middle of the road and slow down cars.

Let me explain these one by one.

I Started to Understand How Dangerous Jaywalking is

To be honest, not everyone understand it, including me 3 years ago.

Since majority of people in China don’t drive and don’t know how to drive, and never have the experience of sitting in the driver’s seat to look at the road from that angle, driving is basically a mysterious skill. Before I learnt to drive, I just take it for granted that the drivers can see EVERYTHING, and they can stop the car at ANYTIME, and they have 100% skill set to avoid hitting anyone.

For example, people think it is very easy to stop the car running at 60 km / hour within 10 meters of distance. This is wrong perception.

After I learnt to drive, I started to understand there are certain angles that I completely cannot see when I drive – the blind area; there are certain circumstances (like someone in the dark at night) that drivers barely see; there are many cases that it is almost impossible for the car to stop.

Unfortunately, any drivers know that, but majority of people don’t know it.

I Started to Learn Traffic Rules

There are many traffic rules. However, I first know it only after I pass the driver’s exam. When to walk and when not to walk? Many people don’t know. I still know a lot of people who firmly believe the red light is only for motors, and not for bikes or pedestrians.

How Inconvenience it is

Jaywalking or things like this is not only dangerous, but also troublesome. When I drive, I saw so many people standing in the middle of the street, waiting to continue walking.

Before someone learns to drive, they think it is perfect OK. “All those cars, just go – I won’t move!” However, drivers MUST slow down just in case. This slows down the traffic and bring chaos.

These are some examples of the difference between driver and a non-driver. I believe drivers are better pedestrians after they learn how car and traffic works.

In Shanghai, for example, the percentage of drivers are too small, and it is one reason for the chaos of traffic. (Well, as I said, I don’t think it is the major reason though).

Should I Drive in Shanghai?

Ken asked:

Just starting to gather info for a trip 4 of us are taking to Shanghai in August. Should we plan on getting a car and driving around the countryside during our 1 week stay?

My short answer:

Ken, I don’t know where you come from. My suggestion is, never think of driving a car in Shanghai, even in countryside if you are not from China. That can be exciting, and challenge, also dangerous. 1 week is too short for you to get used to the road system in Shanghai. You know what, even people from nearby cities like Hangzhou or Suzhou need to help a guide to sit in their car to find the destination.

For people from left driving countries, it is challenging. I tried to drive in Australia, it was not too hard, considering the relatively lower traffic, and better traffic rules. If you drive in Shanghai, it is not that easy.

Even if you come from a right-hand driving places, you need some time to get used to the traffic rules. Here are some tips for you if you really insist:

1. Slow down or prepare to stop when you see green lights. Green lights do not garentee a clear path to go through.

2. Always be considerate to pedstrains no matter what kind of rules they break. Watch out for people on the street. Their understanding is, if they are in the street, and cars should slow down. Don’t take it for granded that they will yeild.

3. Be focused and always read be ready to stop.

For more about driving in Shanghai, I hope my section about car and road helps:

http://home.wangjianshuo.com/archives/car.htm

http://home.wangjianshuo.com/archives/roads.htm

Good luck!