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:

Good luck!

9 thoughts on “Should I Drive in Shanghai?

  1. Jian Shuo

    You make driving a car in and outside Shanghai sound pretty hazardous and crazy. I am sure that a novice driver would find big city traffic to be pretty terrifying and difficult to handle. However, I am relatively sure that an inexperienced driver probably wouldn’t view it the same way.

  2. Yes. To drive in Shanghai is pretty easy for most local drivers. I drive 1 hours every day. It is pretty easy. However, I found people just land from airport find out really hard to drive. I have a friend who lived in Seattle for long time. He drives everyday. He just was not able to drive for a meter when he just get to his car. “You know, there are so many people, and I just cannot drive into the crowd, you know..” The reality is, if he wait for all the people to go back home, it must be mid-night – even in mid-night, there are people everywhere.

    Also, another interesting thing I found out. I had experience that a foreign driver would argue with pedstrains on the street, angrily. Well. According to the rule for his own country, he is right. However, the expectation of the rule is different here. Argue itself is OK, but if the expectation is not right, car may easily hit people or other cars. My point is, for a Shanghai driver to drive in Shanghai, it is safe. For a foreign driver to drive in his/her own land, it is safe. It is not safe for a Shanghai driver to drive in U.S. for example, and even more dangerous for a U.S. driver to drive in Shanghai.

  3. Jianshuo, in most foreign countries, by traffic law, the pedestrian has the supreme right as he IS the weak part, so no need for arguments about any incident. I think you are wrong on this.

    In China, only when the cars comes close to foreigners, the foreigner pedestrian can get REALLY angry on the careless cars some times.

    From the daily life in China :

    Today I was nearly hit by a Changan small minibus, coming behind me in the same direction as me (I was in fact walking in a pedestrian crossing :-) !!, and they just smiled at me, apologizing…

    Just five seconds later, a taxi crossed the double yellow lines of the same street in a left turn, and he hit a motorcycle driver, who tried to avoid the accident. The taxi was damaged in the front bumper (and perhaps more), and had to be removed by a car towing truck. The MC-driver had blood all over his left side of the face and on his hands, and was completely confused for about 3 minutes. Then he tried to rise and walk, but had to sit down again, I think his leg was broken.

    I simply pointed out to the passengers of the taxi, that the taxi had crossed the double yellow lines, and later I met a traffic police guy, he didn’t see anything (why bother…) but when I approached him, he HAD to act, of course.

    Later, ½ an hour later, I saw that all was gone, exept that the taxi was town away.

    Funny, that I had to give the finger to the taxi driver, who didn’t want to even get out of his car to see what had happened to the poor guy. Then he got out, but went mostly to me, and was eager to grab his mobile phone. No need to check the guy. :-(

    At the moment I am Huangdao for work, an KFQ zone near Qingdao at the moment.

    But not much different from Shanghai :-)

    And I’m driving my car here. (knock, knock, knock under the table)

    DO NEVER drive in China without a daredevil heart and a perfect insurance, and at least one chinese persone, who is able to back you up at any time !!!

    And take care everywhere in the traffic when you walk.

  4. Welcome to drive to shenzhen.

    I was visiting the other day, took a cab to futian district.

    At a major intersection, there was an accident in the middle, and only one cop present. As the cab driver pressed on, traffice began to slow. We saw that ppl stopped obeying the traffic lights, then the lines and lanes. Within a minute we were at the outer side of the intersection stuck, and cus every car had been fighting to go foward, the entire intersection was totally jammed, filled with cars in every direction with the crashed car and the helpless traffic cop as an island in the middle. Because no one would take turns, we were in a situation where traffic stopped dead for 20 minutes before someone managed to untangle from the side (driving on the pedestrain sidewalk), and the mess of cars in the intersection slowly started to unravel. By the time we made it to the other side of the intersection, we could see a long long long line of cars had formed on the other side, waiting to cross.

  5. Funny thing is that it is the LAW that drivers MUST yield the right of way to pedestrians who are crossing the street when the pedestrian has the “Walk” signal. A few months ago I was hit by a taxi in Shanghai. Even if you are carefull, sh*t still happens. Why can’t the drivers in Shanghai have a bit more respect for those of us who are walking across (not jay-walking) the street? CJ

  6. Shanghai has weird road traffic system. Eventhough the pedestrian light is GREEN, when you cross the street that doesn’t mean you’re safe to walk! You will find cars coming from the front and back of the direction you’re walking! C’mon, I am talking abou GREEN light for pedestrian here.

    My advice, when you cross the street in Shanghai, you have to 101% alert. Watch out for all directions, front, back, left and right.

  7. I walk every morning to work (Jin Qiao) and always cross on the green pedestrian signal. I am beeped at and almost run over every day. I have now begun to kick or slap the back of the cars as they pass (because they are so close). They are often stunned and sometimes embarresed. We can take care of this problem (if the police can’t) one car at a time.

    By the way, I have seen more police presence lately. They are writing tickets left and right. This is a good thing, but on the days when they are not there it is the same old story. Too bad.

  8. the traffic accident is one the leading causes of death in china. so many lives were wasted by the reckless and mindless driving. sometime you feel ridiculed by just thinking about how people understand the meaning of human life this way.

    people don’t realize that their friends, their sons and daughters, their mom and dad are walking or driving everyday like themselves. i guess no one wants tragedy happens to their closed ones. why not slow down for them, respect their lives and obey the traffic codes. someday, your good manner will spare your life.

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