Transportation Options in Shanghai

I am always happy to receive emails from my readers to tell me that my blog has helped them in some way. No matter how small the note is, I feel very happy about it. Here is another one, and with a quick question to get from one location to another.

Hi JianShuo,

greetings from Singapore!

I am going to Shanghai next month and chanced upon your blog.

I must say that it really offers great advice compared to the expatriate websites online. Your detailed and informative data has offer a perspective that is stereotypically more Asian-oriented. Kinda makes my life easier should my overseas counterparts ask me for directions during our upcoming seminar.

Thus, after utilizing your blog information, I just felt that I need to pen you a compliment and do keep up your good work! (Especially the pickpockets at XiangYang and also the new location. I will just send the links to my counterparts)

Ohya, if you able to answer my query out of your busy time, I need to get to 399 Lujiabang Road from Nanjing West Road train station. It is more realistic to get there by Taxi? I am a firm believer of train travel as it will escape unexpected traffic jams. That’s my lesson learned from my regional/international business travel. The Shanghai Metro map downloaded are either too simplistic without exact line exchanges.

And if you happen to want to visit S’pore, it will be my turn to offer my little advice. :)

Enjoy the cool weather.

Regarding the question from one location to another, like in this question, from Nanjing West Road to Lujiabang Road, my consistent answer was always: take a taxi.

Taxi v.s. Bus v.s Metro

The major realistic ways of traveling in Shanghai is either bus, metro and taxi.

For visitors (especially visitors who don’t know Chinese), Metro is definitely the best option. It is not only reliable, fast, cheap, and comfortable (plus some tourism value), it does not require the visitor to interact with anyone. For taxi, you need to tell the driver where you want to go, and there is pretty high risk that the driver cannot understand you, or even worse, misunderstand what you mean. For bus, you need to find the change first, or talk to an attendant. For metro, even if you need to buy tickets, the English interface ticket vendor machine can help you a lot, and you can take your time to study the route before you buy the ticket. The good thing is, there are more and more Metro, and lines are typically built around most visited places.

However, for most other vast areas, when Metro is not available, visitors need to face the choice of taxi or bus.

I would highly recommend my readers who are the first time visitor to Shanghai. Why? Bus can be better, only if you find out the right bus. If you have the destination printed out in Chinese, taking taxi is much easier. Shanghai is not a very large city in terms of area – the downtown area typically cost you 15-20 RMB (3 USD).

If you do want to take taxi, use Google Map. They provide bus transition tool to help you plan. I always use this tool myself. The route they suggested is very accurate, based on my personal experience in Shanghai so far. They only offer Chinese version.

My Answer to the Question

If you decided to take bus, check out Google Maps. There are many bus routes to get there – just one bus without transition, like bus No. 23. See picture below:

View Bigger Map

9 thoughts on “Transportation Options in Shanghai

  1. 呵呵,我更喜欢有人打电话告诉我,我对它有多重要。开个玩笑。


  2. I heard somewhere that Shanghai is listed in the Guiness Book of World Records as the metropolitan area with the largest number of bus routes (and probably the largest number of vehicles, also) in the world. However, having the largest system doesn’t necessarily translate to being the best system in the world. Indeed, I have found several frustrating problems with it over the years.

    1. A few years ago, bus route signs at bus stops were printed with dark lettering on reflective white backgrounds, which made the information (particularly the route numbers) easily seen from a distance, such as from inside an approaching bus. However, this practical signage has recently been replaced with signage which is difficult to see on two counts:

    a. The lettering is now white on a dark background, and

    b. The signs no longer face the street.

    2. The names of the bus stops are written in Chinese characters only, not in pinyin. This means that even if riders know the name of the stop they want, they cannot find it on the signs.

    3. Some buses have conductors who collect fares from passengers who wish to pay in cash (e.g. route 43). Other vehicles have only magnetic card readers, and no conductors to collect cash fares (e.g. route 985). This inconsistency has resulted in my unceremonious expulsion from buses on many occasions, with irrate Chinese passengers heaping verbal abuse on me as I alighted prematurely without having paid a fare for the privilege.

    4. Seats “reserved” for the elderly, infirm or pregnant are seldom yielded by able-bodied Chinese passengers. In fact, I can probably count on one hand, with fingers left over, the number of times I have witnessed a Chinese passenger giving up a “reserved” seat to another passenger.

    5. Bus stops in Shanghai are sometimes as much as a kilometer apart. Where I come from, buses typically stop at or near each street intersection along the route.

    6. Bus route maps posted inside the vehicles are labelled with Chinese characters only, not pinyin. Also, the maps are seldom oriented conventionally (e.g. with north at the top), or even with any direction indicators (e.g. a north arrow).

    7. There are no bus maps available with pinyin. Indeed, few maps even show all the routes available, and I’ve never seen one with the routes actually marked on them. Instead, selected streets are marked with route numbers and directional arrows, leaving riders to guess where the bus actually goes.

    8. There are no bus route guides in English or any other foreign language. There is a bus route book available in Chinese only, at local (in)convenience stores.

    9. No-one queues. Indeed, the local populace is infamous for pushing and shoving whilst getting onto buses, even when there are no seats available.

    10. Pickpockets ply their trade with impunity because no-one will warn a victim that they are the target of a thief. When a theft is discovered, the drivers could simply stop the bus and keep the doors closed until police arrive. I have never heard of this happening, however.

    11. Bus stop announcements, while sometimes made in English, are frequently made AFTER the stop has already been passed.

    12. Passengers are allowed to board with large parcels, and to leave these blocking aisles and doorways.

    13. Higher fares are charged for air conditioned vehicles, but the windows are often left open, cancelling the effect of the equipment. Passengers must still pay the higher fare, even though the resulting inside temperature may be greater than the outdoor temperature.

    14. Foreigners are occasionally charged double fares simply because they are foreigners. This has happened to me more times than I can count. When I report this fact to Chinese folks, I am usually called a liar, or worse.

    15. There are no traffic lanes dedicated for bus use only during peak traffic periods. I once took a #45 bus from Xu Jia Hui to Jing An Temple, a trip that normally takes about 20 minutes. Because there are no bus lanes, the peak-hour trip took two and a half hours; and no, taking a taxi would not have been any faster.

    16. Internet bus trip planners are only available in Chinese.

    17. Passengers in seats at the rear of the bus are allowed to smoke, in spite of regulations prohibiting the behavior.

    18. Passengers are allowed to both board and alight from both front and rear bus doors. Where I come from, passengers are required to board at the front, and to alight from the rear of the bus. This method allows for passengers to board and alight simultaneously.

    19. Many bus stops have no seating for waiting passengers.

    20. Many bus stops have no shelter from rain, wind or sun.

    21. Many bus stops have no waste bins nearby.

    22. Passengers waiting at bus stops are allowed to smoke. And litter (see #21, above).

    23. Taxis and other vehicles are allowed to stop and even to park at bus stops.

    24. Bicycles and scooters are allowed to pass stopped buses on the right, exposing passengers to risk of injury from collisions.

    25. There are no buses equipped for wheelchair access.

    26. Some routes are designated with Chinese names, written in Chinese characters only, instead of with route numbers. These buses cannot be identified by passengers who cannot read Chinese.

    In spite of all these problems, riding the bus in Shanghai can still be more pleasurable than riding the metro. One can look out the window at the passing urban scenery, and even if the windows are fogged up, one can still derive some amusement by drawing pictures on the glass….

  3. Dear Friend,

    you blog seems to be of immense help to persons like me who are not educated in CHinese language. I need you help in telling me how to get to HOTEL GRAND METRO PARK JIAYOU HOTEL from HONGQIAO (the domestic airport in Shanghai) Is there a direct bus ? or do you suggest any combination of mode of transport.

    with kind regards


  4. Hello Mr. Wang,

    I found a lot of helpful information on your blog. Thank you very much for sharing the insightful information.

    My family will visit Shanghai this weekend. There are four of us, 2 adults and 2 young kids. We have 3 pieces of 29″ luggage and 2 pieces of 21″ luggage. We need to go to center of the city from PVG. Can all the luggages fit in a taxi? If not, what are the other options we may have? Thanks ahead for your help.


  5. @cathy

    that’s too much for a shanghai taxi

    some taxi companies here offer minibus/limousine rental services. a 6-seat minibus will cost you about 180 RMB (30%+ “night fees” between 11:00 and 5:00) from Pudong Int’l Airport to People’s Square. you need to provide flight No. and contact No. when make reservation. taxi driver can speak simple English and will call you at the airport. usually the minibus will park near Gate 25 or Gate 12, which are the terminals for most int’l travellers.

    pls note those costs and procedures are from JinJiang Taxi and other taxi companies might have minor differences in rental fees/ procedure.

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