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

Bus Seems Better than Taxi

Recently, in Shanghai, when I am proposed two choices – bus and taxi, I started to prefer bus. At a glance, you may find taxi has all advantage over bus, except it is more expensive. For me, if we don’t consider cost factor, I still think bus is better.

After thinking hard about why I have the perception, I have the following findings.

Bus is easier

Although taxi is easier, it involves reading the meter, pay with cash or card, and collect the receipt for the ride. You also have to talk with the taxi driver, and tell him where you are going.

Bus, on the contrary is simpler. You don’t need to talk with the driver, or bus attendant – just swipe your wallet on the Transportation Card Reader. You don’t need to take care the bus route – you just decide where you go off. Everything is so predictable, that you don’t need to think. You just make one decision – when to get off.

Bus is more reliable

Although taxi is sometimes faster, bus is more reliable about arriving time. In rainy days, it is so far to get a cab. Sometimes you have to wait for half an hour to get a taxi, after all the hassle to race, compete, and be very smart on strategies… Even half an hour does not guarantee you a taxi.

Bus, on the other side, is pretty reliable about arriving time. It does not come very often, but it does has a schedule, and you are very sure you can get on board a bus in 10 minutes, or 15 minutes.

One happiness theory indicates people get happy when they have control. Buses are something you have more control than taxi.

There are much more to see on a bus

Bus is bigger, and you stand higher. You can see much more of the city on a bus in Shanghai. Meanwhile, there are always something happening on the bus – girls reading mobile phones, or old people carrying all kinds of bags… These stories put yourself into the heart of this city, and you feel you are still connected with others. This is really good.

So, I take much more buses than I did before, and I tried to avoid taxi when possible.

I Use Public Transportation Now

The traffic jam at around 8:00 – 9:00 in Shanghai has finally reached a point that driving is slower than taking public transportation. From the first day of the new season (October, or the new quarter, or you may call it the first day after the long holiday), I decided to use public transportation to commute to work.

Public Transportation System in Shanghai

The public transportation system in Shanghai is reasonably good now. With metro lines reaching many important places (unfortunately, not including my home yet), and many bus lines, it is very convenient to use the bus + metro or just bus combination to commute.

With a public transportation card in hand, the experience is more enjoyable. Just keep your card in your wallet, and swipe it as you enter the bus, or metro, just like the bus or metro is free. Without the hassle to find coins, or changes to buy tickets, it is really easier.

Morning Routine

I have tried to take 970 to the Lan Cun Road Station of Metro line #4, and transit to Metro Line #1. It takes about 1 hour, but you have to go up stairs and down for many times.

The other way is to take the Xu Chuan Line bus, and it directly take me to Xujiahui. It takes about 50 minutes if I get on board at 7:00 AM.

I wake up more than one hour earlier and try to go to bed one hour earlier than before.

Metro is Much Better than Bus


This morning, I just want to try new way to commute to work.

Do you know what I did? I tried BUS!

I got onto bus 607 and transited to Bus Bridge-6 to where I work.

Then guess how much time it cost me to arrive?

1 hour and 40 minutes!

Then I know it is not a good idea to take long distance bus at rush hours and when it is raining.


At night, I got wiser and chose to take Metro plush taxi

Guess how long it took?

1 hour in total.

Still not good enough but much better.

My Decision?

I will try to take metro tomorrow morning again, and see if it is feasible to use public transportation instead of driving. Driving is faster, but the faster our transportation vehicle is, the faster the pace of our lives are, and we feel the fewer time left, isn’t it?

Advertisement Card Distributors on Metro

The most annoying thing on Metro is those advertisement card distributors on the Metro. They just pass Metro cart one by one and throw those name card size advertisement card to the face of people, and passengers throw it to the floor. Thus makes the cart really dirty. See these two pictures I took today:

I called Metro police every time I see it but I know the police must have hard time to catch them, since it has been 2 years since this bang of people appeared on Metro and it seems more and more people are joining the team.

Shanghai Buses

The best way to get around in Shanghai is taxi and Metro. Taxi works best if you are not that cost senstive, since taxi is cheap compared to U.S. and Europe. 11 RMB (1.3 USD) – 20 RMB can get to most places, especially those attractions. Metro works better if you want to experience the Metro, or you don’t want to challenge yourself to speak English or mandarine with a taxi driver.

Besides taxi, and metro, bus is another good way to get around – cheap, and more importantly, you can see street scenes in a slow pace.

There are several types of buses you can choose.

Air Con vs. Non Air Con

Most route offers buses with air condition, or without it. The stops are exactly the same, but the price is not. Typically, buses with A/C charges 2 RMB (25 US cents) for the whole route, and buses without A/C charges 1 RMB.

10 years after the first air con bus put into operation in 1996, now 63% of buses are aircon buses. In 2007, 50% of Shanghai buses (or 70% of urban buses) will be equipped with aircon. In 2010, all urban buses will have aircon installed.

Typically, buses with A/C are of better condition. See these Scrawl on Shanghai Buses without A/C.

Self-served or conductor-served

Many buses are self-served. There is no conductor on the bus, and you have to pay either with Shanghai Transportation Card, or coins (no change is provided). The driver acts as a conductor.

On other buses, you can give cash to a conductor, and they provide changes. Look at the side of the bus to determine which type it is. It is really embarassing to get on to a bus without a conductor, and you don’t have the change to pay the fee. You either deposite big bills like 10 RMB or 50 RMB into the box, and donate the part higher than the ticket to the bus company, or leave. Some passenger does deposite 10 RMB, and stand at the gate to be temp conductor, and collect coins from the next 4 passengers. It happens all the time.

Urban Buses or Suburb Buses

There are still other types of buses. Most buses are urban buses, and you can tell it from their numbers, for example, Bus 42, 926, 911… There are some buses named by two Chinese characters, like Xumin Line 徐闵线. Chances are, these buses go to suburb areas of Shanghai. There are some speical buses, like Bridge Line #1 – #5, Tunnel Line #1 – 6, and Pudong Airport Shuttle #1 – #7.

Bus Stops

Buses are very easily accessed in the whole city. If you can read Chinese maps, do spend some time on the map and study the route of buses. Typically, you can get to any place by one bus, or two buses. Here is instruction on How to Read Shanghai Bus Stop Plate.

Have Questions?

Have questions? Call 96900 for Navigation Direction. Please note: this phone charges about 1 RMB per minute (not so sure though).

Keep Reading:

How to Read Shanghai Bus Stop Plate

Edward told me he is still confused when he read Chinese Bus Stop Plate in Shanhgai after living in the city for 3 years. He came from UK and travelled a lot in China. The most confusing part is about the difference between “Upward” and “Downward” route. Let me try to help explain it.

A typical bus stop plate in Shanghai

Here is the informaiton on the plate. People who do not understand Chinese may also recognize the information.


© Jian Shuo Wang

The one in the middle is a route with Chinese name. It is similar.

Upward and Downward

Many bus stops are wired. If you leave a bus at one stop, and after you get back and go to the opposite site of the road, you cannot find the bus stop to go back. It happens all the time. It is because there are just too many single-way roads in Shanghai that makes it impossible to get back on the same road. So the route of buses going to one direction may differ slightly from the route going to the opposite direction. I also get confused when they use “upward” or “downward”, because I don’t know what is the definition of up and down. Upward may mean “east to west”, or” “west to east”, “south to north” or “north to south”. Anyone can explain it?

Ask the driver or the bus conduct to get more information about where the bus actually stops, since two bus stop with the same name (typically the name of a road) may be very far (say, more than 10 km away) from each other.

Scrawl on Shanghai Buses

Shanghai’s buses are either new and clean, or dirty and old, but I have never seen any bus with scrawling besides the buses No. 43.

The bus No. 43 runs from Shanghai Teacher’s University to the Nan Pu bridge. The two store bus without air condition provide very good places for young university students to scrawl. Here are some seats that were covered with their “art”


© Jian Shuo Wang


© Jian Shuo Wang

© Jian Shuo Wang

© Jian Shuo Wang


© Jian Shuo Wang

P.S My good friend just put her website online. Here is the link, so search engines can find it.