Shanghai arrived in the 21st century with style, staking its claim to get back on top as one of the world’s leading metropolises. In 2017, that destiny has become manifest; the Chinese port is the most populous city in the world. In addition to being a major financial and economical hub, it’s a place full of towering skyscrapers and glittering shopping malls. Located on the banks of the Yangtze River, featuring a stunning skyline and blesses with a diverse, multicultural population, Shanghai is everything that you could want from a city.
Which makes it a great place for a BUCKiTDREAM adventure! If you can only visit one city in China, Shanghai should be it; it should claim a place in every serious traveler’s dream bucket list. However, China is a completely different place compared to life as we might know it here in the West, so it pays to read up a bit on life in Shanghai before you jet on over there. Which is exactly why you should read this guide!
So, keep your trusty pal the BUCKiTDREAM planner by your side as we take you through the main things a BUCKiTDREAMER should know before visiting Shanghai.
Get Used to the Size Shanghai houses around 25 million people at last count, so be prepared to be more than a little overwhelmed when you first arrive. Like its gargantuan Asian sister Tokyo, Shanghai can truly be an assault on the senses for a day or so, especially if you add a heavy dose of jet lag into the mix.
Flights from the US to China take approximately 12 – 15 hours, even more if you have to transfer. Upon arrival, be prepared for heavy documentation checks at immigration, and be aware that you must acquire a visa to travel to Shanghai, which is situated on mainland China.
Learn How to Get Around the City Shanghai is a renowned multicultural hub, so don’t be worried about language issues. You won’t need to pick up any Mandarin to survive the city, as staff in hotels and hostels speak English with no problem, as will most of the young people you’ll meet in the city.
Shanghai is served by a very competent subway system, with English maps and announcements; on top of that, taxis in the city are metered and pretty cheap. The drivers will often take the most direct route, even if it’s not the fastest, in an effort to save their passengers money. Even though you’re in a strange and foreign land, you can be pretty confident that public and private transport in Shanghai is largely safe and secure for foreigners.
Explore Downtown Shanghai Despite its colossal size, most of downtown Shanghai can be traversed on foot. This can lead to many surprising adventures, and half the fun of exploring the downtown area can be just wandering around and seeing what you find. Of particular note is a riverfront area called The Bund – a long stretch of waterfront promenade and a bustling shopping district, which has become one of the number one tourist destinations in the city. It also provides excellent views of the neighboring Pudong district across the river, including the famous Shanghai landmark, Pearl Tower, which dominates the city’s skyline.
Whether you’re looking for some high-class shopping or just want to kick back in front of the mighty waters of the Huangpu River, a visit to The Bund is definitely on the cards for any serious BUCKiTDREAMER.
How to Chow Down in Shanghai The city’s cuisine actually bears little resemblance to what we in the West would consider Chinese food; instead, Shanghai serves up some unique and original dishes for us travelers to enjoy. Pickling food in wine is a popular trope in Shanghai cuisine, which puts a lot of stock in the use of condiments; basically, the more the merrier. There’s also all kinds of street food offered, though that can be hit or miss. If you’re a picky eater, it’s best to stick with the restaurants.
Surprisingly, dining at the Shanghai variants of your local fast food joint can bring quite the surprise, as they add their own unique spin on various favorites. Tipping in China isn’t necessary, but is gaining some traction recently, due to the influx of expats. So, if you feel the service was particularly good, don’t be afraid to show it!
A Few Final Tips for Your Visit One major thing to remember is that internet is restricted on the Chinese mainland. You won’t be able to access sites that we take for granted in the West, like Facebook and Google, which may hinder you keeping in touch with relatives and friends. Sorting a simple VPN before you go will solve this problem.
There’s no getting around that Shanghai is polluted; you can see the haze through any given window. Some days are worse than others, but if you suffer from allergies or asthma, it’s a good plan to check in with your doctor before you go.
Last, but not least, do bring a packet of tissues with you wherever you go because there’s usually no toilet paper left or available in Shanghai public toilets. Becoming self-reliant for all your hygiene needs can save you seem serious heartache.
Shanghai is a wonderful city to visit and get involved in; it’s brimming with life and really feels like the nucleus of the modern world that it is. It can be great to visit alone, or incorporate into a larger trip of China or even Asia. Whenever you choose to visit, just make sure that Shanghai is near the top of your bucket list, next to 3 Ways to Experience the Great Wall of China. It will be a Chinese BUCKiTDREAM trip you won’t forget!