Getting around Shanghai

Shanghai’s public transport system is excellent, and it’s generally an easy city to move around in.

Metro System

Although Shanghai’s first metro line was only opened in 1995, the city now has nine lines and a tenth is under construction. Stations are regularly added, occasionally move, and sometimes change names, so maps are often out of date. Explore Shanghaihas interactive maps of the metro network as well as a metropedia, which lists businesses and places of interest close to every station.


Shanghai has about 50,000 taxis. All are Volkswagen Santanas, painted blue, red, orange, green or white, depending on the company that owns them. Unless it’s raining, it doesn’t often take long to hail a cab. Telling the driver where to go is more difficult; although there are a few exceptions, taxi drivers do not speak English.

There are a few ways of working around this:

  • Don’t leave your hotel without its business card and collect the business cards of places you’d like to return to.
  • Buy a map that has place and street name written in Chinese as well as English.
  • Look up and print the addresses of places you’d like to visit on
  • Send the place’s name to 85880 in a text message . This service, called Guanxi (which means connection in Chinese), will reply with the Chinese address and phone number.


Shanghai has a vast bus network. Unfortunately it’s difficult to use. The signage is almost entirely in Chinese and even people familiar with the city find the route maps difficult to understand. You can find a list of bus routes translated into English here.

The Maglev

Shanghai’s maglev (short for magnetic levitation) is the world’s fastest commercially operated train. It connects Pudong International Airport, on the city’s eastern outskirts, to Longyang Rd. Metro Station, a few stops from the city centre. Although locals often say that the money could have been better spent –– the maglev cost ¥10 billion to build and only covers 30.5km – arriving in town at over 400km an hour is a unique experience.

The line operates daily between 06:45 and 21:30. A one-way ticket cost ¥50, or ¥40 for those passengers holding a receipt or proof of an airline ticket purchase. A round-trip return ticket cost ¥80 and VIP tickets cost double the standard fare.

Where next?

This page by Iain Manley, who arrived in China at the end of an eighteen month overland journey from London and stayed for three years. His first book, about the pirates, prostitutes and opium pedlars of old Singapore, was published last year. You can find him at Old World Wandering, his award winning collection of overland travel stories.

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