Life in China Shanghai tube Tips Travel Travelling

How to move around in Shanghai ?

    Shanghaï is a worldwide metropole which counts 25 million inhabitants on a surface of 6 340 Km2. A city this huge needs an excellent commute service in order to bring all it’s citizens to work or school on time. This article shows you how to commute easily in Shanghai.


      The Shanghaï metro is really safe and cheap if you know how to use it right. It’s the largest metro in the world considering route length, totaling 676 km. On a daily basis, this metro is used by 10 million people. The working hours are particular compared to Europe or anywhere else. It starts, on average from 5.30am and closes around 10.30pm.

The Shanghaï metro is first if all really safe and more than everything is cheap if you know how to use it right. It’s the largest metro in the world considering route length, totaling 676 Km. The rush hours, as everywhere in the world are pretty busy. But in here you have to get used to being pushed and squeezed. At first, it might sound barbaric, at second you could find it amusing but as time goes by you can find it upsetting and rude. Otherwise it’s easy to commute in Shanghai if you know the right tips.

The busiest station is People’s Square, which is the very heart of the touristic Shanghaï. As in every city in the whole world, I hardly recommend to avoid it on peak hours if you are afraid of crowds.

To know how to use it right, this is how you should do.

If you are in Shanghaï for a couple weeks or days, do as every tourist. Go to the ticket machine right into the station. There are two ways of using it. Either you enter how many stations you’ll travel, either you enter the station you want to go to. The second way is the best way because it’s the cheapest. Let’s say you are traveling for 5 stations, you’ll spend 2¥ on every station traveled. With the second way, just enter the name of the station you’re going to and the price we’ll significantly be cheaper.

You can also buy a classic metro card in metro stations which costs 20¥ for deposit and then you just top up and scan it on your way in and out of the metro.

Otherwise, if you are here for more than 4 months, you’ll be able to open a Chinese bank account. And this is where it becomes really cheap and handy to commute in Shanghai.

You just have to download the proper application, Metro 大都会, link it to your bank account and you’ll just have to scan (again) a QR code in order to go through the gate. You’ll pay on average 2¥ to go in and, depending on the zone you are going to, it can be 5¥. You can go up to 25¥ to go to airports. Which is really interesting, to be honest.

Speaking of airports, there is a special train going to Pudong Airport called Maglev. It’s called a bullet train, pretty much like a high-speed train (431km/h). It goes from Longyang Road Station (line 2) to the Airport in 7 minutes instead of 40 min by regular metro. It costs 50¥ but if you’re in a hurry it’s more than useful.



  • BUS

There are up to 995 lines of buses in Shanghaï. It’s really handy when you just want to commute from point A to point B in Shanghai on a daily basis. Like I’m doing to go to school for instance. Might take you a bit more time but you can be seated, a thing that is not that common on the metro.

You just have to pay 2¥ when you go in and that’s all. Doesn’t depend on how much stops you have to do.

At first, as I did for a long time, you need to put coins in a machine when you hop in. Coins are getting rare when you have a Chinese bank account. Then you can add a special feature to your AliPay app to pay with it. Called “Transports Code”. Or on your WeChat app but you might need help from a Chinese speaking person to help you set it up. It costs the same price but is more convenient when you pay.

Buses practically go around all day every 7 minutes.

You also have some night buses that can help you go to/from People’s Square when you are out partying (I see you exchange students) if you want to save money off taxis.

  • TAXI

Getting a taxi in Shanghaï is pretty easy and the fastest way to commute in Shanghai. Getting understood to where you need to go is a whole other thing. I hardly recommend to enter the address on Google Translate, or whatever translation app that you are using, and show the address to the driver.

In every case, once you hop in, always ask for the counter meter to be on. It will start at 16¥ in a regular taxis and 21¥ on bigger taxis. Watch out for scams.

To stop them, just go on the road and raise your hand once you see two green lights on top of the car. Because two red means it’s taken, and one red means it’s reserved by someone through a call center or apps.

You have different apps that help you reserve taxis. The most common and used by foreigners is called Didi, which is pretty much the Chinese Uber. As every application that’s you have to pay through it, you need a Chinese bank account.

You have other applications but they don’t support the English language so you might struggle with it. Didi is pretty easy to use and drivers are all around town, off rush hours you can get a taxi in 3 minutes. Watch out on rainy days, the waiting list can go up the roof and you could have to wait up to an hour.

  • BIKE

Using bikes in Shanghaï can be useful. At first, traffic looks like an ‘organized mess’ as we like to say in French, but after a few minutes observing the thing, you get accommodated to it in a couple days.

Once again, you go through an app (and QR Code obviously) to unlock bikes. It can be Ofo or Mobike. I hardly recommend Mobike because of the special tires that can’t get flat. Compared to the Ofo, whom as a lot of technical problems.

To log in on those apps, you need a few procedures. The particular one is to take a picture of your face next to your passport. It would seem hard to do because it is. So snap the right angle and send it through the app. You’ll have to wait a day or two for validation. Do not hesitate to try again with a different angle that shows text and picture on your passport.

Once you did it, you are good to go bike around Shanghaï. Just don’t get into an accident. That would be a whole other problem to solve. You can also rent or buy a motorcycle. They use the same lanes as bikes. This is another way to commute easily in Shanghai, even if it’s a bit more expensive.


As you saw, there are plenty of different ways to move around Shanghaï. Of course, you can use your feet to walk around. You might have more chances to see a particular street that you like or a restaurant that you may want to enter and taste local food. This article showed you the most common ways to do so and do not hesitate to tell us some more ways that you found out in the comments section.

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How to use Shanghai Metro at your arrival in China?

The most important issue when you arrive in such a huge city like Shanghai is how to find your way by metro and outside the metro. walking down the streets. When I arrived in Shanghai in October 2017, for our MBA DMB located in ESSCA Shanghai university, it was not easy to find my university by myself.

The most important is how to find your way in China.

Shanghai Metro is the world’s longest, covering 548 km across 337 stations and 14 lines. Compare that to New York, whose subway system covers 368km. Weekdays see more than 8 million people riding the metro in Shanghai, roughly equivalent to the population of New York City. Why should you ride the metro over taking a taxi? You’ll avoid wasting precious time in the gridlock that cripples Shanghai’s streets.

  • Cost

Shanghai Metro has an excellent website with a fare calculator. Journeys under 6km cost ¥3. To go from downtown Shanghai to Hongqiao Railway Station or Hongqiao Airport costs ¥7; to go to Pudong Airport from the same area costs ¥9.

  • Tickets

Single-journey cards can be purchased at machines inside every metro station. These machines accept ¥1 coins and small denomination bills. After you tap out at the end of your ride, the electronic barrier keeps the card, which is then recycled.

1 – To find your way down the tube

  • My 1st experience in the Metro of Shanghai was simply how to take a ticket from the machine which is in Chinese
  • You should know that even Shanghai is very international, most of Chinese people do not speak English.


  • So after more than 1 hour by trying to find how it works even if I was  trying to find Chinese people who did speak English, I was lucky because I found 2 Chinese Millenials who only know a bit of English. But we found a way to pay the tickets that I needed to go from People Square Station to Shanghai Zoo. What was funny is that when I arrived I could not go out with my ticket. So the security guide asked me in Chinese but I did not understand anything but he understood that it was not easy for me and he left the opened door for me.
  • Security down the Metro of Shanghai in an habit. Before entrance you always have to put your bag or luggage in the security check-in place.

2 – What should you know about the Metro of Shanghai?

  • Your ticket that you pay in the machine that you need to pay in cash
  • You can also use a digital Access if you have WeChat or Alipay with a Chinese account only
  • As I discovered 3 weeks after, metro cards could be available with a minimum amount of 20 RMB (Payment of your metro card). The only way to pay is in Cash if you do not have a Chinese Bank account
  • Shanghai Metro card :


  • 1 metro card (with a minimum amount of 20 CNY in cash) > 1 Day Metro card : If you’re in Shanghai for more than one day and don’t want to purchase one of the above passes, this makes the most sense; you’ll be able to skip the queue for single-journey tickets and use the card to pay for cabs.
  • One- and three-day passes can be purchased in any station, but only at the ticket desk, and you’ll need cash. One-day passes cost ¥18 for 24 hours of unlimited rides. Three-day passes cost ¥45.
  • Shanghai Public Transportation Cards are refillable cards that can be used on the Maglev, metro, buses, taxis, ferries, and on public transportation in neighboring city Suzhou. Cards cost a refundable ¥20 and can be purchased at the ticket desk in any station. You can then add money there, at convenience stores across the city, or at add-value machines inside metro stations.images-1

Shanghai very useful APPs are: 

  • Shanghai Metro Map and Route Planner
  • Shanghai Metro Subway
  • Maps-me : to find your way out of the Shanghai tube


Therefore today I know Shanghai metro by heart and I use it every day. One good tip that you can meet wonderful Chinese people down the metro.

Read more about Shanghai Tube:

Shanghai Metro Map and Route Planner – IOS

Shanghai Metro Subway – Android

MAPS-ME : to find your way anywhere in Shanghai