Shanghai is an amazing city to visit with kids, its big, bright, modern but still has the charm of an ancient Chinese city in some parts. I love how they have been able to merge the old and new Shanghai. The Pudong Shanghai city lights at night are unmissable. Visiting Shanghai with kids will be a highlight of any visit to China.
Shanghai, a city of 23 million people, is the main hub of Southern China. It’s home to a bright new, shiny international airport, Pudong Airport, but you’ll notice the ‘Shanghainese’ (that’s a word I didn’t make it up!) tend to like things new.
Only 29 years ago, Shanghai was growing at such a pace that there was no longer room to house people. The Chinese Government decided they needed to expand the city and chose the spot across the Huangpu River to be re-purposed for Shanghai’s overflowing population.
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The Shanghainese were not on board with the move to Pudong though. So once the Chinese Government built new apartment buildings all those whose farming land was repossessed received an apartment. The Government was generous and where families were living in full generational homes the Government provided an apartment for each generation.
Over the 29 years since Pudong was created, the apartments have grown in value. Pudong is now a very expensive part of Shanghai with apartments worth in excess of a few million dollars. Those original families that where re-homed there, are now sitting on a goldmine. Shanghai is a very affluent area of China and those farming communities now have more money than they know what to do with.
When we arrived in Shanghai I was very surprised to see a Tesla vehicle, these vehicles are worth about AU$250,000 in Australia. I soon realised that these luxury cars are not at all unusual in Shanghai, just an example of how much money is currently being thrown around in China.
They are encouraged to purchase electric vehicles to help reduce the amount of smog from the excessive number of vehicles on the road. They also receive a different colour licence plate number and a reduction in costs to register the vehicle as an incentive to purchase electric.
You are more likely to find English speakers in Shanghai, its a cosmopolitan city and more western than any other city I visited, they even have a brand new Disneyland! Like anywhere though if you have issues with communication, ask for help and be patient. In my experience the Chinese will try and help or they will find someone that can.
Shanghai with kids is relatively easy compared to other Chinese cities, with the one child policy removed there has been a mini population boom with the Chinese taking full advantage of the policy being removed. That being said these kids have to be entertained and Shanghai is definitely lifting the lid, there is plenty of things to do in Shanghai with kids.
The ultimate kid’s attraction, Disneyland! Even though we’ve been to a few Disneylands around the world, I would still have to visit. Why, because Disneyland is the happiest place on earth!
Shanghai Disneyland opened in June 2016 and is the newest of all the Disneyland Parks. It is in the Pudong area of Shanghai and covers an area of 3.9 sq kilometres. Shanghai Disneyland entry price is 20% cheaper than Hong Kong Disneyland, you’ll notice a few Disneyland staples missing from this park, such as Space Mountain, Jungle Cruise and Its a Small World.
The development group set out to deliver an experience that is ‘authentically Disneyland and distinctively Chinese’, a promise they appear to have delivered. There are 7 themed areas in Shanghai Disneyland listed below and 2 future area ear marked for future expansion, including Zootopia which will be opening soon:
- Mickey Avenue – Chinese version of MainStreet;
- Gardens of Imagination – Chinese Zodiac gardens;
- FantasyLand – the largest theme park dedicated to Disney animation;
- Treasure Cove – an 18th century Spanish harbour town located on a Caribbean Island captured by Captain Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean;
- Adventure Isle – a mysterious lost world full of hidden treasures, similar to Adventure Land;
- TomorrowLand – futuristic theme, Space Mountain is replaced with TRON Lightcycle Power Run roller coaster; and
- Toy Story Land – very similar to other Toy Story Lands across the world.
- Train – the Shanghai Metro Line 11 goes direct to the Shanghai Disneyland Resort and trains run every few minutes. First train is 7:08am and the last train back departs at 23:39pm;
- Taxi – Shanghai taxi’s are a dime a dozen near the hotels in central Shanghai, if you are staying in a hotel the concierge will call one for you, otherwise you should be able to get one on the street. Taxi’s should cost around 220RMB (approx AU$46) beware of drivers trying to rip you off, it does happen so ensure the meter is running;
- Didi App – Didi is China’s answer to Uber, you can download the app and connect your international credit card. This is a great service and ensures you don’t get ripped off by the unscrupulous taxi drivers;
- Private transfer – this will definitely be the easiest option but will also be the most expensive. Click this – private vehicle transfer Shanghai Disneyland to organise your private driver. Click this for a private shared mini bus transfer which is cheaper than the private vehicle option.
Shanghai Disneyland does experience large crowds, if you have a short period of time in Shanghai, I do recommend you pre-book your tickets online. I have provided a link to the 1 day Shanghai Disneyland ticket below, click through and you’ll find other options for 2 day tickets for the park as well.
The Shanghai French Concession
I was very surprised when told there is a French quarter in Shanghai, commonly known the French Concession. Dating back to 1849, Shanghai’s French Concession was the best and richest residential area of Shanghai through to the 1920’s. Now an elegant area and home to live music venues, boutique wine bars, fashion shops, craft beer breweries and European delis.
I recommend doing a walking tour of the area taking in the idyllic European style villas which are a world away from the skyscraper jungle metropolis that is Shanghai now. Main areas not to be missed are Sinan Rd, Tianzifang, Middle Huaihai Rd and Moller Villa.
We had out most expensive meal of our trip in the French Concession at The Refinery, they have a large variety of local craft beer and I had a lovely burger with an Aussie beef patty! It was delicious and the only western food I had over the duration of the trip. The prices are very expensive in this area of Shanghai. If you want to experience this area, eat local Chinese as they seem to be much more affordable.
Visit The Bund
The Bund is the Financial District of Shanghai and located on the west banks of the Huangpu River. The Bund is 1.5 kilometres long and runs between Waibaidu Bridge and East Jinling Rd. Walking this stretch you’ll pass 26 western style, colonial era heritage buildings which are often referred to as the ‘Museum of International Architecture’.
The Bund also provides the best night time view of the downtown Pudong skyscrapers when looking across the Huangpu River. You’ll easily spot the Oriental Pearl Tower, Jin Mao Tower, Shanghai World Financial Centre and the Shanghai Tower. Arrive just before dusk to see the day then night view.
Make sure you walk along the waterfront of The Bund and you’ll see the Bund Bull, created by the same person that created the Wall St Bull in New York City. Make sure you drop into the China Bank building and look at the ceiling, the artwork is spectacular.
Huangpu Night Cruise
The best way to see the night lights of the Pudong skyscrapers is from a cruise on the Huangpu River. If you board just before 7pm, you’ll be out on the water for dusk and and will be in the perfect spot for viewing when the lights of all buildings turn on at 7pm.
If you time it properly you might just record the exact moment the lights come on. We knew the best side of the boat to go to for a great view and went straight to it when we boarded. There will be plenty of other boats out on the river as well, cruises run daily, morning, afternoon and night but I definitely recommend going at night.
You also have the option of booking a Huangpu River cruise that includes a buffet dinner. The boats have the buffet in a seated covered area inside with the roof top open for viewing. If you have a busy itinerary this would be a good option as it kills two birds with one stone! The boats themselves are quite extravagant and also lit up like a Christmas tree.
Yuyuan Garden Bazaar
This was the first place we saw traditional Chinese architecture in a city and this was the type of old China I expected to see. However this type of building has mostly been knocked down and cleared for better roads and high-rise buildings.
The Yuyuan Garden Markets are very touristy and a great place to start your souvenir shopping. This was our first opportunity for shopping and we bought a few bits and pieces but not a lot which was good as our bartering skills at that stage were still a bit fresh!
Find the food court area and head up to the top floor where you’ll be rewarded with an amazing view across the traditional roof tops and the Pudong skyscrapers in the background. It really is spectacular.
I really don’t recommend doing a tour here as entry is free, you just have to get there and a taxi or Didi will get you there no problem. Be careful of dodgy taxi drivers at any of the tourist attractions. I have included a tour that includes visiting the Yuyuan Gardens just in case you would prefer to do a tour or if you are time poor.
Shanghai Sightseeing Bus
I’m a big fan of sightseeing buses, I think they are a great way to see cities when you are on a tight itinerary but they also give you your bearings when arriving in a new city. Its much easier in cities like Shanghai were getting around is difficult and the communication barrier challenging.
I think if you did it all yourself you would get very frustrated! Much easier to sit on a bus with headphones providing an audio history lesson in between stops. I find these are great overview and anything I really enjoyed, I can go back to another time.
They generally have a number of buses running on the route which means you can come and go as you please. I find with tours you are often rushed and sticking to a timetable. On the sightseeing buses you don’t have that timetable so once you’re ready to move on just head to the designated bus stop and get on the next bus to the next attraction.
In my experience, most routes have buses running about every 15-20 minutes. There are three different routes in Shanghai, the red – Shanghai City Tour, green – Temple Tour and blue – Pudong Tour each taking in different parts of the city. There are also options for a 24 hr or 48 hr bus pass, click the link below to view the different options, one even includes a Huangpu River Cruise.
ERA Intersection of Time Acrobatic Show
The Chinese are definitely well known for their amazing skills in gymnastics and acrobatics which is why taking in this amazing show will be an experience you’ll never forget. Produced by the Shanghai Circus World, an amazing display of traditional Chinese acrobatic stunts and choreographed with modern technology and dramatic effect music.
The show will have you sitting on the edge of your seat in amazement at how they are able to do such brilliant routines. A must see activity when visiting Shanghai with kids especially if yours, like my Keira, are into gymnastics and acrobatics and also a show everyone will enjoy. I loved it and I’m sure you will too.
There are a number of different options for booking your tickets, prices vary between week nights and public holidays and there is a theatre map explaining the seating so you know which section you’ll be sitting in when you purchase your tickets. I sat in section B and we had great seats and could see everything very well.
Prices are tiered, as are the theatre sections and pricing reflects the area you’ll be sitting in. If you want the best seats in the house, purchase A section, if you aren’t to bothered and don’t want to spend to much, section C or D might be better for you. Click the link below to view the different options.
Shanghai Maglev Train
The Shanghai Maglev Train is the quickest way to get from the new Pudong International Airport to Longyang Rd Station on the outskirts of central Pudong in 8 minutes at 430kms per hour covering a distance of 30kms! Passengers then have to change to the Shanghai metro to get into central Shanghai.
Maglev is short for magnetic levitation and Shanghai is the third city to have maglev in operation. In 2004 when the maglev opened is was running a number of services daily however due to lack of profitability, the maglev only runs once or twice a day for tourists. The high cost of running it and the high ticket prices meant it was not a viable options for every day travellers in Shanghai.
The ride is very smooth as it runs on a magnetic field without the need for tracks, there are no stations so the maglev runs straight from point A to point B without stopping. Its a great experience for train enthusiasts and probably the only time you’ll travel at 430kms per hour on land.
Tickets can be purchased at either end of the line, you’ll purchase a Maglev and Shanghai Metro ticket combined which will get you into central Shanghai from the Pudong International Airport.
ⓘ Purchase Maglev Train tickets directly.
See Shanghai from up high
As said previously, Shanghai is a city full of skyscrapers, what better way then to see it than from up high. There are a number of different options for observations decks most of which are located in the Pudong area and include the Shanghai Tower, Jin Mao Tower, Shanghai World Financial Centre and Oriental Pearl Tower.
I don’t think there is anything better than a bird’s eye view, it give you perspective when taking in a mega-city like Shanghai and definitely will make you feel small in comparison. I recommend going later in the day, as the haze seems to lift by mid afternoon or in the evening when the city is all lit up.
Shanghai Tower opened in April 2017 and is the newest of the four observation decks and is also the highest in Shanghai and second highest in the world. The Shanghai Tower observation deck is located on the 119th floor and is 3m lower than the Burj Khalifa, Dubai which is number 1 in the world.
The Oriental Pearl Tower is very busy most of the time, however the Shanghai History Museum is located at the bottom of this building and it is worth visiting. There are options to experience a package including dinner at the Oriental Pearl Tower in the Revolving Restaurant, click the link for pricing.
The Jin Mao Tower and Shanghai World Financial Centre are great options however the view is much better from the Shanghai Tower as it towers over both these buildings.
Visit the Shanghai Zhujaijiao Ancient Water Town
Amongst all the glitz and glamour of cosmopolitan Shanghai, there are glimpses of old China, visiting the Shanghai Zhujaijiao Ancient Water town will show you what China use to be like before all the money came flooding in.
Before the major 8 lane highways and the fast train city connections, Chinese people mostly lived off the land. Dating back 1700 years during the Ming and Qing Dynasties, the best way to explore the town is by traditional wooden boat or by bike.
Now a days Zhujiajiao Ancient Town is very touristy and is filled with souvenirs and lovely traditional paintings like you see throughout China. Barter hard when purchasing and enjoy some of the local sweets and ice creams if its hot.
Don’t miss the Tong Tian He Chinese Pharmacy, the Great Qing Post Office, City God Temple and definitely take a short boat cruise around the area and see what life on the canals dubbed the ‘Venice of the East’, was like all those years ago. I love the ancient stone bridges you’ll find crossing all the canals.
Now I have to be honest here, museums aren’t really my thing, however the Shanghai Museum was pretty impressive in some parts. Founded in 1957 and in hits current location since 1996, there are so many historical artefacts housed here from across all the Chinese Dynasties.
The museum is divided into four sections over four floors. The highlights for me were the ancient currency section, traditional costumes for different areas across China and the Jade display which is the most popular gem stone in China and worth an absolute fortune.
The museum is home to over 120,000 pieces, many of national importance and mostly from the Ming and Qing Dynasties, it is the most significant museum in all of China. If you are into Chinese history or really enjoy museums, this will be a highlight of any visit to China.
Experience a Shanghai Food Tour
Participating in food tour is a great way to try all the different delicacies in a new city and explore dishes you might not choose if you weren’t on a tour with a guide. Particularly in China, the cuisines vary greatly from city to city and popular dishes in Shanghai are different to the popular dishes in Beijing.
Its also a great way to find affordable food as many of the tours will take you to areas off the tourist trail and often to market areas and local restaurants where prices are much more geared towards the locals.
Booking a night food tour will provide you with a great experience and being night time will be one less dinner you have to go out and find! I say that’s killing two birds with one stone.
Tours can be tailored to your taste in food, for me I don’t eat seafood, so let your tour guide know and they will factor that into their tour. The tour on foot will take you to four friendly family run restaurants and finish at a family friendly local craft beer pub where you can get to know your English speaking tour guide over a local beer.
I have to admit again, zoos are not my favourite way to see animals. Where possible animals should always bee seen in the wild. However, there are some great zoos out there doing some wonderful things for conservation of endangered animals the world over.
The Shanghai Zoo does have giant pandas, China’s national icon and the animal they are most proud of. I do recommend if at all possible, you visit the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. Here you will be certain that you money will be go towards the conservation of the Giant Pandas.
The Shanghai Zoo is home to 6000 animals, including 600 native Chinese animals including giant pandas, golden stub noses monkeys, lions, South China tigers and great hornbills. The Shanghai Zoo is constantly developing and strives to improve animal enclosures and provide better environments for all their animals.
ⓘ Purchase your Shanghai Zoo tickets direct on arrival
Participate in a chinese calligraphy class
Chinese calligraphy is an art form of its own and is widely practised in China and is generally held in high esteem across East Asia. There are at least 7 different types of Chinese script and archaeological sites have identified Chinese calligraphy script dating back to 4000 BC. That seems like an awful long time ago to me, however its in Wikipedia so it must be correct!
The calligraphy class is run by a professional calligrapher and will take you through the history of Chinese calligraphy and how to properly hold and use the traditional instruments which will enable you to make the proper Chinese strokes.
Not only is it a great experience but you’ll also be able to take your masterpiece home, you might like to frame it and have a permanent reminder of your experience in your home. Once you master the proper strokes, you’ll be asked to write all your friends birthday and wedding invitations!
Participate in Chinese paper cutting class
Take the opportunity to participate in another traditional ancient Chinese folk art form dating back to the second century. People would often stick the paper cut outs on the outside of their windows so that the daylight would shine through the the designs. The designs varied from region to region with different provinces creating their own unique styles.
Traditionally Chinese paper cut outs are done on red paper as the colour symbolises festivities and happiness. I purchased a Chinese paper cut out at the Shaolin Temple which is white with colour paper underneath. You can see the photo below of the one I purchased and it come in that nice little frame to keep it clean and safe.
Not only is this a great cultural and artistic experience, it’s a great way to learn about the history of China in a fun and interactive way. Best of all you’ll be able take it home and show all your family and friends.
DO YOU NEED A VISA TO VISIT CHINA?
The short answer is yes but there are a few exceptions.
Transit Without Visa Policy (TWOV)
24 Hour Transit Visa Exemption
To increase tourist numbers, China is now issuing 24 hour transit visa exemptions for some countries, Australia is one of them. Travellers must have an onward flight booked leaving within 24 hours from arrival. The 24 hour transit visa exemption is available to all foreigners and from most ports of arrival.
72 – 144 Hour Transit Visa Exemption
Passport holders of 49 countries may be eligible for transit visa exemptions for stays of 72 – 144 hours provided they are transiting through specific airports such as: Shanghai, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Guangdong, Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei, Shenyang, Dalian, Liaoning, Xiamen, Qingdao, When, Chengdu and Kunming.
Australia and New Zealand are eligible for this exemption as with 25 Schengen countries in Europe, 15 other European countries, 6 countries in North and South America and 11 countries in Asia and the Middle East. You will need to contact the Chinese Embassy nearest to you for further information or click here for a list of the countries that participate.
Tourist Visa (L Visa)
To successfully obtain a Chinese tourist visa you will need to show one of two things, you can either obtain a Letter Of Invitation issued by a resident of Mainland China or a company based in Mainland China or produce your paid round-trip tickets plus the hotel reservations for the duration of your stay in Mainland China. The hotel reservations will need to cover every date that you will be in country.
This means you’ll need to be very organised! One option is to book hotels on any aggregator site, such as Booking.com, Agoda.com or Expedia.com. These generally have free cancellation up to a certain date prior to arrival (sometimes only 24-48 hours), this way you can cancel should you need to and not be out of pocket if for whatever reason you are not granted a visa.
For Australians, lodging your Chinese Visa application is straight forward provided you have the correct information, along with two passport photos and the application form. Chinese Visa Application Service Centres are located in Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra, Brisbane and Perth. You will need to return to collect your passport containing your visa 3 days later.
Chinese visas are not cheap, when applying in Melbourne I paid AU$109 and multi entry visas are even more expensive. Others have applied for their Chinese visas in other parts of Asia and have reported that it’s substantially cheaper. You’ll need to contact the Chinese Embassy in whatever country you’re in for further details.
I always get my visa information for every country from the Australian Government Smart Traveller website (link takes you to current information regarding entry and exit to China), it provides you with a Chinese Visa checklist, so you can make sure you have the correct paperwork ensuring you only have to lodge it once. There are so many different visas for China, however I’m only covering the L class tourist visa, click here to view other forms of visa.
how to find the best hotels in shanghai with kids
The best place to stay in Shanghai with kids is definitely as central to the activities you want to do and see and my recommendation is around the People’s Square or around The Bund.
Shanghai is China’s centre of western modernism and finding the best hotel and geographical area in Shanghai at an affordable price is challenging. Like all Chinese cities, Shanghai is sprawling and spread over many kilometres. Shanghai is divided into different neighbourhoods all with their own vibe.
That’s ok though, I’ve made it easy for you to choose the right location at the right price for you, see below recommendations and breakdown of geographical areas.
Top 5 areas of Shanghai for tourists
Below I have broken down the best places to stay in Shanghai and recommended a luxury, mid-range and budget hotel. When recommending hotels I generally stick to luxury – 5 star, mid-range – 4 star and budget – 3 star.
The family favourite Pudong is the area you most likely associate with Shanghai on TV and travel brochures, with the glitz and glamour of the skyline lit up with skyscrapers. Home to the tallest buildings in the country and Shanghai Tower the second tallest in the world.
Located on the banks of the Huangpu River and directly across from The Bund, Pudong is where is all happens. Only 30 years ago this area was still farm land.
Former French Concession
A former French colonial area until the mid 1900’s, it was the most sought after area and the most expensive, this area is popular with the young, cool and trendy appealing to the modern affluent generation.
Definitely the coolest place to stay in Shanghai, roam the hip alleys and explore the cafes, restaurants and craft beer pubs and you might just forget you’re in China.
Popular with first time visitors to Shanghai, due to its central location. Home to one of the largest sporting stadiums in China and Xujiahui Park, both nice areas to explore. With great metro train network, this centrally located area will mean you can get to just about anywhere in Shanghai quite easily.
Of all the areas in Shanghai, Jing’an is a little easier on the budget. However it also means you are a slightly further removed from the action! Many expats live in this area, therefore it almost feels western, more so than the rest of Shanghai. Surprisingly there are a lot of 5 star hotels in this area, even though its known for being budget friendly.
Top places to eat in shanghai
Shanghai is definitely one of the more Western friendly cities in China. Most of the restaurants in the tourist areas will have either pictures on the menu or someone that at least knows a little bit of English. If you are in an area not usually frequented by tourists it is unlikely you will be able to communicate easily. If you download a translator app that will normally get you through, the wait staff do make an effort to communicate.
I recommend eating local dishes when in Shanghai, our family favourite originates in Shanghai and are a must when travelling here, xiao long bao commonly known as soup dumplings! We loved steamed pork ones but they come in seafood and vegetarian options as well.
While Peking Duck is synonymous with Beijing, it is also a specialty in Shanghai where is is roasted in an open fire Cantonese style. Don’t miss out on the infamous fried pork bun, fried in a wok and sprayed with water, its a delicious Shanghai snack. Below I have made a recommendation for each area of Shanghai:
Pudong - Din Tai Fung
Home of the best pork dumplings in Shanghai, there are plenty of other options on the menu if dumplings aren't your thing! While the restaurant chain is a franchise, the Pudong store is located on the third floor of Superbrand Mall, go in the evening to enjoy a stunning view over the Bund.
People's Square - Shanghai Grandmother
Packed to the rafters daily, this restaurant is walking distance from The Bund. Traditional home style cooking, just like your grandmother makes, this cheap eatery is a favourite with Shanghai's expat community. Must try dishes include Grandmothers braised pork or crispy roast duck.
Former French Concession - Noodle Bull
Cheap as chips yet famous for having the best noodles in Shanghai. Vegetarian options available in this hipster environment, with funky bowls feel free to slurp away to your hearts content. Open until midnight every night.
Xuijiahui - Kota's Kitchen
A Beatles themed Japanese yakitori restaurant, affordable meat skewers and main meals are on the menu in this funky and inviting 1960's styled Japanese eatery. Worth a visit for the atmosphere alone, make sure you book as tables are rarely available when just rocking up.
Jing'an - FU 1039
A famous Shanghainese eatery, set in a three storey 1913 villa, oozing old world Chinese charm. Staff here speak little English and the restaurant is located down an alley and can be challenging to locate, definitely worth the effort for some affordable traditional Shanghai nosh.
getting to and from shanghai
As the major city in China, there are many options for transport in and out of Shanghai.
Shanghai has two airports, Shanghai Pudong International Airport (PVG), the primary airport and home to most of the international airlines and Shanghai Hongqiao Airport (SHA). PVG is a major aviation hub in China and caters mostly to international airline carriers. SHA mostly serves domestic and regional flights within China.
Shanghai Pudong International Airport is located 30kms from central Shanghai and has three terminals. Its the main hub for China Eastern Airlines and Shanghai Airlines. It is also the 3rd busiest airport in China, servicing over 80 million travellers per year.
If travelling domestically you should also consider travelling on the China Rail system, I have written a comprehensive post on how to book the China train tickets both in person and online. This guide can be used for booking all trains in China, you can book online and pick up all your tickets at once.
How to get around Shanghai
There are many options for getting around Shanghai, it can be challenging though due to the language barrier and the vast majority of signage is in Chinese.
Metered Taxi – metered taxis are cheap as many Shanghainese don’t have cars, however that is slowly changing as the economy is currently bursting. You will experience difficulty communicating with many taxi drivers as it is likely they will only know the Chinese name of most places. We took a card from our hotel with the hotel address written in Chinese so we could get back and make it easier for the taxi driver. Shanghai is massive and not all taxi drivers know every area which can make it a little difficult at times;
Didi App – Didi is a Chinese version of Uber, if you download the app, it will be much easier than attempting to communicate with taxi drivers that don’t speak English and minimising the risk of a miscommunication. The app will tell you the cost prior to getting in the car which will also minimise the chance of getting ripped off like I did! You can pay cash for trips under Y100, otherwise you will need to link your foreign credit card to the app payment section.
Shanghai Subway – like all subways Shanghai’s train system appears overwhelming, however once you get in there and experience it, things will all fall into place. Due to the traffic congestion the Shanghai subway has to be efficient, especially when you are moving 23 million people around this massive metropolis. The subway stations are clean and trains are always on time, they have to be to keep the city moving.
The Shanghai subway has 16 different lines with news ones currently under construction. Major attractions such as The Bund, Pudong, People’s Square, Nanjing Rd and Shanghai Railway Station (for fast train connections) are all accessible on the Shanghai subway.
There are many options for train travel in Shanghai, choose a combination that will best suit the length of your stay and where you want to travel to:
Single journey ticket – purchase at a ticket dispenser or ticket booth at the train station, electronic ticketing requires you use small change. You’ll be required to enter your point A to point B, you’ll be provided with a cost for that specific trip.
Shanghai Public Transportation Card – cards can be used on the metro, some public buses, ferryboats and metered taxis. Card will require topping up when your funds get low. This card is reusable for the duration of your stay.
Souvenir Ticket – great choice for tourists, valid for a year, can be purchased at larger main stations. Can only be used for certain lines, those closest to the main attractions. The card will be returned to you after each trip and can be taken home as a souvenir.
One day travel pass – valid for a 24 hour period, unlimited travel, card costs CNY18 ($3.50AUD).
Three day travel pass- valid for 72 hour period, unlimited travel, card costs CNY45 ($9AUD).
Maglev & Metro Pass – there are two options with this pass, Maglev single one way or the Maglev round trip pass, both have unlimited metro access and can be activated from Pudong International Airport and are valid for 24 hours from activation.
Shanghai Bus – the Shanghai bus network consists of 10 different companies covering every part of the city and suburban areas with over 1400+ routes to get you to where you need to go. The Shanghai Bus system is very cheap and run 24hrs per day. Most bus trips cost CNY2 and the downtown shuttle bus costs CNY1. I recommend the subway rather than the bus as buses are often crowded and are subject to the same traffic congestion as cars and taxis. Buses are great if you know where you are going however you’ll likely have significant language barriers even though all stops are announced in Mandarin and English.
Ferry – Ferries run across the Huangpu River between Pudong New District and Puxi Area. Ferries can either by paid using small change or by the Shanghai Transportation card. This is a great way to avoid the traffic congestion in the various tunnels crossing Huangpu River during peak hour traffic.
Walk – I always recommend getting out and walking in new cities where possible. Obviously with Shanghai being such a big city, you’ll be unable to walk everywhere. However, exploring by foot will enable you to experience things others normally wouldn’t if in a car.
Best time to visit shanghai with kids
October to November is is peak season in Shanghai. Shanghai experiences four distinct seasons with a warm spring, hot humid rainy summers, cool temperate autumns and cool mild winters.
I visited Shanghai in early-June and we had fantastic weather although it was humid. We experienced a bit of haze which reduced visibility and it didn’t really lift until the afternoons. We were incredibly lucky to get no rain as we had expected to have some due to the high humidity levels.
Smog and air pollution is an issue in Shanghai and every other large city in China, however it does tend to be worse in summer when it is muggy and smoggy as well as winter when it is cold as extra smog is created from keeping the homes and buildings heated. Shanghai rarely experiences snow.
The Chinese Government is rewarding people for purchasing new electric vehicles, this is reducing the air pollution and evidently will have a huge impact on pollution levels going forward. Shanghai is a very wealthy part of China, therefore you will notice as large number of electric cars and recharging stations.
what to pack when visiting shanghai with kids
Make sure you pack comfortable shoes that you can walk in. The sidewalks are good in Shanghai so very little issues with uneven surfaces particularly around the touristy areas.
A light rain jacket would also we beneficial, one that’s easy to pack. Layers in winter will be your best friend. That will mean you are prepared for all types of weather, you can layer up or down to keep you comfortable all day. Peel them on or off as needed.
When travelling I always recommend dressing respectfully when visiting religious and culturally significant locations. While China has no restrictions like other Asian countries, its always nice to respect local custom. Preferably no skimpy tops or really short skirts/shorts, dress appropriately for the weather and conditions.
I have the weather app on my iPhone and I download each city I will be visiting prior to leaving so I have a good idea of what weather conditions to expect over the first week. This helps with packing and ensure I’m prepared and have packed appropriately.
You will be able to purchase most things you need there if you have forgotten something. They have all types of stores from departments stores right through to top end, boutique stores.
budget for visiting shanghai with kids
Budgets are always hard for me to recommend as I’m never really great at keeping to one!
Shanghai is one of the more affluent cities in China as with the surrounding cities in Southern China. However by western standards its still pretty reasonably priced. Hotels are of a high standard for what is charged and on the ground costs such as transportation are very affordable and always efficient.
If you decide to travel independently around Shanghai, you can save a good amount of money however you need to be patient and ask for help when you don’t understand, Shanghai is a very western cosmopolitan city so communication won’t be as challenging as the northern cities such as Beijing. There is usually someone that will try and help you, particularly the younger generation.
You might find doing a tour, most of which include hotel pick up and drop off, a much easier option. I recommend doing part tours and part independent, this will ensure you have a bit of a break from the challenges of independent travel. That’s not to say independent travel is impossible, its not, but its definitely more challenging and leaves you open to opportunistic scammers.
do I recommend travelling to shanghai with kids
Definitely, Shanghai is an amazing city and the highlight of course is visiting the Pudong New District, its not often you get to see such a modern, young city that has spared no expense to make sure it looks amazing.
I recommend visiting Suzhou and Hangzhou if you have the opportunity while you are in Shanghai. The floating villages are amazing and the UNESCO World Heritage garden sites in Suzhou are traditional and really show the feng shui influence with the mix of gardens, water and open style living.
I definitely recommend getting out and about in Shanghai, it’s very safe and people are welcoming and happy to assist tourists. They are proud of their modern cosmopolitan city and regardless of what the rest of the world thinks of their president, they are very complimentary of him.
I also think a mixture of independent and tours is perfect for visits to Shanghai. I also recommend travelling by China rail fast train to other areas of China, including Xian, Beijing and Chengdu.
Should you not yet be confident to tackle China independently, there are plenty of great and affordable China tours groups, covering everything from a week to 3 plus week tours. Tours are a great way to get your bearings and then you might be confident to return independently and explore an amazing country.
Have you been to Shanghai? Do you have any questions? Please leave them in the comments section below and I’ll do my best to answer them for you.