Shanghai is arguably better organized than Beijing transportation-wise.It has a larger population than Beijing but just one-third of the number of cars. Shanghai has imposed limits since the 1980s on the number of automobiles that can be registered in the city and sells license plates through an auction system. The transit system in Shanghai is better designed than the one in Beijing.

Public transport is well developed in Shanghai. Most transport is via Metro, buses and taxis. One can pay fares on all transport options in Shanghai and surrounding area using the Shanghai Public Transportation Card. Shanghai has an extensive bus network. Many of the buses are newer models with air-conditioning. Night bus route numbers begin with number 3. They provide service after 11:00pm. Route information at bus stops is in Chinese.

Announcements given on some buses are in Chinese and English. Buses are generally crowded during rush hour. ZhangJiang Tram provides transport on two lines: ZhangJiang Hi-Tech Park Station to Heqing Town, and ZhangJiang Hi-Tech Park Station to Jinqiu Road. Trams run every 3 minutes between 5:45am and 11:00pm. Trams are the original form of public transportation in Shanghai. Shanghai Tram Map: Urban Rail

Shanghai Public Transportation Card, also known as jiaotong yikatong, is rechargeable card that can be used on the Metro and buses in Shanghai, Wuxi Tai and Suzhou. It can also be used on toll roads and in parking garages. Similar to the Octopus card of Hong Kong's MTR. It is a RFID-embedded card can be purchased at selected banks, convenience stores and metro stations with a 20-yuan deposit. This card can be loaded at ticket booths, Service Centers at the metro stations as well as many small convenience stores and banks throughout the city. The Shanghai Public Transportation Card can also be used to pay for other forms of transportation, such as taxi or bus.

Major Railway Stations: There are three main trains stations in Shanghai. 1) Shanghai Railway Station, 2) Shanghai South Railway Station, and 3) Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station (Shanghai West Railway Station). Make sure you know which station your train is leaving from. The stations are served by Metro lines. Jinghu Railway (Beijing–Shanghai railway) links Shanghai and Beijing. Huhang Railway links Shanghai and Hangzhou. Hongqiao Station serves 3 high-speed trains linking Shanghai with Hangzhou, Nanjing and Beijing. Travel China Guide

Bus Station : The long distance bus station is on Qiujiang Lu. Shanghai Railway Station (served by Metro Lines 1, 3 and 4) is a major hub for buses as well as trains. There are stops here for many city bus lines and interprovincial buses. These bus lines will soon be housed in a brand-new bus station. Trains are generally recommended over buses. Travel China Guide

Main Roads and Highways: Shanghai is a major transportation hub. Expressways link city with Beijing (G2), Haikou (G15), Xi'an (G40), Chengdu (G42), Ningbo, Kunming (G60) and Chongqing (G50). Central districts have several elevated, limited-access expressways, constructed above main surface-level roads. Route numbers for municipal expressways have an “S” prefix. Nanjing Road, Shanghai main shopping street runs east-west in city center. Traffic is often congested. Traffic jams are common. The street has two sections: 1) Nanjing Road East, in Huangpu District, linking The Bund and People's Square, including a pedestrianized section; and 2) Nanjing Road West, links People's Square and Jing'an District.

Web sites: Travel China Guide ; Shanghai Highlights ;; Wikitravel Maps Joho Maps Joho Maps ; China Highlights ; Subway Maps: Joho Maps

Geography of Shanghai


Shanghai sits on a peninsula in Yangtze River Delta on China's eastern coast, and is roughly equidistant from Beijing and Hong Kong. The municipality as a whole consists of a peninsula between the Yangtze and Hangzhou Bay, mainland China's second-largest island Chongming, and a number of smaller islands. It is bordered on the north and west by Jiangsu, on the south by Zhejiang, and on the east by the East China Sea. The city proper is bisected by the Huangpu River, a tributary of the Yangtze. The historic center of the city, the Puxi area, is located on the western side of the Huangpu, while the newly developed Pudong, containing the central financial district Lujiazui, was developed on the eastern bank.

Beijing is one of China’s four province-level municipalities The vast majority of Shanghai's 6,340.5 square kilometers (2,448.1 square miles) land area is flat, apart from a few hills in the southwest corner, with an average elevation of 4 meters (13 feet). The city's location on the flat alluvial plain has meant that new skyscrapers must be built with deep concrete piles to stop them from sinking into the soft ground. The highest point is at the peak of Dajinshan Island at 103 meters (338 feet). The city City Chongming Island and several smaller islands. It has many rivers, canals, streams and lakes and is known for its rich water resources as part of the Taihu drainage area.

The Shanghai municipality covers an area about the size of Connecticut while the city proper is fairly concentrated.Puxi area, city’s historic center, developed west of the river. It includes eight districts known as Shanghai Proper or the core city. Pudong, city’s newer sections, developed east of the river.

Orientation in Shanghai

The main district, Huang Pu, embraces the area on both sides of the Huang Pu River. The area on the west side of the river is called Puxi (meaning “west side of the river”). The area on the east side of the river is called Pudong (meaning “east side of the river”). The new skyscrapers and the financial center of the city are in Pudong,

Most of the older parts of town are in Puxi: Suzhou Creek and most places of interest to tourists, including the Bund (from Suzhou Creek to Shanghai Harbour Passenger Terminal), Nanjing Road and Frenchtown (including the colorful Ruijin district). Nanjing Road, city's main shopping street runs east-west in city center. Traffic is often congested. Traffic jams are common. The street has two sections: 1) Nanjing Road East, in Huangpu District, linking The Bund and People's Square, including a pedestrianized section; and 2) Nanjing Road West, links People's Square and Jing'an District.

Other important districts include Yangpu and Hongkou in the northeast, Zhabei and Putuo in the northeast, Jingsan and Changmin in the west, and Luwan, Nanshi and Xuhai in the south. The new Pudong development area is to the east. The Yangtze river and port of Baoshan are to the north. Hardly anything remains of the old Chinese city, the International Settlement, the American Settlement and the Japanese Concession

The central area is more or less laid out in a grid and the streets names are written in Pinyin. Many of the major streets are named after major places in China and are thus easy to remember. Walking around Shanghai is recommended. The road system and infrastructure is hopelessly out of date and parts of the city are ensnared in near-constant gridlock. A trip across town can take three hours. Often you can make better time on foot than in a vehicle. Construction from $25 billion infrastructure improvement program thus far has only made the situation worse.

A detailed map with names in English and Chinese as well as subways stops and bus routes is helpful. Before you head off to some place off the beaten path, it helps to have detailed written directions in both English and Chinese and the name of a landmark near your destination. To get back to your hotel bring a card with the name of your hotel in Chinese and English. Since taxis are cheap, it often worthwhile to take a cab if you don't want to walk. The subway is good but it doesn't serve many destinations. Buses are crowded. Bicycling riding takes patience and nerves.

Taxis in Shanghai

Metered taxis are cheap and plentiful but drivers often get tied up in traffic. Some drivers are very good at finding shortcuts through the mayhem. Others are maniacs. In Shanghai taxi drivers are rated from one to five stars. Drivers have to pass tests to earn the stars. Five star drivers are required to speak English. The upon entry fee for taxis in Shanghai is US$2 and each addition kilometer is 50 cents or lower. The best taxis are the newer aquamarine-colored cabs owned by Da Zhong Taxi.

According to Travel China Guide: “More than 50,000 taxis are serving in Shanghai. They are operated by over 100 taxi companies and are in different colors: cabs of Dazhong Company are identified by the color of sky blue; Qiangsheng by orange and green; Jinjiang by white and Haibo by dark blue. Lanse Lianmeng and Falanhong Taxi Companies are also reputable and they are respectively in red and blue.

According to ASIRT: “Drivers do not speak English. For assistance, call phone number displayed in the back of the taxi for assistance in English. Agent will explain your destination to the driver. Avoid giving drivers large bills for short rides. Drivers do not like to give change. Taxis are scarce in rush hour and during rains. Taxi drivers are not permitted to pick up passengers who are not part of your group. Object if driver attempts to do so. Taxi colors are strictly controlled and indicate name of taxi company. Avoid dark red and maroon taxis, reserved for small taxi companies; drivers often charge higher fares. Avoid privately-owned taxis. License plates have an "X" in the number; drivers often charge higher fares. [Source: Association for Safe International Road Travel (ASIRT), 2011]

Bicycling in Shanghai

Bicycles are an option if you know to handle yourself in traffic. They can be rented from many hotels, or from places near the hotels. Keep in mind though that each year there are around 350 bicycle related fatalities in Shanghai. Moreover, bicycles were banned from all major roads in Shanghai in 2004 to make more room for cars.

Shanghai is favorable for cycling in that is mainly flat with a few gentle hills in southwestern part of the city. Best to stay off the main roads. Try roads parallel to the main ones. Chinese cyclist often ride against the flow of traffic, swerve suddenly and come flying in off of side roads without looking. Posters of cyclists horribly mutilated in accidents are hung up all over town. Cyclists who have survived several accidents are often sent to "re-education classes."

Cyclists and riders of motorized two-wheelers should use cycle lanes but many places don’t have them. Obey pedestrian lights; walk across intersections in pedestrian crosswalks to move though heavy traffic more quickly. Bicycles and motorcycles are not permitted on many major roads, in tunnels or on bridges between Pudong and Puxi. Use ferry to cross river. Signs indicate where cycling is not permitted.

According to to ASIRT: Separate cycle lanes are available on main secondary roads. Cyclists often park on sidewalks. Bike theft is high. Use a good bike lock, especially when parking in less traveled areas. Attended bike parks are available in some heavily traveled areas. Electric bikes (e-bikes) and electric scooters must be registered. Driver's license is not required. Often stolen. Securely lock when parked. E-bikes have a short battery range; must recharge battery after 50 km. Electric scooters have a longer battery range, and are faster and more comfortable. [Source: Association for Safe International Road Travel (ASIRT), 2011]

In the old days Chinese used to ride their bicycles in the rain and snow. When it rained in Shanghai, the streets were filled with bicycle riders in blue, yellow, red and purple ponchos. There were so many bicycles in Shanghai that sometimes traffic stammered to a halt with bicycle gridlock. Those days are over.

Shanghai Metro

The Shanghai Metro system is the world's second largest metro system based on route length after the Beijing Subway. It has 676 kilometers (420 miles) or tracks 413 stations (also the second largest in the world) on 16 lines. The annual ridership was 3.71 billion rides in 2018 (again second in the world after Beijing). On March 8, 2019, a record 13.29 million used the system. On a typical work day about 10 million people use the system. [Source: Wikipedia

The 16 lines are identified both by number and color. For example, Line 2 is also the light green line. Train generally run between 5:00am or 6:00am in the morning and ro 10:30pm or 11:00pm at night. Lines 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 10, 11 and 13 run an hour later on Friday, Saturday and last working days before Chinese Public Holidays. In 2018, all the stations in the city center extended their operating hours after midnight.

Shanghai built its great subway network in a short period of time. The first line opened in 1995. By 2007 the system — known as the the Mass Transit Railway System — had five lines that extended 130 kilometers, with 95 stations, and transported 2 million people daily. Six more lines, extending service to 400 kilometers opened around the time of the Shanghai Expo in 2010. In the early 2010s , there were 11 lines and more than 434 kilometers (270 miles) of tracks. There are plans for 900 kilometers (560 miles) of subways on a total of 22 lines in the early 2020s.

Most Shanghaiese like their subway system. Even those who have been relocated to make way for new lines like it. In many cases they have been well compensated and moved to new apartments that were considerably better than the ones they left behind. It is hard to walk very far in downtown Shanghai without coming across a station. Reaching outlying areas is more problematic. Some questions were raised about the system after a crash that injured more than 200 people in September 2011

Subway Web Sites : Wikpedia ; .Subway Maps : Joho Maps ; Urban Rail

Main Transport Hubs and Metro Stations in Shanghai

People's Square is the busiest station of the Shanghai Metro system is Lines 1, 2 and 8 converge here. ). Busy all day long and especially crowded during peak hours, it is located near major shopping and tourist destinations such as East Nanjing Road, a pedestrian street, the Shanghai Museum, People's Park, the Shanghai Grand Theatre and Yan'an Park on People's Square. There are 17 exits, so work out the best place to get out. There are maps in the station.

Xujiahui serves Lines 1, 9 and 11 and is located in the Xujiahui commercial center of Shanghai. Six large shopping malls and eight large office towers are within a three-minute walk of one of the station's 18 exits, the largest number of exits of any station in the Shanghai Metro. This station is also used as a pedestrian tunnel between the busy, wide roads in the area..

Lujiazui (Line 2) is the main station in Pudong area. Located in the of Lujiazui financial district, the financial center of Shanghai, it provides access to Shanghai’s main skyscrapers — Oriental Pearl TV Tower, Jin Mao Tower, Shanghai Tower and Shanghai World Financial Centre — and shopping and restaurant areas. Lujiazui is not as busy as Xujiahui and People's Square, particularly during off-peak hours or on weekends.

Shanghai Railway Station has stations for Lines 1, 3 and 4 and is a major transportation hub in Shanghai, containing the railway station and stops for many city bus lines and interprovincial buses. These bus lines will soon be housed in a brand-new bus station. The line 1 platform is in the South square while platforms for line 3 and 4 are in the North square. These two platforms are technically separate stations, so interchange is not possible between Line 1 and Lines 3 and 5. A transfer to the line 1 platform requires a SPTC or a new ticket.

Hongqiao Railway Station is served by Lines 2, 10 and 17. , Hongqiao Airport Terminal 1 (Line 10) and Hongqiao Airport Terminal 2 (Lines 2 and 10) are metro stations located in the Hongqiao transportation hub. Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport and Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station are a a walk of a few hundred meters from each other. Both Hongqiao Airport stations are linked with the airport, which has many domestic flights and handful or international ones. the Hongqiao Railway metro station directly linked with the train station. The airport and railway stations themselves offer a zero-distance transfer.

Ligaya Mishan wrote in the New York Times: “In the vast departure hall of Shanghai’s decade-old Hongqiao Railway Station, an epic writ in 80,000 tons of steel, everything looks new and tired at once, tinged with gray — even the October sunshine that filters down from skylights so high it can’t quite reach the floor. This is architecture meant to set the soul asoar, but I am conscious only of how far I am below, in the horde at the gates. Down the stairs, the bullet train waits, sleek-nosed and sealed in on itself, like a missile. A stoic janitor steers a Zamboni-like machine down the platform, buffing it to a gleam. When the train sets off, it feels like nothing: the slight give of a door unlatched. If I don’t look out the window, I can imagine myself absolutely still.” [Source: Ligaya Mishan, New York Times, May 11, 2020]

Pudong International Airport is the eastern terminus of Line 2 and is connected by the the Shanghai maglev train to Longyang Road. Shanghai South Railway Station is served by Lines 1 and 3. Zhongshan Park (Lines 2, 3 and 4) is a heavily used due to the large shopping malls and hotel above it. Century Avenue (Lines 2, 4, 6 and 9) is the largest interchange station in the Shanghai Metro system, and the first station in mainland China to offer an interchange between four metro or subway lines.

Tickets and Passes for the Shanghai Metro

The Shanghai Metro uses a distance-based fare system and employs a "one-ticket network", meaning that changing possible between lines is possible with a single ticket as long as you don’t leave the station. For most lines, the base fare is 3 yuan (42 US cents) for journeys under 6 km, then 1 yuan for each additional 10 km. Single-Journey tickets can be purchased from ticket vending machines, and at some stations, at a ticket window. The machines have touch screens with an English-language button. When entering the system riders tap the ticket on a scanner on the turnstile, and when they exit they insert the ticket into a slot on the turnstile and the turnstile keeps the ticket.

Shanghai Public Transportation Card, also known as jiaotong yikatong, is rechargeable card that can be used on the Metro and buses in Shanghai, Wuxi Tai and Suzhou. It can also be used on toll roads and in parking garages. Similar to the Octopus card of Hong Kong's MTR. It is a RFID-embedded card can be purchased at selected banks, convenience stores and metro stations with a 20-yuan deposit. This card can be loaded at ticket booths, Service Centers at the metro stations as well as many small convenience stores and banks throughout the city. The Shanghai Public Transportation Card can also be used to pay for other forms of transportation, such as taxi or bus.

Metro Passes: A one-day pass was introduced for the Shanghai Expo in 2010. The price is 18 yuan for a calendar day for unlimited travel within the metro system. A three-day pass is 45 yuan, for unlimited travel within the metro system. These passes are not available through vending machines. They have to be purchased at Service Centers at metro stations.

Automobiles in Shanghai

There are considerably less cars in Shanghai than in Beijing in part because of the difficulty there of getting licences and registration. Shanghai has restricted registrations since 1994 and sells license plates through an auction system to prevent its antiquated streets from becoming overwhelmed.

To own a car in China one needs a license plate. The Shanghai license fee was $7,524 in 2010. To get a license plate in Shanghai one needs to bid in a fiercely competitive auction with secret bids. To sign up for the auction one has to wait in a line that snakes for several city blocks outside of office that gives out the licenses. In 2002, only 2,350 licenses were given out in Shanghai every month. By 2005, around 14,000 were given out every month. People who bid too low have to try again next month. The process was made difficult on purpose: to limit the number of cars on the road.

Describing the scene at the licence plate office, Wang Tung wrote in the Washington Post, “In the final hour of bidding there is a mad rush to get in the door. Participants claw their way inside the auction hall to one or two dozen dilapidated computer terminals where they must enter their registration number, password and bidding number."

“Within seconds after the door flew open...the chamber was a sweltering mosh pit, thronged by red-faced men and women clutching onionskin registration forms by the fistful. Several scuffles required auction officials to act as referees...The computers were switched off at 3 p.m. The bidding stopped, dealers and customer shuffled out into the lobby to smoke and wait... After a while the officials announced the minimum bid. Those who did over that amount got licences. Those that bid under that amount didn't get one."

The government has raised fees for car registration every year, doubling them between 2000 to 2005 to $4,600 per vehicle — more than twice they city's average per capita income — but still the cars keep coming. Many Shanghaiese get around the registration fees by illegally registering their cars in other cities where the fees are much lower. The government is reluctant to do too much to slow car ownership out of fear of slowing economic growth and alienating the middle class.

Driving in Shanghai

According to ASIRT: “1) Driving in central districts is not recommended due to complexity of road network, abundance of one-way streets, heavily congested traffic, undisciplined driving culture, heavy pedestrian traffic, inadequate parking and ongoing road and Metro construction projects. 2) City uses an auction system to grant new license plates to limit new car purchases. Traffic conditions, road and building construction sites and congested walkways make pedestrian travel challenging. 3) Pedestrian facilities include zebra crossings, underground passageways or overhead bridges. Pedestrians often jay walk. 4) Be alert for pedestrians darting out into traffic, and cyclists and motorcyclists riding without lights turned on at night. 5) Electric-bike and electric scooter riders often do not obey traffic laws and may drive recklessly and/or aggressively.

On driving in Shanghai, Andrew Field wrote in his blog Squarespace: “It did not take long to accustom myself to the wide range of vehicular, cycle, and pedestrian traffic and the seemingly random ways that people navigated city streets...I quickly became used to the occasional brushups with other cars, usually the fault of a new driver. One time, a woman plowed into my Chevy from the right lane as if she had completely failed to notice its existence on the road. I became well acquainted with our insurance man, Gu, who miraculously appeared and whisked the car away to make the necessary repairs, returning it usually in around three days. I eventually gave up on trying to fix every scrape that appeared on the car." [Source: Andrew Field, Squarespace, blog, July 31, 2010]

“In the spring of 2009, I even made a long journey southward to Ningbo, Hangzhou, and Thousand Island Lake with a few friends. Once out of the city I found that driving was both more simple and joyful on the new and immaculate highway system of Zhejiang Province, and I relished the experience of crossing one of the world's longest ocean bridges, the Hangzhou Bay Bridge, on the way from Shanghai to Ningbo. It was quite an experience to be driving over the waters of the bay without seeing land for several kilometers in either direction, and from the perspective of the road, it was fascinating to witness the incredibly rapid development of one of China's most economically developed provinces."

On drivers in Shanghai, Field wrote: “At times it seems to be an all out battle for supremacy over the road with no quarter given. The "me first" mentality is very strong when it comes to driving etiquette or lack thereof. This in turn leads to far more accidents, which cause traffic delays ratcheting up levels of anxiety, leading to more fender-benders and so on in a vicious cycle. And people end up spending more time and money on the road and getting their cars fixed. But it is all worthwhile if one can shave that second off the road trip by cutting in front of another vehicle. This used to be true of lines here in China as well, such as the queues formed at a bank or a ticket counter. People have become far more polite about lining up since I first arrived in China in the 1980s. I suspect that over time, people in Shanghai will develop a more sophisticated sense of etiquette when it comes to driving. But who knows? Only time will tell."

Airports in Shanghai

Shanghai has two airports: 1) Pudong, the new one with international and domestic flights; and 2) Hongqiao, the old one, primarily for domestic flights. The number of passengers at these airports was increasing at a rate of 20 percent a year for a while. The new US$1.5 billion Shanghai Pudong International Airport is 40 kilometers east of Shanghai in the Pudong development zone. Opened in October 1999, it boasts a sweeping French-designed blue roof model after a pair of wings and is schedule to have five runways and be able to accommodate 80 million passengers..

Pudong airport had a capacity of 126,000 flights and 20 million passengers in the early 2000s. An expansion project was finished in 2008 that included the construction of a second terminal and a third runway. As of 2016, Pudong Airport hosted 104 airlines serving more than 210 destinations.The airport is the main hub for China Eastern Airlines and Shanghai Airlines, and a major international hub for Air China, as well as secondary hub for China Southern Airlines. It is also the hub for privately owned Juneyao Airlines and Spring Airlines.

There are two main terminals: T-1 main for international fights, with some domestic flights; and T-2 mainly for domestic flights, with some international flights. The two terminals are connected by a long underground passageway, maybe half of kilometer long. The two terminals are also linked by free shuttle service. The two terminals are flanked on both sides by four operational parallel runways, capable of accommodating aircraft up to Airbus A380, Boeing 747-8, and Antonov An-225,. A third passenger terminal has been planned since 2015 but hasn’t been built.

Pudong Airport also served a total of 74,006,331 passengers in 2018, making it the third-busiest airport in China after Beijing Capital and Hong Kong Airport, fifth-busiest in Asia, and the eighth-busiest in the world. It is also the busiest international gateway of mainland China, with 35.25 million international passengers. The airport has 162 boarding bridges along with 189 remote gates. Terminal 1 opened in 1999 and has 28 gates, 13 of which are double-decker gates and an annual capacity of 20 million passengers. It currently has 204 check-in counters, thirteen luggage conveying belts and covers an area of 280,000 square metres. Terminal 2 opened in 2008 and is capable of handling 60 million passengers a year. Terminal 2 is primarily used by Air China and other Star Alliance members.

Airport to City Transportation in Shanghai: A good strategy in Shanghai is to take public transportation to the city center — namely the new futurist train — and then take a taxi to your hotel. Web Sites : Shanghai Airport site , Wikipedia

Airport Transportation

Metro Line 2 stops at both Pudong and Hongqiao airports. Buses, taxis, and shuttles provide transportation between the Bund and Hongqiao and Pudong airport. A good strategy in Shanghai is to take public transportation from the airport to the city center — in the case of Pudong airport, the Maglev — and then take a taxi to your hotel.

Maglev high-speed trains provide transport to Longyang Road Metro Station, where you can connect with on Line 2, Line 7 and Line 16 of the Subway. Line 2 will take you to People's Square and other locations in the in city center. Maglev station is located between the terminals. And is open from 6:45am to 8:450pm daily. Service every 15-30 minutes, depending on time of day. Longyang Road Metro Station and the Airport are the only stops.

Hongqiao Railway Station is near Hongqiao airport. Express buses provide transport from both airports to nearby major cities, including Nanjing, Suzhou and Hangzhou.

Getting Between Pudong and Hongqiao Airports

Shanghai’s two airports are very far apart — Pudong is at the east extreme of Shanghai and Hongqiao is on the western side of the city, a distance of about 60 kilometers — and it is pain to get between them so if you can avoid having to change planes using the two airports. Changing airports may also require getting a transit visa. Another variable is the on-time record for your airline and flight. If your flight is late there could also be issues especially if are traveling on different airlines.

There are basically four options when it comes to traveling between Pudong and Hongqiao: 1) taking a taxi (expensive, could get stuck in traffic); 2) taking the shuttle bus (convenient but could get stuck in traffic); 3) taking the light green line (Line 2) subway (a long slog in a subway but no traffic); 4) maglev-subway combination. The latter involves taking the the 10-minute maglev from the airport to end of the line at Longyang Road Station and then changing to the light green line (Line 2) subway for an hour or so ride to Hongqiao Airport. If you take the subway directly from Pudong Airport to Hongqiao Airport it is very cheap but takes about an hour and 40 minutes. The airport shuttle bus line 1 takes 70 minutes and costs about US$5 but takes longer if you get stuck in a traffic jam.

In any case it is wise to make sure you have at least five hours — maybe six hours, and seven hours to be safe — between flights if you do have to travel between the two airports. Generally it takes about an hour to clear immigration and customs and get your luggage at Pudong airport, maybe a little longer if you get a visa on arrival or transit visa and you there is line for that. Then factor a half hour to get to the bus or maglev or whatever and waiting for it to arrive, two hours to get between the airports and finally being at Hongqiao two or three hours before your flight departs. The one time I went through all this I arrived at Pudong in the evening, headed over towards Hongqiao and stayed at a hotel in that area and then caught a taxi for morning flight on Spring Airlines from Hongqiao.

Maglev Train


Shanghai is the home of the world’s first commercial magnetic levitation (maglev) train. Opened in early 2004 and built by German engineers at a cost of US$1.2 billion, it reaches speeds of 260mph (415kph) and covers the 19 miles distance between Pudong International Airport to the 88-story Jin Mao Tower in downtown Shanghai in less than eight minutes. The maglev is regarded a prestige project intended to boost the standing of Shanghai and China as whole, not necessarily to make money. The stations look like futuristic lace tubes. The streamlined trains, which look like crosses between space-age fighters and conventional trains, hoover millimeters above a single gray track that is several stories above the ground and imbedded with powerful magnets that produce a faint humming when the trains pull in the stations.

Passengers are told by a loudspeaker voice when they enter the train that they will be “flying without wings.” As the train accelerates there are few indication that the train is traveling extremely fast other than the buildings blurring by. You don’t even feel any vibrations until the train tops 400lph. The Chinese are so proud of the train they have even opened a little museum that explains how it works at downtown departure terminal.

The trains depart every 15 to 20 minutes from 8:30am to 5:30pm, which means it often isn’t running when many flights arrive and depart. Tickets are US$6 each way. Foreign tourist are thrilled by the ride, saying it is better than Disneyland. Business travelers and local people are less excited. They often just take a taxi from airport, saying that is more convenient than taking the maglev downtown and working out a taxi or public transportation from there to their hotels or home. They also complain about the long walk to the airport maglev terminal, the inconvenient times of operation and say the route isn’t very well marked. Prices have been slashed by a third to encourage more people to take it but still many people opt for other forms of transport. When the maglev opened it ran at 20 percent capacity. After ticket prices were lowered it ran at 27 percent capacity. A new highway linking the airport to downtown Shanghai is being built.

The Maglev train line will be extended eight kilometers to the World Expo site by 2010. The Shanghai government has proposed spending $4.5 billion to expand the maglev train to Hangzhou. The project has outraged local citizens, for its cost, waste, relocations, the danger presented by such powerful electromagnetism and plans to route it through an area already filled with train lines and highways. The Shanghai-Hangzhou corridor already has a new super-fast bullet train similar to Japan’s Shinkansen.

People have already been evicted and relocated and in many cases given compensation well below market value and settled in suburbs that are half finished to make way for the World Exposition and various infrastructure projects, In January 2008 — after angry demonstrations by local residents were held despite official bans — the Shanghai government acknowledged there were problems with the project and promised to take into consideration public concerns. Maglev Train Web Sites : Shanghai Maglev official site ; Wikipedia

Image Sources: 1) CNTO (China National Tourist Organization; 2) Nolls China Web site; 3) Perrochon photo site; 4); 5) developers, architecture firms, tourist and government offices linked with the place shown; 6); 7) University of Washington, Purdue University, Ohio State University; 8) UNESCO; 9) Wikipedia

Text Sources: CNTO (China National Tourist Organization), UNESCO, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Updated in May 2020

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