Shanghai Offers Plenty Even for Budget Travelers

Shanghai lacks the grand monuments and ancient palaces of China’s capital, Beijing, but this bustling commercial center has plenty of unique attractions of its own: strolls down leafy streets bordered by elegant colonial villas, sweeping riverside vistas and — for six months next year — what promises to be the biggest World Expo ever.

Shanghai is gearing up for its role as China’s showcase for the May 1-Oct. 31 Expo, whose theme is “Better City, Better Life,” by remaking itself into the country’s most chic and modern city — with prices to match.

But with a bit of planning, savvy visitors to this one-time Paris of the Orient can easily eat well, sleep comfortably and take in the sights without getting “shanghai’d” by over-the-top prices.

A word to the wise: an Expo-related building boom has left some popular standbys temporarily off-limits. That includes the riverside walkway along the Bund — perhaps the city’s most famous sight with its imposing Western colonial mansions. Expect city traffic to be snarled by subway construction.

But this business-minded city of more than 20 million still has plenty to offer.


A cab ride from the international airport in Pudong, east of the city, costs $15-$30. Ignore the touts waiting to grab unwary visitors; bring the name of your hotel or other destination in Chinese and use the taxi line if you have luggage or are too tired for adventuring right upon arrival. If you’re traveling light, for $12 the city’s magnetic levitation train — the world’s only commercially operating maglev service — will whisk you the 19 miles (30 kilometers) into the city in just 7 minutes. The maglev connects to the city’s No. 2 subway line, and 5 yuan (about 75 U.S. cents) will get you across the river to downtown.

Arriving at the Hongqiao Airport in the city’s western outskirts can be less convenient for public transport. But a cab to the city’s center costs only $6 to $10. Don’t be put off by that long, snakey cab queue — it moves faster than you would expect. Another option from either airport is to take an airport express bus, which generally costs $3 or less.


How low do you want to go? The youth hostels that generally serve backpackers and students can be a good option, costing a minimum of 45 yuan (under $7) per night. Shanghai has eight clean, convenient youth hostels, most of them centrally located. A favorite pick is the Captain Youth Hostel, at 37 Fuzhou Rd. just off the Bund. The hostel’s 6th floor bar has views of the river and all rooms have hot-water baths, 24-hour reception service, free Internet access, free movie, free tourism information and luggage storage.

Another safe option is to book a room at a chain hotel — the Greentree Inn, Motel 168 and Hanting hotels all have many good locations and cost less than $30 a night for a room with all the basics.


Shanghai has only a handful of “must see” locations, topped perhaps by Yu Garden, located near the city temple in the center of what used to be the old walled city. Near downtown, it’s a brief walk from the city’s new No. 8 subway line through neighborhoods of two-story shop houses, a vanishing lifestyle in this city obsessed with trading old for new.

Just outside Yu Garden in a pond graced by lotus plants and goldfish stands the Huxingting teahouse and a huge bazaar. Wander through the crowds — weekdays are a bit less jammed than weekends — through a warren of shops selling silk blouses, tea, tourist kitsch and other chinoiserie. If the crowds get to be overwhelming, not one but two Starbucks outlets offer a chance for non-obtrusive people-watching. Next

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