What has made Shanghai the world’s most populous city? It’s a modern day commercial mecca! Shanghai celebrates its prosperity with monuments of industry, like the Oriental Pearl TV Tower. Its rapid evolution keeps the skyline changing and the fashions fleeting, meaning that familiarity is one thing that you should kiss goodbye in Shanghai. If you can embrace the unexpected, the radically new, and the immense crowds, you’re ready to tackle China’s most dynamic metropolis.
However, the towering skyscrapers, incessant traffic, and labyrinth of streets often intimidates visitors. In fact, these features can make Shanghai feel inaccessible and impersonal. To appreciate the city, you must realize that the “real” Shanghai is elusive for most people—locals and tourists alike. While here, you must carve out your own Shanghai. Discover your own dining gems in convoluted Zhujiajiao. Find a calm spot along the Bund. Reflect at the Jade Buddha Temple. There are numerous ways to plan your own adventure in Shanghai. So what are you waiting for?
How To Save Money in Shanghai
- Pick your location wisely Shanghai has several distinct neighborhoods, and prices for hotels, food, clothing, and more can vary drastically depending on the district. If you’re in a touristy area, you’ll likely to encounter above-average prices.
- Eat the local grub As an international city, Shanghai boasts world-class eateries that serve food from around the globe. But if you opt for local cuisine, like dumplings and barbeque, you’ll save some dough.
- Take the metro everywhere The metro is a cheap and efficient way to buzz around town, and best of all, it doesn’t get stuck in traffic.
Shanghai Culture & Customs
In Shanghai, foreign visitors can experience culture shock. Upon reaching Shanghai, travelers are inundated with the urban ills that reside in any mega-metropolis, including crowds, traffic, lines, lights, pollution, crowds, car horns, odors, skyscrapers, dirt, and more crowds. At times, catching your breath can be difficult, and you can always be on the run. In this predicament, you have two options: Either embrace the torrent of urbanity or firmly dictate your own pace.
Many visitors also struggle with communication here. People from across the globe come to Shanghai, so you’ll hear a medley of languages. The official language here is Mandarin; however, Chinese citizens from across the country arrive with their own regional dialects (and sometimes entirely different languages). That said, English is the predominant second language, and those in the tourism industry will have a working knowledge of it. Be patient when you interact with locals and bring a Mandarin phrase book.
While Shanghai’s restaurants and hotels maintain a relatively higher standard of sanitation compared to other Chinese destinations, Western visitors may still be surprised at what is permissible. Drinking only hot tea and bottled water and dining at reputable restaurants (just ask your concierge if you cannot identify any of these) will help ensure that you do not contract any food or waterborne ailments.
China’s official currency is the Renminbi; however, amounts are often referred to in terms of “yuan.” Yuan is the primary unit of the Renminbi, like the “dollar” in the U.S. Vendors may announce prices in RMBs (the unofficial abbreviation for Renminbi) or yuan, but they are actually referring to the same thing. (Please note: We will be referring to all prices in CNY, the official currency abbreviation, for the sake of uniformity.) While the current exchange rate is about $1 USD for 6.30 CNY, the value of the Renminbi has been steadily climbing.