Country: China
Currency: Renminbi (RMB)
Peak Season: September-December
Shoulder Season: March-April, June-August
Median Temperature: 15.60 C / 60.08 F
Main Languages: Shanghainese, Mandarin, English
Primary Modes of Transportation: Taxi, bus, metro, ferry
Recommended Duration of Stay: 3 days
Recommended Pocket Money: $200.00/day
Tourist Passes: Shanghai Jiaotong Card, Shanghai Public Transporta
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Shanghai is quite possibly the most modernized city in all of Asia – competing head-to-head with both Hong Kong and Singapore in terms of economy, technology, strict ordinances, and infrastructure. Because of the Western influence (primarily British occupation in the early 19th century) and it being a booming commercial port since it outgrew its rural status, Shanghai is the subject of many news articles of how Asian countries are shaping the modern landscape – not only in economy, but in education, fashion, and lifestyle, among others. It plays a significant role in China’s bolstered economy and is has a multi-ethnic agglomeration, as well as hosting many international business headquarters. Unlike Beijing where the focus is one preserving culture, the Shanghai government reaches out to westerners by embracing their culture and incorporating it in their business activities.

Many tourists are torn on whether they should go to Beijing or Shanghai. Don’t get us wrong, both cities are great, but what gives Shanghai the upper hand is how “favorably western” it is: 24/7 convenience stores; entertainment districts; liberal social climate; better traffic management, as opposed to the more reserved idiosyncrasies of Beijing locals. The flair of its economy is suited for either tourist or offshore employees. There is no “confusion” with regards to culture, because Shanghai is arguably western, as hinted by its skyscrapers, buildings and the way people dress. With regards to friendliness to tourists, there is no doubt that Beijingers exude a more positive and vibrant aura. Locals in the city speak Shanghainese, a toned down dialect that uses more vowels (with less focus on the hard r’s at the end of each word).

Packing List

  • Lots of luggage/shopping bags for cheap finds; with pants for as little as $3, who can pass up; a smartphone is also helpful for keeping quick notes of signs and sudden business acquaintances
  • As few clothes as possible; shoes instead of sandals to conform to the urbanity; casual-yet-decent attire will blend you in easily—don’t wear tacky dresses (shorts, tank tops, slippers) outside
  • Essential medication and toiletries; thanks to the sizeable Western population, most international brands are not substituted by local brands and are sold in many groceries
  • Credit/debit card (most stores honor them here) for impulsive splurges; foreign currency like the US dollar and euro are widely accepted, but bring local currency for taxis and kiosks
  • A (bilingual) street map or GPS device, else you may find yourself lost a in a sea of 23 million people; the city entails a lot of walking—bring a compact umbrella to counter the elements

Things to Do

  • Engaging in a tour inside Oriental Pearl Tower, Shanghai’s second-tallest (but most recognizable) landmark; go here for the panoramic views, shopping, entertainment, and revolving restaurant
  • Walking by The Bund at either day or night and experiencing the elegance of the mile-long promenade; the architecture exudes Shanghai’s international diplomacy fostered by 19th century British influence
  • Embarking on a night cruise along the Huangpu River from a selection of cruise companies offering competitive rates and an value-added itineraries
  • Visiting Madame Tussauds Shanghai, having its own repertoire of 80 life-size wax figures, including Asian celebrities: Jackie Chan, Li Bing Bing, Andy Lau and Cecilia Cheung
  • Absorbing the artistry (and more recently, socialization venues) along Tianzi Fang of Taikan Road; if you’re looking to purchase art or just to visit quainter side of Shanghai, Tianzi Fang is the place

DON'T

  • Wear tacky outfits down the streets or sling too many gadgets with you; dress sharply to avoid any demeaning looks
  • Buy too many “branded items,” unless they have global warranty or are shelved in a reputable store; some stores still sell knock-offs, despite the sophistication of the city
  • Ignore etiquette and ordinances; Shanghainese are touted as punctual, reverent of their culture, and business-savvy
  • Discuss your sentiment about the Chinese government, unless it is in a positive light; Shanghainese take insults against the government seriously and do not condone sarcasm
  • Be picky with your food; Shanghai has high food standards, however, the restaurant prices might let you settle for street food, which is of course aplenty and also adherent to safety standards