Of all the Chinese cities, Shanghai is one of the most popular among tourists. The megapolis is full of skyscrapers and temples that reflect both Chinese history and modern China. If you’re planning a trip to Shanghai in China, you’re in luck!
From Shanghai Tower to the old town, Shanghai is one of the country’s best cities. It’s much like Beijing with its business district, great metro system, and shopping centres. However, trips to China cost a lot so you’ll need to budget before you head to Shanghai.
In this article, Superprof has got some travel tips and travel information for helping you plan for the cost of your flights, hotel rooms, leisure activities, dining out, public transport, and other services in Shanghai.
Once you've finished this article, your wallet will be ready for anything in Shanghai!
Check for popular Mandarin lessons London here.
Travelling to Shanghai: How Much Does it Cost?
Like any trip to the other side of the planet, the cost of getting to Shanghai will be your biggest expense. First of all, make sure you get your visa for entering China. This costs a little more than £100 and you should do this as soon as possible.
Autumn is the best time to visit Shanghai and we’ll focus on the cost of one person staying for one week in either September, October, November.
Return flights from the UK to Shanghai will cost upwards of £350. Direct flights start closer to £400 and are only available from London. If you’re travelling during holidays such as Christmas, the prices will increase massively. Similarly, it’s expensive to travel to the People's Republic of China in summer.
As you’ll have understood, you need to go when fewer tourists are visiting the city and the demand is lower. The best travel advice we can give you is to book your flights ahead of time as the prices will only increase.
Find out more about when to visit Shanghai.
Finding and Budgeting for Accommodation in Shanghai
The cost of accommodation in Shanghai can vary wildly depending on the district and you should look around a lot before you book somewhere to stay.
For example, the Former French Concession of Xuhui is one of the most popular and will cost a lot. Areas like Minhang are much more affordable and served by the Shanghai Metro.
If you’re on a budget, you might want to have a look at youth hostels in Shanghai and consider getting a Hostelling International Membership which can entitle you to discounts. There are a lot of them in Shanghai!
You could consider staying in a hotel in Shanghai. These are slightly cheaper than in the UK and you can stay in a 1-star hotel for between £25 to £40 a night with prices going up to £200 a night for a luxury hotel.
If hotels aren’t your thing, you could get an Airbnb and live as the Chinese do. A room with a kitchen in the centre of Shanghai can cost anywhere between £50 and £200 per night depending on the place.
Our advice is to find places near metro stations. You might also want somewhere in an area with a lively nightlife or somewhere near the airport if you need to leave early the following morning. The Shanghainese nightlife is definitely worth checking out.
Find out more about accommodation in Shanghai.
Dining Out in Shanghai
Food is one of the important aspects of travelling. We want to try new food, especially in Asia, where the food is unique and interesting.
Your mouth will probably start to water just by seeing how cheap food is:
- Breakfast for £4.50 per person.
- A 3-course meal for £13.50.
- A fast-food meal for £4.00.
- A pint of beer for £1.30.
- A can of pop for £0.60.
- A bottle of water for £0.30.
It goes without saying that you’ll probably be enjoying plenty of Chinese food. Similarly, the portions are ample so you’ll be leaving the table with a full stomach.
If you’re on a tight budget, you can also get your food from a supermarket. However, certain products, such as milk, bread, and cheese are more expensive whereas eggs, potatoes, and water are similarly priced.
Restaurants are a third cheaper than in the UK while the difference in the cost of most products in supermarkets is comparable. Needless to say, you’re going to enjoy the food in Shanghai.
You can also try new things in Chinese markets. If you're looking for travel inspiration, check out traditional guidebooks (such as Lonely Planet) and websites as some of the best travel guides also have a web presence.
Find out more about the different districts in Shanghai.
Transport and Activities in Shanghai
Transport in Shanghai
Transport in Shanghai, as you’ll see, is usually cheaper than it is in the UK.
- Bus ticket: £0.40
- Bus pass: £25
- A mile in a taxi: £0.60
- The meter starts at £1.80
- A litre of petrol: £0.90
- Renting a car for a day: £25
Much like restaurants, transport costs about a third less in Shanghai than in the UK. This means you can visit the Jade Buddha Temple, every museum in Shanghai, are little side streets for cheap. Make sure you stay abreast of travel news as planning new itineraries on the fly can be tricky in a new city.
Things to Do in Shanghai
There are plenty of things to do in Shanghai. Shanghai organises plenty of different festivals and events every year. Chinese New Year, Qingming Festival, Shanghai China International Arts Festival, the Shanghai Marathon, there are plenty of things to do at any time of the year. Events are often free; great if you’re on a budget.
In addition to museums and parks, tourists can also enjoy Shanghai’s nightlife. There are plenty of bars, clubs, and restaurants where you can eat and drink until the early hours. Of course, modern nightlife spots tend to be more expensive than traditional Chinese neighbourhoods.
It would be a shame to plan a trip to China and Shanghai and not enjoy a Yangtze River cruise. With Shanghai being on the Yangtze River delta, it's obviously one of the best travel destinations, albeit a bit touristy, for enjoying the river.
Why not head to the Shanghai Zoo the following morning for a relaxing day?
A day at the zoo will cost you 130 Yuans per person (with free entry for children), but you could also get a ticket from the hotel to the park and a private guided tour for around £65.
In short, a trip to Shanghai won’t be cheap. 1 person spending a week in September in Shanghai will cost around £1,000 (including flights from the UK). It’s not a huge amount for a trip to the other side of the world, especially if you’ve been saving for a while.
When you plan your trip and itinerary, look at free travel guides and travel planning websites, you'll get trip ideas, advice on places to stay, the natural wonders you should see, places to visit in the cities, how much airfare will cost you.
If you're really struggling with where to stay, you could always consider planning your trip with a travel agency. Of course, every travel agent and tour operator has to make their money and they tend to be more expensive than planning it yourself.
If you like China, you could also visit Beijing, the capital city, Nanjing, Hangzhou, Chengdu, Suzhou, Chongqing, Yangshuo or even the Yunnan, Guangzhou, or Sichuan provinces. China is full of things to discover, including the Great Wall of China, the Silk Road, and the Terracotta Warriors, to name a few.
Now you know how much it could cost you. Check out our other articles on visiting Shanghai. You could also get help with your Chinese from a private tutor on our site. There are three main options for Chinese private tutorials: group tutorials, face-to-face tutorials, and online tutorials.
Group tutorials are similar to traditional classes with multiple students and one teacher. If you and a group of friends all would like to learn Chinese, you could look for a private tutor offering group tutorials. Since there are several of you, you'll split the cost of the tutor's time, making the lessons cheaper per student per hour.
Face-to-face tutorials are bespoke lessons for just one student and tend to be more expensive per hour. However, they're also more cost-effective given the fact that the tutor can focus their attention entirely on you.
Finally, online tutorials are conducted over webcam with the tutor in a different place. You could even get a tutor living in China!