Navigating Shanghai like a Pro: The Subway

Subway, Metro, Underground, 地铁...whatever you call it, Shanghai's subway system is now the longest in the world, sprawling a total of 538km/334mi. The ever-expanding network is regarded as the most convenient public transportation in Shanghai. 


Chances are, you'll be using the subway a lot while you're living in Shanghai, and probably on a daily basis. The kicker: it's surprisingly cheap! Don't be intimidated, it doesn't take much to get from point A to B. Here are some tips and tricks that'll help you navigate Shanghai's crazy-good metro:

1) Transportation Card. SmartIntern will provide all of our interns in the Shanghai Program a transportation card loaded with enough cash to get you through your first week of your stay. Using the card will save you precious time and hassle instead of buying individual tickets each time. If you lose your card and need another one, it'll cost you a 20rmb "deposit" plus whatever amount you actually want to add on. Rides start around 3rmb/trip and go up based on distance traveled, usually not more than 4rmb. Another bonus is a 10% discount received on all journeys takenafter spending 70rmb that month. When you use your card, swipe it at the turnstile when you enter, and swipe it when you exit. If you don't use a transportation card, you'll have to purchase a "Single-Use Ticket" by using one of the ticket vending machines near the entrance. Use smaller bills, as they don't accept 50s or 100rmb notes.

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2) Maps & Directions. A good tool for anyone to use, both old and new to Shanghai, is Explore Shanghai. You can easily calculate time, cost and the shortest distance between two stops. Want to see an above-ground map for the stations? Simply click on the more information tab that pops up. Each platform down below will have a map, as well as overhead signs displaying the stops going each way. Hop on, and hop off at your stop! There are mobile apps available for Android and for iOS

3) The Crowds. A common complaint people may have about the subway is that it's "too crowded". Fact is, it IS crowded. While People's Square during rush hour (especially in the summertime) is pretty rough, you should go with the flow! It doesn't have to be a miserable experience (it's not). It won't take long to adapt to some pushing and shoving- get used to it, and remember that many locals are used to a highly-populated, competitive environment. Reminder: keep an eye on your stuff! 

3) Transfers. Transfers are exactly what they seem- when you have to change lines from one to another at a junction. Most are relatively simple, but some metro lines have been built years apart and may have more walking involved. Long transfers: People's Square (between Line 2 and 1/8). Zhongshan Park (Between Line 2 and 3/4), Xujiahui (Line 9, 11 and 1), Changshu Road (Line 1 and 7), Hongkou Stadium (Line 8 and 3). In fact, South Shaanxi Road has an outdoor transfer between Lines 1 and 10, at least until nearby construction is completed. 

4) Downsides. If you don't include the crowds (you'll be in crowds on all public transportation, trust us), the biggest downside may be the fact that you're completely underground- meaning you won't get a chance to see what's around you! Unless you're familiar with the streets above, you may have no idea what you're missing. Another thing is that there's a good chance you'll be disoriented when coming back up to street level.


Bottom Line: The Shanghai subway system will be a key part of your commute while interning and working in China. Learn it, as it's arguably overall the easiest, cheapest, safest, fastest, and most convenient form of public transportation you'll experience- in China or worldwide. 

Read on for other great sources of information:

Shanghai Metro on Wikipedia

China Travel Guide's Shanghai Subway information 

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About the Author
Author: Mike

Mike is SmartIntern's co-founder and a 6-year Shanghai resident. With beginnings in the Midwest, USA, he brings a sense of midwestern hospitality to the SmartIntern team. You'll be likely to spot Mike riding a bike through Xuhui district, grabbing a cocktail at Arcade, and dropping into Ippudo for a hearty bowl of Japanese Ramen. 

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