What Do You Know About Shanghai? – Share Your Tips & Stories To Win!

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Last week I launched a new weekly competition where readers can win prizes (including the chance to win a Grand Prize of 2,000 Norwegian CashPoints worth ~£185) just for sharing your tips on the InsideFlyer forum about destinations I’ll be travelling to soon!

Week One was all about Madrid – and the advice offered really was fantastic (many thanks to everyone who contributed!). Everything from the best places to stay, the best food to eat and the best ways to see the city were covered. I’d definitely recommend taking a look for yourself if you’re also planning a trip to Madrid, and if anyone has any suggestions for great bars I should have a drink(s) in, please let me know on there.

I’ll be picking a winning entry from Week 1 later today (so you’ve still got chance to enter if you haven’t already!), but won’t announce any winners until the end of the competition, so as not to discourage anyone from sharing tips about other destinations too (you can only win one week 😉 ).

All of which brings me to this week’s destination: Shanghai, China.

The last time I was in Shanghai was nearly 20 years ago and I imagine things may have changed just a little bit since then (!!!), so your advice is going to be incredibly useful. I’ll be there for 4-5 nights, which should hopefully give me time to check out lots of your suggestions!

All tips are very welcome – but particularly things like:

  • Recommendations on what to see/do/eat/drink
  • Thoughts on the best hotels (particularly sweetspots using points!)
  • Tips on how to get around
  • Best airport lounges and other airport info
  • Best ways to fly there using points/miles
  • Amusing/interesting stories about the destination/travelling there
  • How the 144-hour visa-free transit process works

Win Prizes

At the end of each week, I will pick my favourite comment from the forum thread (most useful, funniest, etc) and the author of that comment will win a small prize!* 

More excitingly, the winner from each week will also be entered into the Grand Prize Draw, where one of them will be randomly selected to win 2,000 Norwegian Reward Cashpoints (worth ~£185 off any Norwegian flight).

The destination for Week Two is Shanghai- head over to the forum page now to help me, share your knowledge, and be in with a chance to win!

*Limited Edition InsideFlyer bag tags most likely, but possibly something else depending on what I can get my hands on.


  1. John Peden says

    Hey Joe,

    I visited Shanghai in May of this year for my brother’s wedding and must admit that I found it pretty hard work! I wrote a miserable post going on about all the things I didn’t like but then went to find a travel video I made from my trip and, in retrospect, remembered how much fun I had!

    Now, we didn’t do a great deal of sightseeing whilst were were there and my cousin reported that she felt like she’d exhausted her options (of places that had English translations at least) pretty quickly. We did ascend the Shanghai Financial Centre which was very impressive, particularly at dusk when the city lights were coming on. At night, the city truly does look like something from Blade Runner.

    That said, the city is very impressive just to take in and we had some great food/drink around Nanjing Road West. Prices can be expensive if you’re not careful! We paid £14 for 4 scoops of Haagen Dasz but I suppose you know what you’re getting into when you eat in Western outlets like that!

    The 144-hour transit visa is straightforward to use but be prepared to wait while immigration dot every i and cross every t. It took them around 20 minutes to process me and my wife and we had absolutely everything in order and ready for them. Make sure you have details of your outbound flight!

    While we travel with a Halifax Clarity, Mastercard is not widely accepted in China and ATMs are also not particularly commonplace. I suggest you bring some cash with you and then make use of any ATM that does give you cash when you find it. They do exist!

    Remember, many apps/websites will be blocked on your phone. This includes Uber, Google Maps, GMail, Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp and Google Calendar. There are Chinese clones of all of these but you might struggle to use them or find they have limited usse for you anyway.

    “Use a VPN”, I hear you say!

    Not so fast! The Chinese government upgraded their firewall recently and they can now detect that you are trying to use a VPN. My cousin had success with X-VPN but Private Internet Access did not work at all. Family members with Androids seemed to have some luck with Express VPN.

    When travelling into the city, take the Maglev from the airport to Longyang Road. It’s pretty easy to figure out and, luckily for us, the station did accept Mastercard as there were no ATMs (that we could find) in arrivals and the one we found at the station didn’t accpet Mastercard.

    Upon arrival at Longyang road, we’d read that you were to descend all the way to street level, proceed to the taxi rank and hail a cab there. We ignored the touts on the way to the rank, as instructed, but arrived there, in the rain, to find no cabs. One showed up a few moments later who later charged us £50 for what should have been a £5 journey…an annoyance but something I write off as ‘ignorance tax’ when arriving in a new country. Official taxis have a plexiglass shield around the driver so they are easy to spot once you find one.

    Don’t expect anyone to speak or read English unless you’re in an upmarket hotel, especially taxi drivers. Bear in mind as well that you’re pronunciation of something innocuous like Longyang road might be waaaaaay off, so try to have any address that you’ll need written down. Remember, you can’t depend on Google Maps!

    Beyond that, getting around the city is pretty easy. The subway is incredibly cheap and very, very good but the Shanghainese don’t seem to have figured out how to let people off the train before getting on themselves…take no prisoners. Taxis are also very cheap and pretty abundant.

    Now…the travel hacking bit!

    Having made use of the BA 241 voucher a couple of times (and paid heavy taxes as a result) I wanted to try a different approach with this trip. To do that, I purchased SPG points for me and my wife (60K points in total) whilst they were on sale (£1070 total). Combined them with existing points and converted to a travel voucher (used for the hotel above) and 120K Alaska Miles.

    We booked (prices/points for 2 people):

    * MAN-MAD with IB Express for £100.
    * MAD-PVG in J with IB for 102K Avios + £145.
    * PVG-HKG in J with CX for 30K Avios + £27.80.
    * HKG-MAN in J with CX for 85K miles + £87.

    This allowed us to stop off in Madrid and Hong Kong on our trip (both are truly fantastic cities if you’ve never been), as well as make use of the 144 transit visa as HK is treated as a separate country that you can transit into.

    IB Express to Madrid was crap. I’m a big guy but the pitch on their seats is ridiculous and considerably worse than Ryanair or Easyjet. IB in J was fine but nothing special. Their business class seats mean that your feet are under the armrest of the row in front and it wasn’t quite long enough to be comfortable. My wife didn’t struggle at all though. They had a good selection of wine but nothing sparkling and even though we departed around 1pm, they treated this as a night flight so the cabin crew just left us to it.

    For Shanghai, I chose to upgrade the travel voucher from cat 1-5 to cat 6 and booked us into the JW Marriott at Tomorrow Square. The hotel was fantastic. A great room, with a great view on the 45th floor I believe. Breakfast and lounge access was complimentary due to to being SPG/MR Gold thanks to an Amex Platinum and the food was really, really good.

    Domestic business with CX was very good. The lounge at PVG wasn’t very exciting but the crew, service and seat were all stellar for such a short flight. The business lounges at HKG are all excellent and we flew home on a brand new A350. The reverse-herringbone layout meant the flight was much more comfortable than IB and again the food, drink and service were great.

    Obviously, this trip would have been much cheaper if I didn’t purchase the SPG points but nonetheless it was still very good value. Ignoring accommodation in Madrid and HK (which worked out around £100/night) this trip cost about £750/pp which included a lot of time in business class and a high-end hotel. Many of my family paid around £500 just for their return flights in economy.

    For any of you who want to see some of my self-indulgent travel video, you’ll find it here:

  2. Craig Sowerby says

    Yeah. Currently in Shanghai and it’s worth remembering that:

    1. your apps won’t work. I never quite realised how reliant I am on Google to plan out my days and get around. And any website where I used the Facebook login is now off limits. Even finding a search engine is a challenge.
    2. VPNs aren’t working.
    3. Print out absolutely everything before arriving. (in Mandarin) Even if you think you know the Chinese word, you’re pronouncing it wrong. So even just hopping in a taxi can go completely wrong. Especially if your Google Maps print out has your hotel in the wrong place!
    4. Also make sure to have your hotel reservation details – phone number, address, etc. – at the 144-hour transit desk (way on the far left at T2. Not visa on arrival queue. Not foreigners queue)
    5. Take a TIMATIC print out to Madrid. I don’t trust every IB agent to understand the concept on TVOA when their computer will spit out “check for visa” at them.

      • Craig Sowerby says

        Shanghai is reasonably foreigner-friendly, similar to other large Asian cities. You don’t really have to worry about “mystery meat”, etc. as you would in more out of the way places in China. The Chinese do seem to have an “every man/woman for themselves” attitude – lots of pushing and shoving on the metro, no waiting for people to get off before shoving their way on, etc.

        There aren’t a whole lot of “authentic” sights in Shanghai. But the Bund is pretty impressive – both day and night. Make sure to try the xiolongbao (sp?) dumplings…

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