Share Your Tips On What To Do in Shanghai - And Win Prizes For Helping Me Plan My Trip! - Week Two

Discussion in 'Travel Tips & Strategies' started by JoeD, Sep 6, 2018.

  1. JoeD

    JoeD Well-Known Member

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    As explained in more detail here and here, each week for 8 weeks, I'll be starting a forum thread asking readers to share their tips/suggestions/anecdotes about a destination I'll be visiting in the next couple of months.

    The author of the best comment (most useful, funniest, etc - as judged by me) will win a small prize and will also be entered into the Grand Prize draw with the other weekly winners, where you could win 2,000 Norwegian Reward CashPoints (worth ~£185).

    All contributions are very welcome - 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
    This week's destination is Shanghai, where I'll be spending 4-5 nights mid-week.

    Which part of the city in/ which hotel should I stay at? Where are the best places to eat and drink? What's the process for 144 hour visa-free transit on arrival like?

    Share your knowledge, help me out, and maybe win a prize!
     
  2. jcpeden

    jcpeden New Member

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    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.

    I included a link to my travel video in the comments but I cannot post it here :(
     
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  3. JoeD

    JoeD Well-Known Member

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    Amazing advice!!- I didn't think at all about not having google maps (which I rely on all the time when travelling...). Lots to think about and I'm sure I'll have lots of questions, but it's friday night and I'm late for a drink!

    Got your link here btw for anyone who wants to watch:
     
  4. jcpeden

    jcpeden New Member

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    Glad you liked it the post mate! Another thing just sprung to mind to complicate things further.

    My phone is unlocked so when I travel abroad for any length of time, I usually just pick up a pre-paid sim card upon arrival which allows me to use data without getting absolutely clobbered. I've done this in Thailand, Mexico and even the UAE without any issues.

    I'm not sure what your options are for data roaming in China but I would guess that it's either prohibited (by the Chinese government like so many other things) or prohibitively expensive. To add to the difficulty, you cannot buy a pre-paid sim without a Chinese ID card as far as I'm aware.

    WiFi is reasonably abundant so you could use DiDi (a Google Maps/Uber hybrid) but I'm not sure it works in English...

    Did I mention that I found Shanghai hard work? ;)
     
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  5. JoeD

    JoeD Well-Known Member

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    Haha, yeah I'm beginning to think I might need to plan a bit more for China than I normally like to when travelling...
     
  6. JoeD

    JoeD Well-Known Member

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    Can you remember what documents they need for the 144 hour transit?

    Also, any tips on good places to eat/drink?

    My travel plan is extremely similar to yours btw! - IB Express from Man to Madrid, Iberia Biz to Shanghai, (probably) use travel package cert for royal meridien, Cathay Biz for a bit of Asia hopping (booked with AA Miles from travel package)
     
  7. jcpeden

    jcpeden New Member

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    For the transit visa, nothing out of the ordinary. There was some paperwork to complete upon arrival that basically confirmed we'd flown in from one country and would be leaving to head to a different country within the 144-hour window.

    I had my entire trip into and out of the country logged in TripIt so showed them my onward flight details on my phone and they were happy enough to check and confirm flight numbers based on that.

    So, to answer your question:
    1. Inbound flight details from Country A
    2. Outbound flight details to Country B
    3. Your passport
    Cathay also cancelled our flight out of PVG but luckily there were loads to HKG so they were able to book us onto a slightly earlier one. Just don't leave yourself too tight for time within the 144-hour window.

    In terms of nightlife, we only really went out for food/drink on two of the nights (the wedding was on another, we went to the bride's parent's house out in the sticks on another). The market around Nanjing Road West was pleasant but there wasn't anywhere that was especially memorable. The Pudong side of the river around TV tower is all new city and pretty bland, but you'll need to head over there to ascend either the 'bottle opener' or the Shanghai Financial Centre.
     
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  8. Jane15818

    Jane15818 New Member

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    Shanghai is my dream!
     

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