The highly touted magnetic levitation (Maglev) train is now up and running with extended hours, but unless you’re staying in the eastern reaches of Pudong, it’s not much faster or more convenient than a taxi or airport bus in getting you to your destination. Covering some 30km (19 miles) in 8 minutes, this ultra high-speed train (¥50/$6 regular ticket, ¥80/$10 same-day round-trip; ¥100/$13 one-way VIP ticket) connects Pudong International Airport to the Longyang Lu metro stop, the eastern terminus of Shanghai Metro Line 2, where you transfer to the subway. Depending on your destination, you may have to change subways once more at Renmin Guangchang, and possibly even hail a taxi before you arrive at your door, all of which makes it highly inconvenient for travelers with any kind of luggage. Maglev trains run every 20 minutes between 7am and 9pm daily.
Shanghai’s much-hyped mass transit showpiece, the magnetic levitation (Maglev) train, started running in late 2003, with trains connecting the 30km (19 miles) between Pudong International Airport and Pudong’s Longyang Lu Station of Metro Line 2 in no more than 8 minutes. Traveling at up to 430kmph (266mph), Maglev (a Sino-German joint-venture) has cost Shanghai upwards of ¥8.9 billion ($1.07 billion), making this the most expensive subway spur in the world. Unfortunately, Maglev in its current form is not very practical for most travelers, so the government has taken to promoting this as a tourist attraction, Shanghai’s latest must-ride (¥50/$6 one-way; ¥80/$10 same-day round-trip). But having deemed this line a success, the Chinese government announced in 2006 that it would build a second Sino-German maglev train, this one running up to 450kmph (281mph) and connecting the 200km (110 miles) between Shanghai and Hangzhou, to be ready in time for the World Expo in 2010.
The Metro system is growing rapidly throughout the city in terms of its reach and connectivity. It is a new system with clean, air-conditioned trains which will generally get you around the city faster than any other means. At peak times, although incredibly crowded – especially at the People’s Square interchange – it is the quickest way to get from Pudong to Puxi. All metro stations have English and Chinese signs and English announcements on the trains. The ticket machines have English directions and there will be at least one English-speaking ticket office staff member if you need help or advice.
From its hub at the main railway station just north of downtown, the number 1 metro line extends farther north past Shanghai Circus World, and extends south through People’s Square, then jogs southwest where it terminates at the south railway station. The number 2 metro line starts in the far western suburbs, connects to the Hongqiao airport west of town, then runs due east through People’s Square, then under the Huangpu River into Pudong’s financial district, then terminates at the maglev terminal to the southeast. The number 2 line is convenient for people living in Hongqiao, Gubei, downtown, and Lujiazui. The number 3 line is an elevated light rail train that starts at the south railway station then makes a half loop around the western side of the city before connecting with the main railway station in the north side of the city. Line 4, which runs a loop around the city and goes under the Huangpu River in two spots, was opened in 2006 after numerous problems with flooding and the accidental collapse of a six-story building.
After being in Shanghai for a while, foreigners who are able to read and speak Chinese may start using popular bus routes as a means to get from A to B. This can be particularly useful in farther-flung places that do not have many, or any, Metro stations. Fares are as low as 1RMB depending on whether the bus has comfortable seats and air conditioning. Local buses are even cheaper, but are dirty and crowded. There are no bus shelters, but stops along the road are frequent and well-signposted (only in Chinese). The frequency of buses will depend entirely on the popularity of the route and the state of the traffic.
There are thousands of cabs in Shanghai and, other than at peak times and on rainy days, one will never be far away. The drivers do not wait at bases but travel continually to look for fares. Most cars are older-style Volkswagens, which are often a little shaky and rattly, but an increasing number of Mercedes vehicles are now being introduced. Unlike just about any other world city, Shanghai taxi drivers do not like to be tipped and will always return the exact change. They use meters to ensure there is no quibbling over fares. They will print passengers a receipt. This piece of paper is worth keeping, because if ever you leave anything in a taxi, you can call the company, quote the receipt number and they will return your goods. One thing to watch out for is that some Pudong-based taxis will not travel to Puxi, so make sure you clarify this with the driver before getting in by saying “Puxi” (pooshee). Always carry a card or piece of paper with your home address or destination written in Chinese characters. Make sure, if you do get an address written down, that it is in Chinese characters, not pinyin, as drivers cannot read pinyin. The single most important piece of information to tell your taxi driver is the cross street; street numbers are not very useful unless you know a street well.
The quickest, cheapest, healthiest and most pleasant way to get around is by bicycle. Cycles are extraordinarily cheap in Shanghai and, due to the large number of other cyclists and slowness of the traffic, they are really quite safe. The government has recently introduced laws banning bicycles from the main roads in Shanghai, but the network of bike lanes is vast. It’s a little daunting at first, especially as car driving is so erratic, but once you have your routes worked out, you’ll never look back. Cycle theft is big business in Shanghai so opt for a cheaper bike that you can easily replace, and spend as much on a lock as you can. Repairs are cheap and quick, with cycle repair men on almost every street corner.