When you think of Shanghai, the first few things that come to your mind is The Bund, Xiao Long Baos, and cafes. But Shanghai has much more to offer and of course, you have to try the awesome food and visit a classical garden to complete the experience.
But if it’s your first time to China, you’ll need to know to standby certain apps and do some research before you land yourself there literally. Though it’s my third time to China, I still felt unprepared and needed to do more research.
Apps You Will Need
I was planning my itinerary using Google maps and then after meeting my Cousin to seek advice, I realised most of the mappings were wrong as Google maps doesn’t show accurate location of China. In China the great firewall, you can’t use Google, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube etc.
The immediate thing you need to do is to download these 4 apps that you will need when you are there – Didi, Gao De Map, Baidu, Mei Tuan.
Didi is a mobile transportation app that functions like Uber and Grab. To get around in China, you will need Didi. You can save your credit card details in the app beforehand or just opt to pay cash.
2. Gao De Map 高德地图
Gao De Map 高德地图 is a GPS location map services that is commonly used. Google maps are blocked and Apple maps usually does not reflect the most up-to-date locations in the ever-changing Chinese cities landscape. You can download the app using the hanyu pinyin and search the place you need to go in English.
I had to redo my itinerary using this location map eventually. Lol.
Baidu is like the Google equivalent. You may need this if you want to search for information or just to kill time in hotel since you can only search using Baidu but not Google.
4. Mei Tuan 美团
This app shows all the food reviews and allows food order delivery to be done. We didn’t really use it much as we already shortlisted what we want to eat and since we do not have any WeChat account, we can’t use this app to order food delivery. For all foodies out there, this app is a must!
Bonus App – Trip.com
If you need to book train tickets, for e.g High speed railway trains from Shanghai to Suzhou, it is advisable to book it through Trip.com. We booked our Disneyland tickets via Trip.com as well. It is recommended to book the train tickets or any attraction tickets few weeks in advance as they will tend to be sold out closer to date. For all online ticket bookings, you have to redeem at the train station or the attraction places on the day itself.
We got our return economy tickets via Singapore Airlines at SGD558 per pax, which I think it’s a total steal. Now, you may think that at that price, you can go to a further place such as Tokyo or Korea with TOP-ups of hundred dollars difference. But that question is, is Shanghai on your bucket list? If it is and you want to explore other parts of China via day trip, then I’ll say it’s worth it.
One thing to mention was that a lot of flights were cancelled or delayed badly due to Typhoon Lekima. There were more than 1800 flights cancellation the day before we were scheduled to fly back SG. Imagine our fear that we might be stranded in Shanghai due to the bad weather. Thank goodness, our morning flight was delayed only for an hour and we received complimentary food vouchers to dine at Pudong Airport. I think the reputation of the airlines do play a part in whether they are allowed to schedule a flight to fly out amongst all the flight cancellations.
We saw a lot of flight cancellations on the same day we were scheduled to fly back to SG. So that’s one main reasons why flying with Singapore Airlines is always a good choice. Though personally I think they need to improve their flight meals! Haha.
Usually, it is recommended to stay near The Bund area so that it’s more convenient. Therefore, the accommodation cost of the hotels in this area will be pricier than others. That’s for sure.
For the first portion of our trip, we stayed at this hotel named Campanile Hotel, which is at the fringe of The Bund area. It’s a 10-min walk (need to cross an overhead bridge) to main eateries within The Bund distance. Most of the times, you will just use DiDi (Their Uber equivalent) to travel as it’s a just a few dollars. Campanile Hotel is located in a residential neighbourhood area and it’s safe and clean. We made a mistake of not saving the hotel name in Chinese and struggled to tell the driver when we were leaving Pudong Airport.
Campanile Hotel is also reasonably-priced and it was SGD590 for our 5-night stay. We are totally cool with this no-frills hotel and it satisfied our needs during the stay.
There’s a convenience store located downstairs which we got our daily mineral water. Other than that, the small eateries are not really interesting and there’s not much food options in the residential area. We only managed to eat a yummy tomato egg noodles nearby at SGD3!
Pullman Jing-An Shanghai Hotel
On our last night in Shanghai, we stayed at Pullman Jing-An as it’s the closest hotel to the Shanghai Railway Station, as we got back from Suzhou. It was the best decision ever as it’s only a 5-min walk away from Shanghai Railway Station and it only cost SGD110 per night for this 5-star hotel stay. We totally enjoyed the facilities on our last day as we were cooped inside the hotel due to Typhoon Lekima.
Besides that, we were pleasantly surprised to know that there’s Yang’s Dumplings, Luckin Coffee, 一点点 bubble tea, shopping Malls, nearby our hotel! So happy about it. Not to mention there’s legit massage places within 5-min walk from our hotel as well. All credits go to my bae for hotel sourcing and always booking the best deals for our trip. 🙂
Each of us spent around SGD700-800 cash, including all food, transport, shopping expenses. The food prices range from as cheap as SGD3 per meal per pax to SGD55 per meal per pax. It largely depends on where and what you want to eat. A local eatery only sets you back at less than SGD6 per meal per pax.
Our most expensive meal was brunch at Mr and Mrs Bund, which cost SGD110 for both pax. A typical mid-range hotpot at a restaurant in shopping mall only cost a total of SGD30 for 2 pax.
Boba is cheap and good and you spent less than SGD3 on an awesome brown sugar milk tea.
However, if you are thinking of getting a Starbucks tumbler from either their normal stores or Reserve stores, their merchandises are generally more costly. So you can drop the idea.
All in all, if you are on a tight Budget, you can still enjoy good and affordable food and drinks in this food heaven. If you don’t mind splurging abit more to experience, then Shanghai is also a good place to dine and enjoy.
High Speed Trains
If you are planning for a day trip to Hangzhou or Suzhou, just go ahead and book First Class seats. The difference between the seat classes are not much but the First Class has the best seating options. The seats also depend on how new the train is. Therefore the conditions of the First Class seats defer from train to train.
Unless you have a Chinese ID card, you would need to go to their physical counter to queue to redeem your tickets. Please buffer at least 2 hours before your scheduled boarding time to reach the station. If you are heading to Shanghai Hongqiao railway station, you will need to buffer 3 hours beforehand. Like boarding an airplane. We had the worst experience there and we queued to redeem our tickets to Hangzhou, only to miss the train. And then we had to re-queue to change the timing of the tickets.
OOTD shot at Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station after all the running around to catch the train. It’s like an airport but Super crowded.
Shanghai Railway Station is more efficient and less crowded. The reason why we booked our Hangzhou train tickets via Shanghai Hongqiao is because there’s a lot of time slots there, as compared to the one and only time slot in Shanghai Railway Station. If you miss your train, they can schedule you to the next earliest available timing.
Shanghai Railway Station is less crowded, that’s for sure. In order to find out your seat number, you can scan the QR code on your tickets using WeChat app.
Sometimes we can’t rely on Didi to get anywhere because the queue can be as high as 83 passengers and we need to find alternatives to get around. Your next best choice would be to take metros. It’s easy to get around and accessible.
Generally, you can walk along the streets late at night and you will see random people sitting on the floor or steps, immersed in their smartphones. If you think Singaporeans are too engaged in their smartphones, wait till you get to China and see how addicted they are. They mostly mind their own business and video call their friends etc, they seemed to be glued to their smartphones 24/7. We felt safe wherever we go actually because nobody cares and everyone is looking at their smartphones.
Most of the hotels provide wifis but few allow access to FB/IG etc. Even if access is granted, they will block the usageafter a while. If you are planning to get a SIM card in China upon arrival, you may do so but you’ll need a VPN access for that. For me, I just activated my data roaming plan under Singtel and used it at ease. The downside is I paid a lot for my data usage but no regrets! I always valued convenience and in this area, I’m willing to pay more for my IG usage. 😀 so I probably can’t give any good advice in terms of getting a cheap and good data connection in China.
If you are planning for a summer vacation, the weather will be unforgiving. It is hot and humid and you can practically feel the hot air rising from the ground. It’s different from Singapore’s kind of HOT. And then because it’s monsoon season, you will find yourself caught in the rain suddenly and may have a fair chance of typhoon encounter. An umbrella or raincoat is a must!
We were drenched and stuck because of the rain and a raincoat was the saving grace for us. It’s lightweight and compact, which is easy to bring around while travelling.
Timings of Visit
It is good to double check the timings of the attractions you’d like to visit. We missed the visit to Yu Garden during our first try due to the rain. Not to mention the crazy crowd during the weekend.
Be prepared to jostle through the crowd during weekend, especially weekend nights. Weekdays will allow more breathing spaces, especially at places like The Bund.
If you want to visit some famous local eateries or cafes, always go during off-peak period or make reservations at restaurants beforehand. One thing we noticed is that there’s lesser people on the streets or eateries during early mornings. As for Disneyland, I can only advise you to book weekday tickets.
I hope these tips would be useful to you or whoever that will be travelling to China soon! I’ll be blogging more on our travel itineraries soon so stay tuned!