Travel to Shanghai
Flying to Shanghai
Airlines offering direct flights to Shanghai from the UK include British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Air China and China Eastern. From the USA, there are direct flights with China Eastern and United. You can get good deals throughout the year, but try to avoid Chinese public holidays, especially Chinese New Year (usually February). The first week in May and October are also expensive times to fly to Shanghai, as are the school summer holidays (July-September).
From London - 11 hours; New York - 15 hours; Los Angeles - 14 hours; Toronto - 14 hours 20 minutes; Sydney - 10 hours 40 minutes.
Travel by road
A Chinese driving licence is required to drive in China, and to get one of those you must have a Chinese residence permit, rather than just a tourist visa. Foreign residents may bring their own cars into the country but this involves a huge bureaucratic effort.
Urban driving is chaotic and sometimes extremely congested. Traffic drives on the right and the minimum driving age is 18. The speed limit in China is 30-60kph (18-36mph) on city roads and 100-120kph (62-75mph) on expressways. Road signs are in both Chinese and English in major cities, but only in Chinese in more remote areas.
Emergency breakdown services
There is no breakdown service in China.
Main routes out of Shanghai are denoted by city names such as the Shanghai-Nanjing Highway. The Shanghai-Beijing Expressway provides a (relatively) fast artery to the north. The Hangzhou Bay Bridge connects Shanghai to Ningbo. There are also road links to Zhouzhuang, Suzhou, Hangzhou, Nanjing and most of the other regional centres.
Coach travel to nearby cities is pretty straightforward. Services to places such as Nanjing, Hangzhou and Suzhou are regular, and roads and buses are decent so the journey is comfortable enough. Longer distances are always better done by train, especially if it's an overnight journey.
The advantage of buses is you don't need to book tickets in advance. Just turn up at the bus station and hop on the next available bus. Tickets, though, are generally more expensive than standard train tickets.
There are a number of coach stations in Shanghai. The huge Shanghai Long-Distance Bus Station is just north of Shanghai Railway Station and serves pretty much any city you can think of. Hengfeng Road Bus Station mostly serves Beijing, Hangzhou, Suzhou and Nanjing, while the Shanghai South Long-Distance Bus Station serves, among others, Hangzhou, Suzhou, Ningbo and Nanjing.
Sightseeing buses leave from Shanghai Stadium for the surrounding canal towns.
Time to city
From Hangzhou - 2 hours 20 minutes; Nanjing - 3 hours 40 minutes; Suzhou - 1 hour 40 minutes; Ningbo - 2 hours 50 minutes.
Travel by Rail
China's railway system is modern, extensive and, given its size, surprisingly reliable.
Chinese trains have up to four different classes - soft sleeper, hard sleeper, soft seat and hard seat. Tickets for hard sleepers (which aren't actually hard) are like gold dust, and should be booked well in advance.
You can buy tickets in stations or through CITS (tel: +86 10 6522 2991; www.cits.net). You should make reservations in advance, especially for hard sleepers, although you cannot book more than 10 days in advance. The useful website www.travelchinaguide.com/china-trains has an English-language timetable and lets you book tickets, for a hefty fee.
Shanghai has three large train stations: the main Shanghai Railway Station, the Shanghai South Railway Station and the Hongqiao Railway Station, near Hongqiao Airport. All are connected to the metro system.
Most trains leave from Shanghai Railway Station. Trains to some southern cities, most notably Hangzhou, leave from Shanghai South. Hongqiao station is the terminus of the high-speed Beijing-Shanghai line. Some trains to Suzhou and Nanning also leave from here.
State operator China Railways runs all train services in China.
From Hong Kong - 17 hours; Beijing - 7 hours 30 minutes; Hangzhou - 1 hour 30 minutes.
Travel by boat
There are weekly ferry services between Shanghai and Osaka in Japan. They leave from the Shanghai Port International Cruise Terminal in Hongkou District.
You can buy tickets from two operators: China-Japan International Ferry Company (tel: +86 21 6325 7642; www.shinganjin.com; 18th floor), with departures on Saturdays; and Shanghai International Ferry Company (tel: +86 21 6537 5111; www.shanghai-ferry.co.jp; 15th floor), with departures on Tuesdays.
Both offices are located in the Jin’an Building at 908 Dongdaming Road, north of the Bund. The journey takes two days. Accommodation onboard ranges from eight-bed dorms to deluxe twin cabins. Reservations are recommended in July and August. Passengers must be at the harbour three hours before departure to get through immigration.