Shanghai is China’s largest city with about 23 million residents. Although it is considered the engine room of the Chinese economy, this is no dry destination. In the past, the river Huangpu, which divides Shanghai into east (Pudong) and west (Puxi) was centre of the opium trade and its nickname was “whore of the Orient”.
Pudong is the ultra-modern financial hub. The Pearl TV Tower stands 468 metres high and double-decker elevators whiz up at seven metres per second. Puxi boasts the Bund riverfront park, more than 50 beautiful buildings in different architectural styles, Yu Yuan Garden and swanky shops including Armani and Dolce & Gabbana.
If your yuan doesn’t stretch to haute couture, the Lu Jia Bang Road market has tailors in residence who will run you up a new wardrobe in a couple of days.
Shanghai is the only Chinese city with two international airports – Pudong and Hongqiao. Pudong International is the airport at which most (about 60 per cent) of the increasingly cheap flights to Shanghai arrive, while Hongqiao handles the remainder. International flights to Shanghai arrive from London and other world cities and there are domestic flights to Beijing, Guangzhou and other cities around China.
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Summer in Shanghai can be quite uncomfortable. July and August temperatures can reach the mid-30s (Celsius) with 80 per cent humidity. Winter is damp and chilly with December and January temperatures hovering around the freezing mark, but it rarely snows. Temperatures in May and October are in the teens and 20s. Spring has more rain than autumn, but an occasional typhoon can hit during these months.
May through October, Shanghai is busy with tourists and business visitors. In May and October you must make reservations and book Shanghai flights far in advance as the city is also busy with conventions.
The busiest time is the Chinese New Year (Spring Festival), when the Chinese and visitors to China are on the move. The holiday season starts two weeks before the New Year and continues for two weeks afterwards. The New Year is in January or February (the date is based on a lunar calendar).
Labour Day (May 1) and National Day (October 1) are also big holiday weeks for the Chinese.
Late March and late October into early November have fewer crowds and the weather is neither steamy hot nor cold and damp. Few people visit during winter, with the notable exception of the Chinese New Year.
Most visitors choose to take a taxi in Shanghai. Not only are they easy to find, but they’re cheap too. Just keep an eye out for the primary-coloured Volkswagen cabs and flag one down. You’ll find that the smaller, older cars tend to be cheaper, and they all have meters.
The subway is the best public transport option. It’s inexpensive. Public buses are very crowded and can be confusing for visitors.
The adventurous traveller might want to rent a bike. There are plenty of well-defined bike lanes, but it can be a bit scary with all the traffic. Stick with the other bikes when crossing a street or intersection.
Heading out on foot is a great way to soak up the local colour. Between the pedestrians, motorists, scooters and cyclists, streets can be very crowded; be aware of your surroundings. Jaywalking can be dangerous and is frowned upon anyway.
Tourists are allowed to rent cars for use inside the city limits.