How to Visit Shanghai on a Budget

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Plan your Shanghai tour on a budget?  Each year millions of travelers and businessmen visit Shanghai,  the largest metropolitan city in China. Shanghai boasts plentiful splurge hotels and posh restaurants, local and international.

But you don’t need to break the bank  to visit this most advanced and futuristic city showcasing the fast development in the contemporary China .  The 10 steps and tips will help  you arrange your Shanghai trip on a budget without forgoing your enjoyment.

Shanghai Skyline

Shanghai Skyline

 1. Travel out of season
First,  you should avoid visiting  Shanghai during  China public holidays:  May 1-3 and October 1 – 8 in particular.  If possible, visit Shanghai  in shoulder or even off season when everything is cheaper – discounted accommodations, entrance fees, flights and many more.

In addition, the hordes of domestic tourist crowds are gone so you can enjoy the city peacefully without  too may other tourists jumping into your pictures. High season: April, May, September and October; Shoulder season: March, June, July, August and November; Low season: December, January and February.

2. Shanghai airport or rail transfer by metro
Shanghai has the highest taxi fares in China. When you arrive at Shanghai by air or rail, basically you should forgo taking taxis except something emergent or you cannot roll your luggage.

The two Shanghai airports – Pudong Airport and Hongqiao Airport are both linked by the same metro line 2 which brings you to the center of Shanghai with the important metro stations of People’s Square and Nanjing Road.

Shanghai Pudong Airport also has the fastest train –Shanghai Maglev in the world. Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station is accessible by metro line 2; Shanghai Railway Station by metro line 1 and Shanghai South Railway Station by metro line 1.

3. Looking for cheap hotels
Though it is rife with luxury hotels,  Shanghai is also a purse-friendly city opening its arms for all with large choices of budget hotels and hostels.  You can easily find a cozy hotel  on your budget.

First you should decide where to stay in Shanghai and then search for an ideal hotel on your desired area without footing the costly bill.  Check Top 10 Shanghai Budget Hotels for more information.

4. Make a beeline for Shanghai’s abundant free sites and attractions.
Many of the must see attractions in Shanghai are free of charge including the Bund, Pudong New Area,  Nanjing Road,  People’s Square, Shanghai Museums, Tianzifang, Xintiandi, etc.  Just a note,  most of the museums in Shanghai are free  for entry as well as many city parks.

Check the Top 10 Shanghai Attractions and Top 10 Most Romantic Places in Shanghai.

5. Tour Shanghai by Metro
As you know, Shanghai has the highest taxi fares in China, plus the possible traffic congestion, in most occasions,  you should just avoid using them except that you cannot manage your large pieces of luggage on your way to your hotel or airport.

All almost all the important attractions in Shanghai can be accessed by metro lines.  Spend a few minutes studying the metro map of Shanghai for a clear direction of your destinations.  See Visit Zhujiajiao Water Town by metro; Visit Qibao Water Town by metro;  Visit Tianzifang by metro and Visit Xintiandi by metro.

6. Take part in the local group tours or Hop on hop off Buses
Apart from using the convenient metro system in Shanghai for city sightseeing,  joining in a Shanghai bus tour can also be money-saving and more sociable, a good way of traveling Shanghai: picked from and returned  your lodging hotel.

The hop on hop off double decker Buses in Shanghai are also a perfect choice for your sightseeing in Shanghai – Booked through your hotel for a joyful Shanghai day tour.

7. Eating out Cheap
Yes, as an international metropolitan city,  Shanghai provides many sorts of cuisines from all parts of  the world with countless posh restaurants. But this doesn’t put you off eating right and affordably at local restaurants. Breakfasts usually are covered by your hotel package.

Suggest you have a fast food lunch while dinner at a clean restaurant.  You may spoil yourself  occasionally by eating at an upscale or nice restaurant.  See Shanghai top 1o best restaurants and Shanghai top 10 vegetarian restaurants.

8. Bargain shopping
Shanghai is a shopping paradise, with countless bustling commercial streets and shopping centers beckoning the visitors. Shopping malls in Shanghai are most fashionable inside country as Shanghai is the window of modern China.

Most of the shopping malls are located in busy commercial centers. Window shopping is a fun even if you don’t  like to do shopping in these expensive shopping malls.  Going to a local market can be an interesting experience.  See Shanghai top 10 markets and Shanghai top 10 shopping malls.

9.  Splurge occasionally
Traveling on a budget doesn’t mean you should not splurge on food, an high-priced attraction or shopping occasionally and forgo everything expensive Shanghai has to  offer: at least one dinner at a posh restaurant; ascending the Jinmao Tower for a panoramic view of Shanghai and buying a Shanghai souvenir.

10. Tourist Scams
When you are traveling in Shanghai and planning your city trip on a budget,  you must be vigilant on possible tourist scams which may happen to you.

The tourist scams in Shanghai are more or less than the same as those in Beijing,  see ” Top 10 Beijing Tourist Scams” for your reference. If you are a victim, just keep calm and contact the police immediately.

Tip:  Hassle-free Shanghai Guided Tours
If you don’t want to go the do-it-yourself bus route and prefer the hassle-free escorted tours,  here are some options for guided tours to Shanghai:

Shanghai Highlight Day Tour from US$ 65
Afternoon Ambling & Evening Brilliant Cruise Day Tour from US$ 55
Historic Shanghai and Ancient Water Town Day Tour from US$ 59
Shanghai 2 Day Tour Package from US$ 145
Shanghai 3 Day Tour Pacakge from US$ 199

Further Readings

Top 10 Attraction in Shanghai
Top 10 Markets in Shanghai
Top 10 Shopping Malls in Shanghai
Top 10 Things to Do at night in Shanghai
Best Places for Autumn Leaves in Shanghai
Top 10 Things to Do in Winter in Shanghai
Top 10 Souvenirs in Shanghai

3 Responses to “How to Visit Shanghai on a Budget”

  1. suresh says:

    Are the subway coaches overcrowded. Can I get into the coach with one trolley bag and one shoulder bag at 8.30 in the evening from pudong airport to people’s square at about 9 in the evening on line 2?

  2. Daniel Parlee says:


    I am in China from April 1 to 15. I would like to see Shanghai, Xian, Yangzee river cruise and as much as possible except Beijing. I do not have much money and am travelling with wife and 2 children. Can you help me find a tour to suit my needs?


  3. Daniel says:

    Dear Daniel Parlee,

    Sorry for our delayed reply! For the tour arrangement and quotations, please contact us by email: Thanks!

Questions and Answers: