Although the temperatures are high throughout the summer, many people book flights to Shanghai between May and November. Labour Day which is May 1 is a particularly busy time. This is also known as International Workers’ Day and is associated with the start of spring. Expect the city to be very crowded during this public holiday. Other peak times usually occur around National Day (October 1) and Chinese New Year (January or February, the exact date depends upon the lunar calendar). The atmosphere in Shanghai during the Chinese New Year celebrations is electric. A number of events take place across the city, including a number of lantern shows. The most popular is at Yu Garden. Fairs also take place, in particular Guqi Garden New Year Fair which has a whole host of traditional Chinese festivities, including lion and dragon dances, lantern shows and children’s activities.
If you are looking for cheap flights to Shanghai and are happy to brave the colder weather, the months of December, January and February are the best. Although do consider that Chinese New Year falls during this period and Shanghai will be teeming with people. You may also be able to find cheaper flights and lower hotel rates during the shoulder season months of March and April.
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 people on flights to Shanghai arrive, while Hongqiao handles the remainder. International flights arrive from London and other world cities and there are domestic flights to Beijing, Guangzhou and other cities around China.
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.
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.
Flights to Shanghai are served by two airports. Shanghai Hong Oiao International Airport (SHA) which is situated 8 miles southwest of central Shanghai and Pudong International Airport (PVG)which is located 19 miles from central Shanghai.
Taxis are available outside the airport but finding the right one can be confusing without assistance. Taxi drivers usually do not speak English so it is best to indicate your destination on a map, or have it written down in Chinese. Public buses serve the airport linking to People’s Square and the main railway stations. The bigger hotels offer shuttle bus services to and from the airport.
(prices quotes are from London)