In this month’s Mini Travel Guide, we’re visiting thrilling, fast-paced, super huge Shanghai. Expat Rachael is giving us the goods, including where to buy the best designer knockoffs, why we should all visit the ‘Marriage Market,’ and the joys of public jazzercise!
Hey there! My name is Rachael, and I’m an expat currently living in Shanghai, China. After graduating college, I packed up my life in Ohio and headed to teach abroad in this amazing city I now call home! Hopefully, after you read this travel guide, Shanghai will be your next travel destination!
Shanghai is an awesome city, fused with both new and old Asia. Things are relatively cheap, the food is delicious, and you can get everywhere on the metro! You will be walking down one street and see big buildings and a McDonalds, and the next street is filled with old Chinese shops and markets. I love that there is a lot to it that is constantly changing. There’s really nothing quite like it.
Shanghai Must Do
The Bund is the iconic landscape of Shanghai. It’s nice to go anytime, but I really enjoy going at night so you can see the gorgeous lights of the city! The Huangpo River Cruise
(you can purchase the tickets on sight for about $15) is a great way to see the skyline, snap some awesome pictures, and feel like you’re in a movie!
There’s a saying here; you can get anything you want in China for cheap– but it’s probably fake. If you like shopping (think NYC markets with fake bags, watches, electronics, etc), you have to check out the markets here! You can have clothes hand made for cheap, and buy everything from movies to make up. (My favorite is the AP Market).
Tip– make sure you BARTER with the salespeople! Choose a price at least 50-70% less than what you’re asking for, and then walk away if they won’t take your price; they’ll most likely chase after you! (I know this seems/feels seedy, but it’s just what’s done here. Trust me.)
Cheap Spa Day!
Go all out girl (or guy!) I swear by gel manicures (they only cost $20 USD!) and massages here. They’re cheap and good at what they do. Flower Fingers
is my go-to salon.
Shanghai Must Go
Want to see some Chinese people dancing in the park (think Zumba/jazzercise style)? Head to Fuxing park in the gorgeous French concession, dance along with them, then grab a coffee in a local cafe afterwards! Fun way to spend an afternoon for free!
This is a cultural experience you will not want to miss. The best way to explain it is it’s an online dating but in REAL LIFE. The parent’s of eligible bachelors and bachelorettes will put their information (like, how much money they make and their health) on umbrellas and the other parents will walk around and find partners for their children to marry. Definitely an interesting experience.
, which is a dumpling hidden in soup. The best comfort food ever!
. I’ll be honest, I had never eaten eggplant back in the states, but it’s delicious here! It’s also a staple that you can find in a lot of restaurants, and it mixes great with rice!
Caramel strawberry glazed fruit kabobs. It’s basically strawberries dipped in caramel then frozen. It’s so good! (These are mostly in little kiosks, in front of malls, etc. Try to check for the freshness of fruit before if possible.)
Egg tarts. Anywhere you can find ’em. Again, usually at little stalls along the streets. SO delicious!
Late-night street noodles. Way better than Taco Bell. You can add whatever you want in them (veggies, meat, spices, etc.) and have it cooked right in front of your eyes! Cool, right?
Shanghai Cultural Tips
Be prepared for stares, especially if you’re a white blonde woman. People will point, take pictures of you or even ask to take them with you! I don’t think I’ve ever met a rude Chinese person (besides all the shoving, but that’s just the culture!) People here are generally nice.
Be careful with street meat. Things to think about– how long has it been out? Is it in a cooler or a type of refrigerator? It’s not worth it to have food poisoning and ruin your trip!
As I mentioned above, barter, barter, barter! It was hard for me to get used to nothing having a set price, but that’s just the way things are here.
It’s going to smell… different here. Get used to it. It’s a big city with lots of industrialization Also, LOTS of pollution, so bring a mask
from home (make sure it protects against PM 2.5!) and download an app that can tell you the air pollution. I would wear a mask if it gets above 200+ PM 2.5.
Shanghai cheap travel tips
Cabs are generally cheap, reliable to find, and trustworthy. Don’t take an unmarked cab, they’ll charge you way too much!
I would highly recommend purchasing the SmartShanghai app
for your trip. This can give you everything for your trip.
Western restaurants here are yummy, but over priced. Resist the urge and get some dumplings or rice. You’ll save major cash!