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Tips to make your stay in Shanghai easier


Pudong Airport
Upon arrival at Pudong Airport go up one storey to the departures floor. It is here that you can ask for information and get a big and detailed city map of Shanghai in English. Go up one more floor if you need a taste of good Chinese food. However the cheaper restaurants are to be found much further down on your way to the Maglev (magnetic levitation) train. The Maglev (photo on left) boasts a speed of 300 over kms per hour (at one point I saw it clocking at 341 kms) and only runs between the airport and Longyang Road underground station (no stops in-between), taking 7 1/2 minutes in all for the trip. It costs 50 RMB but if you show your plane ticket you will be given a 20% discount. Once you get out of the Maglev station you will be able to buy a ticket at the nearby Longyang Road subway station (Line 2) to get into Shanghai city's underground network.

Transport card
If you intend to use Shanghai's public transport it is advisable to buy the "Shanghai Public Transportation Card" costing 30 yuan (thus if you give 50 yuan you will only have 20 yuan credit for your bus and subway rides). This will save you a lot of queuing-up time. Just swipe it against the card-reader as you board the bus and you don't have to worry about the correct fare to pay. As no tickets are sold on buses in Shanghai, those without the card will have to throw the exact amount (2 or 3 yuan normally) into a box next to the driver. The amount is usually marked outside the box. Just put the money into the box (don't have to show the bus driver) and move on.

Chinese money
Seeing that the biggest money bill in China is a 100 RMB note (renminbi meaning "people's currency") you'd better use your credit card if you are a big spender else you'd have to carry chunks of money notes with you each day. But be aware that many places and shops don't accept the credit card and you have to pay cash. And when you are told that the price is so many renminbi (or yuan or kuai) be aware that all three terms mean the same thing. In fact if you look at the money notes the word "yuan" is printed on them. But hawkers and salespeople will use "kuai". RMB (for Renminbi) is used by banks and money changers. A tenth of a yuan is called mao or jiao and a hundredth is fen.

Chinese language
Don't worry about the different form of Chinese spoken in Shanghai. Mandarin (known variously as pu3 tong1 hua4, han4 yu3, zhong1 wen2 or hua2 yu3) is taught throughout the country so just stick to Mandarin and you'll be all right. And don't worry if you don't understand when they speak to you. That is the most difficult stage in language learning and besides, it could be just cultural ignorance more than linguistic, for example, if they start talking about a place that you have never heard of. If you can make them understand what you want to say you'd have gone a long way toward establishing some sort of a contact. Nothing flatters a people more than a foreigner making an effort to speak their language. So no complexes please.

Telephone numbers
If you are telephoning someone in Shanghai from outside China start with 00-86-21 followed by the local number. The local Shanghai telephone number will start with 021 but the zero is only to be dialled when you are calling from some other region in China itself. Thus if you are in Beijing and you are calling someone in Shanghai you will start by dialling 021 followed by the local number. Conversely if you are in Shanghai and you are calling someone in Beijing you will start by dialling 010 (this is the city indicative for Beijing). But if you are in Shanghai and calling a Shanghai number the 021 prefix should not be dialled at all.

Time difference
China does not change its time so if your country has summer and winter time, the difference will depend on the period of your visit.

Cybercafes (called wang3 ba1 in Chinese) are few and far between in Shanghai. Don't ask me why but they are normally found on the first floor (which is second floor to the Chinese as there is no such thing as the ground floor to them). And the few that still exist are always crowded with teenagers absorbed in their computer games (reason why many of them were closed down by the Chinese government in the first place). You will need to produce your passport to make use of one. And by the way, don't shout after the owner if you cannot access your favourite sites like YouTube or WordPress. They simply won't open as they're among the sites banned in China.

Tap water
Tap water in China is unsuitable for drinking. Luckily bottled water is cheap (from just 1.00 yuan at a local shop to 5 yuan at a tourist attraction spot). Most Chinese families always have a pot of boiled water (kai1 shui3 in Mandarin) and this is also supplied in trains.

The Chinese equivalent of the word "sales" or "promotion" or "discount" is (pronounced zhe2). It simply means "a tenth of" so if you should see displayed on a shop window it means you pay only 8/10 of the original price, in other words you get a discount of 20%!

Silk and jade especially. From what I hear you can know an authentic jade from a fake one if it remains unscratched by a sharp instrument or if it withstands fire (the seller will probably burn it with a cigarette lighter to convince you) but one can never really be sure...

Changing money
You have to produce your passport and fill up a form indicating your hotel address and room number. If you are short of cash on a Sunday you will be happy to learn that the bigger banks are open on Sundays (many from 10h00 to 16h00). And if you think you're going to have hundreds of yuan left at the end of your China trip (lucky you!) then you'd better keep the receipt in order to be able to change them back.

Using the underground
On the platform wall you'll see the stations marked out with the arrow showing which direction it is going. For the opposite direction just look at the other side of the platform. What is great here is that it shows the name of the next station so that will ensure you do not get your directions mixed up and go the opposite way. But watch out, certain lines share the same platform over a number of stations and if you are not vigilant you'll jump into the wrong one. Each line has a distinct colour so you can never go wrong if you watch out for that colour on its outside. Also be aware that new lines are being constructed so try to get hold of the latest and most up-to-date map (which should include Line 13 which has been constructed specially for Expo 2010).
Shanghai Page 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

SURVIVAL CHINESE (the numbers indicate the tone, the spelling follows the pinyin):

(I) do not understand = bu4 dong3
(I) do not want = bu4 yao4
Excuse me (asking pardon) = dui4 bu4 qi3
Excuse me (before asking a question) = qing3 wen4
OK = hao3
How much? = duo1 shao3?
Where is it? = na2 li3?
Yes = shi4
No = bu4 shi4
doctor = yi1 sheng1
I'm sick = wo3 bing4
tea = cha2
water = shui3
coffee = ka1 fei1
beer = pi2 jiu3
post office = you2 ju2
toilet = ce4 suo3
hi! = ni2 hao3!
bye = zai4 jian4
thanks = xie4 xie4
I = wo3
you = ni3
he/she = ta1
My name is ... = wo3 jiao4 ...