One of the longest and best developed systems in the world, Shanghai metro keeps the city moving everyday. With 16 lines currently in operation and at least 5 more under construction, this impressive system gets bigger and better by the day. It’s also very busy, carrying more than 10 million passengers on an average weekday.
The system covers almost the entire city, which impressive coverage in the city center, where you’re never more than 5 minutes walk away from the nearest station. As you move further outwards the system coverage is still world-leading with well over 400 stops, but it’s important to remember that Shanghai is a huge city so metro isn’t always convenient 100% of the time. When it comes to choosing your hotel we definitely recommend picking one near a major Metro Line, as most of Shanghai’s attractions are easy to access via the subway, and traveling by subway is typically quicker than driving in peak hours. For some people, a ride on the subway is an adventure in itself.
If you’re wondering if you can navigate the system by yourself without knowing any Chinese the answer is yes you can. Almost everything is in dual Chinese + English, and generally speaking its pretty easy to figure everything out.
You can either purchase single trip tickets or a metrocard if you’re planning to use the subway a lot. For single trips, you can purchase these through the vending machines within every station. The machines all both Chinese and English, with a button on the touchscreen labeled “English” used to change the language. The machines all accept coins, and some of them will accept notes as well. Unfortunately, none of them accept non-Chinese issued credit cards. For the simple fact that coins and small notes are sometimes hard to come by it might be worth investing in metrocard if you’re planning to travel multiple times. Each station will always have at least one manned counter, approach them and ask to purchase a metrocard. Usually they can speak some basic English. Note that the deposit for the card is 20 RMB, which you can claim back at the end of the trip, although most people tend to keep the card as a souvenir. At the time of purchasing you can preload it with any amount you wish.
Tickets range in price from 3 RMB to around 7 RMB for a very long journey. Typically though, you won’t pay more than 5 RMB. If you are using one of the vending machines to purchase tickets it will ask you to select the stop you want to get off at, and will calculate the price from that. Note that these machines allow you to purchase multiple tickets at one time.
About the System
With the first line, Line 1 opening in 1993, the system rapidly expanded in the 2000s to become what it is today. The lines are all labeled in the Line 1, Line 2 fashion and each one is also designated a color, so it’s really easy to get your head around. There’s also one line which doesn’t follow this pattern, the Pujiang line, although as a tourist its quite likely you’ll be taking it. Generally speaking the lines are entirely or mainly underground through the city center, although many of them become overground elevated systems once they get much further away. Currently there are two lines with spur lines, Line 11 and Line 5, so you’ll need to pay close attention if you’re planning on taking one of these. The system connects all the airports and train stations across the city, so it’s always an option to take the metro once you land. Shanghai metro system also connects into neighboring Jiangsu province (the city of Kunshan). In the future it will also be possible to take the metro from Shanghai all the way to Suzhou, although taking the high-speed train will be considerably faster.
How to Take the Metro
1. Purchase your ticket – either a single trip or a metrocard
2. Pass through the security check – bags should be put through the x-ray machine
3. Press your card against the turnstyle to be let through
4. Head down (usually) to the platform, and once you’re on the platform make sure you’re heading the right way. You can check the video screens for the countdown to the next train if you want, although it’s usually only a few minutes. The screens will alternate between Chinese and English if you wait a few seconds.
5. Get on the train when it comes and get off when you get to your stop. There are announcements every station in both Chinese and English, so you should always know where you are.
6. When exiting through the turnstyles, in you are using a single trip ticket you will need to insert it into the turnstyle to get out (you don’t get to keep it – it gets reused). If you are using a metrocard, simply tap it against the turnstyle to exit in the same manner you entered.
Transferring Between Lines
Many stations have 2, 3 or even 4 lines intersecting. Luckily it’s extremely easy to transfer. Generally speaking you just get off the first line, walk to the other line and hop on, there’s no need to rescan your card. You should not exit through the turnstyles, otherwise you’ll be charged again when you enter. There are always signs throughout the station directing you to any other lines in the station. There are a few exceptions to this unfortunately, including transferring between lines 3/4 and line 1 at Shanghai Station. In this case, you’ll need to exit the “paid area” and then reenter again at the next line. If you have a metrocard this is easy to do, the system will know you are just transferring between the two lines and won’t charge you twice. Unfortunately if you’re using a single-use ticket you’ll need to purchase another ticket.
Connecting to Other Forms Of Transport
Generally speaking, the transport system is fairly well integrated, and there are typically multiple bus routes leaving from outside every metro station. There are always maps within each station detailing which exit is best for each bus route.
Main Stations of Note
People’s Square (Line 1, 2 ,8)
West Nanjing Road (Line 2, 12, 13)
Century Avenue (Line 2, 4, 6, 9)
Lujiazui (Line 2, Future connection to Line 14)
Hongqiao Railway Station (Line 2, 10, 17)
Shanghai Railway Station (Line 1, 3, 4)
Pudong International Airport (Line 2, Maglev)
Hongqiao International Airport (Line 2, 10)
Jing’an Temple (Line 2, 7, Future connection to Line 14)
Xujiahui (Line 1, 9, 11)