The main page for Surviving China includes tips for people moving to Shanghai, but if you’re just here for a few days, there are some other things you should know.
Staying in Shanghai
Apart from staying with friends for free, the cheapest way to stay in Shanghai is at a youth hostel or similar establishment. Hostels can be found at www.hostelworld.com/hostels/Shanghai.Very cheap, but with limited privacy and perhaps less comfort than you might want.
Reasonable hotels can be quite cheap, on the order of $30 a night or more. A good tool for finding hotels is Ctrip.com, which is available in English and very easy to use. Has maps, shows photos, has ratings, etc. I use Ctrip for hotels and also for flights in China.
When you check into a hotel, you will often be asked to pay a deposit often equal or greater than the amount you’ll pay to stay at the hotel. Do this with cash or a password-protected ATM card. Do not use a credit card if at all possible because of the risk of fraud. We used a credit card once at a Best Western hotel in Shenzhen and within 15 minutes of paying the deposit, we had an attempted fraudulent charge made on our card, apparently from someplace in the United States.
Getting Around Shanghai
Buy a metro card for 20 RMB and then add some money to it for easy travel by subway, bus, and even taxi. If you’re here for just 3 days, for example, you might want to add 100 RMB or so, depending on how much travel you’ll be doing. For just a day or two, you could just as well just buy tickets for each trip. If you’re staying with a friend, they might have an extra metro card you can borrow, or if you do buy one to use, be sure to leave it with them so the 20 RMB investment on the card isn’t wasted. Just a thought.
For info on trains and taxis, see my page on Transportation in China. Subway users might wish to download a free app with Shanghai metro information such as Explore Shanghai, available on Android and iOS platforms. The subway map lets you plan routes and see how long they will take and what they will cost. Cool!