Once you have found your new home, settled in and enrolled your kids in a good school, life in Shanghai begins. Those elements that comprise the quality of life that you are used to are for the most part available in Shanghai. In many ways your quality of life may increase.
In Shanghai you will have access to a new world of possibilities including sumptuous and affordable massage, world-class shopping and fun and interesting activities to enjoy with your loved ones. This section will help guide you through the basics of living and enjoying your life in Shanghai. The information and advice offered here is only the beginning however. Beyond the internet, you will find many hidden treasures that will surprise and amaze you whilst at the same time broadening your understanding of one of the oldest civilisations on Earth.
Getting Around Shanghai
For the first few weeks – even months – it’s a good idea to carry a street and Metro map around. Shanghai is not a grid, and the sporadic maze of alleys, streets, boulevards and freeways is difficult to navigate, even for the city’s seasoned veterans.
Despite the massive size of greater Shanghai, most of the central areas are grouped together and manageable in size. Once inside a neighbourhood, getting around on foot is relatively easy. All street signs are written in both Chinese and pinyin (phonetically romanised Chinese). The range of street numbers on each block is also posted on the street signs.
Taxis are generally a cheap and efficient way to get around Shanghai, traffic permitting. There are approximately 45,000 taxis in operation in the city, belonging to seven privately owned companies. It’s easy to flag one down on most busy streets – unless it’s raining, in which case be prepared to wait for the weather to clear, or head to the nearest Metro stop. Taxi fares start at RMB 14 for the first two kilometres, RMB 2.4 for each additional kilometre. Tipping is not expected, but welcomed nonetheless. Cash or stored valued cards are accepted as payment. Most drivers speak limited or no English, so you should be able to show them your destination in Chinese. The driver will supply you with a receipt (fapiao), which shows the taxi number and the company telephone number – very useful information if you leave something in the cab. If you have a mobile phone, you can take advantage of the DiDiDaChe service to book taxis during peak hours - you will need to speak Chinese though.
This is the fastest way to travel across the city. Trains are almost always on time and at busy stations in the central areas arrive every three to five minutes. This is generally a nice way to travel. The trains are clean, quiet and safe. Tickets cost RMB3-7, or alternatively you can purchase a stored value card (jiaotong ka) from one of the booths. They’re valid for the Metro, buses and taxis and can be purchased at any Metro station As opposed to buses, signs and maps are clear and in English, making the train system easy to navigate. On the down side, crowds are almost unbearable during the daily rush hours of 7:30-10am and 5-7:30pm.
Opened on January 1, 2004, the Shanghai Maglev is the first commercial maglev in the world and offers a very fast and convenient way to travel between Pudong International Airport and Pudong. The 30 km distance is covered in 7 minutes and 20 seconds, reaching a maximum speed of 268 mph.
There are well over 1,000 bus routes, taking you to every corner of Shanghai, operated by a variety of private companies. The rides are cheap. Direct journeys, which can be purchased in cash from the driver, cost about RMB 2. However, prepare to hit a major language and navigation barrier. Unlike in the Metro, maps are not easy to read and do not provide an English translation. On the whole, this is not a recommended mode of transportation for a newcomer.
Walking is a great way to get around central neighbourhoods in Puxi. The sidewalks in the former French Concession districts of Xuhui and Luwan, the old city area of Yu Yuan, and the area around People’s Square are particularly good places for walking, with restaurants, shops and housing all situated next to one another. Sidewalks are wide and well-maintained, making for pleasant strolls that will give you a chance to take in the rich and dynamic urban environment.
Neighbourhoods in Shanghai
Kangqiao is an established development on Pudong’s south side, built to accompany nearby international schools and local industry. The area is growing rapidly due to its ideal location across the river from Puxi and proximity to central Pudong. Most of the housing exists within gated communities.
Based on plenty of practice in built-up areas like Hongqiao and Jinqiao, property developers offer new and improved villas in Kangqiao. Look for rents in the RMB 30,000-up range for villa property. Smaller townhouses in developments like Oasis Villas are cheaper than in other suburban areas, with rents from RMB 20-40,000.
Kangqiao is near the medical facilities of Lujiazui and Jinqiao.
The zone enjoys an excellent geographic location, with Nanpu Bridge only 8 km away and People’s Square 10 km away. Because the area is newly planned, it offers plenty of green space. Parking is not a problem and traffic generally moves freely.
Pudong’s business and financial centre and the district’s most developed area, Lujiazui covers the eastern bank of the Huangpu River. Lujiazui’s showpiece futuristic skyline is made of high-end business centres and five-star hotels. A few years ago the landscape was barren of housing, but that’s changing. The area is welcoming more up-scale apartment complexes that attract young Chinese and expat professionals. New shops, restaurants and bars are popping up to accommodate the new wave of people moving into Lujiazui. In many ways, Lujiazui is an ideal neighbourhood for people working in Pudong or downtown Puxi who don’t mind living in a forest of shiny high-rises.
Lujiazui housing is dominated by new high-end apartments in large property developments popular with singles and couples. They usually include 24-hour security, pools, gyms and parking. Rents start at RMB 8,000. Family-sized apartments are usually privately owned and rent ranges from RMB 15-60,000. While there are very few villas worth mentioning in the Lujiazui area, the major apartment complexes such as Shimao Riviera, Yanlord Garden and Champs Elysees offer large two-storey apartments which some families find ideal.
The Shanghai East International Medical Center on Pudong Da Dao offers out-patient and in-patient medical care for expats. A modern dental clinic, Care Dental, is on the seventh floor of Super Brand Mall. Alternatively, residents of Lujiazui can travel to any of the clinics in neighbouring Jinqiao for treatment.
Lujiazui is popular with young professionals and singles. It’s an exciting place to live, with dozens of futuristic skyscrapers and world-class hotels offering spectacular views while you sip an expensive martini. There are a growing number of excellent restaurants and bars, especially along the ‘other Bund’ facing the real Bund on the river, and it’s easy to get across the river to People’s Square on Metro line 2. Driving is relatively stress-free, unless you’re trying to get across to Puxi during peak hours.
Unlike neighbouring Kangqiao and Jinqiao, Lujiazui was not designed for expat families. There’s not much open green space, and housing consists primarily of towers. However, it’s much more lively than the other expat areas and, with the Metro, it’s easy enough to get over to Puxi.
Healthcare in Shanghai
Living in Shanghai, while fun and dynamic, can be physically and mentally taxing. It’s easy to neglect to maintain a healthy mind and body. Many expats who move to Shanghai suddenly find that they have an incredibly busy schedule, mixing work, long commutes and social events. Given the poor air quality and lack of open green spaces, it’s important to organise time and space for your health. At first, Shanghai appears to restrict your ability to exercise and find mental peace. However, the city is surprisingly accommodating, with many conventional Western-style gyms and fitness facilities. Living in Shanghai is also an opportunity to experience traditionally Eastern approaches to mental and physical wellbeing, such as yoga and acupuncture. And, given the number of expats from around the globe living in Shanghai, there’s bound to be a group or league for your sport or exercise.
An increasing interest in health and fitness in Shanghai, combined with rising incomes and international influences, have led to new upscale health clubs popping up throughout the city. All offer fitness facilities such as cardio machines and free weights and fitness classes including aerobics, yoga and body pump. More elaborate facilities also provide access to swimming pools, tennis courts and spas. As with many luxuries in Shanghai, they might not be cheap, but you still pay considerably less than you would for comparable facilities back home. Local clubs that target Chinese patrons are much cheaper, but also much less well-equipped, perhaps offering table tennis and badminton rather than swimming and squash. Most new apartment buildings and villas have modern, spacious facilities for residents. The key to maintaining an exercise routine over time is not finding the best fitness club, but finding a suitable facility conveniently near your place of work or home. Therefore, start your search there.