Shanghai is a fairly safe city. Areas of concern where crime is more prevalent are the foreigner-targeted nightclub areas such as MaoMing Road and JuLe Road. These areas can be a bit more risky late at night when the establishments close around 2 AM. Right around closing, police cars can be seen guarding the end of the street, so being aware of the surroundings should be enough to stay safe. Keeping to well-lit areas late at night, and not traveling alone, is the best way to stay safe in all areas of Shanghai.
The bigger issue in Shanghai is pick-pocketing. When walking around pedestrian boulevards and outdoor shopping areas, no pocket or bag is safe from the opportunistic pick-pocketer. Again, being aware of the surroundings is the best policy. Police and security, easily spotted in navy uniforms, have a fairly large presence in the city, and the police can be reached by dialing 110. Be especially watchful and cautious in the pedestrian area of Nanjing Road, on the edges by the intersection with Henan Road, and the intersection with Xizang (Tibet) Road.
Be sure to also be alert for scams. Most are related with business, but there are also con men, and especially con women, looking for unsuspecting laowei (foreigners) in the most popular tourists areas. The most frequent rip-off is the “tea ceremony”. A couple of attractive young women start to talk with the foreigner and invite him to go with them to a close tea house to enjoy a traditional tea ceremony. The prey will have many tea varieties and a pleasant conversation, and finally, a ridiculously high bill (there have been reported cases over 5,000 RMB). If he doesn’t want to pay it, the kind hostesses are replaced by men with small disposition to dialogue or, in extreme instances, a couple of accomplices disguised as police officers.
When crossing streets, be aware that motorists, bicyclists, and motorcyclists will most likely not stop for you, but will try to find the shortest way around you. Avoid making direct eye contact with motorists, because if you do, it implies that you will stop. Bus drivers are also quite aggressive and make wide turns. Even walking on the sidewalk is a challenge when bikes, motorcycles and the scary silent motorized bikes whiz from behind without warning — it’s best to walk on a straight, predictable path to avoid being hit. Always remember that the pedestrian is the lowest in the food chain in China!
Single women can move about Shanghai without too much hassle. Handbag-snatching and pick-pocketing do happen in markets and on crowded buses or trains—keep an eye open and your money safe and you should have no problems.