Memo to all expats: public transportation in Shanghai is inexpensive and extremely efficient. Caution to all expats: the driving culture in Shanghai is very different from that of your home country.
Drivers, cyclists, pedestrians and motorcyclists show little regard for the rules of the road. Light signals and lane markers are merely “suggestions” for drivers. Cars swerve violently, traffic merges without any thought to the color of road signals, pedestrians weave in and out of the cars, delivery bikes travel excessively slowly, taxi drivers travel excessively fast – it’s bedlam, and it can be extremely frightening for newcomers. As long as you are not driving, you might find it amazing – or even comical – that, despite all the annoyances and bumping and shoving, incidents of road rage are very rare.
As a result, many people choose to avoid the roads and travel on one of the many public transportation modes available in the city. In general, public transport keeps high standards of efficiency, safety and cleanliness.
The subway system can also be frightening in its own unique way. In most cities, when a train is too crowded to get on, you can usually wait for the next one and it will be less busy. Not so in Shanghai. At peak times, the shear crowds of people can be startling. And, when the doors to the train open, passengers try to enter as passengers exit the train. But nothing too serious, the tube is one of the best ways to move around the city. On the other hand, the bus is even less suitable for laowai, since all signals and time tables are written in Chinese characters. The taxi is cheap, but has to deal with traffic jams and can be hard to find one in rush hours or rainy days.
Public Transportation Card
Stored value cards may be purchased at subway stations, convenience stores and the airport. It can be used in most public transportation vehicles including bus, subway, light rail, taxi and ferry. The card works on a debit system. You put money on the card, and the balance is reduced as you use the card. You can add money to the card at many convenient stores (they will have the same logo as is on the card in the window if they do) and the subway stations. You can purchase a card for RMB 20 and add value when you want.
For complete information on how and where to buy a Shanghai Public Transportation Card, click here.