It is inexpensive to ride the bus system, but it has two downsides: it’s necessary to read Chinese characters to use it and you will have to stand most of the time. Buses run the whole range of the city, and it’s useful to have a transportation card because drivers do not give any change. So, it can be very useful for people able to read Chinese, but if this is not your case, we strongly advise you to opt for the subway.
There are particular centers of the city that are teeming with buses where you can be sure to find one that will reach your destination. The most useful destination for seeing the sights of the city are: People’s Square, Jing’an Temple, the Bund, XuJiaHui, LuJiaZui, and Gubei. The key to the bus system is figuring out which stop it is, and which stop to get off. This isn’t impossible for a non-Chinese speaker (or reader), as long as you have a good idea of the bus routes that are useful to you (don’t forget, you can learn this from a good map or a good concierge). Here is a website for a compilation in English of all the bus lines: http://msittig.wubi.org/bus/. Google Maps now shows exactly where the various bus lines running throughout the Shanghai area stop, even though ditu.google.com is in Chinese.
Each line has a different schedule, but generally they start to work about 5:30 in the morning and finish around 22.00 or 23.00. The exceptions are the lines for rush hours (201 – 299) and night buses (301 – 399).
Bus stops are named by road, or sometimes by an interesting site, or by an intersection name, so it is not predictable. Many of the newer buses actually have flat plasma screens showing “Shanghai Mobile TV,” one of the station specialties broadcast from the Oriental Pearl Tower. The mimimum cost for bus travel is 1-2 RMB’s depending on the line and distance travelled, with an extra 1 RMB surcharge for transferring to another bus line. All buses stop at their designated bus stops and do not stop anywhere else. People do not have to flag them down – they will stop at all bus stops even if no people are waiting to board. Embarking passengers normally enter the bus at the front. However, some buses have ticket sellers who walk up and down the bus – on these buses, passengers may enter at the back door or the front door.