The subway system has been expanding rapidly throughout the city, particularly in the months prior to the World Expo, and the local Government has plans to continue this process. Currently, Shanghai has 12 subways lines (439 km) with 287 stations. This makes the city’s metro the longest of Asia and the third in the world. For the most part, the Shanghai underground trains are fast, quick, and clean.
It’s a fairly new system with air-conditioned trains and clean stations and walkways. It will generally get you around the city faster than any other means. At peak times, although incredibly crowded – especially at the People’s Square interchange – it is the quickest way to get from Pudong to Puxi.
For foreigners, the subway is more manageable than the bus, since all indications, included those inside the trains, are both in English and Chinese. The underground subway (Ditie) and above ground light rail (Qinggui) have been grouped together as one unit with transfer tickets available. The subway fare is rated by distance from point of origin, costing 3 to 10 RMB. You can find an updated map of the subway at http://www.exploreshanghai.com/metro/.
The only pitfall of using the subway is that it can get very crowded during rush hours. You will notice that the etiquette of most of the passengers is not the same that in Western countries: those who go into the trains will not wait until everybody – not even the first one – goes out. There are two options: you can show a stoic patience and wait, risking not being able to disembark at your stop, or practice your rugby skills and push, nobody will reproach you.
The timetables vary depending on the line, but the earliest trains start to run at 5.30 in the morning and in no case will there be trains after midnight.
There are “touch” screen ticket machines where you can purchase your ticket – the word “English” is on the top right of the screen – by selecting that, all the instructions change to English.
- You select the destination line (bottom left) then a map of all the stations on the line and their names are shown – you select the station and the “single” fare is displayed (along with the numbers 1 to 9)
- The numbers 1-9 are to indicate the numbers of passengers traveling (it defaults to 1)
- By selecting 2, it then automatically increased the price – to that for two travelers.
- The machines take notes as well as coins – and give change.
Shanghai Metro has a useful English version of its website with a route and fare calculator.