Plan your trip – where to stay in Shanghai, when to go and what else to consider

When to go

In general, I would suggest to avoid the coldest winter months (dec-feb) to travel to Shanghai as due to the high humidity it may feel uncomfortably cold and avoid the last two weeks of Jun (when it is often raining non-stop for several days) and the hottest summer months July & August when it can become scorching hot. In addition, I would not necessarily go during the national holiday in the first week of October, when half China is traveling and many tourist sites in Shanghai – especially the Bund area (see where to stay in Shanghai section) – will be super crowded.

Current weather in Shanghai:
Find more about Weather in Shanghai, CI

Visa

Citizens of most countries will need to apply for a visa to China in their home countries. In some countries (mainly Europe & Asia) Chinese visa applications are exclusively handled by the Chinese visa application service centers. In other case you may want to check with the chinese consulate on the regulations and required documents. Visa agencies might also be able to help you with applications.

Most standard tourist visa (L visa) will be valid for a stay of 30 days and good for a single entry. Regular processing time in most cases should be four business days, in certain areas express service might be available against additional fees. Prices for visa differ from country to country.

Flights

Shanghai has two major airports. If you fly to Shanghai from abroad, you will almost certainly fly to Pudong international airport (PVG) in the very east of Shanghai close to the sea. Only a few international flights (mostly from asian origins) will arrive at the smaller hongqiao airport (SHA), closer to the city center.

Most major international carriers fly to Shanghai, therefore you can book directly with your preferred airline website or use an online travel agency site to compare flights. Major chinese carriers serving international routes are Air China (part of star alliance), China Eastern and China Southern (both sky team), which are often cheaper than international airlines.

Where to stay in Shanghai

Hotel vs vacation rental

Though i personally really like vacation rentals, for china i would rather suggest to book a hotel. Reason: all foreigners staying in China have to register with the police within 24 hours upon arrival. If you stay at a hotel, the hotel will do the registration for you automatically. In case you are staying at a private apartment, however, you have to do the registration by yourself, which can be quite a hassle, as you have to go to the police station responsible for that district and provide certain documents, which may also require a certain degree of cooperation from your landloard.

Where to stay in Shanghai – best areas:

Shanghai is divided into two parts by the huangpu river: Puxi (the part west of huangpu river) and Pudong (the part east of the huangpu river). Puxi is the old part of town, whereas Pudong mostly was farmland until a few decades ago and is now home to the Lujiazui financial district with its skysprapers (which is probably the most interesting spot in Pudong area during a visit to Shanghai) and the Pudong international airport of course. More interesting for visitors to Shanghai is probably the Puxi area. The Huangpu area is the district from Huangpu river to People’s square and home to some of the key attractions of Shanghai such as the Bund with its many impressive colonial style buildings, now home to banks, high class restaurants and luxury hotels, Yu Garden and Nanjing street and the former old Chinese town. The former international and French concession areas are located in Jingan and Xuhui districts making those a great place to wander around the tree lined alleys. 

I would therefore recommend focusing the hotel search on Huangpu / Jingan / Xuhui districts in Puxi (which include most of the sights, the Bund and former French concession area) and on the Lujiazui area in Pudong, where the skyscrapers are. I personally would probably still go for the Bund as best area to explore Shanghai.

Hotels

Recommended hotels for your stay in Shanghai:

Waldorf Astoria Shanghai on the Bund *****

Located inside a stunningly beautiful colonial building at the Bund riverside, which was home to the Shanghai club. Although most of the hotel rooms are actually located in the new building, the five star Waldorf hotel may make you feel set back in time. Have your breakfast with style in the Grand brasserie, enjoy their signature red velvet afternoon tea at the Salon de ville or fine drinks and jazz music at the long bar. Definitely worth to spend a few more bucks on a river view room – the view on the Bund and opposite Pudong skyline is truly breathtaking.

Booking.com

Ritz Carlton Shanghai Pudong *****

If you have always dreamt of staying at a highrise hotel with a great view, then the Ritz Carlton in the Lujiazui financial district might be a good choice. They also have a great roof terrace bar (Flair) with one of the most stunning views in Shanghai: the Oriental pearl tv tower never felt that close.

Booking.com

Hengshan Moller villa ****

Very interesting hotel inside a fairy-tale unique colonial-era house built by former British shipping magnate eric moller in the thirties. It is conveniently located at the edge of the former French concession. The hotel also has a nice little garden.

Booking.com

Or search for other hotels in Shanghai:
Booking.com

Health & insurance

Checking on requested vaccinations and getting a health insurance for your stay in china is highly recommended as medical services can be quite expensive (read more in the good to know section).

Others

Make sure you have the address of your destination in Shanghai written in Chinese so that you can show that to others, for instance taxi drivers.

You may also want to get a vpn to access blocked internet sites beforehand, as download sites or app stores might also be blocked in china. See vpn section on the  good to know site.