LANGUAGE: Mandarin is the official language of China. In our travel experience, few people outside of the hospitality industry speak English. Download a translation app to help with communication while you travel especially if you are traveling outside major metropolitan areas.
CURRENCY: Yuan is the national currency. Credit cards were widely accepted.
WHEN TO GO: Best time to visit China is during the spring (March to May) or fall (September to October). During the summer months, tourism is going to be at its peak making most tourist spots overwhelmingly crowded not to mention hot.
POLLUTION: Pollution is a huge problem in China especially air pollution. An air quality report is issued every day to advise if the air is acceptable to breathe. You will often see people wearing face masks in public due to the poor air quality.
VISA: A visa is required to travel to China and it is a multi-step process. Check out our full Guide to China for more details.
CROWDS: China is crowded! Shanghai has a population of over 26 million people. To compare, New York City has a population of just 8 million. Expect public places to be crowded, sometimes overwhelmingly so. People are not afraid to push or shove to get where they need to go.
POINTS OF INTEREST: The Bund, Old City Shanghai, Yu Gardens, Shanghai Museum
Shanghai is a bustling metropolis, a center for business in China and the most westernized stop we made in China. Our guide to 24 Hours in Shanghai will hit the highlights of Shanghai if you have a short time in the city.
First stop in Shanghai exploring Yu Garden and Old City Shanghai. Honestly, this is what I thought more of China would look like: blooming orchids, koi ponds, ornate craved statues, quaint tea houses and antique architecture. At the beginning of March, the flowers were just starting to bloom and the crowds were minimal allowing us to truly enjoy the peacefulness of the gardens in the middle of a bustling city.
Following a tour of the gardens, enjoy a tea ceremony and tasting at one of the tea houses in the old city. Then spend the rest of the morning shopping in the old city.
Next, head to the Shanghai Museum. Located on the People’s Square in the Huangpu District, the Shanghai Museum is focused on ancient Chinese art and history. With a collection of over 120,000 pieces, we really enjoyed the ceramics, jade and imperial clothing exhibits. We would recommend allotting 2 hours for the museum visit.
To finish out your afternoon, head down to the Bund and take in the impressive sky line. It’s crazy to think these skyscrapers did not existed before 1990 and this area, Pudong, was mainly farm land!
If the weather is nice, book a dinner cruise on one of the many boats along The Bund. It was cold when we visited so we opted to dine at the top of the Four Seasons with a window table overlooking the Pearl Tower and it’s festive light display.
If you have an extra day to spend in the area, book a day trip to the water town of Tongli located around an hour and a half outside Shanghai. Nicknamed the “Venice of the East”, Tongli is a quaint and quiet town known for it’s winding canals. Take a boat ride down the canals and enjoyed lunch on the water.