I won’t even try to pretend I’m an expert on China… or planning trips to China. This post is basically going to be a few travel tips and a ton of snapshots from Shanghai. (I didn’t get many from Guangzhou… blame work and jet lag.) If I had to tell you one piece of advice, I would tell you that you need to do your research before you go and prepare better than I did. Part of my challenge was not knowing my work schedule but the other part was just not expecting it to be quite the culture shock that it was. I’ve visited 21 countries, but nothing was quite as overwhelming as China. (I only thought Hungary and the Czech Republic were overwhelming… and possibly Cyprus.) BUT if I had to give you some tips, I would tell you to…
- Buy a Rachel Pally dress for the LONG flight (my flight from JFK to Guangzhou was SIXTEEN hours!!). I found one on super sale on Amazon and it was totally worth it. It’s the softest, most breathable material, and it didn’t wrinkle at all. I wore it on both flights and LOVED it.
- Book some tours. (We could have really benefitted from this at Jing’an Temple and People’s Square.) We also happened to be there on National Day; I would have enjoyed hearing more about the traditions and history. I prefer Viator* for booking tours because they have always taken really good care of me. (*Affiliate link used)
- Don’t skip Yuyuan Garden. I know a lot of people think it’s touristy, but the architecture in the World Heritage Site area is really beautiful. The gardens are beautiful and calm – it’s hard to believe you’re still in Shanghai.
- Take the metro but know when rush hour is if crowds bother you. (Definitely had some hot, body-crushing moments on the metro.) We spent over an hour in a cab when we arrived in Shanghai because we didn’t listen to the woman who told us to just take the subway from the airport. The subway is fast, clean, and efficient. You do need to have cash for the ticket machines though. I never saw one that would take credit cards.
- Expect everything to be crowded to some degree. Remember – a Tier One City in China has at least 20 million people. That’s a lot of people that are going about their daily lives – without accounting for tourists. It didn’t really bother me, but it was something I noticed, especially on National Day. People’s Square was like Times Square during the holidays on steroids.
- Learn some basic Chinese phrases (I really love the DK phrase books and CDs… wish I had thought to pick this one up.)
- Download an app that converts English to the appropriate characters. (Our hotels had cards in the room with the address in Chinese… lifesaver!!)
- Make sure you have the right clothes. (China was HOT. My dresses with polyester/silk linings were unbearable in the heat and could only be worn once before needing to be sent out for cleaning.)
- Eat ALL the soup dumplings (xiao long bao). My favorite places in Shanghai were Paradise Dynasty, Din Tai Fung, and Nan Xiang Xiaolong.
- Read the benefits from your airlines. We flew Hainan Airlines back to the US and our fare entitled us to free car service from our hotel to Pudong airport. This saved us some $$ and was a completely non-stressful way to travel! (We also flew them from Guangzhou to Shanghai – tons of legroom, great lounge, fantastic service. We used CTrip to book our inner-China flights… they were less expensive than another website and we had no issues. We booked our flights 3 hours before departure… No problems whatsoever.)
Leslie @ Martin Manifesto says
BEAUTIFUL photos! What a cool (although fast & furious) experience!
Katie Elizabeth says
What an amazing experience!!! These pictures are gorgeous!
Van @ Snow in Tromso says
Having to deal with crowds and having to learn Chinese would kinda put me off but I know that a visit to Shanghai is probably also incredibly fascinating and so different from anywhere I’ve ever been so I’d probably try anyway 😉
Such great photos! Thanks for sharing!
Petite in Pearls
Sarah Elizabeth says
Love all of these photos Sara!
When we move after this academic year, the new university that William will be teaching at offers a summer program in China that takes the college faculty along to teach courses and William is already planning to teach with that program so we can go!
Bumble Bee Mum says
For someone who is unprepared, your tips are great! I’m lucky to have Paradise Dynasty and Din Tai Fung right here in Singapore.. I just had xiao long bao at Paradise Dynasty for dinner yesterday!
OMG. SO GOOD. I’m definitely jealous of that. I need to find somewhere in Dallas that doesn’t disappoint in that area!! 😉
Tanja (the Red phone box travels) says
nice photos!interesting temples! #wanderfulwednesday
Your photos from China are stunning! I’ve heard that visiting the country can be really overwhelming, but I think I’d like to experience it one day all the same. These are great tips for any first time travelers to China! Thanks for sharing 😀
Angie (FeetDoTravel) says
I was drawn to this post because I have been to Shanghai and I love to see other people’s perspective 🙂 We also visited the Yuyuan Garden and your photos are a wonderful reminder of our time there. Loved the food photos, love chinese food!! Thank you for bring back lovely memories; my blog entitled “2 days in Shanghai” will be released here on 22 November and I would very much be interested in hearing your thoughts 🙂 #WanderfulWednesday
Such gorgeous photos! Looks like a blast!