Only a Few Hours in Shanghai? No Problem!
While I was watching flights to get a good deal for my trip to Japan, I came across a flight (that was a great price) that included an overnight layover in Shanghai. I had never been to China and I started researching if it was possible to leave the airport in Shanghai (since I knew China required visas) since my flight would get in around 5pm and my flight on to Japan would not leave until 9am the next day.
Fortunately, I was in luck! I found out that there is such a thing as a Free 72 Hour Visa in China, if you met the requirements. You need to have a flight that is leaving to a country other than China, and other than your origination country, that is leaving China within 72 hours. Another caveat is that you can't leave the city in China you arrive in. So, no flying to Beijing from Shanghai during that 72 hour timeframe.
Side note: I was really nervous about making my way through Chinese Immigration and customs, so I used Google translate to get the phrase"72 Hour Free Visa" printed out, along with a copy of my flight itinerary to show them my flight plans. I had to fill out one form, and then when I presented to the officer, I handed him my form, my flight info, and the Chinese phrase. He waved someone over and they briefly discussed my documents. He then stamped my entry form. DO NOT LOSE THE OTHER HALF, you must have it with you to leave the county!
After booking a ticket for the flight with the overnight layover in Shanghai, I began my research in how to get into the city from the airport. The best way to get into the city on a budget (and quickly, I might add) is to take the Maglev train to Longyang Road. The Maglev travels 19 miles in 8 minutes. You can easily transfer to the subway at Longyang Road to continue on to your destination, or take a taxi. For how cheap and easy it was, unless you're packing a lot of bags, I would take the subway. I had a carry-on duffle and a small roller bag and was just fine. Most signs were also in English, so navigating them was easy. I'd recommend getting a guidebook with a subway map or printing one out at home prior to take with you.
The hotel I booked was on Nanjing Road, a short walk away from the scenic Bund. After exiting the subway, I walked along a pedestrian only area right up to my hotel. I tend to look for a bargain...but somewhere decent when booking a hotel. I like to try to save money so I can go more often and for longer. After looking on Agoda for deals, I chose The Seventh Heaven Hotel. It was in a great, easy location...and it was less money without being a dump. Sure, it's nothing super fancy, but I'd stay there again.
Wherever you decide to book your accommodations, with such a short amount of time in Shanghai, my recommendation for sightseeing and eating are as follows:
Go On the Hunt for the Best Xiaolongbao
Xiaolongbao or soup dumplings were at the top of my list for Shanghai experiences after reading other travel blogs about how Shanghai was the place to eat these delicate and tasty little dumplings. There were 3 places I really wanted to try dumplings at, but sadly, due to the time...I only made it to 2. But that just means another trip right???
Jia Jia Tang Bao was noted to be the most "local" of the dumpling places to go. No English menu was available, and you could watch a crew of several women standing around a table heaped with filling, artfully pressing the dumpling skin into the perfect purse of yumminess. Jia Jia Tang Bao was located near the Seventh Heaven Hotel, so after a short walk, I sunk my teeth into one of their delightful soup dumplings. They were near closing when upon arrival. I had read that you want to get to this place early because they don't have set hours. They close then the food runs out.
Yang's Dumpling serves up fried versions of the soup dumplings. Naturally, one must try the fried version as well. Yang's has several locations, but I really lucked out with a Yang's directly across the street from Jia Jia.
Be careful eating the fried versions, while tasty...they are dangerous! The broth tends to squirt and my friend and I both ended up with the soup broth on our clothes.
The final place I wanted to try was Din Tai Fung. There are several locations as well, but by the time we made it to the location nearest us, it was closed. I've had several friends recommend it, so it's definitely on the list for a return trip.
Take in the Views at The Bund
The Bund is so scenic. One side of the river is so futuristic, the other with old Colonial type buildings. Take the time to see both sides, it's a quick subway ride under the river. While it was late enough and low visibility, I didn't take the time to do any city views from the tall towers.
So, with minimal hours in Shanghai...those are my two recommendations.
-I'd get some Renminbi before arriving in China. It was easy enough to order some from a bank near my home. And then I didn't have to worry about finding an ATM that would work with American cards as soon as I arrived. I think I got around $50 USD worth and didn't need anymore for my quick stay.
-Due to the early morning need to get back to the airport, I chose to forgo the subway back to the airport because the Maglev wouldn't be up and running. The subway will go all the way there, without taking the Maglev...but it would have taken much longer. I opted for a taxi and the fare was very reasonable, plus I was able to see a little more of Shanghai than I had when I arrived in the evening.