Is Shanghai Expensive to Visit? A Comprehensive Guide for Travellers

by 18 Dec 2023China, Shanghai

Shanghai, a vibrant metropolis that seamlessly blends the ancient with the modern, stands as a beacon of China’s rapid progress and cultural richness. As a city that’s as much a hub for finance as it is for culture, the question of cost is crucial for many travellers. While it’s often perceived as one of the more expensive Chinese cities, with smart planning and insider knowledge, visiting Shanghai can be surprisingly accessible. This guide delves into the heart of Shanghai, exploring its costs and how to maximise your experience within a budget. Embracing the city’s energy doesn’t have to mean emptying your pockets, especially when you opt for affordable accommodation options like Holiday Swap, which merges comfort with economy, ensuring your stay is as enriching as it is budget-friendly.

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The Art of Navigating Shanghai: Public Transportation to Walking Tours

Exploring Shanghai, a fascinating and populous city known for its vibrant culture and rich history, is an adventure in itself. The city boasts an efficient public transportation system, including the Shanghai Metro, buses, and a high-speed bullet train network connecting to other major Chinese cities, making it an ideal destination for travellers seeking both convenience and exploration opportunities.

Metro and Bus:

  • A single ride on the Shanghai Metro starts at a modest flag-down rate, making it a cost-effective mode of transportation. A single ride on the Shanghai Metro starts at a modest flag-down rate, typically costing around 3 RMB (Chinese Yuan) per trip. However, the fare may vary depending on the distance travelled, with longer rides costing slightly more.


  • For extensive exploration, consider the Shanghai Public Transportation Card, which offers unlimited travel and flexibility. The cost of a Shanghai Public Transportation Card can vary depending on the duration and type of card you choose. For example:
    • A one-day card may cost approximately 20-30 RMB.
    • A three-day card might cost around 50-70 RMB.
    • Longer-term cards for a week or more could range from 100 RMB to 300 RMB or more, depending on the duration and whether you opt for additional features like integration with other services or discounts.

Walking Tours:

  • Free walking tours provide a budget-friendly way to discover Shanghai, from the historic Jing’an Temple to modern marvels like the Shanghai Tower, one of the tallest buildings in the world.
  • These tours offer a blend of famous landmarks and hidden gems, perfect for experiencing the city’s diverse culture.

Shanghai’s public transportation system not only saves you money but also gives you a chance to experience the city like a local, whether you’re rushing through the metro during peak hours or enjoying a leisurely walk through its bustling streets.

Shanghai Metro

Shanghai Metro

Gastronomic Delights: From Affordable Street Food to Fine Dining in Shanghai

Shanghai’s culinary landscape is a delightful blend of traditional Chinese food and Western influences, offering a gastronomic journey that caters to all tastes and budgets. From the mouthwatering delights of affordable street food to the opulence of fine dining experiences, the city’s food scene is a reflection of its rich cultural diversity and culinary excellence.

Street Food and Markets:

  • Savour local delicacies like Xiaolongbao or indulge in Western food options at affordable prices.
  • Markets like the bustling Century Park or Beihai Park offer a plethora of budget-friendly and scrumptious choices.

Restaurants and Cafes:

  • A meal at a typical Shanghai restaurant ranges from mid-range prices in city centres to high-end costs at luxury hotels.
  • For a unique experience, try a taxi ride to offbeat food joints, where the cost of food reflects the authentic local lifestyle.

Whether you’re dining at a modest street food stall, a mid-range restaurant in the city center, or indulging in the opulence of luxury hotels, Shanghai’s gastronomy won’t disappoint. It offers a range of options to suit every budget and taste, ensuring that your culinary adventure in this vibrant city is nothing short of memorable. So, whether you’re savoring local delicacies like Xiaolongbao or exploring offbeat food joints, Shanghai invites you to sate your appetite and discover the irresistible flavors that define this metropolis.

Street Food

Street Food

Accommodation in Shanghai: Affordable Options Offered by Holiday Swap

When it comes to travel expenses, accommodation costs can often be a substantial portion of your budget. However, with Holiday Swap, your journey to Shanghai becomes more affordable without compromising on comfort and convenience. Discover a variety of affordable accommodation options in this dynamic city.

Cosy Apartments in the City Centre:

  • Choose from a range of budget-friendly apartments in Shanghai’s city centre, offering convenience and comfort.
  • Ideal for travellers who want to stay close to major tourist attractions and enjoy the hustle and bustle of the city.

Peaceful Retreats on the Outskirts:

  • For those seeking tranquillity, Holiday Swap offers spacious accommodations away from the city’s rush.
  • Enjoy the serene environment of Shanghai’s outskirts at a fraction of the cost of central city hotels.

Whether you prefer cosy apartments in the heart of Shanghai’s vibrant city centre, perfect for those who want to immerse themselves in the buzz of major tourist attractions, or peaceful retreats on the outskirts, ideal for those seeking a tranquil escape, Holiday Swap caters to all preferences and budgets. Your stay in Shanghai can be both enjoyable and economical, thanks to the diverse range of choices provided by Holiday Swap. So, rest assured that you can make the most of your Shanghai adventure without breaking the bank.

Shanghai Downtown

Shanghai Downtown

Why Choose Holiday Swap for Your Shanghainese Adventure

Holiday Swap isn’t merely about providing affordable options; it’s about ensuring that your adventure in Shanghai is a blend of comfort and style, all within the confines of your budget. Discover why Holiday Swap stands out as the ideal choice for your Shanghainese journey.

Affordable Luxury:

  • Holiday Swap combines affordability with a touch of elegance, allowing you to experience the city’s charm without a hefty price tag.
  • From 1-bed vacation rentals to more spacious 2-bed options, there’s something for everyone.

Diversity in Choices:

  • Whether you’re a solo traveller or travelling with fellow travellers, Holiday Swap caters to your specific needs with a range of accommodation types.
  • Enjoy the flexibility and freedom of choosing what suits you best, from charming hostels to more luxurious rooms.

With Holiday Swap, you can have the best of both worlds – saving money without compromising on quality or experience. From affordable yet luxurious 1-bed vacation rentals to more spacious 2-bed options, there’s a choice to suit every traveller. Whether you’re exploring Shanghai solo or with companions, Holiday Swap’s diverse range of accommodation types ensures that you have the freedom to choose what best suits your preferences. So, embark on your Shanghainese adventure with confidence, knowing that Holiday Swap has your comfort, style, and budget in mind.

Sightseeing in Shanghai: From Iconic Museums to Hidden Gems

Shanghai is a city that seamlessly blends its status as a bustling metropolis with its rich cultural and historical heritage. Amidst the towering skyscrapers and modernity, you’ll find a wealth of museums and landmarks waiting to be explored, offering a glimpse into the heart and soul of this vibrant city.

Major Museums and Attractions:

  • Visit iconic places like the Shanghai Museum or the Pearl Tower, with entry fees typically ranging from a reasonable cost.
  • The Shanghai 5-Day Itinerary pass is a great option for those wanting to explore multiple museums without worrying about individual ticket prices.

  • Discover Shanghai’s lesser-known attractions, like hidden temples or historical sites, often free or with minimal entrance fees.
  • Explore areas like the ancient city parts or modern art galleries, each offering a unique glimpse into Shanghai’s diverse heritage.

Whether you’re drawn to the allure of iconic museums like the Shanghai Museum and the Pearl Tower or seek the charm of hidden temples and historical sites, Shanghai’s sightseeing options cater to a wide range of interests and budgets. From exploring the ancient city parts to immersing yourself in the world of modern art galleries, there’s something for everyone to discover in Shanghai, making your visit to this city a truly enriching and memorable experience.

Pearl Tower among other Towers

Pearl Tower among other Towers

Timing Your Visit: Considering Seasonal Variations and Festivals in Shanghai

When planning your visit to Shanghai, it’s essential to take into account the timing of your trip, as it can have a substantial impact on your travel expenses and overall experience. Discover how the seasons and festivals in Shanghai can influence your journey.

Peak Season:

  • Summer months and major holidays see a surge in prices, from accommodation to domestic flights, including those offered by airlines like China Eastern Airlines and Hainan Airlines.
  • Attractions are also more crowded during these times, including popular spots like Disneyland Shanghai.

Off-Peak Travel:

  • Consider travelling during spring or autumn to enjoy lower hotel prices and cheaper airline carrier rates.
  • This period also offers the chance to experience Shanghai’s seasonal beauty and less crowded attractions.

Choosing the right time to visit Shanghai can lead to significant savings and a more relaxed traveling experience. Whether you opt for the bustling peak season, where the city comes alive during summer and major holidays, or prefer the tranquillity of off-peak travel in spring or autumn, Shanghai welcomes you with its seasonal beauty and diverse attractions. Keep in mind that your travel timing can make all the difference in creating a memorable and budget-friendly adventure in this captivating city.

Beyond the City: Day Trips and Extra Adventures from Shanghai

While Shanghai itself is a captivating destination, its strategic location makes it an excellent hub for day trips and additional adventures that can enrich your travel experience. Discover the diverse range of opportunities to explore beyond the city limits.

Nearby Attractions:

  • Allocate a budget for trips to places like the historic West Lake or plan a 13-hour-long scenic road trip to explore the countryside.
  • Day trips to these locations offer a different flavour of Chinese culture and entertainment.

Additional Activities:

  • Consider extra costs for experiences like boat tours, attending shows at historical theatres, or exploring the city’s many parks.
  • These activities provide a deeper understanding of Shanghai’s diverse cultural landscape.

Exploring beyond Shanghai’s city limits adds an extra dimension to your travel experience, offering a chance to delve deeper into China’s fascinating country. Allocate a budget for day trips to nearby attractions like the historic West Lake or embark on scenic road trips to the countryside. Consider extra costs for activities such as boat tours, attending shows at historical theatres, or wandering through the city’s picturesque parks. These experiences provide a richer understanding of Shanghai’s diverse cultural landscape and offer a unique perspective on your Shanghainese adventure.

Tea house in Hangzhou around the West Lake

Tea house in Hangzhou around the West Lake

Crafting Your Budget: From Daily Expenses to Extra Indulgences in Shanghai

Preparing a well-thought-out budget is a crucial step for a stress-free and enjoyable experience in Shanghai. Dive into the details of creating a comprehensive budget that covers your daily expenses and allows room for a few extra indulgences along the way.


  • Set aside approximately £10-£15 per day for transportation, including taxi fares and public transportation.
  • This budget should cover everything from a taxi ride to a bullet train ticket for day trips.


  • Allocate around £30 per day for meals, allowing for a mix of street food, casual dining, and perhaps a splurge at an expensive restaurant.
  • Don’t forget to try some domestic beer, a popular choice among real travellers.


  • Budget around £20-£60 per night for budget hotels or hostels, and £100-£200 for a mid-range hotel room or a comfortable stay with Holiday Swap.
  • Consider additional charges for services like bicycle rental or laundry.


  • Reserve around £20-£50 per day for museum entries and other tourist attractions.
  • Remember to include occasional indulgences, like a day trip or a special meal, in your budget.

 By crafting your budget thoughtfully, you can make the most of your Shanghainese adventure while maintaining financial peace of mind.

Final Thoughts: Experience Shanghai Your Way

Visiting Shanghai can align perfectly with your travel style and budget. With a variety of transportation options, a wide range of food choices, comfortable accommodations like Holiday Swap, and the use of passes for museums and attractions, you can immerse yourself in the city’s allure without overspending. Remember, Shanghai is more than its price tag; it’s about the experiences, the culture, and the unforgettable memories you’ll create. With this guide, you’re well-equipped to navigate the city’s costs and make the most of your Shanghese adventure.

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