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Waht is The Best Way to Explore Shanghai?

mahaman
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Waht is The Best Way to Explore Shanghai?

Hi everybody,

I am trying to plan a trip to Shanghai this July, along with my wife and my 3 years old daughter.

I have no experience whatsoever with China. What worries me is the communication with the people there as most of them do not speak English.

After I Googled Shanghai, I ended up with three options, and I need to hear your opinions fellow travelers. The options are:

1. To book a ready-made tour package from a tour operator. the package includes a private car with an English speaking guide.

2. To hire an English speaking guide only.

3. To go there first, and then asses the situation and decide what to do.

So, any idea what would the best option be?

Thank you in advance.

Maman

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Shanghai
Shanghai Region, China
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1. Re: Waht is The Best Way to Explore Shanghai?

Mahaman - My husband and I, who do not speak any Chinese dialect, traveled through China for 23 days in April of this year. We used guides in Beijing, Xi'an, Yangshuo, and Hangzhou, but did not have a guide in Shanghai. In my opinion none is needed.

The city is easily toured on foot, by Metro and by taxi. Simply ask your hotel concierge or someone in the business office to write the Chinese characters for your destination to hand to the taxi driver or pinpoint your destinations on a map. Read a good guide book for ideas on what to see and do and then choose a neighborhood for each day's touring, grouping activities for easier transportation.

The Metro is also easy to learn and to use. The Metro lines crisscross the city and there are many transfer points. Just go to one of the ticket machines, key in English and select a line. All of the stations will appear. Select your destination and indicate the number of tickets you wish to purchase... then put in your money (bills or change) and the machine will spit out your tickets. These get inserted in the machines that provide entry to the platform. Each platform will have a chart of the line and indicate which direction to go for your stop, just like subways in other major cities.

There are many suggestions on what to do, where to eat, and where to stay in many posts on Trip Advisor, Fodors, etc. Just use the search function and you will have more information than you can ever use.

In our experience, people were friendly and helpful (and traveling with a young child you will find people to be even more so!). When you need help, someone will be sure to point you in the right direction.

Feel free to ask questions and to read my post for ideas:

"Detailed Shanghai Trip Report"

I hope you have a great trip!

Linda

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Xi'an
Xi'an
Shaanxi, China
Yangshuo County
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Guangxi, China
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Zhejiang, China
Shanghai
Shanghai
Shanghai Region, China
Miami Beach, Florida
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2. Re: Waht is The Best Way to Explore Shanghai?

Hi Mahaman and welcome to TripAdvisor Forums,

Travelwise gave you a great outline. The key factor, of course, is what you want to do. If you are satisfied with the "canned" tourist trail tours, then take those. Sometimes the three/four-hour small van tours are the best way to orient you in a strange city. Beware of the forced shopping or "factory tour" stops though. They are a waste of time and money. (see many other posts on this.)

On the other hand, maybe you have a focus to your interests. The parks of Shanghai are outstanding, and you could easily spend an entire day looking at them and observing Chinese people at leisure.

I suggest you buy the DK Eyewitness Guide to Beijing & Shanghai and use it at home to outline your points of interest. It is the only completely illustrated guidebook for you to preview all the sights of the city. It has some great city walks too, to enjoy the city from the street level, not just a tour bus or car.

Also use the search feature on this forum for "Shanghai kids" and you will lots of ideas of things to do.

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mahaman
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3. Re: Waht is The Best Way to Explore Shanghai?

travelwise:

Many thanks for your response. I enjoyed reading your detailed Shanghai trip report.

I just have one question please. How did you manage to communicate with people in the shops, restaurants and streets? As far as I understand, they do not speak English, right?

SoBeSparky:

Many thanks for your input. The DK Eyewitness Guide to Beijing & Shanghai seems to be an excellent reference. I will try to get it.

We are interested mainly in the parks, the shopping malls and the places where my little daughter can have some fun! Do you think I will be able to manage without an English speaking guide?

Thank you all once again.

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4. Re: Waht is The Best Way to Explore Shanghai?

Although most people are not fluent in English, many people can speak a little bit, and salespeople in tourist-area shops are some of the best English speakers we enountered on our trip. Restaurants that cater to Westerners also have at least one or two people on staff who can speak some English.

We also traveled with "Me No Speak" (there is a Chinese version) which has phrases and pictures and Chinese translations. I used it several times in restaurants and buffets (for fried eggs!). I also had "Point It," which is filled with useful pictures. Both books can be ordered from Amazon.com.

Our one problem came when we ended up on a line waiting for a bus we didn't expect everyone would need to take.. We didn't know where the bus would take us so I asked in my loud voice, "Does anyone here speak English? Where is the bus going?" Although for a minute or two it seemed not a soul on that long line would reply, finally a young guy named the destination and then I knew it was okay. Sometimes I think people are shy or afraid of making a mistake, or don't want to get involved.

Sign language also works as well as big smiles and lots of head nods. For me, it's all part of the adventure. I once did my best to communicate with a woman on a bus in Nice, France (I have never studied French, but that doesn't stop me from making the attempt when I'm there!) After a few minutes I realized she wasn't French at all... she was Italian and so we switched to that language (which I really don't speak either, but I do go to the opera quite often!) In China I could say hello, receipt please, thank you, check please, and that's about it!

Linda

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mahaman
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5. Re: Waht is The Best Way to Explore Shanghai?

Thank you for the clarification, Linda.

I will take a look at “Point It” and “Me No Speak” in amazon.com.

I would really prefer exploring the place myself, without a tour guide. My only concern, that made me think of hiring one, is the language.

Now, after reading your and SoBeSparky’s replies, I feel that it will be manageable. So thank you for this.

Any additional input from anybody is appreciated.

All the best to you all.

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6. Re: Waht is The Best Way to Explore Shanghai?

When we first travelled to China, I was surprised at how many signs in the big cities like Shanghai are actually bilingual in Chinese and English. Even inside the big grocery stores, there were often aisle signs that included English. So it was easy to find things like the water aisle in a BIG store quickly. And of course many western brands are available, so even if the packaging is in Chinese it's unmistakeable. For example, ziploc bags. And once you are in the right row, it's easy to spot the less expensive brands of the same thing, if you prefer to shop local brands. (e.g. for water, cereal etc.)

Entry gates to parks and attractions where you buy your tickets may or may not speak English, but it doesn't matter, as they certainly understand you are a tourist wanting admission. If there is a multi-tier of prices, it's because you can buy a ticket to just enter the park, or one that includes all the buildings and so on to visit inside the park. Generally admission fees are so reasonable, we bought the most expensive ticket so we could go whereever we wanted without stopping to buy another admission ticket at that particular building. (What I'm talking about is big parks that have for example, a famous pavilion, a temple, and some other famous building. You can pay to just walk around the park, then pay to visit one or all 3 buildings, or you can buy one ticket that includes all 4 things.)

Many parks we visited also had bilingual signs pointing the direction to various buildings, washrooms, etc.

The airport is fully bilingually signed.

Also, a washroom tip if you prefer seated toilets: some places, like the airports, have both styles of toilets to suit the preferences of travellers. So always check the other stalls if you only see squat toilets, as there may be a seat toilet in another stall.

The only caution I've noticed on this Forum is that if you are at a major tourist site, and someone chats in English with you for a while, then invites you to attend a tea ceremony or come with them for tea, it might be better to graciously refuse. Sometimes the request is actually an attempt to get you to visit the teahouse they work for, where they will try to charge you too much for tea. I suppose you could always say "no thanks, but would you like to come with us to THAT place" where you have chosen a venue. I doubt this is a common problem, but I have seen it mentioned here.

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7. Re: Waht is The Best Way to Explore Shanghai?

BetCrooks and Mahaman- We encountered tea and art scam workers in several Chinese cities, but the most by far, were in Shanghai. Since you will be approached by non-scammers who want to practice their English, it may take a while for you to realize you are chatting with scammers, but be assured that at some point in the conversation they will mention that they are going to a tea ceremony or to a special art exhibit. That's your cue to end those particular conversations. They tend to hang out near tourist destinations like museums and the Yuyuan Gardens in Shanghai.

Please don't let that stop you from chatting with friendly people who want to ask about your child or find out where you are from. We had plenty of those conversations (and posed for photographs with countless children, too!) and found the interactions to be a wonderful part of our visit to China.

Also, the Western toilets will often be marked with a handicapped sign. In Shanghai Western toilets are easy to find.

Linda

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mahaman
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8. Re: Waht is The Best Way to Explore Shanghai?

BetCrooks:

Thank you for sharing your experience. It is very useful for somebody like me, who plans to go to a new place, to hear stories from travelers like you.

Linda:

Thanks for the tip!

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9. Re: Waht is The Best Way to Explore Shanghai?

pls be attention that July is very hot month ( totally not like April). So i will suggest to try more taxi instead of metro/foot.

When you come here, you will understand what I am talking.

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10. Re: Waht is The Best Way to Explore Shanghai?

The weather will defnitely influence your choices. It was unseasonably warm when we were there in April - something like 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit. We did lots of walking, but it was hot. I'm sure it will be hotter in July.

Linda