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202552626-28 May 2025

Easy Shanghai Guide

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Easy Shanghai Guide

Your guide to the first 48 hours in Shanghai, long-term success, and advice from lifers who've seen it all.

To make your return to DOMOTEX asia/CHINAFLOOR 2024 as memorable as possible, we have put in place a special hospitality package - Welcome Back to Shanghai - that includes a range of services that will make this trip to Shanghai easier and entertaining.

DOMOTEX asia have prepared all the necessary information for flooring professionals, to assist you with all the particular details of the daily life in Shanghai, such as paying only by electronic means (Alipay, WeChat), apps for calling a taxi, ordering food, etc. 

In a cooperation with Smart Shanghai, the most renowned media dedicated to living in Shanghai as an expat, we have prepared a dedicated guide for DOMOTEX asia/CHINAFLOOR international clients only. 

The Basics

Emergency Numbers & Hotlines:

  • Police 警察 Jing cha: 110
  • Ambulance 救护车 Jiu hu che: 120
  • Fire 火警 Huo jing: 119

The city also runs an English-language help hotline that can answer a wide range of questions, or help if you want to complain about something: Call 12345, then for English press 7; you might be asked to press the 'number sign', which means the pound key (#).

Another useful hotline is Shanghai Lifeline, a volunteer-run, non-profit English-language crisis line that you can call if you are in a personal emergency.

Depending on the situation, you may also want to call your consulate.

Is Shanghai Safe? Yes, especially compared to Western cities. Use common sense and be aware of common scams.

Visas: Most of the time, you'll need to get a visa before you arrive. Chinese visa laws change constantly, but you can check Reddit's China Visa page for the latest changes. Contact a visa agency for help. To renew your visa, head over to an Entry-Exit Bureau. Most foreigners live here on a Temporary Residence Permit, a few lucky ones manage to get a Permanent Residence Permit. Here's how.

How Do I Register With The Police? Within 24 hours of arriving, you'll need to register with the police. You can now do this online, here's the link to the app. If you're staying in a hotel, they'll do it for you (that's why they scan your passport).


Where do I go in case of an emergency? We have a full guide to emergency departments here.. If you do run into an emergency, it might be faster to just a cab and go there yourself if you know where the closest one is.

What If I Need To Go To The Hospital? For Chinese hospitals, it's first come first served and expect to wait. Some hospitals have a VIP or English service. For international hospitals with English-speaking doctors, check out our full directory here.

Is It Cool To Drink The Tap Water? No, it's not cool. You cannot drink the tap water. Brushing your teeth or shaving with tap water is fine. Many families add additional water filters.

How Bad Is The Pollution In Shanghai? Not as bad as it used to be, Shanghai is doing pretty well. Very rarely, the pollution does reach unsafe levels when you shouldn't do outdoor sports. We also have an interview with an American doctor about this topic.

How about mental health: Shanghai isn't always the easiest place in the world to be happy and stay mentally fit. We asked experts how to be happy in Shanghai, and covered mental health essentials here.


I'll need WeChat right? WeChat (微信 Wei xin) -- China's most popular form of digital communication -- is a chat client that blends the best / most time-wasting features of Paypal, What's App, Facebook, and Tinder is the primary form of communication in China. Everyone uses it, for pretty much everything. It's literally impossible to live in China without.

Which other Apps do I need? The SmartShanghai app for events, activities, addresses, finding an apartment or a job. Didi for rides. Alipay for payments, paying utilities. Pleco is the best dictionary. Meituan Dianping for finding every restaurant address that's not listed on SmartShanghai. Here's our full list of good Chinese apps and find all the localized tools (like the Gmail of China, the WeTransfer of China …) right here.

Can I Use Facebook And YouTube Here? Many foreign websites are inaccessible in China. There are apps that you can install on your phone to bypass the firewall … unfortunately, we can't go into more detail here. Do a Google search.


Transportion Hubs: Shanghai has two major airports so make sure to check the airport code:

  • Pudong Airport (PVG) for most international flights and local flights. It's far outside, so plan enough time. You can take the metro there (slow) or the Maglev train, but that ends in a part of Pudong so it's not very convenient if you head to Puxi. The best option is usually just a taxi or a Didi (200-300rmb).
  • Hongqiao Airport (SH) mostly for local flights. It's much closer to Puxi dowtown but traffic in this area us usually bad.

Shanghai has 3 major train stations:

Taxis start at 16rmb (18rmb at nighttime) and charge per distance and time. A trip from downtown to the airport would roughly be 200rmb. You can usually grab a taxi on the street. Street numbers will get you nowhere. Always know the intersection. Use the SmartShanghai app to show addresses to taxi drivers. The big taxi companies are 大众 Dazhong (turquoise), 强生 Qiangshen (orange), 锦江 Jinjiang (white), and 海博 Haibo (dark blue) are also less likely to take you around in circles.

Ride Shares: Uber has left Shanghai and got bought be Didi, the Uber of China. Didi is in English and you can pick from cheap-ish ride-share cars starting from 15 ish rmb to luxury limousines starting at roughly 100rmb. You can also call taxis with the Didi app. Here's a guide on how to use it. You can call a Didi directly from the SmartShanghai app venue listings.

Metro: Shanghai has the world's largest metro network, and it keeps expending. ExploreShanghai is an excellent Shanghai Metro app. There are no day- or week- passes so you'll have to buy a ticket for each ride, but you can use Apple Pay Here's how.

Maps: Apple Maps works, Google Maps is blocked and only works with workarounds. The best local map-apps are Gaode Ditu and Baidu Ditu.


Will My Phone Work Here? Yes, foreign phones work well, but make sure your plan supports international roaming. With your foreign card you can access sites that are inaccessible in China (Facebook, Twitter …)

Where Can I Buy A SIM Card? Real name verification is required, so you can no longer just buy a sim card at a kiosk. China has two major carries, China Mobile (zhong guo yi dong) and China Unicom (zhong guo lian tong). Visit any of their many shops around town, and bring your passport, which will be linked to that number.

Translations: Download Google Translate and download the offline language pack. Here's a guide on how to use Baidu translate.

Payments & Banks

Payments: International credit cards aren't widely accepted outside five star hotels. Smaller places stop accepting cash. Best is to set up Alipay using this method.

ATMs are slowly disappearing with cash not being used much anymore, but the big banks (Bank of China, ICBC ..) have ATMs that accept foreign cards.

Tipping: Is not required and not expected, and usually not even accepted.

Should I get a bank account? You won't get around it when u intend to live here, as bank accounts are a common method of real-name verification for apps like WeChat and Alipay. We recommend going with a smaller bank like Merchant's Bank as they are usually less strict when a document is missing or a name is spelled wrong. But in general, going to the bank (银行 yin hang) is an awful, awful experience, so try and setup online baking right away, so you can avoid having to go to the bank.

How do I get money out of China? You can bank transfer your taxed income - we have a full guide on that here - but the process is inconvenient. There's a service that helps you.

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