Practical Facts: Using Shanghai's Metro

Shanghai skyline and tower at night

The teeming skyline of Shanghai at night

If you're visiting Shanghai with us (or on your own), mastering the city's Metro system is a must. The world’s longest Metro, it covers 548 km across 337 stations and 14 lines (compare that to New York, whose subway system covers a relatively measly 368 km). Weekdays see more than 8 million people riding the metro in Shanghai, roughly equivalent to the population of New York City. Why should you ride the metro over taking a taxi? You’ll avoid wasting precious time in the gridlock that cripples Shanghai’s streets.

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Shanghai Metro has an excellent website with a fare calculator. Journeys under 6km cost ¥3. To go from downtown Shanghai to Hongqiao Railway Station or Hongqiao Airport costs ¥7; to go to Pudong Airport from the same area costs ¥9.


Single-journey cards can be purchased at machines inside every metro station. These machines accept ¥1 coins and small denomination bills. After you tap out at the end of your ride, the electronic barrier keeps the card, which is then recycled. One- and three-day passes can be purchased in any station, but only at the ticket desk, and you’ll need cash. One-day passes cost ¥18 for 24 hours of unlimited rides. Three-day passes cost ¥45. Shanghai Public Transportation Cards are refillable cards that can be used on the Maglev, metro, buses, taxis, ferries, and on public transportation in neighboring city Suzhou. Cards cost a refundable ¥20 and can be purchased at the ticket desk in any station. You can then add money there, at convenience stores across the city, or at add-value machines inside metro stations. If you’re in Shanghai for more than one day and don’t want to purchase one of the above passes, this makes the most sense; you’ll be able to skip the queue for single-journey tickets and use the card to pay for cabs. To purchase one at a metro station ticket desk, say, “Wo yao yige jiaotong ka.” (我要一个交通卡) meaning “I want a transportation card.” The clerk will then ask you how much money you want to put on it; you can always add more and, if you don’t use it all, you’ll get the remainder back when you return the card.

Maps and Apps

ExploreMetro has great apps and maps for metro systems in Asia. Their Shanghai map loads well on tablets and phones; their app lets you check the balance on your public transportation card. Remember that while in China, use of Google and Google products, such as "maps", will be inaccessible to you.

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