Shanghai Arrival Guide Part 3: Start Your Trip Off Right

Your bags are packed and your flights are booked, but is the thought of navigating Shanghai in a foreign language stressing you out? Not to worry! Follow this 3 part guide to prepare for your upcoming trip to Shanghai!

You’ve made it!! Now what? Check out this guide to start your trip to Shanghai off right!

Where to Eat?

Besides checking out Shanghai’s Glutton Guide for the city’s best places to eat, search for reviewed restaurants on both Culinary Back Streets and Smart Shanghai. Sample the traditional Chinese food Shanghai has to offer but if you’ve got time, there are also world-class restaurants featuring international cuisine, especially concentrated in the Bund area.

We always recommend taking a food tour towards the beginning of your trip – not only will your guide introduce you to local delicacies, but they can answer all your questions and make recommendations for dining during the rest of your China stay.

Safe Eating and Drinking

You must be mindful of what you are eating and drinking at all times during your trip. Just taking some simple steps to ensure healthy habits will do the trick:


Never drink water from the tap, even from luxurious hotels. Also, do not drink boiled tap water, even after boiling the water is still not safe to drink. Only drink bottled water. Bottled water is very cheap in Shanghai and can be found everywhere from street side stands, in convenience stores, and vending machines.   

Fake Alcohol

When going out you must be mindful of consuming fake alcohol. The general rule of thumb is that if the price seems too good to be true, it usually is. Trust your gut and if you think something tastes off, just stop drinking it.


Shanghai is a very safe city but scammers do exist and they are targeting tourists. There are simple things you can do to protect yourself from getting scammed during your trip. The biggest is to recognize the most common scams.

Tea Scam

The tea scam usually takes place in known tourist areas. When visiting these areas, take caution and look out for young, friendly people (or person) wanting to engage in a conversation with you. Then they may ask if you want to join them for a cup of tea or coffee. After sampling some tea or coffee, the scammer will hit you with a bill that is much more expensive than it should be and that you were expecting (sometimes into the thousands of RMB). They will not let you leave until you pay and things can get unsafe very quickly.

Art Students

In this scam, friendly college-aged people approach foreigners and claim to be art students. Usually, the tourists are lead to an art studio or stall with artwork displayed, and pressured into buying what are actually cheap reproductions. The artwork is advertised as $80-$200.

What to do if you fall victim of a scam

If you do fall into a scam, there are some things you can do to try to get your money back.

  1. Insist on using a credit card and sign the slip “Under Duress”. Then, immediately call your credit card company and keep your receipt.
  2. Try to take a picture of the spot you were scammed in, exterior with an address would be better, and try to memorize the address or how you got there. Even better, try to take a picture with or of the perpetrator.
  3. Find a police officer and explain what happened (usually there are police officers who speak some English or they will find another police officer). The officer should return with you and get your money back.


Although uncommon, be aware of pickpockets in crowded subway trains, malls and tourist areas. Keep your cell phone and wallet in things that can zip close and close to your body. Try to avoid keeping important things in your back pant pockets or in a part of your purse/backpack that is behind you or hard for you to see. Make sure every time you leave a restaurant, get out of a taxi, switch metro lines, or depart from your hotel, you have everything that you need with you. It takes only a few seconds to double check yourself and it may save you a lot of distress in the future.   

Taxi Safety

When using taxis to move around the city, you must be both cautious and aware of your situation and surroundings.


When getting into any taxi, make sure the driver has an ID with a photo, that at least somewhat resembles them. The ID should be sitting on the dashboard in front of the passenger seat.    


Only take marked taxis. Avoid “black cabs,” or random people in unmarked cars offering to take you somewhere for a flat rate. In fact, avoid flat rates all together. Make sure the meter is not hidden. Some drivers will roll pieces of paper over the meter and never turn them on, then charge you a much higher rate at the end of the trip. So make sure you can see the meter and see the driver turn on the meter.

Take all of your Things

Make sure you do not leave anything behind in the taxi! It is so easy for your phone or wallet to fall out of your pocket on the backseat without you ever noticing. Practice the rule of the last one out of the taxi has to check the backseat to make sure nothing was left behind.  

Receipts and Fapiaos

If you do leave something in a taxi, the only way to get it back is to have the receipt from your trip. So always ask for the receipt (发票 fapiao in Chinese)! There is very useful information printed on it that will be necessary to try to get your left behind items back. Without the receipt, it is nearly impossible to find the same taxi again. Plus, if you want to complain about your taxi driver, you need all the information on the receipt to do so.  

Round-About Journeys

It can be quite common for taxi drivers to take a more than direct route to run up the meter before dropping you off at your final destination and leaving you with a fare that is more than it should be. Even more frustrating is knowing there is not much you can do it prevent it. Perhaps the only thing you can do it try to use some Chinese, be confident, look like you know where you’re going, and always pay attention! Be obvious about the fact that you are looking around at the areas you’re driving through and don’t be afraid to point at street signs. Try to keep your eyes forward and avoid turning around to talk to people who may be in the taxi with you. The driver won’t try anything if he thinks he can get caught.

For more information and tips for traveling in taxis around Shanghai, check out this link.

Now you are all set up for a safe, fun and memorable trip to Shanghai!! Enjoy your time here and we hope this arrival guide provided you with some tips and tricks to conquer the city like a local!

Part 1 of 3 – Pre-Departure Guide
Part 2 of 3 – Airport to Hotel Guide
Part 3 of 3 – Avoiding Problems

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Shanghai Arrival Guide Part 2: Airport to Hotel Travel Options

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