Shanghai is one of the largest cities, not just in China but in the whole world. Traveling around a city this big often means there is a large transportation system in place. Given the population density of Shanghai, you will find it to be very true. And with millions of tourists coming here every month that number grows even bigger. However, there are multiple ways of traveling in and around Shanghai so finding a ride is never a problem. One of the most commonly used means of transport in Shanghai is the Shanghai bus system.
There is an enormous network of buses operating throughout the city and you will always find a bus that is traveling to your location. For visitors coming from outside China, taking the bus can be very daunting. Almost everyone ends up asking how to use bus in Shanghai. However, if you master this little trick, it will save you a huge amount of time and money in the long run. We will share everything that you need to know about the Shanghai bus system so you know exactly how to handle yourself when you get there.
Types of Buses
Shanghai has an incredibly large network of bus operations with about a dozen different companies operating just within the city. The buses cover all the areas of the city including downtown, metro stations, airports, suburbs, and other areas as well. The number of lines is so big that it is impossible to know which route goes to which locations. However, you do not need to know them anyway. There is sufficient information available about routes that you can use to figure out what particular line you need to travel on. And just by looking for your specific lines, you can easily go from one place to another. Let us take a look at the types of buses and explain how to use the bus in Shanghai.
The areas within Shanghai city are covered by nearly 1500 buses from over 10 different companies. The Shanghai bus network’s largest fleet comes under the umbrella of city buses which have just over a thousand routes! While this may sound overwhelming, it also means you can get to any part of the city using only buses!
These buses cover different types of lines which include 995 regular lines in downtown Shanghai, 6 Tunnel lines numbered 1, 2, 3, 6, 8 and 9, and also the routes numbered 3-6 in the Daqiao Line.
In addition to that, you can also travel on different suburban and regional lines with starting points in Pudong, Baoshan, Minhang, Qingpu, Songjiang, Fengxian, and some others as well.
Some lanes also go across districts which include Shangzhu, Nanchuan, Huzhu Express, Xinjia, Songmei, Lianzhu, Songxin, Nanqing, Shenchong, and others.
There are specific lines that operate during night time as well including lines between 301 and 342, Tunnel Night Line 1 and Xumin Special.
In addition to that, you will also find shuttle buses operating in the downtown areas which provide commute between metro stations and main areas and roads around the city. These buses have numbers 1001 – 1849.
Shanghai City Bus Routes
➤ Regular Downtown Lines: 01 to 995, Daqiao Line 3 to 6, Tunnel Line 1, 2, 3, 6, 8 & 9
➤ District/Regional Lines & Suburban Lines: Starting with Pudong, Jiading, Baoshan, Qingpu, Minhang, Fengxian, Songjiang…
➤ Cross-district Lines: Starting with Huzhu Express, Shangzhu, Shangshi, Nanchuan, Xinjia, Songmei, Songxin, Shenchong, Lianzhu, Nanqing, Huqingying…
➤ Night Lines: 301 to 342, Xumin Special Line, Tunnel Night Line 1
➤ Downtown Shuttle Bus: 1001 to 1849 to solve the last-kilometer commute to/from metro station, and transfer between main roads and communities.
➤ Rush-hour Lines: 04 Inter-zone, 50 Inter-zone, 140, 145, 173, 176, 179, 180, 192, 195, 216, 222, 252, 253, 257, 522, 609, 635, 638, 703B, 707, 752, 753, 764, 793, 831, 832, 833, 866, 877, 878, 991 Inter-zone , Songjiang Line 29, Daqiao Line 1, Songxin B Inter-zone, Qinghua Special Line, Longgang Express B
➤ Sightseeing Bus: City Sightseeing Lines by Spring Tour, Shanghai Bus Tours, Nanjing Road Sightseeing Train…
➤ Shanghai airport to city bus: Pudong Airport Shuttle Bus, Hongqiao Airport Shuttle Bus
➤ Other categories: Hongqiao Transport Hub Line 1 & 4 to 10, Ferry Lines, Customized Lines…
➤ Intercity Lines: K319 & routes starting with Bahe, Shangliu, Taijia, Huliu Express, Yangshan and Qingshang.
Shanghai Bus Schedule
➤ Most bus routes start running from 05:30 – 06:30 and stop service at 19:30 – 21:30.
➤ Rush-hour Lines operate from 06:00 – 08:00 to 16:30 – 18:30.
➤ Night Lines are in operation from 23:00 to 05:30 the next day.
There are many special sightseeing buses that operate in Shanghai for tourists. These provide a great way of seeing the city up close and exploring different areas of the city. If you have a few hours to spend in Shanghai then these are a great way to utilize your time as well. There are two main companies that operate sightseeing buses, Shanghai Bus Tours and Spring Tour. The first one has three lines and the second one has four lines that operate in loops.
The way you travel on sightseeing buses in Shanghai is by buying a one-day or two-day ticket. These tickets let you hop on and off as you please and are valid for the whole day (or two days) so you don’t have to worry about fares.
All the sightseeing buses provide an audio guide to tourists about the places around the city. The audio guides are quite comprehensive and come in eight different languages! These include English, Chinese, French, Korean, Spanish, Russian, Japanese, and German languages.
If you want to travel out of Shanghai via Bus, you can use the long-distance buses or coaches to go to your destinations. The coaches travel to several locations around Shanghai and also take passengers to major attractions near Shanghai as well. The destinations they cover include Hangzhou, Nanjing, Suzhou, Huangshan, Ningbo, and some long routes like Xi’an, Beijing, and Guangzhou. Some tourist attractions where you can visit via a long-distance bus include water towns like Wuzhen and Zhouzhuang, and Yellow Mountain as well.
There is a minimum advance period of 1-2 weeks when you have to buy tickets for long-distance travel on the bus. If you are visiting during the Chinese holidays, you must make your reservation even earlier. Kids that are less than 4 feet in height can travel on these buses for free! There is also a 50% discount for kids with heights between 4-5 feet. Of course, they must be accompanied by an adult as the discount is not applicable on its own. Since the booking is via phone and in Chinese, you might need to ask someone to make the reservation for you.
Find the complete schedule of long-distance buses and coaches operating from Shanghai.
How to Take a Shanghai Bus?
Before anything else, we highly recommend that you gain at least the basic knowledge of the Chinese language, especially phrases that you may need to talk to bus conductors. Some new buses are operating in the city now that have displays in them which show the destinations as they arrive. The names are written in pinyin and you can simply remember the name of your destination. However, sometimes that may not be the type of bus you get so some conversation may be needed, especially for payment.
When you get to a bus stop, there will be a lot of Chinese written on the signboards. The biggest thing, however, will be the number of the bus which you should know in advance by checking your route. There will be two more texts with the number. The larger one will be the name of that stop and the smaller one will be that of the next stop. The sign also has the details regarding the time of the first bus and the last bus on that stop. You can also find the route direction on that sign. The easiest way to navigate is to write down the pinyin characters of the location you want to go to and match it on the sign.
Fares and Payment
There two primary methods of payment that you can use to pay your fare on a Shanghai bus. The first one is pretty obvious; cash. Each bus has a conductor who collects fare from passengers depending on their destination. Unlike the metro, the system is not complicated at all. For normal buses, the fare is either CNY 1 or CNY 1.8, depending on the route you are going on. If you are traveling on an air-conditioned bus, you will be required to pay CNY 2. The fare for children is CNY 1 on air-conditioned buses.
Communication with Bus Conductor
There may be occasions when the bus is going without a conductor. In such a situation, you have to pay a flat rate, again, depending on the route. When the conductor is present, you have to tell the location you want to go to. You can either show the location on your phone or have it written on the piece of paper. This is because the conductors only speak Chinese so unless you can communicate in Chinese, this is your alternative solution. If there is any confusion, the conductor will try to help you as well. The same is the case for other passengers who do reach out to help if they find someone struggling. One thing that you must keep in mind is that the general tone of conductors is loud. Do not let that overwhelm you as that is very normal and the people conducting are quite helpful.
In recent times, things have started to improve a little as newer buses are now providing English announcements as well. This is particularly helpful for tourists who do not know how to speak Chinese and have no one with them to help.
Shanghai Public Transportation Card
The second method of payment is via Shanghai Public Transportation Card which you can scan to pay your fare. The process is still the same as you will be charged according to your destination and route.
Not a fan of traditional payment methods? Well thanks to China’s ever-developing technology base, you can pay using your phone. But of course, that does not mean in any way that you get to do that with your credit card apps. There is only one platform that currently supports it and that is Alipay. This is an incredibly large mobile phone-based payment solution designed by the giant Alibaba.
To pay for your bus, you can simply download the app on your smartphone and create your account. Once you are done with that process, you can move on to the actual payment. One of the services you see in the app is “City Services”. When you tap on that, you will see an icon that looks like a mix of a QR code and a bus. Tap on that and it will take you to the next menu where you can decide what deal you want to purchase. When you select one, you will see your camera open up and at this point, you can simply scan the QR code present on the bus for payment. It is as easy as that and making an account on Alipay is definitely worth it.
As for the setup of the app, all you need is a Chinese number and a bank card that can make online payments. The app gives you the option to add your card and takes some basic information about your account. Once you input all the information and confirm, your card will be added and you can start making payments. Do explore the app as it also supports other transport services.
Key Points to Remember
Shanghai bus travel lets you see the city from a very different perspective. It may not be the most pleasant one but it is certainly worthwhile if you can learn the ropes. Here are a few things that you can keep in mind to make your journey more comfortable and manageable.
- It is going to be a crowded space. A lot of foreigners who have traveled on any Shanghai bus seem to share this complaint. However, with a city that big and a population that large, you cannot expect it to be any different. With so many people in a single vehicle, you can expect some congestion and perhaps even the occasional elbows going into your sides.
- Stand your ground firmly. With so many people trying to squeeze through a single door, you should expect some competition. There are some places where marshals are present to make people stand in lines but that is not the case for most stops. Try to keep your legs a bit open to avoid getting pushed to the ground in case the crowd is big. Do avoid to hurt other passengers but at the same time own your space as well.
- Take a look at the tutorial by Micah Sittig for riding buses in Shanghai. It is called “A Shanghai Bus System Tutorial (for non-Chinese-speakers)” and it can be very helpful if you don’t speak Chinese.
A Unique Experience
Traveling in any Shanghai bus is a truly unique experience, especially if you are a foreign tourist asking how to use bus in Shanghai. Sure, it can be a bit daunting but with proper information and guidance, you can certainly learn to enjoy it. It is the cheapest mode of transport in Shanghai, and also the most comprehensively covered one. You can visit any part of the city you want with minimal expense and at the same time, see the city in a perspective that you will not find anywhere else! We hope you have a great time in Shanghai!