Nuts-and-bolts information to plan your trip, plus a checklist of essentials to include when you pack and a list of links to local media

Planning

Entry Requirements: U.S. citizens need a valid passport and visa to enter China.

Time: Shanghai is 12 hours ahead of U.S. eastern standard time. All of China is in the same time zone.

Security: Closely guard your wallet, purse, and other valuables. Watch for thieves and pickpockets.

Money: China’s currency is Renminbi (RMB or simply yuan for short). For current conversion rates go to OANDA Currency Converter. www.oanda.com/convert/classic

Phone Calls: To make international calls, dial “00” to be connected to an international (English-speaking) operator. Within China, dial 11-digit mobile numbers directly. For local calls in Shanghai, just dial the 8-digit number without the city code (21). For domestic long distance calls from Shanghai, dial the city code first.

When to Go: Shanghai's climate is characterized by cold winters and humid, rainy summers, where temperatures can exceed 90°F (32°C) degrees. The best times to visit are spring and fall. Seafood lovers flock here during October and November—peak of the hairy crab season.

Getting There: Shanghai’s two airports, Pudong International Airport and Hongqiao International Airport, are both served by numerous international carriers and direct flights from New York, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, and San Francisco. The city is at work to extend the metro to the airports; in the meantime, taxis are plentiful and inexpensive.

Getting Around: Driving in Shanghai is on the right side of the road. The top highway speed is about 75 mph (120 kph), and highway signs generally use Pinyin, the phonetic spelling. Shanghai’s nine-line metro and elevated rail system is an ever-expanding way to get around the city (there will eventually be 18 lines); buses and inexpensive taxis (no tipping required) fill in the gaps. Consider hiring a car and driver.

Checklist

Health Concerns: SARS and malaria are not concerns in Shanghai, but HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis A are, so take precautions. “Get a vaccine for Hepatitis A or a booster if you’ve already had one,” says Dr. David Goldberg, who specializes in travel medicine (www.mdtravelhealth.com). Other risks come from animals in the form of avian influenza and rabies. “Don’t visit any live poultry markets or farms, and avoid stray dogs. Get immediate attention for animal bites,” advises Dr. Goldberg.

Political Concerns: Armed guards and military personnel are less ubiquitous in Shanghai than in China’s political capital, but remain vigilant about what you say and how you conduct yourself. Avoid open criticisms of the Chinese Communist Party, regardless of your audience.

Sunscreen: Industrial and environmental pollution are high. Use a sunblock with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide of SPF 15 or higher.

Insect Repellent: Mosquitoes can appear in humid weather or after a rain shower. Bring mosquito repellent, or buy some there.

Appropriate Fashions: The Shanghainese have long been exposed to Western influences, including fashion sensibility. Women that wear flashy clothing won’t get heckled, but they can provoke stares.

Sturdy Footwear: Some of Shanghai’s prime attractions—the Bund, the French Concession, Renmin Square, Pudong—require extensive walking. Bring comfortable footwear.

Drinking Water: “Stick to bottled water. Assume fruits and vegetables are contaminated; cook or peel them first.”—Dr. Goldberg.

Toiletries: Shanghai is modernized, but squat toilets (the kind without seats) may be encountered. Bring your own toilet tissue everywhere. Soaps, shampoos, lotions, and toothpaste are widely available in drug stores. Avoid buying counterfeit toiletries, which may contain hazardous ingredients.

Web Links

China National Tourist Office
General information on transportation, accommodations, restaurants, and tour operators in China. www.cnto.org

China eNews
Visitor information updated bimonthly.

China Daily
News and current events from China’s English-language newspaper. www.chinadaily.net

Chinesepod.com
Podcasts, lessons, and advice on speaking Mandarin. chinesepod.com

Danwei
Edgy news site for China’s English-speaking media and advertising industry. www.danwei.org

Ministry of Foreign Affairs, China
Chinese news, history, and more. www.fmprc.gov.cn/eng

Sinosplice.com
A China-focused blog that includes Mandarin speaking tips and apolitical, largely irreverent (and in some cases irrelevant) observations about Shanghai and the rest of the country, among other tidbits. www.sinosplice.com

Travel Images
Photographs of famous architectural sites in China. www.travel-images.com/china.html

Local Media

People’s Daily
State-run newspaper prints all the news the government deems fit to print.

City Weekend
Mainstream biweekly listings magazine. Related website is the most comprehensive in Shanghai, with user as well as staff-written reviews of restaurants, shopping, and music. www.cityweekend.com.cn/shanghai

Asia Expat
Information on travel, dining, and lodging, geared toward the expatriate crowd. shanghai.asiaxpat.com

SmartShanghai.com
Online listings source generated partially by editorial staff, and partially by locals sounding in. smartshanghai.com

Shanghaiist.com
We know this blog can’t really be about “everything that happens in Shanghai,” but it makes a heroic effort, channeling a sardonic Western voice to cover all bases. shanghaiist.com

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