These tips are from our experience, but I would still recommend researching either online or buying a travel book before going to Shanghai. It is huge and there is a lot to know. I always like buying travel books when I go somewhere new. I know they are old fashioned, but it’s all in one place and you can take it with you easily.
- Digital Communication: the Shanghai airport sells SIM cards and wifi hotspots that you can buy for use during your vacation for relatively cheap. There was a counter right in the baggage claim area. My phone doesnt work outside of Singapore, so this was really helpful for me. I bought the cheapest data plan which gave me 24GB for one year for less than $40USD.
- One thing to remember is China has blocked a lot of social media sites and Google. So don’t expect to get on Facebook or Instagram while you’re there, and your Gmail might only work sometimes…
- Transportation from the Airport: If you’re going into or out of Shanghai city, see if your hotel has options to pick you up. If you’re going to Disney, they don’t have a Magic Express like at Walt Disney World in Orlando. For either Shanghai city or Disney, your options are taxi or the subway system. While the subway system is a little cheaper, the Shanghai subway is HECTIC. Extremely crowded, like crowded to where you are squished inside. Taxi will be your best bet. There is a taxi queue outside and it looks long, but moves quickly. The taxi drivers don’t speak English so I would recommend typing up some cards in advance that have the hotel name and address you’re staying at in Mandarin. Our hotel gave me some of these and it saved my life. I just handed them to the taxi driver and he knew where he needed to go. The taxis are not expensive either. I think it was less than 15 miles from the airport to Disney and it was less than $20USD.
- Visas for Americans: I would recommend preparing for your visa 1-2 months before your trip. You can go on the Chinese Consulate website for your area and get the guidelines for a visa. It is really simple. You will get a multiple entry visa that last 10 years. It’s not cheap, but it is what it is. You have to bring a print out of your flight itinerary, your hotel confirmation, and copy of your passport, for sure. But check the consulate website to make sure you’re not missing anything.
- Wear Your Patient Pants: it’s crowded literally everywhere you go. People have no concept of personal space there, either. But just go with the flow. You don’t speak their language so trying to confront them about things that annoy you will be pointless. Unfortunately, you just need to ignore it and let it go.
- Map Out Your Day: another reason I recommend buying travel books. They usually outline good day itineraries for guidance. Since it is so crowded, you really need to have a game plan for your days ahead of time. There are a lot of good restaurants in Shanghai so do some research and make reservations ahead of time.
- Language Barrier: I have pretty much copied and pasted this from my Shanghai Disney Resort page, but it’s true every where in Shanghai. Everything is in Mandarin and everyone speaks Mandarin. In Disney, there are English guide maps and also English on the signs in the park, but every ride, every show, everything is in Mandarin However, it doesn’t take away from the experience because it’s in Mandarin. Most of the Cast Members (Disney employees) and local city hotel staff speak English, although as a second language, so you still need to be patient when explaining what you’re needing. Taxi drivers do not speak English so I would recommend getting those cards I talked about above.
- Understand the Weather: We had no idea Shanghai could get so hot in the summer. The heat index was 120 degrees (F) every day. My gosh. Do your research ahead of time to make sure you’re going at a time when you’ll be the most comfortable. Tip would be to look at Chinese Public Holiday calendars and see when they have off as a country and DON’T GO at those times. It will be more crowded than it already is.
That’s all I can think of for now. If I think of more I’ll add to it.