Living in Shanghai
Travelling around Shanghai
A really easy way to get around Shanghai is by making use of the extensive public transportation system. For convenience, we recommend that you purchase a transportation card which you can use on the subway, buses and in taxis.
These cards can be purchased at the service centres of any subway station (我要一张交通卡wǒ yào yī zhāng jiāotōngkǎ). Subway journeys cost between 3 and 10 yuan depending on the length of your journey. There is a deposit of around 20 yuan for the card which is deducted from the amount of credit you initially add to the card. The cards can be topped up at the service centres of any subway station and returned there for a refund of any remaining credit at the end of your stay.
Be aware: When using your card to pay in a taxi, make sure your own card is returned to you. There is a scam that sometimes the card is exchanged for one with a lesser value. To avoid being caught out, you should mark your card in some way so you can quickly identify it as your own.
Shopping in China
Bargaining, or haggling, is a part of life here; you’re expected to haggle over the price of things you buy. You can bargain for almost everything you buy, from shoes to bananas to hotel room prices.
Please be aware that around tourist areas, particularly at the Fake Market on West Nanjing Road and the area around Old Street and Yuyuan Garden, you need to be prepared to bargain hard. Prices are always inflated in these areas, especially for foreigners. It’s important to remember that the traders won’t sell you an item if they will genuinely lose money, so you should not feel bad about bargaining to a low price.
As foreigners, it’s likely you will still pay more than a local, but here are some tips for getting a good deal:
- Don’t focus on how much an item would cost in your country, chances are it costs only a fraction of that price in China.
- Start off by offering a price maybe one tenth of what is being asked and bargain until you reach an agreeable price for both you and the seller. For example, if the seller says something costs 800 RMB, counter it by offering maybe 75 RMB. You may be able to agree around 100 RMB.
- If you’re not able to get close to the price you want, walk away. Walking away often causes the seller to drop the prices dramatically as they don’t want to lose the sale.
- Sellers haggle all day with people. They’re good at it. They know all the tricks to try and get you to pay a higher price. Don’t be affected by what they say about how low the prices are or unhappy faces they make and stick to the price you’re prepared to pay. If they won’t sell it to you, there will probably be someone else who will.
- Do your research. If there are several stalls offering the same items, ask around for prices to get an idea of what is being asked. Think about what you would be happy to pay and stick to or close to this price. It will probably be higher than a local would pay, but you will feel you have paid a price for the item that is fair to you and to the seller.
- If you can’t barter the price down, walk away and try somewhere else. There are hundreds of stalls in all tourist areas, so you’re likely to find the same item somewhere else with someone prepared to lower the price.
- When shopping in a market spread over many floors, don’t just go to the stalls on the ground floor. They get the most foot traffic in a day. Instead, head to the upper floors. It’s likely they will sell the same items as on the ground floor, but they will be more willing to sell to you at a better price, as they haven’t had as many visitors in the day.
- Avoid weekends at tourist attractions. Haggling requires time and patience and these areas can become overcrowded at weekends with an increased risk of pick-pocketing.
- If you have the opportunity, watch a local buying the item and see how much they paid for it. This will give you a good idea of what you should be paying.
- Haggling is almost a sport in China. Sellers expect you to haggle. You shouldn’t feel bad or rude about it, or worry that your price is too low. If it’s too low for the trader, they won’t sell it to you and will keep raising your price until it’s acceptable for them to sell it.
- If you can haggle in Chinese, great! But if you don’t speak Chinese, don’t worry. Almost all of the sellers can speak enough English to haggle with you.