Shanghai is the largest city by population in China (although we know Chongqing’s metropolitan area is massive), and it should be definitely added to your travel list when backpacking in China. It’s a typical city of contrast where cityscape gleams with towering glass and steel skyscrapers meet poor areas where many locals battle to survive day after day.
Is Shanghai budget-friendly? You may ask. Yes, it is, indeed. In fact, Shanghai has plenty to discover and everyone will certainly find something interesting, exciting, relaxing and affordable to do here.
Affordable sightseeing in Shanghai:
If you are planning on buying a new camera, laptop, fancy clothes, a piece of jewellery, Shanghai is the right place to do it. There are plenty of international boutiques and electronic stores that offer great deals to their customers. My recommendation is Dongtai Lu Antique Market and the Nihong Kids’ Plaza.
#2 Visiting Jing’an Temple.
Jing’an Temple is a top attraction to foreign visitors in Shanghai. It’s a very peaceful and charming Buddhist temple located at West Nanjing Road in Jing’an District. It features a 3.8-meter jade Buddha sitting in the center , plenty of various stone Buddhas and the Precious Hall of the Great Hero.
Admission fee is only ¥30 per person, open daily from 7.30 am to 5 pm.
#3 Walking across Bund Promenade.
Whether you are single or not, go for a walk alongside the bund at night.
The riverside promenade is beautiful and peaceful and it gives you a view of the most important business high-rises in the city.
#4 Visiting Shanghai Museum.
That’s a perfect place for fans of the Ancient Chinese Bronzes Gallery and Chinese coins, seals, paintings and ethnic costumes.
The museum is located at 201 Renmin Ave, Huangpu and it’s open daily from 9 am till 5 pm.
There is a small restaurant inside where you can enjoy a nice cup of tea and a piece of cake and souvenir shop. Admission fee is only ¥20 and you can spend there around 2 or 3 hours.
Eating on the cheap in Shanghai
As long as you stick to local street food, you’ll be more than fine with your food expenses. The street food vendors are placed all over the city and offer a great variety of Chinese food such as spicy noodles, pork sticks, simple rice and tomato dishes to delicious Chinese dumplings called baozi and jiaozi.
Grab some baozi for your breakfast and a bowl of noodles for your lunch and you will not spend more than RMB 25-30 in total.
Here are top budget restaurants not to miss when visiting Shanghai:
*Crystal Jade Restaurant – small, but cozy place. You can order some seafood or meat dim sum on the cheap here.
Location: 2-7 2nd Floor, 123 Xin Ye Lu, South Block Xintiandi.
*3 Cui Yuan – best place for spicy food inspired by Sichuan cuisine.
Location: 737 Ding Xi Lu ,Yan’An Lu and Xin Hua Lu.
When it comes to Western food, Shanghai is the most expensive cities in China to dine out. Therefore, try to avoid Italian, French and Spanish restaurants and head to local bakeries instead.
The cheapest way to get around Shanghai is obviously walking. The city is not that big so if you’re staying here for more than 2 nights, you should be fine with exploring it on foot.
The quickest and most convenient way is to take a subway. There is one ticket transfer system so you can purchase a single subway line for RMB2 or transfer to other lines at some major transfer stations such as People’s Square or Shanghai South Railway Station.
Taxis are pretty expensive as you pay around RMB 15-18 for the first 3 kilometers (1.86 miles).
Sleeping on the cheap
One of the most comfortable, friendly and affordable places in Shanghai for backpackers is Le Tour Traveler’s Rest Youth Hostel.
Location: Building 36, Alley 319, Jiaozhou Road Shanghai. Contact: 866 539 8430.
Review: 2 nights spent in 4 bed dorms cost only RMB63. The great advantage of this hostel is not only its cheap price, but also the great location! It is located in the downtown area of Shanghai, just a 10 minute’s walk from the Subway and Airport City Terminal. Free WiFi, cheap and delicious food vendors around. There are also lots of really good hotels with fast wifi, typical Chinese food and nice decor, here are some more tips on where to stay in Shanghai.