Authored By:

CIEE Shanghai

By Fall 2023:

Abena = College of William & Mary ‘25 (International Relations) - ACL Program
Angela = Hamilton College ‘25 (Chinese and Sociology) - CGC Program


Aside from the CIEE-planned trips, we also often went on trips on our own over the weekends. Shanghai is conveniently located next to many other cities that are perfect for a day or two-day trip. China’s high-speed rail (高铁) can take you to Suzhou in half an hour, Hangzhou in an hour, and Nanjing and Changshu in an 1.5 hours! You can find photos of our trips to these cities here, on CIEE Shanghai’s Instagram.

Here is a step-by-step guide to planning a trip, and also some general advice that we have for traveling
in China!

1. Buying Tickets
There are some third-party apps that you can buy your tickets on (such as 飞猪and Alipay), but the best way (to avoid fees and such) is to buy it directly on the 12306 app. You can find a link to download it in the app store. After downloading, all you have to do is set up an account!
You can also change or cancel your ticket directly on the app any time before your train departs. You can change your train to a later time for free, however, there may be a small convenience fee for canceling your ticket altogether if it is close to the departure date. Keep in mind that sometimes, you may only be allowed to purchase four tickets (“purchase” includes if you change/cancel a ticket) before it requires you to verify your identity in-person at the station.

2. The Different Train Stations — 虹桥(Hongqiao) vs. 上海站(Shanghai Station)
Shanghai’s Hongqiao Railway station is one of the largest transportation hubs in China. This station connects to many surrounding cities, and the vast majority of trains (especially to further destinations) depart from here. Although, beware – it’s size and busyness can be a bit overwhelming and can take a while to navigate. Consider this when making your travel plans! It’s also a bit far from ECNU’s campus — about half an hour by car (depending on the traffic), and 20 minutes on Line 2, so take into account your commute to the station.
The benefit of departing from 上海站 is that it is very close to ECNU’s campus. It is also smaller (and older) than Hongqiao. Once you are at the Jinshajiang Rd. metro station, it is only a few stops away on Line 3 or 4.

3. Getting on (and off ) the 高铁!
Make sure to bring your passport. Your ticket is linked to your passport, and you cannot even get into the station without it. Get to the train station at least 45 minutes before your train departs if it is your first time at the train station or if it is a weekend. While it may not take you long to get through the whole process, trains generally stop boarding 10 minutes before the departure time.
Part I. Entrance
When you get to the train station, follow the crowd of people trying to enter. There will be multiple entry gates. You will need to find an entryway with a physical employee because someone has to scan your passport. This employee is usually at one of the entryways at the very end and they will be sitting at a desk.
Part II. Security
Security goes relatively quickly. Place your bag on the belt and step through the metal detector. You can carry your phone through with you and water as well, but they will ask you to open it and take a sip.
Part III. Your Gate
Before you wander off to get food, make sure you know where your gate is located. Your ticket on your phone should show both the gate number and letter (and also your seat assignment as well). You can also find the gate of your train by looking for your train number on the overhead screens in the station. Double, triple-check that it is the correct gate. There are often trains that leave within minutes of each other whose numbers are one number or letter off.
Part IV. Boarding
The 高铁 leaves on-the-dot, so do not be late. Boarding usually starts 20 minutes before the train departs. When you line up during boarding, pick the line at the far left or right. This is the boarding line for elderly, children, or passport-holders who do not have a Chinese ID. They will scan your passport to let you through.
Part V. Leaving the Station
When you arrive at your destination, follow the crowd off the platform. You will also need your passport to scan out of the train station. Similarly to when you scanned in, go to the far left or right (wherever you see a worker), and they will scan your passport for you.

4. Transportation
The metro works similarly across all of China. If you have taken the metro in Shanghai, you should be all set. However, if you are using the transportation card on Alipay, keep in mind that it works in some places and not in others (ex. we found that it works in Nanjing but not in Suzhou). If your metrocard does not work, another option is taxis.
Taxis are relatively cheap in China in comparison to the States. The equivalent of Uber would be Didi, and you can download the app or search for the mini-program on WeChat. It is also one of the few apps that are offered in English.
Once you get in a taxi, the driver will often ask you for the last four digits of your phone number to confirm your ride.
Google Maps, even with a VPN, does not work very well in China. If you have an iPhone, we recommend using Apple Maps. If you do not have an iPhone, your options include Baidu Maps and Amaps (formerly known as Autonavi maps). However, these apps are not offered in English.

5. Activities and Food
For recommendations on activities and restaurants, cafes, etc., we suggest the following apps. 小红书= The Chinese equivalent of Pinterest, and can be used to look for popular tourist destinations where you are and also trendy restaurants or aesthetic cafes. These places are often popular places to take photos.
大众点评= The Chinese equivalent of Yelp, but can be used to find both activities and dining options. You can also buy tickets directly on this app to parks or attractions.
美团= The Chinese equivalent of UberEats, DoorDash, or Grubhub. It is very similar to 大众点评 with mostly the same features, with the added bonus of also being able to order delivery. When going to a restaurant, we also recommend looking on 大众点评and 美团for set meals that come at a lower price. If you decide to purchase a set, simply order it on the app, let the waiter know, and they will come over with something to scan the QR code on your app.

Bonus Round = Portable Charger Stations!
China has a lot of portable charger stations everywhere. You can find them at stores, boba shops, cafes, restaurants, and more. Scan the QR code on the station, and you can rent a portable charger for however long you need. However, make sure that you return the charger to a station, or else you will not get your deposit back. Lastly (but most importantly) remember to log your trip in the Travel Tracker (especially if you’re staying out of Shanghai overnight) and keep CIEE’s emergency numbers on you at all times. Happy traveling!