I spent 5 nights in Shanghai, China in early September, 2005. My hotel was the Zhao An, a 14-floor three-star hotel that conveniently sits above the Han Zhong Road subway station. Few of the staff at the Zhao An speak a significant amount of English, but that did not have much effect on my ability to check in, eat breakfasts, use the internet-connected computers (about $6 per hour) or check out.
While Shanghai cabs are definitely inexpensive (anywhere within downtown is a couple of dollars or less, and they have meters), the subways are even cheaper. Every stop in the subways is clearly marked in English. The Zhao An Hotel entrance is located right next door to Exit 4 of the Han Zhong Road station of Line 1 of the subway. Han Zhong Road station is between "Peoples Square" station and "Shanghai Railroad Station." Peoples Square station is where you can transfer between subway lines 1 and 2, and it is surrounded by ritzy downtown buildings including Raffles / CapitalLand which houses an upscale shopping mall. The must-see Nanjing Road shopping street also ends at Peoples Square (the other end on Nanjing Road is at Peace Hotel and the Bund).
If you have yuan coins you can purchase subway cards from vending machines in the subway stations (1 to 4 yuan, depending upon how far you want to ride), or you can purchase from the ticket sellers...hold up 1 to 4 fingers signifying how many yuan value you want. To ride the subway just insert your ticket in the end of the turnstile, grab it from the top of the turnstile and walk through. Hold onto your ticket, as you must repeat the procedure to exit the subway. If your ticket does not have enough value for you to exit you can pay the difference (plus a 1 yuan fine) to a ticket vendor in the station and get out. Any unused value on a ticket is saved and available for your next ride.
There are a couple of ways to get from the Pudong airport to downtown -- a cab (about 150 yuan, half hour or more, heart-stopping insane driving) and the maglev train (50 yuan per person, less than 8 minutes at eye-popping speeds up to 431 km/hr / 260 mph). It sounds like the maglev is the way to go, but its terminus is a subway station (Long Yang Road) on Line 2 that is in the suburbs almost at the end of the line in Pudong. This may be a cause of the low maglev ridership that I observed. But since it's one of the fastest trains in the world, you should ride it at least once.
Note that many subway maps don't agree on the details, evidently due to rapid expansion of the system. Pay toilets, well marked around town, cost 1 yuan for both men and women. I also saw a well-dressed man "water a tree" in a city park, visible to all walking and driving past.
Cab drivers do not speak English, and they will be baffled by your attempts to pronounce Chinese words. Get your hotel concierge to write out your destination before you leave, and get a card from your hotel to give to the driver when you want to return home. Drivers do not make change, so take several 1 yuan coins and 5, 10 and 20 yuan bills that you get at your hotel's front desk.
Getting signed up for a Jin Jiang English-language group tour isn't easy, at least not if you stay at the Zhao An hotel. The only tour available through Zhao An is Chinese-language only. You cannot sign up for Jin Jiang tours at the company offices. Instead, you must go to a nice hotel and pay cash to the concierge, and then take a cab the next morning to one of three hotels where all tour members must gather. I took the all-day $60 tour to Hangzhou, described long ago as "the most beautiful town on earth." Unfortunately, the "town" is now a city of several hundred thousand population with high rises and bad traffic congestion. But they do have a nice lake / city park and some important Buddhist temples, and the tour also stops at a green-tea farm where almost everyone on the tour purchased a $25 can of green tea.
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