How to Visit Shanghai on a Budget

The following is a guest post written by Jess Singet of Tripelio

China is becoming an ever-more-popular place for travelers, and there’s a clear reason for that: from cities to the countryside, this fascinating country definitely bears exploring. It’s a country that still proudly displays its traditional heritage, even while having a modern edge to it.

How to explore Shanghai on a budget

Whether your heart aches from the cost of your flight to China, you’re looking for a lot of souvenirs to take home, or you’re just trying to see the city as cheaply as possible, don’t worry—Shanghai has plenty of cheap and free things to do that will allow you to keep your wallet in your pocket.

Here are our top ten tips:

china fireworks

Fireworks for sale in Shanghai

1. Learn about the history

Entrance to the Shanghai Museum is totally free, and it offers one of the best collections of ancient Chinese artifacts in mainland China. You’ll be able to see plenty of china, jade, bronze-works, and more.

2. Explore the architecture

Another way to learn about Shanghai’s history is to take a walk through some of the older parts of the city and view the architecture. This port city was originally split into various concessions that were developed by European powers, so you’ll be able to see plenty of art deco and other interesting styles.

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3. Seek enlightenment

Head to Jing’an Temple to see the largest jade Buddha statue in the whole of China—you’ll also be able to see many other Daoist and Buddhist icons here. Entrance is usually free on the first and fifteenth of each lunar month.

4. Take a walking tour

Although most of Shanghai’s organized walking tours aren’t cheap, you can easily do one yourself using this Shanghai Walking Tours app—just remember that you’ll need to set up a VPN on your phone prior to using it abroad.

Wuzhen China

Exploring Wuzhen water town

5. See the ancient water towns

Believe it or not, Shanghai was originally built a lot like Venice, full of canals and bridges. Many of the water towns require a steep admission fee, but try Fengjing or Zhujiajiao, which are free to enter and which are just as nice as their more pricey counterparts.

6. Get a transportation card

If you’ll be in the city for more than a couple days, this will mean you don’t have to worry about grabbing individual tickets at the station, and you’ll get discounts on transfer fares. If you’re feeling lost, the Metro China app can help with subways, and Pandabus can help with local buses.

pork belly

Chinese braised pork belly

7. Try the street food

Shanghai has tons of options for street foods, from dumpling to noodles to wontons and more. Your best bet for some hot, yummy eats is to head to one of the markets, such as Fangbang Xi Lu.

8. Save on accommodation

Housing in Shanghai can get expensive, especially during peak travel season. Check out hostels or budget hotels. You’ll find that many hostels offer private rooms in addition to the traditional dorm rooms, and many so-called budget hotels are just as nice as more costly alternatives.

Yu Yuan Gardens Shanghai

Don’t buy your souvenirs at the Yu Gardens

9. Be careful about where you buy souvenirs

Souvenirs have a tendency to be a bit overpriced, especially in the more touristy areas. Shop around for better prices, and you might want to try haggling for a cheaper price. Avoid buying souvenirs at shops nearest to famous attractions.

10. Make your own postcards

Take a wander along the area known as the Bund to see some interesting buildings and views of Shanghai’s modern skyline. Not only is this a great place to take that selfie to send your grandma, but it’s basically impossible to take a bad photo here. Snap a quick one and use a postcard app to send a personalized postcard for less than they usually cost at shops.

Shanghai bund

See you in Shanghai!

Just because you’re travelling on a budget, it doesn’t mean you need to skimp on activities. Shanghai is a great place to immerse yourself in Chinese culture without breaking the bank. Chow down on some delicious, authentic food and see something of the history. This glam city has plenty to offer for everyone.

YES I Want to Teach in China!

Tripelio bio photoHi! I’m Jess and I am nuts about traveling! I’m never in one place for very long. My parents were travelers before I was born. Even in the womb, I was able to travel all over the place! Boy, did things NOT change as I grew older! Knowing there’s more to the world than the bubble I live in made me want to travel even further. Traveling is my drug and I’m addicted. (Please, no intervention!)


Be sure to check out her blog, Tripelio and follow her on Twitter for more stories of her travels around the world! 



About Richelle

Expat, traveler, and spicy food lover, I've spent the last few years living in China and traveling around Asia. In my spare time I enjoy salsa dancing, exploring night markets and stuffing my face with street food.

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