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Getting Around Independently

Break free from public transport


Joe O Neill

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Shanghai City

Getting About Independently


If you want to break away from the chains of Shanghai’s public transport, here are some ways you can get about in Shanghai without relying on anyone else.


Your feet are your passport to Shanghai. What better way to see tai tais in pyjamas, old men playing chess or little back alleys than by going a pied. From the French Concession to the old city, strolling past vendors, cafes and bars is an ideal way to explore..

Shanghai is a relatively safe city to meander in. The greatest dangers are traffic and scam-artists.

At intersections, wait for the green light to cross, but remember that even on the green light some cars may turn or carry on through the light.

Scam-artists are another danger on the pavements. You're likely to be approached in tourist areas by seemingly friendly locals who suggest tea after a few minutes of conversation. This is a notorious scam in China. Be wary of anyone who approaches you, particularly if they speak English and approach you in an area popular with visitors and tourists.


Independent Picture 2.JPG

Down lanes and side streets, Shanghai's bicycles can take you away from the Pearl Tower into another China. Wind under balconies and pot plants around Dongtai Road, or past cafes and street vendors in the French Concession.

Many of Shanghai's larger roads have a separate lane for bikes and scooters. Not all roads have this safety feature. Though you won't see many locals in streamlined headgear, a helmet is a good idea. Stick to bike lanes and small roads where possible; on some large roads without bike lanes, cycling is not permitted.  

One company that offers bike rental in Shanghai and Suzhou is China Cycle Tours.

Many youth hostels also have bikes for rent. These bikes will be simple and you should check brakes. You won’t need to check the gears, because there won’t be any.

You'll be more likely to spot bike shops and rentals near subway stations; keep an eye out and ask in bike shops if they rent bicycles. Many bike shops around the city offer rentals for around 200 RMB per day. Most will require you to leave your passport as a deposit.

If you’re finding it hard to locate a bike store, you can always head to one of the official Giant shops around town. Though this map is in Chinese, you can see the location of Giant stores in Shanghai along with phone numbers.


To ask if a bicycle shop provides rentals, you can ask:

Qǐngwèn, nǐmen zū zìxíngchē ma?


For buying a bike, you have the choice of many local shops to official Giant stores. Though this map is in Chinese, it shows the location of Giant stores in Shanghai along with phone numbers.

From our forums:

How safe is my bicycle?

Foldable Bikes and Shanghai Metro

Scooters and Electric Bikes


Is it a bike? Is it a scooter? No, it's a diàndòngchē . Shanghai's silent two-wheelers are a genre-defying way to get about town. Electric scooters can be bought fairly cheaply in Shanghai; for between 2,000 RMB to 3,000 RMB.

To drive a scooter legally, the scooter itself should be registered and have a licence plate. Electric scooters must meet certain requirements to be licensed.

Bike shops around the city tend to sell electric scooters that can go a little faster but aren't strictly legal, while supermarkets such as Carrefour sell legal electric scooters for around the same price.

When you register your bike at the police station, bring the all the documents given to you when you bought the bike, including the receipt, the bike itself, your passport and registration of temporary residence form . Follow the second link below for a list of police stations per district.

Watch this short video to find out more, or read about scooter license laws here.

From our forums:

To register or not to register?

Anyone know of a good place to buy an electric scooter?  


For a motorbike, you need a license. And not a foreign license either, though having one might exempt you from the practical part of the Chinese test.

This is the license testing center in Shanghai. Their address and phone number is:

444 Guangzhong Lu, Hongkou District



Motorbikes are similar to electric scooters in that you need to make sure your motorbike itself is legal and registered. Many Western bike brands have gone the way of Facebook and Twitter: banned in China. Make sure the bike you buy is legal in China and get it registered. Once you're registered, you'll need insurance and a license plate.

To find out more about obtaining a license and other legal requirements, follow this link.

From our forums:

Motor Vehicle Driving License

Pictures:, commons.wikipedia.

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