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How to Take the Bus in Shanghai



Joe O'Neill

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Shanghai City

Most foreigners prefer the subway to the bus. The reason is partly language; routes at bus stops are entirely in Chinese. But once you know a few routes, you could make your commute easier, faster and cheaper. Buses can be convenient if your home, work, or other destination isn't close to the subway. More than one thousand bus lines span Shanghai's bus network, and most journeys cost 2 RMB.

Understanding the buses

To feel more comfortable with the bus system, it's useful to focus on what you can understand. Though bus stops are mostly Chinese, each bus stop is labelled with its English or Pinyin name.

Also, although the bus routes are written in Chinese, it's easy to see which bus numbers operate at a particular stop.

Once you know the names of the bus stops close to your apartment, work, or hotel, you're close to being able to use this web-page to search for bus routes.

There are three ways to use this feature. The first is to search between two bus stops. This works best if you know the exact name of the bus stop you wish to go to, but even if you don't, it's possible to work it out. For example, if you enter 'Nanjing East Road' as your destination, you will get the following list of choices:

    ·     Fujian Middle Road Nanjing East Road

    ·     Henan Middle Road Nanjing East Road

    ·     Hubei Road Nanjing East Road

    ·     Nanjing East Road

    ·     Nanjing East Road Jiangxi Middle Road

    ·     Zhongshan East 1st Road Nanjing East Road(Nanjing East Road the Bund)

You'll be able to see from the name of the bus stop where it is. It's useful that many bus stops in Shanghai are named after the intersections they are closest to. If you're in doubt as to which bus stop to choose, you can search for the point where the two roads in the bus stop name meet on Google (or Bing or Yahoo) Maps. It's likely that the bus stop will be very close to the road intersection.

Once you've selected the stops you wish to travel between, you'll be given advice on how to travel between two bus stops, including any transfers, if necessary. This works for most searches, though sometimes you will be told that there is no route available for your journey.

The second way to use the search feature is to search for the route of a specific bus. Search by bus number to see the routes it takes in both directions, as well as the start and end time. Before you take a bus the first time, write down the stops you'll pass on the way. In central Shanghai, most buses have announcements for each stop in English. An electronic sign at the front of the bus tells passengers the next stop in English and Chinese. If you know the stops you should be passing, you can be sure that you're heading in the right direction.

The next stop is displayed in English on the screen at the front of the bus.

The final way of using the search engine is by searching for a specific bus stop. This is useful if you know the name of a bus stop and want to see which buses and routes are available from that stop.

How to take the bus:

Shanghai buses have a front door and a rear door. Get on the bus through the front door as the card scanner and coin collection box are usually here, next to the driver. You can pay either by swiping your transportation card, or by dropping the flat rate of 2 RMB into the collection box. Try to have the right change as the drivers are forbidden from handling cash.

You can either swipe your card or drop change into the box.


Some buses have a conductor who works by the rear door. If this is the case, you can let the conductor scan your card, or pay him or her the fare.

Yellow seats on each bus are for senior citizens, those with very young children, and the disabled. Shanghai buses are often packed. Whether your seat is yellow or not, it's good practice to let someone in greater need sit down.

As with the subway, keep an eye on belongings, but also take care not to fall over. The drop down handle bars are even more essential on the buses than they are on the metro. There's usually no need to tell the driver when you want to get off; buses tend to stop and open the doors at each stop.

Exit the bus from the middle doors, not the front doors. This is to make it easier for passengers to board at the front of the bus. Though this rule might be disregarded at busy times, there are announcements in Chinese asking people to exit from the rear doors.

Useful Apps:

Shanghai Stops

This app provides offline access to bus routes in Chinese and English. Connect to GPS and you'll be able to see Shanghai's bus stops on a map. GPS also allows you to view which stops are near you. Currently only available for Iphone.

Shanghai Bus Routes

This app offers similar features: bus routes in English and Chinese and a map with GPS. Currently only available for the Iphone.

Useful Links:

To find out why you'll only see bus 341 at night, while 299 is always stuck in traffic, read this Wikipedia entry.

For further guidance on the process of catching a bus, scroll through this Power Point presentation.

Here is a list of all the bus routes by number. The routes show English and Chinese on the same page.

This is a link for the Google Map of Shanghai. You can also search for bus routes with Google Maps, but though the instructions are in English, the names of the bus stops will be in Chinese.

Shanghai Expat Articles:

Finally, don't forget to read our own articles about the bus system and how to use it:

On the Buses

Using to navigate Shanghai Buses and Metro

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