Shanghai: A Business Traveller's Guide

your complete introduction to the thriving business hub of eastern China

Travelling to Shanghai?

Are you planning on travelling to Shanghai for work? Get to know the city better in this comprehensive guide for business travellers.

Nestled along the banks of the mighty Yangtze River Delta, the eastern Chinese city of Shanghai is renowned for its economic and cultural clout.

As a key financial hub in China, Shanghai is a hive of business activity. The headquarters of multinational corporations sit shoulder-to-shoulder with the offices of visionary startups. Corporate conversations ebb and flow through the sleek boardrooms of the Lujiazui Financial District and over steaming cups of tea in the quaint teahouses of Shanghai Old Street. It’s a business traveller’s dream. 

But Shanghai is not merely a work destination. Indulge in the flavours of authentic Shanghainese cuisine, from delicate xiaolongbao to savoury braised pork belly, or immerse yourself in the vibrant nightlife scene, where sleek rooftop bars boast panoramic views of the glittering skyline.

In this comprehensive guide to Shanghai for business travellers, we take a deeper look into the local business culture, offer our top tips for getting around the city, and pick out the best things to see and do during your visit.

Shnaghai Fact File

Old Emblem of Shanghai between 19th and 20th century

The old Shanghai coat of arms, featuring a dragon, in use between the 19th and 20th Centuries.

Languages

The official language is Mandarin Chinese, though English is widely used and understood. Shanghainese, a dialect of Wu Chinese, is spoken by some locals too.

Currency

Chinese Yuan Renminbi (¥)

Avg. Temperatures

Spring (Mar-May) = 15.7°C (60.2°F)
Summer (Jun-Aug) = 27.2°C (80.9°F)
Autumn (Sep-Nov) = 19.8°C (67.7°F)
Winter (Dec-Feb) = 6.7°C (44.0°F)

Getting To Shanghai

By Air

Travellers can fly into Shanghai Pudong International Airport (PVG) – 19 miles east of the centre –  or Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport (SHA) – 8 miles west of the centre – with direct flights available from key international hubs like Beijing, Hong Kong, Tokyo, and London.

icon train

By Sea

The city’s international cruise terminal is located at Shanghai Port which serves the East China Sea to the east and Hangzhou Bay to the south. Cruise lines offer routes from destinations such as Japan and South Korea, with connections to the heart of the city.

By Train

Shanghai can be accessed via the extensive high-speed train network connecting major cities across China. Shanghai Hongqiao and Shanghai railway stations offer connections to domestic and international destinations, including Hong Kong.

Crowds walk below neon signs on Nanjing Road. The street is the main shopping district of the city and one of the world's busiest shopping districts.

Business Culture & Etiquette

 

Shanghai’s business culture is deeply rooted in the observation of respect and hierarchy. Personal relationships, known as “guanxi (关系)” play a crucial role in conducting business and considerable value is placed upon establishing trust and rapport through face-to-face meetings, dinners, and social outings.

Good time management is also paramount. Arriving punctually for meetings demonstrates reliability and respect for colleagues’ time. While in a meeting, the hierarchy dictates proceedings. Addressing counterparts with appropriate titles and demonstrating deference to seniority are highly regarded.

Exchanging business cards, or “ming pian (名片)” is a customary practice in Shanghai. Present and receive cards with both hands and take a moment to study the card respectfully before storing it carefully.

Here are a few other top business tips:

 

    • Chinese culture places great importance on preserving harmony and avoiding conflict. Communicate diplomatically and handle disagreements discreetly to save face for all parties involved.

       

    • Familiarise yourself with cultural norms, such as bowing when greeting someone or using both hands when giving or receiving items.

Crime & Safety

 

Shanghai boasts relatively low crime rates compared to many other major cities worldwide, with a safety scale rating of 70.62 compared to London’s 45.50 according to statistics gathered by Numbeo

However, as a bustling tourist destination, it is important to keep an eye out for petty crime and scams. Pickpocketing crimes in areas such as Peoples Square and Nanjing Road, one of the world’s busiest shopping streets, are commonly reported.

It is also recommended to stay vigilant of the notorious Shanghai Teahouse Scam. The scam involves a group of fake tourists inviting victims along to a traditional tea ceremony. The ceremony will take place, and the victims will be given a cup of herbal tea to drink. However, the teahouse will be full of fake customers who, once the ceremony has finished, will demand up to ¥1000 for drinks worth a hundred times less. 

Here are a few of our other top safety tips:

 

  • There are two primary emergency numbers in Shanghai. 110 can be dialled for police assistance in the event of emergencies. 120 is used for medical emergencies, summoning ambulances, and seeking urgent medical assistance.
  • Shanghai uses an extensive network of surveillance CCTV technology, including facial recognition and artificial intelligence, to maintain public safety.
Aerial photograph of shanghai city skyline at dawn

Getting Around Shanghai

Shanghai Metro (上海地铁)

The Shanghai Metro is a rapid transit system that covers extensive routes throughout the city and its suburbs. With over 400 stations across multiple lines, the metro provides quick and convenient access to key destinations, including tourist attractions, business districts, and residential areas.

Taxis (出租车)

Taxis are readily available throughout Shanghai and offer a convenient way to travel. Fares are relatively inexpensive compared to many other major cities. It’s advisable to have your destination written in Chinese characters or show it on a map to avoid communication issues.

Ride-sharing (拼车)

Didi Chuxing, China’s largest ridesharing platform, operates extensively in Shanghai, providing an efficient and reliable alternative to taxis. Using the Didi app, travellers can easily hail private cars, taxis, or other transportation options, such as Didi Express.

Top 3 Things To See Or Do In Shanghai

If you find yourself with a bit of free time on your business trip, Shanghai is an interesting and vibrant city with plenty to explore. Here are our top 3 recommendations…

Shanghai at night. Located in The Bund (Waitan). It is a waterfront area in central Shanghai, one of the most famous tourist destinations in Shanghai, China
1. The Bund (外滩)

 

As Shanghai’s most iconic waterfront area, The Bund is a must-visit destination for travellers. This historic promenade along the Huangpu River features a stunning juxtaposition of colonial-era architecture on one side and futuristic skyscrapers on the other. Visitors can stroll along the riverside, marvel at the breathtaking skyline, and capture memorable photos of Shanghai’s contrasting architectural styles.

Traditional Chinese buildings and a pond at the You Yuan Gardens in Shanghai, China.
2. Yu Garden (花园)

 

Step back in time to Yu Garden, a classical Chinese garden dating back to the Ming Dynasty. Located in the heart of Shanghai’s Old City, Yu Garden is a serene oasis amidst the bustling urban landscape. Visitors can wander through intricately landscaped gardens, admire traditional pavilions and rockeries, and explore the charming bazaars of the adjacent Yu Garden Bazaar. It’s a peaceful retreat where visitors can experience the timeless beauty of Chinese garden design and architecture.

China, Shanghai skyline at dawn, showing the Huangpu river with passing cargo ships and Pudong skyline.
3. Shanghai Tower Observation Deck
(上海中心大厦观景台)

 

Soaring 632 meters (2,073 feet) above the city skyline, Shanghai Tower stands as the tallest building in China and the second tallest in the world. A visit to the Shanghai Tower Observation Deck offers breathtaking panoramic views of the cityscape below, providing a bird’s-eye perspective of Shanghai’s vast urban expanse. The observation deck features interactive exhibits and multimedia displays that showcase the city’s history, development, and architectural landmarks.

In Conclusion

Shanghai stands as a dynamic and captivating destination for business travellers seeking unparalleled opportunities and experiences.

With its vibrant economy, world-class infrastructure, and rich cultural heritage, Shanghai offers a compelling blend of tradition and innovation, making it a thriving hub for global commerce and collaboration. From the towering skyscrapers of Lujiazui to the historic charm of The Bund, Shanghai captivates with its unique blend of old and new, offering endless possibilities for professional growth. 

Whether forging partnerships in the boardrooms of the city centre, networking over succulent Chinese cuisine, or drinking herbal tea at a traditional teahouse, Shanghai is a fantastic business travel destination that yearns to be explored.

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