44 cent double-decker Shanghai bus tour: Any cheaper and you're walking

Culture | by Stephan Larose
Posted: September 16th, 2009 | Updated: July 5th, 2011 | Comments
Shanghai bus tour Shanghai's best budget tour? The open-air 3 RMB double-decker No. 1 bus cruises the heart of the city for the cost of a plate of dumplings. Shanghai is a steam bath from June through August, but by mid-September things begin to cool down, dry out and clear up. Fall is easily the best time to make the most of the city and its environs, whether that be a day trip to a nearby canal town like Zhouzhuang or Zhujiajiao, a leisurely Huangpu River Cruise or a few hours perambulating People's Square or strolling the French Concession. Of course, tours cost money and walking the city's teeming streets, while technically free, requires a good deal of time and energy. If only there were a dirt-cheap open-air tour of Shanghai, ideal both for budget-conscious first-time visitors to Shanghai and thrifty expats looking for a new take on their adopted home away from home. Happily, there is. You can tour Shanghai in comfort and style (well, sure, it's kind of kitschy, but in Shanghai kitsch is authentic) for the price of a takeaway double order of shengjian. That's right, for a mere 3 RMB ($0.44 US as of the time of this writing), you can take Bus No. 1, an open-air double-decker, on a two-hour cruise around town. You'll see a slew of Shanghai attractions along the way, as well as a great mix of modern and historical districts, urban thoroughfares and leafy side-streets, not to mention plenty of Shanghai's greatest attraction: its people. Scroll through the maps and photos below for an idea of the tour route. I recommend boarding the bus at the stop on Huaihai Zhong Lu (Middle Huai Hai Road) near Songshan Lu and proceeding towards Shanghai Stadium. At that point, the bus stops at the terminal for about ten minutes before heading east again via a different route, winding up in the vicinity of Shanghai's Old City just south of the Bund. A second map below and more photos after it provide a glimpse of leg two of the route.

The first leg of the No. 1 bus passes through the French Concession, giving passengers glimpses of historic villas; Art Deco apartment buildings, hotels and theaters; plane-tree lined streets; and, of course, plenty of modern Shanghai with its high rises and mega-malls. A great way to be in the thick of it all without having to do anything other than sit and enjoy the pageantry of Shanghai street life.

Sponsored by Bud. We prefer Tsingtao. Or Reeb. Anything, really, but Bud.

The bus is popular with both Chinese tourists and Shanghainese looking for a commute with a view.

Xujiahui, one of Shanghai's major shopping and dining centers, is home to the multi-story geodesic dome of Metro City, which houses restaurants, electronics shops and much more. Xujiahui also features a major Shanghai Metro stop where you can hop off the bus and pick up Line 1.

Xujiahui's Grand Gateway Mall is flanked by a pair of distinctive glass towers with slanting conical tops that give them the shape of lipstick tubes. Inside, you'll find scores of brand-name shops, restaurants and a cinema.

For photos of the bus tour as it heads towards Shanghai Stadium click here. The bus passes Shanghai Stadium and stops briefly at the terminal near the Cao Xi Road metro station (Line 3). Just stay in the bus if you wish to extend your tour. An attendant will come by to ask for 3 RMB for the second leg of the journey.

The route cuts through the heart of historic Concession-era Puxi, passing through Xujiahui, past Hengshan Lu and Fuxing Lu, down Huaihai Lu and winding up just south of the Bund near the Old City and Yu Gardens.

Looking back at Xujiahui and the twin towers looming over the Grand Gateway Mall.

Xujiahui's St. Ignatius Cathedral stands on land originally donated by early Chinese Catholic convert Xu Guangqi. The Xu family also gave their name to the Xujiahui, which translates roughly as "Xu's Junction." The cathedral was originally completed in 1847 and largely reconstructed in 1906.

Approaching the Bund, passengers get an eyeful (and earful and noseful) of the construction taking place ahead of the World Expo Shanghai 2010, coming to Shanghai before you know it.

Near the Bund, riders get a good view of the Jin Mao Tower and World Financial Center, Shanghai's two tallest buildings rising from Pudong on the other side of the Huangpu River opposite the Bund.

Sunset in Shanghai under clear fall skies.

For more pictures of the return leg of the journey as it heads past Yu Garden click here. All photos by Stephan Larose.
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