Shanghai is a city of action, not ideas.
You won’t spot many traditional Chinese buildings and temples or Buddhist monks here but you will be blown away by stunning skyscrapers and amazing modern architecture. Shanghai is one of the most massive cities in the world which offers exclusive entertainment, nonstop shopping and glamorous food and cocktails. Some people believe that Shanghai is the future of China and it’s becoming more and more powerful every day.
Although there has been an insane fluctuation in the price of things like accommodation, transportation and sightseeing in Shanghai due to this rise in tourism, the good news is that it is still possible to experience it for less than $25!
Check in at the Le Tour Traveler's Rest Youth Hostel, where 2 nights spent in 4 bed dorms will only cost you US$3.15 (¥63). The great advantage of this hostel is not only its cheap price, but also the great location! It is located in the downtown area of Shanghai, just a 10 minute's walk from the Subway and Airport City Terminal. Moreover, the hostel is set back in a quiet residential side street away from the hustle and bustle. Everything is nice and clean, including the restrooms and showers.
I was in a room for 4 people, but they let us keep the room for the three of us for a little extra money. There is a nice living room where you can hang out, and there is free WiFi (an absolute must). At night, on the street where the hostel is located, there are people selling Chinese dumplings and noodle soups, which are cheap and delicious! My overall experience was great, and I would highly recommend it to travelers going to this area.
The temple is located 10 minutes from Le Tour Traveler's Rest Youth Hotel (West Nanjing Road, in Jing’an District). It's a very surprising location for such a temple: in the middle of the skyscrapers! This place is so amazing, so spiritual, quiet and peaceful. Nice for a calm moment and away from the rush of the city.There is a 3.8-meter jade Buddha sitting in the center (it is the largest sitting jade Buddha statue in the country), some stone Buddhas and the Precious Hall of the Great Hero. A worthwhile visit and not too expensive, at only ¥30 per person (about $5).
The Bund refers to Shanghai's famous waterfront running along the west shore of the Huangpu River, forming the eastern boundary of old downtown Shanghai. You can take a long walk along The Bund, admiring the beautiful scenery of one of the biggest skyscrapers in the city. It's a great place to take some awesome photos and it's free of charge!
Take your pick from the archaic green patinas of the Ancient Chinese Bronzes Gallery through to the Ancient Chinese Sculpture Gallery and Chinese Calligraphy Gallery. You can see many different Chinese coins, seals, paintings and ethnic costumes. Shanghai Museum is a must for those who want to increase their knowledge about China. Admission fee: ¥20 which is less than $3.50!
Oriental Pearl Tower
Getting to the top of Shanghai is a must when exploring the city. You can enjoy an incredible view of Shanghai, which is breathtaking at night, around 7pm. The view will be your biggest reward of the day. Visiting the Oriental Pearl Tower is not complete if you don't try their revolving restaurant. They serve an international buffet with lots of choices. You can try some dim sum, sushi, pork delicacies or steamed baozi – it all depends on your budget. Admission fee: ¥40 ($7).
It is simply an open space peppered with museums, performing arts venues, parks and the most exclusive shops. If you feel like doing some shopping or simply having a walk to chill out at the end of the day, it would be a great idea to go there! It's relaxing and free!
Eat and Drink
The good news is that Chinese food is extremely tasty, filling and cheap, even in an expensive city like Shanghai. You can grab some affordable Chinese-style breakfast on the go, dine out in a local restaurant during your lunch or dinner break and only pay a little!
A plate of baozi, for example, will cost you between ¥0.5 – ¥1 ($0.8 – $0.16). Baozi are traditional Chinese dumplings stuffed with a various kinds of meat (from pork to beef) and fried veggies. They are often served for breakfast with some spicy sesame oil to dip them in. They are very filling because of their thick texture. Baozi are mostly steamed and they are nice and cheap!
Moreover, there are plenty of food vendors and fruit and vegetable markets around, so if you get hungry you can grab a bowl of noodles, some tropical fruits or a delicious veggie juice!
If you would like to read more about China, you can check out Agness' eBook, Add Your Brick to the Great Wall: Experience-based Advice for China from Expats, which sums up her two-year experience of teaching, living and travelling in the Land of Dragons.