Guided tours in Shanghai

Old Jun 24th, 2004, 08:26 AM
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Guided tours in Shanghai

I will be travelling to China this fall on business and am hoping to spend 2-3 days in Shanghai to explore the city. I will be travelling alone and want to hook up with a guided tour group for 1 or 2 days to get the background on the sights and see more than I probably could on my own, since I will not have time in advance to plan. A bus or some such type of tour would be great because it will be at the beginning of a long grueling work trip and I don't want to wear myself out. Does anyone have any suggestions of tours I might sign up for?
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Old Jun 24th, 2004, 10:02 AM
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You'll be able to do this on the fly at your hotel--there's no need to look into booking in advance.

But only having two or three days is not any reason to sign up for a tour (unless companionship is essential). Shanghai is easy to get around by taxi if you don't want to wear yourself out, and indeed, you'll be able to proceed at exactly the pace you want, and stay as long as you like at whatever attracts you. Far more relaxing than being shepherded around town at breakneck speed.

Background on the sights is best gained from materials published in the West, such as the more articulate guide book series, or cultural and historical guides. 'Information' provided by guides is highly partial and inaccurate, and often repeated on English signs at the sights themselves.

Furthermore, tours almost always involve unwelcome shopping 'opportunities' which are opportunities for guides to dip their hands in your pocket by taking kick-backs from stores that wildly overcharge you.

Three days is plenty to get a grip on Shanghai at a comfortable pace, just hopping in taxis and waving the Chinese characters for your destination at the driver.

Having said that, one guide you might consider for an hour or two, and particularly for a walk along The Bund to hear about the history of Shanghai and the people who occupied the now decaying Western buildings there, would be Tess Johnston, an American long resident in the city who has produced several books on the remains of Western architecture in China, and is very knowledgeable. I'm sure she'd also point you in the right direction for very many other interesting sights. Few others know Shanghai as well as she does.

You can find information about her here:

I came across her business card the other day, but have promptly mislaid it again. However, her email address might be:

[email protected]

Peter N-H
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Old Jun 27th, 2004, 12:57 AM
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Just returned from a month in Asia, mostly in China.

The best guidebooks I found were the Rough Guide and the Frommers, which Peter has coauthored, that is, the 2004 "First Edition". The Frommer's is good because the practical information is about as current as you can get for China. The Rough Guide was more in depth on substance.

Except for a half day general tour, I would suggest that you go it alone. Shanghai has an adequate metro system and buses go everywhere and are very frequent and cheap. Taxis are everywhere too and not that expensive. Just make sure you have your hotel's name card, so you can get back to the hotel.

You'll probably want to see the Bund, the newer Pudong area, the Shanghai Museum - and then whatever else you have the time or inclination for.

Shopping for clothes, etc. try the Xiangyang Clothing Market where we found more fashionable clothing and better prices than any other such market in China. (This market is mentioned in Frommers). Be sure to bargain. When given a price, try at least 60% less as a counteroffer. If you end up paying 50% of the asking price you have probably paid too much.

My niece, who is shy and not given to bargaining, once got an item she really wanted down from 185 yuan to 60 yuan. Just an example.

Have a great trip!
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Old Jul 3rd, 2004, 09:04 AM
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Thank you both for the great advice!

judy p
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Old Jul 3rd, 2004, 12:51 PM
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I agree with the others. Shanghai is a wonderful city to tour on one's own, although I have to admit there were two of us. I have spent 4 days touring Shanghai without a guide, and have also been there as part of a tour of China. On the China tour this past March, Tess Johnston guided us for a few hours, and she is both informative and interesting. I highly recommend her. This tour was a year after our wandering by ourselves which we also loved. Do make sure you wander off the main streets, altough a walk at night on nanjing lu is a must-do, for the neon signs. When we were on our own, we had a wonderful lunch at a restaurant called the Grape (yes in English) which we found through Frommers. Check to make sure it is still in Frommers, before you go. Also, the Shanghai Museum, which is truly incredible, does not require a guide. It would be a waste, because they have excellent audioguides.
The good news and bad news for shanghai is that there are a number of McDonalds. The bad news is obvious - there are a number of mcdonalds there. The good news is that you can find many bathrooms when walking around. Our most surreal experience was having a coffee in Starbucks (which we went to looking for, guess what, a bathroom) and looked across the street at the Times Square shopping mall. Fortunately, the back streets still look like China.
Have a wonderful time. I love Shanghai and would love to be heading there right now.
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