Life in Shanghai

Life in Shanghai is rich, safe and convenient. Shanghai is a metropolitan - a melting pot of eastern and western culture, traditional and modern China. You have a variety of options when it comes to exhibitions, concerts, shows and entertainments. Shanghai is one of the safest and convenient city in China. Public resources and facilities. are readily available and accessible. Read through the information below to get more information on Shanghai. To find resources around, please check the PDF icon Community Resources Guide Book.pdf.

Arranging Your Finance
Getting Around
Language Tips
Religious Services
Festivals and Holidays
Shanghai Attractions

Arranging Your Finance

Living Cost in Shanghai

Living in Shanghai can be either relatively cheap or very expensive. It all depends on how you arrange your finance. You may easily find things that are much more expensive than those in a US city. Living cost rises every year. The following price approximations may give you a rough guide to the living cost in Shanghai (tax included and no tipping required).


Cost in RMB

Cost in USD

Workday lunch sets in restaurants

30 - 75 RMB

4.7 - 11.8 USD

3-course meal for 2 person

(Mid-range Chinese restaurant)

150 RMB

24 USD

3-course meal for 2 person

(Mid-range western restaurant)

350 RMB

55 USD

Cappuccino in Starbucks (Grande)

33 RMB

5.3 USD

A drink in Bar Rouge (cocktail)

90 RMB

14.4 USD

A cinema ticket 3D

60 RMB

9.5 USD

A taxi ride of 3 KM

14 RMB 5 AM – 11 PM

18 RMB 11 PM – 5 AM

2.3 USD

2.9 USD

A pair of Levi’s Jean

799 RMB

128 USD

A Gap T-shirt

179 RMB

28.6 USD

Banking and ATMs

You can use your passport to set up a bank account at a bank near campus. These accounts can receive wire transfers in US dollars and Chinese Yuan from both international and domestic sources. You should check with your current bank to see if they have any reciprocity arrangements with banks in China. Remember to register a local mobile phone number before you open a local bank account. 

When you arrive for orientation in August, NYU Shanghai will help you set up a local bank account. You will be able to deposit money or allow your family to send wire transfers to this bank account while limiting the fees you would incur from transactions through a bank from your home country.

Many ATMs can accept international credit and debit cards with the Visa, MasterCard, and American Express logo and will automatically convert US dollars into RMB for withdrawal, but fees can be exorbitant. We suggest this method only as a last resort when cash is urgently needed. American Express and Discover cards are rarely accepted in shops in China. We do not suggest that students use international credit or debit cards in China, as fees charged by home banks and credit card processors can be quite high.

The Chinese banking system is not yet highly internationalized. International banks with branches in China are separate corporate entities from their Chinese outposts and do not allow direct transfers between the two; this is true of Chinese banks with international branches as well. For this reason, wire transfers are still the only way to move money between any bank in China and any international bank, regardless of the bank.

Each bank will have different fees associated with international money transfers, so it is important to contact any bank you are interested in using to find out what fees they charge for transfers to China. 

Exchanging Money

Many banks can exchange money for you before you come to China. We recommend you bring RMB 10,000 (about USD 1600 as of April 2022) on your trip especially when the international arrival process is long and complicate.

As part of your orientation, we'll show you where to set up a bank account and let you know what documents you need to do so. Once your account is set up, you can receive wires from abroad and exchange USD or widely traded currencies into RMB as necessary through the local Chinese bank.

Getting Around

The most convenient way to getting around the city is by metro. You can buy a transportation card at any metro stations in Shanghai, which can be used on metro, taxi, bus and ferries. You are required to pay a 20 RMB deposit when purchasing the card.

Metro: There are 18 metro lines running in Shanghai as year of 2022. You can easily find a metro station in the city center, and most of them run into Shanghai suburbs. The cost varies from 3 RMB to 10 RMB depending on the distance. The operation hours is from 5:30 AM to 11:30 PM in general, but it varies line by line. If possible, please avoid taking metro during rush hour (7:30-9:00AM; 5:30-6:45PM), as it is extremely crowded. Click here for Shanghai metro map. 

Bus: Shanghai has more than 1000 formal bus lines, including downtown and suburban lines. Most bus lines are named in number and have a fixed rate at 2 RMB, while some others are named in Chinese which run between city center and suburbs. A mini bus with 4 digital numbers connects neighborhoods and a metro station. 

Bicycles: Like most Chinese big cities, Shanghai is very easy to navigate by bicycle. There are dedicated bike lanes on many streets in the city, and there are always a lot of cyclists on the street. You can rent a shared bike in almost everywhere via Alipay, Meituan and Didi apps which only cost 1.5~3 kuai for a ride.

There are two things that you need to be aware of if you plan to ride a bicycle. First, wear a helmet or other safety gear while you ride a bicycle. There is a larger variety of vehicles (such as electric bikes, three-wheeled vehicles, etc.) on the road, and vehicles are more likely to violate traffic rules unexpectedly. Second, we strongly recommend that students do not purchase or ride electric bikes and other motorized vehicles. Injuries sustained while on such vehicles may not be covered by your insurance policy.


On-campus dining at NYU Shanghai is a pay-as-you-go plan. The cafeteria in B1 offers breakfast, lunch and dinner from Monday to Friday with a variety of Chinese, Western, Vegetarian and Halal food options. Sandwiches, cakes, fruits, coffee and other drinks can be purchased at 2F Café. Meals at the on-campus cafeterias average between RMB 20 and RMB 38, and students can swipe their campus ID card to purchase them. The campus ID card can only purchase food in B1 cafeteria and 2F café. Students can use cash to add money to the ID card. For fire prevention, you are prohibited from owning or keeping any cooking equipment in your residence hall room.

Vegetarianism: China has plenty of vegetarian dishes to offer. Just make sure that the dishes you order do not use animal-based oils or broths in preparation. Some vegetarians have trouble finding “actual” vegetarian food. For example, the waiter might bring out an eggplant dish with tiny shrimp sprinkled on top, even after specifically being told “no meat.” Sometimes you just have to laugh it off and reorder. Or if you are fine with picking out shrimp, that works too! It is also a good idea to say “sucai” (vegetarian) as opposed to “bu yao rou” (no meat) as seafood is not considered meat in China.

Vegan restaurants around campus:

iVegan 爱源素蔬食馆
Address: No.87 Songlin Road, Pudong
Tel: 021-50586016

Date Tree 枣子树
Address: 3F, Yuanshen Sports Center, No.1458 Zhangyang Road, Pudong
Tel: 021-58219979

When traveling to smaller cities, whether on group travels or individually, students may be dismayed to find a lack of vegetarian options and the presence of some more exotic meats such as organ meat, chicken feet, frog legs, snakes, and so on. Try to bring enough supplies and snacks in case you cannot find vegetarian dishes.


Shanghai is crowned as the “shopping paradise”. You can find both low-end local goods and high-end imported luxury products.

Commercial Zone: There are several commercial zones in Shanghai downtown, mostly located in Puxi. The closet two to our campus is Lujiazui commercial zone (Metro line 2, Lujiazui Stop) and Babaiban commercial zone (Metro line 9, Shangchen Rd Stop). You can find numerous restaurants and shops, cinema and other entertainment facilities there. 

Imported products usually have a much higher price than those sold in the original country, especially for perfume and cosmetics. You may find it’s difficult to purchase imported food products as the options are very limited in local hypermarkets like Carrefour or Century Mart. There are more options in foreign grocery stores like City Shop or City Super, but the price is much higher.  

Online shopping is increasingly popular in China. It is easy to find products you want online for a price much lower than the retail price in the shop, and they can be delivered directly to home. But online shopping also has its disadvantages, such as unguaranteed quality. Most online shopping websites are in Chinese, and many of them don’t accept foreign credit card. Talk to your Chinese roommate or peers to see if they are willing to help purchase online for you.

Popular online shopping websites:

  • TAOBAO or TMALL – retail products
  • Yihaodian – specialized in imported food products, delivery is quick.
  • Amazon – specialized in global purchase
  • Suning – specialized in electronic products, delivery is quick

Haggling could be an interesting and enjoyable aspect of shopping in China. In most shops, such as small-scale clothing vendors and souvenir stalls, haggling is necessary and expected. Merchants will begin by giving a quote that could be four or more times the actual price. Assuming you appropriately communicate your desire for a lower price, you and the vendor will hash it out for a few minutes until you come to a price you are both satisfied with. Shop owners will be aggressive in their initial overpricing, so it is your responsibility to only settle on a price you can accept. As you get used to the local value of different goods, you will become more effective at haggling. You do not need to haggle for all goods in China. At many large-scale shops, local convenience stores, and grocery stores where prices are clearly listed, haggling is not allowed. However, at tourist sites or when purchasing items regarded as souvenirs, you are almost always expected to barter regardless of the scale of the store or the fact that price tags may appear on items.

Language Tips

Shanghai is one of the most international cities in China. Most young people understand and speak a limited English. However, you may find it difficult to communicate with local taxi drivers, cashiers in stores, or middle-aged and senior people. Therefore, it is helpful if you can learn how to say the address for the residence hall and campus in Chinese, or other basic Mandarin before you come, such as asking for road, asking for help, etc. Keep a copy of the address card we prepared for you in your purse or wallet in case the driver cannot understand you.

While you study in Shanghai, take the advantage to speak as much Chinese as you can at all times and do not be afraid to speak because you think your accent is horrible. You will find that locals are very encouraging to new speakers and will always compliment you on your speaking.

Here are some useful apps/websites which can help you learn Mandarin faster.

  • Anki: For acing your vocabulary
  • Pleco: For a free, offline dictionary
  • FluentU: For real-world immersion, learning from songs, videos or movies
  • Skritter: For learning Chinese writing
  • Chinese Skill, iOS | Android: For learning with games
  • Standard Mandarin: For the Pinyin and the tone

Religious Services

Much like in the United States, legal separation of church and state exists in China, which means that religious practitioners must find services and communities off-campus. All major faiths have community centers and places of worship in Shanghai. You can find a list of places of worship on the Community Resource Guide Book. If you still can’t find the information you need, NYU staff in Student Life will provide guidance and support to anyone seeking a religious community to engage.

Festivals and Holidays

Lunar New Year
Also known as Spring Festival, this holiday begins on the first day of the first month of the lunar calendar and ends on the 15th day of that month. The last day is the Lantern Festival. Spring Festival is the most important holiday in the China, and lots of shops and restaurants in Shanghai will be closed during the holiday. NYU Shanghai will be closed as well. Students who are here during this time should plan accordingly. 

Qingming Festival
Also known as Tomb Sweeping Day, it is the 15th day after the Spring Equinox, either April 4th or April 5th in a given year. It is a festival for people to go outside to enjoy the greenery of spring time, but more importantly to visit the graves or burial grounds of their ancestors and beloved.

Dragon Boat Festival
Dragon Boat Festival occurs on the 5th day of the 5th month of the lunar calendar. The celebrations involves eating Zongzi (sticky rice treats wrapped in bamboo leaves), drinking realgar wine, and racing dragon boats.

Mid-Autumn Festival
The Mid-Autumn Festival falls on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month of the Chinese calendar when the moon is at its fullest and brightest. It is a celebration of abundance and togetherness. Friends and family gather for a huge feast and eat moon cakes together.

Chinese National Day Holiday
This holiday is to celebrate the Chinese National Day on October 1st. The statutory National Day holidays are three days long, but combined with the two weekends, it is a 7-day holiday, which is called the "Golden Week". It is a peak season for tourism and tourist consumption. .

Shanghai Peach Blossom Festival
Peach blossom festival usually falls in late March to early April. This festival has been successfully held since 1991. Several peach tree parks in Nanhui district have over 65 square kilometers (25 square miles) of peach trees. The trees usually start to blossom at the end of March, reaching full glory in the beginning of April. Nanhui Peach Tree Village and Datuan Peach Tree Park are good places to appreciate these beautiful blossoms. Visitors can live a day as farmers or fishermen: fishing on boat or plowing fields. There are tasty country snacks to savor as well. Ticket price from 20 RMB to 50 RMB.

Shanghai Attractions

Shanghai is a charming city, you can find not only world-class architectures, galleries and art museums, pubs and bars, but also historic Shikumen buildings, water towns, and local markets. Please download the full version of Shanghai Attractions to find places to explore in Shanghai.

Pudong refers to the areas that is in the east side of the Huangpu River. This area was mostly farmland before the late 1980s but now contains much of the financial district and modern architecture of Shanghai, including the Oriental Pearl Tower and the Shanghai World Financial Center. NYU Shanghai's academic building is in the heart of Pudong (Lujiazui) on Century Avenue, minutes away from the two aforementioned landmarks.

Puxi refers to the areas that is in the west side of the Huangpu River. This includes the oldest areas of the city as well as a wealth of native and colonial buildings from the 19th and early-20th century along the Bund, Nanjing Road, Huaihai Road, former French Concession and elsewhere. Near NYU Shanghai's academic building there is a big interchange subway station, which can easily and quickly take you to anywhere in Puxi.

Parks in Shanghai are safe and vibrant places, and we encourage you to explore and enjoy them fully. They are great places for study, relaxation, and watching groups of retired residents engaging in group singing, dance, tai chi practice, and so forth. NYU Shanghai’s academic building is near Century Park, the largest park in Shanghai center and a wonderful place to enjoy a sunny, cozy afternoon.


Traveling in most of China is cheap and convenient. However, making flight or train reservations can be somewhat challenging for students who do not speak Mandarin Chinese. The NYU Shanghai staff is happy to assist students who wish to purchase weekend travel tickets. Make sure you ask for assistance at least a few weeks in advance to allow for processing time.

Ctrip is the biggest online travel website which provides ticketing service for train and flight, hotel booking and vacation booking in both Chinese and English. One resource open to all NYU students for international travel planning is NYU Traveler, available through your NYU Home account. There you can learn how to book flights through NYU Traveler's AMEX systems.

Travel Tips

  • Avoid travelling inside China during Spring Festival and Chinese National holiday.
  • Flight tickets may be cheaper than train tickets sometimes.
  • Inform someone (your parents, the school, a friend) of your travel plans in case of emergency.
  • Cash is king. Make sure you have more than one source of money (e.g., cash and a credit card) as credit card is not popular in many parts of China.
  • Always ask price before you take something. Nothing free will fall onto your lap.
  • Make a copy of your passport and a credit card and bring them with you.
  • Bring email confirmations of all reservations and arrangements you have made.
  • Write down the address of your destination to show to a local if you need help and print out directions to get to that location.