Shanghai on a Budget: How to Control your finances

June 8th, 2013  |  by  |  Published in Features


A big part of saving money is in knowing how to act like a local. In Shanghai, this means making the best use of its superb public transportation network. This is very modern and ultra-efficient, and can be used for a maximum of just 10 RMB a ride – that’s a mere $1.50. Here are a few more tips to help make best use of your money:

1. Take buses

Buses aren’t quite as relaxing as the subway, but they’ve very cheap – just 2 RMB a ride – and a great way to feel part of the city. The buses are air-conditioned, but make sure you learn how to navigate the system first. There’s even a website which details all the bus routes in English.

2. Eat and shop like the locals

Noodle and rice dishes in small restaurants can cost as little as 8 RMB, while great snacks can be found at dumpling stalls. You’ll often pay just a couple of RMB for those. Restaurants aimed at westerners usually charge higher prices, though they can be useful if you get a pang for fried chicken. Finally, buy a water cooler and arrange home delivery to save on buying the bottled stuff.

3. Speak the language

If you’re going into local eating places, you can’t rely on staff knowing English, so learning a little Mandarin will be a great investment. It’ll make ordering off the menu a breeze and also help you with your shopping. Make sure you learn numbers, and don’t forget to list your new language skill on your resume!

4. You don’t need everything

It’s tempting, when you see a service offered for a price way lower than at home, to think that it’s a must-have… but do you really need that massage? Similarly, Shanghai prices may be lower than you’re used to, but that doesn’t mean you have to hit the department stores every day. And it’s vital to know the exchange rate with your own currency, to avoid nasty surprises later.

5. Nightlife can cost you

Shanghai has an amazing nightlife scene, but it can drain your bank account if you’re not careful. Look for multi-drink tickets at clubs, all you can drink deals, or even better, ‘free booze alters’ on Listings online and in magazines will tell you where specials are happening, and new venues will often have some great offers to attract customers in their first week.

6. Get a bank account locally

Sure, you can use a credit card from your home country, but take a look at the list of fees you’ll pay for doing so. It’s not going to be pretty. Opening a local account is definitely the way to go, and will save you heaps in the long run. The most convenient way is to switch bank accounts before you go, so that you can be up and running in Shanghai straight away.

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