Public buses and trolley buses may not be the most convenient transport option for foreigners trying to navigate their way around Shanghai. Having some knowledge about the bus services offered in Shanghai, however, will give you an extra transport choice when you find yourself stuck in the middle of nowhere one day, especially when you are unable to find a taxi on a rainy day or where the nearest Metro station is located.
Shanghai buses can be extremely crowded during rush hours. Nevertheless, buses running through busy shopping streets or those connecting major attractions are in an excellent condition and riding on them during off-peak hours is a pleasure. An additional bonus of taking the public bus is the bigger windows which will give you a better view of the city than taxis or subways can ever do.
Buses in Shanghai
Shanghai has one of the world's most extensive bus systems with more than 1000 formal bus lines, operated by numerous transportation companies. Bashi, Dazhong, Guanzhong and Qiangsheng used to be the four largest but they merged to become Bashi Bus Companies No.1-4 in 2009.
Not all of Shanghai's bus routes are numbered - some have names exclusively in Chinese. Bus fares are usually 1 Yuan, 1.5 Yuan or 2 Yuan, sometimes higher.
Some routes are operated by the Shanghai Trolleybus system, and although the number of such routes is relatively small compared to the overall Shanghai transit network, the trolleybus system carries the distinction of being the oldest existing such system in the world.
Line numbers under 200 are conventional buses (Chinese: 常规线). In these buses, lines under 30 (except those starting with 0) are trolleybuses (except 17, 18 and 21). All trolleybuses are now air-conditioned.
Line numbers between 200 and 299 are mostly lines dedicated for rush-hour only, with some exceptions where those numbers are used for conventional buses.
Line numbers between 300 and 399 are night buses.
Line numbers between 400 and 499 are buses that cross the Huangpu River. There are also many other bus lines that cross the Huangpu River.
Line numbers between 500 and 599 are special-line connecting buses (Chinese: 专线车).
Line numbers between 600 and 699 are special-line buses in Pudong.
Line numbers between 700 and 799 are suburban conventional lines. Most 700s buses have at least one terminal beyond Outer Ring Road (S20 Road).
Line numbers between 800 and 899 are special-line buses. Most of them are mid-size buses, but now they are being replaced with air-conditioned large buses.
Line numbers between 900 and 999 are special-line buses. Most of them are full-size and air-conditioned.
Tunnel Lines (Chinese: 隧道公车线路)
Tunnel Line 1 to 9, except Tunnel Line 5 runs across a tunnel under Huangpu River. While being the same as buses in the 400s, there are many other buses that cross the many tunnels under the Huangpu River while not named as a tunnel line.
Bridge Lines (Chinese: 大桥公车线路)
Bridge Lines 1 to 6 run across a bridge over the Huangpu River, including Lupu Bridge, Nanpu Bridge, and Yangpu Bridge. Similar to buses in the 400s, there are many other buses that cross the many bridges over the Huangpu River while not named as a bridge line.
Airport Lines (Chinese: 机场公车线路)
Airport Lines 1 to 7 connect Pudong International Airport to downtown Shanghai and Hongqiao International Airport, while Airport Special Line (Chinese: 机场专线) connects Hongqiao International Airport to the Jing'an Temple in downtown Shanghai.
Other Lines (Chinese: 郊区公车线路)
Apart from numbering the buses, there are also other naming schemes such as the alphabet lines. Most lines are named as "XY Line", where X and Y indicate the two terminals of this line e.g., "莘纪线" (XinJi Line) is a bus which runs between Xinzhuang and Jiwang.
Some other lines only indicate one terminal .e.g., "宝杨码头专线" (Baoyang Port Special Line) is a bus which runs between Baoyang Port and Shanghai Railway Station.
In the central portion of some suburbs, there are lines with the name format of "XX No. X" line, for example "Songjiang No.1" and "Anting No.1"
The Shanghai Trolleybus system is the world's oldest continually operating trolley bus system. Trolley buses are numbered under 30 and they operate on selected routes. All trolleybuses are now air-conditioned.
As of 2011, the system was made up of the following lines:
Lines 11路 (11 Rd) and 26路 (26 Rd) were also operated by trolleybuses until about 2008, after which they were converted to permit them to be operated by super-capacitor buses. Super-capacitor buses are also electrically powered, but their electrical energy is supplied at charging stations at bus stops and termini (via so-called electric umbrellas), instead of by overhead wires. The energy is then stored between charging stations by on-board super capacitors.
Shanghai's bus stops are generally located near intersections, and a stop is usually named after the closest street intersecting the road the bus is running on. The stops are generally indicated with a black post with plates near its top. There is a plate for each line the bus serves.
Each plate shows the route number, the bus stop name and the next stop. A triangular box at the middle of the post shows all the stops along the route, fares and the time of the first and last train. You may also find Metro train information which purpose is to inform passengers where and how to transfer metro lines. All the information is in Chinese.
Bus stops could be easily missed in the outskirts as they may be hiding behind roadside trees and telegraph poles.
Bus fares are relatively cheap, compared with subways and taxis. All of the city's buses are equipped with air conditioners. They charge a flat rate of 2 Yuan (31.34 US cents) while the fare for children is 1 Yuan. Most buses running on downtown streets are without bus conductors. As for some buses running long routes, commuting from the downtown to suburbs, they may charge over 2 Yuan depending on how far you go.
Other line numbers under 400, those between 700 and 799, tunnel lines, and bridge lines charge 1 Yuan (not more than 13 km) or 1.5 (over 13 km), and if air-conditioned, the fare is 2 Yuan.
Three-digit Line number starting with 5, 6, 8, and 9 use distance-based fares starting from 1 Yuan (exceptions exist, such as the 947 line running from Zhongshan Park subway station and the 876 running from Songhong Rd. subway station, both of which are flat-fare air-con buses).
Some use a flat-rate fare (Chinese: 单一票价), while some use distance-based fares. If a bus has a conductor then the fare is distance-based (with a few exceptions), otherwise it will be flat-fare.
Transport card holders will receive a 1 Yuan discount on their 2 Yuan fare if they take a second trip on any of the routes involved in the discount scheme within 120 minutes of boarding the first bus or any of the metro lines.
However, not every bus route in Shanghai takes part in the discount scheme. It excludes Shanghai Big Bus No. 1, airport buses and community shuttle buses in Minhang, Songjiang, Baoshan and Jinshan districts.
Getting On and Off
Many Shanghai buses have no conductors. You should board at the front door and put the bus fare into a moneybox beside the driver. The back door is for alighting.
It's advisable to keep some loose change for riding on the no-conductor buses. The boxes do not provide change and the drivers are not allowed to handle cash. If you want to test your Chinese and courage, you can throw in a 10-yuan bill and ask the driver to allow you to collect other passengers' money as your change.
You will see several yellow seats on each bus. They are reserved for senior citizens, small children, the sick, disabled and pregnant women.