Lots of counterfeit notes (renminbi) are circulating in China. Often, the counterfeit notes are those of bigger denominations such as 50RMB and 100RMB. I was unfortunate enough to be tricked into accepting 2 fake 100RMB bills by a motel staff. I wouldn't have found out if not for the fact that a shopowner rejected my bills when I was making a purchase. He told me that they were fakes and taught me how to distinguish a fake note - that is to feel the image of Deng on the bill. A real note will feel coarse as the printed image has protruding lines while counterfeit notes tend to be very smooth. Also, counterfeit notes often have irregular printing (colors too light/dark), absence of safety watermark etc. It is not advisable to change money at small shops or with individuals who claimed to be money changers..always stick with the big banks for foreign currency exchange. And always check when given a big note (all locals do that so you don't have to worry about appearing to be rude/distrusting).
Traders in China always ask for exorbitant price for their products. Remember this rule of thumb:
"When bargaining, use two knives. The first one to slash the original price by 80% & the second knife to cut 50% off the counter offer."
Don't counter offer if you are not interested to buy. Or else you will be shoot with nasty remarks from the traders.
In Shanghai you need to be extra careful about pickpockets, as in any other large city.
It was not really a problem to me, but I noticed once a chinese young following me and trying to open my backpack while I was standing on a crossing.
If you carry a backpack, be sure not to carry anything valuable in the outer pockets. And if the backpack is lockable, do it.
Taxi from Pudong Airport to Downtown (Shanxi Rd.) is normally around 170 yuan (some 17 euros, Apr 2004). This was for two persons.
NOTE: take a taxi from the taxi queue right outside the terminal.
Do NOT go with anyone, not even if they explain that "taxis to downtown leaves from there..." They will take you to a black market taxi (the one I took once was parked into a parking hall... stupid me!!)
I payed 400 yuans when travelling with a black market taxi from airport to Shanxi Rd.
This black market taxi had taximeter, stickers, taxi sign on the roof but not (now, when I think back) a taxi drivers license in front where it should be.
Also, driver gave me a written receipt when I asked for it...but after showing that to the hotel receiptionist, who called to the taxi company , it turned out to be a fake receipt!
The airport area is popular place for black market taxis to look for clients. I have not run into a black market taxi in the city and I've used them a lot.
So, always check that the taxi has the taximeter (turned on), taxi sign on roof and the Drivers licence with his picture on it, in front at passenger site...
Otherwise a taxi is the handiest way to go around in Shanghai.
First of all, if you are planning to exchange your local currency for Chinese RMB, please do so at a bank or at your hotel's front desk. Also, do not exchange more than you really need. Believe me, a little of bit of your own money, can last a long time. Exchange little bit at a time. Also, before you head out remember to get different denominations. You don't want to go out with only large bills. Reason being, if you want to buy a small item from someone on the street, you can't be sure they will give you back REAL money or even the same currency. DO NOT attempt to exchange your money on the street or in alleyways. Also, when exchanging at hotels, hold on to your receipt, it will be easier to exchange RMB's back into your currency that way.
Taking a taxi can be very nervewracking, so walk as much as possible...take the metro, or even a bus...far more relaxing and you have the chance to see and meet locals. Some of the drivers give you a (scary) ride while going around corners and down streets then a fast horror ride on the freeway even if you, in reality, are going only a few blocks away. I did not know, for instance, that the ride from the Jin Jiang Hotel to the City Hotel was not necessary....it was, I soon learned after a short walk, only one block away!! But, the taxi driver took us on a long, exhausting ride....and it seemed, then, that the hotel was a long way away. Only one taxi driver took a direct route my entire time in Shanghai...and many overcharge. The red taxis are the worst while the light green ones are the best. I also found-out that it is possible to walk to a lot of places and the metro was easy, cheap and fast. During nonrushhour, the buses are good...you see a lot and can meet locals. Beware the taxi drivers...and you do not have to pay the overcharge amount....remember to call (if you have a cell phone) the taxi company and report such drivers...or not, depending on the amount. (it is usually 4-7 more RMB than it should be) Also, be sure to get a real taxi, with the meter and the recording telling you to fasten your seatbelt. I know they have a tough life, but the "joy rides" are unpleasant.
The Nanking East Road Pedestrian Mall is popular with tourists. I was walking along the Mall and I was approached twice within a period of 20 minutes by girls. Mind you I am ethnic Chinese from Singapore and yet these girls in their twenties can recognise that I am not a Shanghainese. Firstly, they asked me (in Chinese) for the time, and then asked if I was travelling alone. I ignored them and they left me alone. Then there are the migrant women with young children in tow - they will come up to you and follow you for a while begging for money. Just walk on and they will leave you after a while. Yet another girl asked me if I could spare some change to buy bread. I was wondering why the Chinese would want to eat bread since it is not their staple food.
On another evening, I was approached by a man asking if I wanted `to play with some pretty girls'.
Do not respond to women strangers who try to befriend you on the pretext of showing you around the city. You may have a great time with them but they will extort money from you. If you don't pay, some burly men will appear out of nowhere. Neither should you accept any invitation to a traditional Chinese tea ceremony by young Chinese purporting to be university students. It could be the most expensive tea that you have taken.
One thing that I had to experience before truly believing it, was the way Chinese department stores shut.....!
It was late one evening, probably between 9.30 and 10pm, and I was trying on a shirt on the 8th floor of a department store. I was fully aware that the store would be closing shortly, but no announcements of any kind had as yet been made.....
When suddenly to my horror, all the lights went out, and all the staff were literally running toward the nearest exit!! I had to pinch myself, was this really happening?
I quickly got changed (which isn't easy in the dark), and prepared to hand the shirt to the store assistant which as far as i knew was still waiting just outside the changing-room, but she had already locked the till and gone!!
It seemed it was every man for himself just to prevent from being locked in over night......so i dropped the shirt and followed the shouts and screams from the staff coming from the other side of the floor..... I really could not believe what was happening. No one seemed to care that customers could be locked in?!?
Anyway i eventually found myself at the very back of a mass crowd of staff, all pushing tryng to get onto the one lift out of the place!
Fortunately, *to my huge relief*, one by one they recognised I was not one of them, and they let me get to the front...... but as I was let on first, so what seemed 40 staff crammed in behind me!! Luckily im not chlostrophobic!!
The lift led to an exit behind the store, down a back-alley...and I was just glad to be out!!
I can look back and laugh about it now, but at the time I was speechless...... Just a word of warning, beware of shop closing times, and ASK a member of staff how long it is until the shop closes..... Don't assume like me that you'll be given warning that the shop is abruptly closing!!
Walk along the Nanjing Road Walking Street and if you are a single guy, you are like magnets to the many "escorts" and prostitutes roaming the street looking for customers. They will usually try to strike off a conversation with you by asking the most innocent of questions - what is the time. Ignore them and brush them off....unless you are interested.
We were brought to a free massage by our tour group in Shanghai. Having been warned about such things that might happen we sit there quietly to see how others are con.
Nothing is free theory - the sales manager will give a talk on their products. He will say since we are all tired let us soak into some medical warm water before he continues.
Then he will go on telling you how their medicines has cured many who suffered from this and that diseases are cured.
Next they will call in a group of students to massage for you. Usually the fist question the student will start asking is "Is this you first trip to China". If this is your very 1st trip, then you will be conned badly.
This is how: They will massage your feet and put pressure on a certain point that you will feel very painful. Then when the professor or lecturer comes by he will ask you how you feel and the student will report that this particular part is painful.
They will diagnoise usually that your liver is failing. You should purchase their medical products that cost about a few hundred US dollars for per dosage. But the medication must be taken continuous. Then he will prescribe you with about a few months supplies. Then if you think it is too expensive he will ask you to try out lesser dosage until you are comfortable with your budget. To make you happy and feel worth it, they will throw you some additional medication if you purchase a certain amount.
So nothing is FREE.
I am fond of risky adventures and actually love driving in Italy, and Rome in particular. But I have been coming to Shanghai since 1999 and still cannot believe drivers in this city. Shanghai has the MOST AGGRESSIVE drivers I have ever witnessed. Period. End of story.
I don't know if it's that owning a vehicle is a relatively new phenomenon in China, but, even I still have not gotren the guts to drive in Shanghai.
That brings me to my DANGER TIP. Driving, in general, is something that should be completely AVOIDED unless you are a glutton for punishment. And if you do drive, beware of the local police, who stand on street corners, highways and busy intersections around the clock, blowing their whistles and motioning for you to pull over for no real reason other than to write you a ticket for something.
Take a cab everywhere you go (see picture), not that cabbies are any less aggressive - becuase they aren't. But taxi prices in Shanghai are very resonable (10RMB for a several km journey) and can be found by the seemingly thousands at any time, except when it rains.
Or even try the Metro - if you're in to MEATING new people (as in - welcome to the cattle car), but please do yourself a favor and don't even think of renting a car to see the city. And if you do, enjoy!
No disrespect to the LARGE MAJORITY of the Chinese population, but every group of people has a few who seem to ruin it for the rest.
In Shanghai, beware of the deep snortling of some of the mucus-challenged locals, because before you know it, a huge loogie will be on its way to the ground and you definitely don't want to get in it's path.
I am talking young, old, men, women, rich, poor, fat, skinny, it really doesn't matter. Spitting seems to be as common as people who cut in line or pick (or blow without a tissue) their noses in public.
It is repulsive and a very bad habit that you cannot help but notice. Hopefully, someone will tell this select group of people that it is making a lot of people's heads and stomachs turn - and not for the better.
In preparation for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai, the government has plastered signs all over town (see photo) that try to discourage this sort of behavior.
Now the bad news - it doesn't seem to be working. Just the other day, I had do a "high-step", similar to a football player jumping over a would be tackler, as a man casually walking towards me on the sidewalk decided to clear his nasal passages withoug the use of a handkerchief. Niiiiiiiiiice.
The flights with China Eastern Airlines were certainly new experiences. Inflight entertainment was almost non-existence for the 5 hours journey between Singapore and Shanghai. (I was thankful I brought books along) It was just slightly longer than the video on safety and evacuation procedures and consisted mainly of "just for laughs" segments and some snippets of Chinese entertainment news.
The inflight magazine is totally in Chinese save for a thin chapter in English.
Service ranged from perfunctory to forced; one of the stewardess on my return flight looked as if she should be served instead. Food is alright, depending on your choice.
The planes looked orderly (Airbus 320s) though showing signs of age. The damnest thing being that the aircons or ventilations were not working properly (on purpose?) - both flights though cool, were very stuffy. On both flights, there were people uncomfortable from the stuffiness.
The most disastrous experience was on arrival into Shanghai. The plane parked a long way from the terminal, and we were fetched from the tarmac to the terminal in an airport coach - which the driver either had chosen not to switch on the air-con or it was faulty - the whole bus load of us sweating it out terribly in even stuffier conditions as the bus decided to crawl to the terminal, the driver turning a death ear to passengers demanding he either switch on the aircon or drive faster.
As of the first week in April, there are police stationed at the taxi stand to control the problem I reported below. If they are not there, the taxi drivers will revert to their old habits detailed below.
If you follow the signs at the Maglev Station to the taxi stands, you will find a seedy bunch of taxi drivers that all want 200 RMB to bring you to a hotel. It only costs 50 at most by meter taxi.
Ignore the taxi drivers and cross the road at the entrance to the building to where arriving taxi passengers are getting out. When someone gets out of a taxi, just get in and tell the driver where you want to go. If his meter won't work, get out and try the next taxi.
When you finally get out of customs at Pudong airport, you will be approached by a lot of very legitimate looking people and a lot of seedy characters that are all looking to get you in their taxi. Ignore them all.
Either take the Maglev to Pudong if it is running or stand in line at the taxi stand outside. The taxis at the official stand will run their meters and give you a relatively honest price. Remember, it costs up to 150 RMB to get from the airport to a hotel in the central part of western Shanghai, Puxi side of the city. Don't pay more than that!