Living in a big city like Shanghai can be expensive, but with the right tips and tricks it doesn’t have to be! It’s quite easy to save money, depending on how you live and where you go. Living a cheap life doesn’t mean that you can’t have fun. We’re here to give you a few tips how to save money and stick to your budget while having a great time in Shanghai.

As you already experienced, unlike other large cities in the whole world, Shanghai can be extremely expensive or shockingly cheap. It mostly depends on how much and where you are willing to spend your money. Living like a local, and not acting like a tourist, is also a great way to save money. It is possible to spend less money and live a cheap and local life in Shanghai; we will give you some tips on how to save money in Shanghai!


No 1: Public transportation

Do not rely on taxis! Often, the taxi is more expensive and more time-consuming than public transportation systems than the subway or the bus. Save taxi trips for long-distance traveling such as to the airport. Or, you can always save a little by calling a Didi.

Take the subwaySave money in Shanghai - Public transportation

The subway is easy to use and a convenient mode of travel, with stops around the city. Shanghai is 16 lines that you can use, ranging all the way from Pudong (East Shanghai) to Puxi (West Shanghai). The average cost is 4 RMB/trip depending on distance and there is no traffic jam. To make the most of your subway experience, avoid peak times such as 8-9AM and 5:30-7 PM. You can reach most of Shanghai’s landmarks by subway.

  • On average 4 RMB/trip
  • 16 metro lines: go wherever you want
  • No traffic jam

Take the bus

  • 2 RMB/trip
  • Air-conditioned
  • Can be difficult to recognize your stop

A great thing about the public transport of Shanghai is that the subway, bus, and even taxi can be paid with the Shanghai Public Transportation Card. So don’t forget your transportation card when you travel!


No 2. Food

artikel 2_food

Finding local food dishes is a great experience for you and your wallet! Learn Chinese in China with Hutong School or practice some key phrases before your trip so you can order dishes like a true local.

Small restaurants

Any self-respecting neighborhood in a Chinese city will have plenty of small eateries with a variety of Chinese cuisines. In Shanghai, you’ll be able to find Chinese food from pretty much any region in China and thus you can do a culinary trip around the country from the comfort of your local neighborhood. Or if you’re feeling a bit homesick and craving Western food, you can always check out the daily deals all over Shanghai, whether it’s BOGO burgers Monday, all you can eat tacos on Tuesdays or 2 RMB wings on Wednesday.

  • Discover your neighborhood!
  • Fantastic noodle and rice dishes
  • Between 8 RMB and 15 RMB

Good snacks and fast meals

There are many fast snack shops that sell a variety of foods, including dumplings, stuffed buns, chop rice cake, crab shell pies, fried buns, fried chicken, rice ball, tofu flower soup, and much more. These can often be found for less than 6 RMB.

  • Dumplings, stuffed buns, chop rice cake, crab shell pie, fried bun, fried chicken, rice ball, tofu flower soup, … choice enough!
  • Less than 6 RMB


Going to a supermarket in a new country is a great way to get a better understanding of the lives of local people. You will see what products are common household stables and you’ll get an idea of the type of snacks people like to indulge with. Local supermarkets may not have all the things you are used from home, but they will challenge you to learn about new foods and products and maybe you’ll find something you really like (hint: wasabi flavored seaweed).

  • Check out the local supermarket before going to a foreign supermarket.
  • Foreign supermarkets often sell the same goods at much higher prices, so don’t fall into their trap!


No 3. Shopping

Fake markets

Bargain bargain bargain hard here! Offer 10% of the seller’s price and settle a price between 10% and 30%. Use some key Chinese vocabulary to secure yourself a better price.

  • Qipu Lu clothing market
    Address: 168 Qipu Lu
  • Fenshine Fashion and Accessories Plaza
    Address: 580 Nanjing Xi Lu
  • AP Plaza Fake Market in Pudong: Take Line 2 to the Science and Technology Museum

Taobao & Baopals

Taobao and Baopal are great ways of finding deals in China. You can basically find everything to your heart’s desires on Taobao. From renting a boyfriend to a helicopter to your daily needs, Taobao has it all and at low prices. But Taobao is all in Chinese, so if you feel like your Chinese hasn’t reached shopping level Chinese, Baopal is the English version of it. So you can find most things from Taobao on Baopal but a little bit more expensive.


No 4. NightlifeSave money in Shanghai - Nightlife

  • Some clubs offer drink tickets at the front for 100 RMB for 10 drinks. If you split this cost with your friends, you can all get drinks at less than half the normal price.
  • Clubs in Shanghai usually have good opening-week specials.
  • Check magazines and online websites for:
    • Specials
    • Open bar events (especially on weekdays and less popular nights)
    • Happy hour times
    • Oh yes, they have Ladies Nights! It can be any day in the week, depending on where you’re going to. But most bars have their Ladies Night on Wednesdays!

Want to discover more about Shanghai’s dining, nightlife, shopping, art…? Our favorite website so far that we hope you’ll love too!!

Make sure to stop by our Shanghai School located in Jing’An and say 你好!

Need more tips? Head over to 8 ways to fund your trip to China or Fund my Trip to China!

Interested in learning Chinese in Shanghai? Or one of our other programs? Check out our website!

Have fun and good luck!


Thai Binh Ho Van
Marketing Assistant Intern