Shanghai is expensive compared to many places in China, but compared with cities of comparable size around the world, living costs are still fairly low.

Generally speaking, universal essentials like toilet paper, drinking water, basic foodstuffs that are common to China, etc. are cheap. However, imported or luxury goods can be significantly more expensive.

Inspired by this thread, here is a basic rundown of what you should expect to pay for various essentials in Shanghai.

Public transport

Main article: Getting around the city

  • Taxis: 14 RMB flagfall (18 RMB 11pm-5am) + first 3km. Every additional kilometre costs 2.4 RMB (3.2 RMB 11pm-5am)
  • Metro: Minimum fare 3 RMB for journeys under 6km, then 1 RMB for each additional 10km. The exception is from line  5 , where the minimum fare is 2 RMB for journeys under 6km, and all other journeys are 3 RMB. For specific journey prices, check out the fare calculator on Explore Shanghai - just click your starting station and click "Plan route", click your destination and it'll give you the price and journey time
  • Buses: standard fare is 2 RMB


  • Street snacks: Shanghai's street food (like many of the foodstuffs featured in our article on breakfast) is generally very cheap, ranging from around 1 to 6 RMB for a single portion, depending on the snack.
  • 串儿 (chuànr): There is a huge variety of streetside kebabs on offer in Shanghai, and while prices may occasionally be artificially inflated depending on the 串儿 stand's proximity to areas frequented by expats leaving clubs and bars late at night, you generally shouldn't be paying more than 2-3 RMB for a single meat kebab, and 1-2 RMB per vegetable stick.
  • Restaurants: There are many different 'tiers' of restaurant in Shanghai, and costs vary according to food, location, atmosphere, and of course the cuisine on offer.
    • "Hole in the wall" places: Shanghai has a vast number of hole in the wall style eateries that feature large, cheap portions of 拉面 (lāmiàn - "pulled noodles") or dishes specific to a certain area of China. For your average bowl of noodles with some meat and vegetables, you shouldn't be paying more than 5-10 RMB. For a filling meal including several beverages, 20-25 RMB a head is a fair price, though you can be more frugal if you so choose.
    • "Family-style" restaurants: These tend to be small and simply furnished, and are basically one step up from a hole in the wall place. Dishes will range from around 10 to 50 RMB apiece, depending on the ingredients involved. At this kind of place you'll probably end up paying around 40-100 RMB a head, with a few drinks factored in.
    • Upscale Chinese restaurants: The food at Shanghai's more upscale Chinese eateries will generally be of higher quality than their smaller, cheaper counterparts, but predictably you will end up paying more for that luxury. It's difficult to gauge just how much you'll end up paying at a more opulent eateries, but a safe bare minimum spend would be around 150-200 RMB a head including drinks. Depending on the cuisine, the rarity of the ingredients, and the extravagance of the surroundings, you can invariably end up paying significantly more.
    • Non-Chinese restaurants: While there is a wide variety in price from restaurant to restaurant, any restaurant in Shanghai that is serving non-Chinese cuisine is likely to be significantly more expensive, especially if there isn't a great variety of that cuisine in the city. Indian restaurants, for example, are often very expensive (around 60-70 RMB per dish) because there aren't too many around the city and the sparse competition means that restaurants can charge more for what they offer. Other restaurants are expensive due to the higher quality of their imported ingredients: a good example of this are the many gourmet burger restaurants around town who will generally charge at least 50-60 RMB for a burger. As with everything, quality varies with price - it is possible to get a pizza for 30 RMB, but it is unlikely to compare particularly well with somewhere that uses high quality ingredients, where you will be paying closer to 100 RMB.