How to Travel From Hong Kong to Shanghai by Train and Plane

Shanghai's Huangpu River and Bund district
Andrew Rowat/Stone/Getty Images

Hong Kong is nowadays perceived as a de facto country in itself, but if you were to categorize it under China—for intents and purposes—you could say that it and Shanghai are the two most tourist-centric cities in the nation. Shanghai is 1,226 kilometers (762 miles) northeast of Hong Kong and can be reached via flight or train. You can also drive, but it would take you about 15 hours to cover the distance, so most people opt for the high-speed train.

  Time Cost Best For
Train 8 hours, 30 minutes from $150 (for high-speed) Traveling on a budget
Flight 2 hours, 30 minutes $150 to $600-plus, depending on the month Arriving on a time crunch

What Is the Cheapest Way to Get From Hong Kong to Shanghai? 

The cheapest way to travel from Hong Kong to Shanghai is by train. Whereas a one-way flight can cost up to $600 USD during February (the month of Chinese New Year) and about $200 most other months, a train ticket on the slow sleeper train will set you back $56 or $92, depending on whether you want a hard bunk or a soft bunk. You'll save on the cost of a hotel room for one night if you don't mind the 19-hour ride.

Alternatively, there's the high-speed Bullet Train, also cheaper than a flight but not by much. These trains depart from Hong Kong West Kowloon Station and arrive at Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station after about 8 hours and 30 minutes of traveling, making stops in Hangzhou, Nanchang, Changsha, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen along the way. You can purchase tickets—$150 for the most basic second class ticket—in advance at ChinaHighlights.com.

What Is the Fastest Way to Get From Hong Kong to Shanghai?

The fastest way to travel between the two is by flight. According to Skyscanner, the average flight time is 2 hours and 30 minutes. There are six airlines operating direct flights (Cathay Dragon, China Eastern, Hainan Airlines, and others) and between them, they facilitate about 138 flights per week.

When Is the Best Time to Travel to Shanghai? 

The cheapest time to fly to Shanghai is in March, when it costs about as much as a high-speed train ticket ($150). Otherwise, be prepared to spend upwards of $200 anytime throughout the summer, $500 in January or $600+ in February, when the locals tend to travel most for Chinese New Year.

April through August are generally the cheapest time to travel and the months that see the most international visitors. However, the weather during this time is less than ideal. The heat combined with relentless rain (July is the wettest month) can sometimes lead to near-unbearable humidity. October and November are much more comfortable weather-wise and less busy with travelers both domestic and abroad.

Do I Need a Visa to Travel to Shanghai? 

There is a formal border that separates Hong Kong from China and it includes passport control and customs checks. Whereas American travelers do not need a visa to visit Hong Kong, visas are required to visit mainland China. This visa should be applied for at least a month in advance. It cannot be obtained at the port of entry, but you'll need to allow for time at the border to conduct such formalities. The traditional tourist visa permits visitation for up to 90 days.

Can I Use Public Transportation to Travel From the Airport? 

The Pudong International Airport is Shanghai's main airport, although it is home to Hongqiao International, too. Taxis aside, travelers can get from Pudong to the city center by shuttle bus, metro, or maglev (another rail option). The airport operates an express bus whose Lines 1 and 8 (departing from Terminals 1 and 2) will take you right into the center, but it'll take about 70 minutes. A single ride costs about $.15.

Alternatively, you can take one of two trains. Line 2 (the green line) of the Metro travels from Pudong International to the city center in about 8 minutes. Covering this distance would cost about $.80. The maglev, alternatively, is Shanghai's magnetic levitation train. It also covers the distance in about 8 minutes and costs about $5.70.

What Is There to Do in Shanghai? 

The coastal city of Shanghai is comprised of picturesque colonial-era buildings that line the waterfront in an idyllic scene. This mile-long stretch along the western bank of the Huangpu River is called The Bund and it's often referred to as the "museum of buildings" due to its architectural gems. A stark contrast to the old aesthetic is the contemporary Oriental Pearl Radio & Television Tower, containing 11 LED-lit spheres. It was the tallest structure in China before the Shanghai World Financial Center became not only the tallest in China, but the second tallest in the world. A jaunt along Nanjing Road—one of the busiest shopping streets in the world—will put you in the lively part of the city, but if you want peace, try meditating at one of the city's many ornate temples.

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