Learn What to Expect Flying into Shanghai Pudong Airport

Ian SoderTransportation0 Comments

Arriving at Pudong can seem quite daunting and stressful, especially without an arranged pick- up. The airport can be very busy and filled with random locals yelling “hello, excuse me sir” or “where are you going” trying to sell you their transportation methods. The signage can also be confusing when you enter the arrivals gate.

Below we’ll explain some important factors to consider for an easy transition from the airplane to Shanghai city.

  • Pudong Information
  • Arrival and Customs
  • Baggage Claim
  • Arrival Hall
  • Travel from Airport to City Center

We’ll walk through each in detail so you can be confident on arrival.

General Info 

Shanghai-Pudong Airport- photo via Shanghai Daily

Pudong is located 19 miles/30 kilometers from the city center. Although the airport’s first terminal was completed in 1999, the second terminal did not open until 2008. Therefore, the Pudong airport of today is quite young. Shanghai’s other airport, Hongqiao, is located on the opposite side of the city and deals with Chinese domestic flights and international flights in Asia.

Arrival and Customs

Immediate Arrival

Upon landing in Shanghai you will arrive at either of Shanghai’s two terminals, depending on your airline and what city you departed from. Depending on the terminal or airline, you will either disembark the plane via a jetway, or you will have to walk down some stairs and enter a bus that will take you into the terminal.

Regardless, when you arrive in the terminal, the walk from your gate to customs can be quite long. Do not worry if you need to take a break from walking, especially if you have a lot of luggage. If you need to check the internet, Pudong airport also has wifi and it should work for international numbers, but it may be spotty. After you go through customs and get to the baggage claim, the wifi will be more reliable. Keep in mind that you also need a VPN to access Google, Facebook, and other western sites. When continuing to customs, you will notice that there are English translations on all of the signs; otherwise, you can likely just follow the other passengers.

Customs Line

Before you actually reach the customs line, you may briefly walk underneath a metal detector or in a single-file line. Don’t worry, just walk along with the other passengers and proceed to the “foreigner” section customs. There should be an attendant directing people where to go. If you see that you are around other foreigners, you know you are in the right line.

Be sure to have your arrival card filled out to give to the customs officer. You should have received both an arrival and departure card on the plane if not, you can pick them up at a kiosk around the beginning of the line. KEEP YOUR DEPARTURE CARD for when you leave China- a lot of travelers forget this and it can create an unnecessary hassle for departure because when leaving China, you have to go through customs again as well.

Arrival and Departure cards. They are originally connected, and you can break them apart on the dotted line. Give the arrival card to the customs officer when you arrive, keep your departure card for when you leave China- photo via whyvisitchina.com

The length of the customs lines can vary depending on the time of day or time of the year. Waiting times can range from 5 minutes to 45 minutes. When you finally get to the officer, be prepared to have your photo taken. Some customs officials may speak English, but most of the time you have to be patient if a problem arises.

Baggage Claim 

After customs, you will enter the baggage claim. Depending on the terminal you may have to take an escalator to get down there.

On the way to the baggage claim, though, you will see a place where you can get a Chinese SIM card for your phone. You can get one, but you can also wait until you get into the city and go into a proper store. We’d suggest you purchase one elsewhere (we will write another blog post dedicated to this).

You can read the monitors to find where to pick up your luggage. When you finally have your luggage, proceed forward where there is a sign indicating the exit, where you will enter into the main arrivals hall.

Arrivals Hall

Entering the arrivals hall can be quite overwhelming at a busy time of day. Here, you will see the hoards of people waiting for passengers behind some railings in the international arrivals gate. Just walk through designated path until you are away from the gate.

While you are walking, you will likely have random people trying to offer you a ride, shuttle or a hotel. Never give in to these people; they are trying to scam you. At this moment in the journey out of the airport, knowing and looking like you what to do makes the process is much easier and stress-free.

International Arrivals- Terminal 2. For the taxis and buses, you need to go down one floor. You will see escalators and an elevator- photo via shanghaibeauty.wordpress.com

Best Ways to Get out of the airport into the City Center: 

Arranged Pick Up

The easiest way to maneuver exiting the airport is to have an arranged pick up from your hotel, a business associate, a driver etc. For example, you can likely arrange a pick-up from Western hotel chains such as Marriott or Hyatt beforehand. They will likely be right behind the railing waiting for you right after you leave the baggage claim, holding a sign with your name on it. Then, you can walk out with ease to the parking lot.


COST : 180-300 RMB          

DURATION: 40 min (no traffic) 1.5-2hr (with traffic)

Without an arranged pick up, a taxi is probably the next best choice, especially if you have a lot of luggage. Knowing where to find the taxi line is very important to avoid the haggling salespeople. The taxi stand is also the only option that operates 24 hours per day.

Location of Taxi Stand in Pudong Airport

In terminal 1, the taxi line is actually right outside on the same floor as the international arrivals gate. You just walk straight outside and turn right, and you eventually see the line of people.

In terminal 2, you need to find the escalator and go down one floor. Then walk outside and walk to the right to find the taxi line. Outside of the crowded international arrivals gate you will find also find signs pointing to the taxi, but it can still be confusing. Just remember to go down one floor.

When you reach the front of the taxi line, there will be someone directing you which taxi to enter. If you do not speak Mandarin, you can just show them, as well as your driver, the Chinese characters of your final destination.


COST: 50 RMB one-way, 80 RMB round-trip  

DURATION: 8 min (to Longyang Road, transfer to lines 2, 7, 16)

If you do not have an unbearable amount of luggage or you want to save some money, the Maglev train is the next best option. The Maglev train is open from about 6am until 9:30pm.

The Maglev is a short ride, and reaches speeds of up to 300 km/hour. However, it only takes you to Longyang Road Station, which transfers you to metro lines 2, 7, and 16. From here, you can either take a taxi from another taxi stand, or take metro line 2 into the city. You can purchase your ticket at the ticket booth, enter the security, and wait for the next train. You can also put the fare of the Maglev on your metro card if you have already have one.

Getting a taxi, however, can be kind of a hassle, even with the use of the taxi stand. Sometimes, especially during rush hour, the taxis will not turn on their meter, and will charge you a flat fare of, say, 100 RMB. This is still cheaper than the distance all the way from the airport, but the fare should still be cheaper than this. Therefore, the best way to get to the city from the Maglev is to hop on the metro, which is one floor down from where you get off the Maglev. You will see a lot of fast food restaurants near the metro entrance.

The whole point of the Maglev, really, is to save time from taking the metro from the airport, and save money from taking a taxi. If money is not an issue and you do not want to deal with transfers, then using taxi is probably the best option. The Maglev would be much more efficient if it extended all the way into the city center.


Shanghai Metro Line 2-Pudong


COST: ~5 RMB    

DURATION: 45 min-1hr (to East Nanjing Road)

Pudong airport is the last stop on line 2, Shanghai’s longest metro line. Most foreigners do not often choose this method of getting into the city, but if you have some extra time and not too much luggage, it is a great way to experience the local atmosphere. You should definitely know which metro stop in the is closest to your destination. The metro is open from about 5:30am until 11pm.

The metro is located right across from the Maglev train. You can buy single tickets in the machines, and there also is an English option for choosing your destination. If you have a metro card, you can top up your card in the allocated machines as well. The machines are different, however, for buying single tickets and topping up your card, but they are right in the same area.

Mandatory Transfer

Once you get on the metro, the line from the airport only goes so far. You have to get out of the metro at most likely Guanglan Road, or sometimes Tangzhen or Jinke Road. The transfer is easy, you simply get off the the metro and walk across the same platform and wait for the train that takes you in the city. This is all part of line 2, so you do not need to walk up any steps. From there, line 2 will take you into the city center.

If you need to make a transfer when you get into the city center to get to your final destination, you will most likely do so at stops such as Century Avenue (transfer to lines 4, 6, and 9), East Nanjing Road (transfer to line 10), People’s Square (transfer to line 8), or West Nanjing Road (transfer to lines 12 and 13).

Location of Maglev/Metro in Pudong Airport

The Maglev, as well as the Shanghai metro, are located between terminals 1 and 2. There is a long corridor that connects terminals 1 and 2. When you exit the baggage claim, you are already facing the other terminal. There are signs pointing to the Maglev and metro when you exit the arrivals gate where you can enter the long corridor.

From Terminal 1, you will need to take the escalator up one floor to get to the corridor. You can also follow the signs pointing you in the right direction.

From Terminal 2, you walk to the right and on the same level you will see signs pointing to the corridor.

In the middle of the corridor you will see the entrance to the Maglev on one side, and the normal metro on the other.


Pudong airport is quite a large airport, and arriving there can be quite stressful, especially if its your first time. The airport is certainly different from other airports around the world, in part due to its distance from Shanghai city, the confusion when entering the arrivals hall, and the multiple methods you can take to get into the city. By being aware of all these factors, from exiting the airplane to entering your final destination into the city center, your journey much smoother.

Please let us know if you have any comments or questions. We would love to hear from you.

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