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Gay Shanghai: The Absolute Travel Guide

Stefan Arestis
Gay Shanghai: The Absolute Travel Guide

In this gay guide to Shanghai, we've put together all our tips from our travels to “the Paris of the East”, to help you plan your own fun and safe vacation.

The gays may have coined the phrase “what’s the tea?”, but it was the Chinese who invented the piping hot beverage… So we jetted off to Shanghai, China to see what steamy adventures lay ahead.

Shanghai… What can we say? It’s one of the largest cities in the world with a fascinating mix of cultures, architecture, and experiences to keep visitors entertained for days. Seb and I were jammed with stuff to do for the entirety of our trip. Luckily, we found our way around easily, so our bickering was kept to a minimum.

From the famous waterfront promenade of the Bund with colonial-era buildings, you look across the river to the iconic futuristic skyline including the Shanghai Tower and Oriental Pearl TV Tower. There's also the gorgeous French Concession neighborhood, which is not only a joy to stroll through, but it's also the heart of the city's LGBTQ community.

As the financial heart of China, Shanghai is one of the most international and forward-thinking places in Asia. As such, it's developed quite an exciting, albeit small, gay scene, which is fast becoming more vibrant each year. Be sure to contrast this against gay Beijing – the Chinese capital.

Get online in Shanghai…

by using a VPN. In China, western sites like Google, Facebook and more are blocked, so you won't be able to use Google maps, Instagram, Facebook, Whatsapp, Google search, etc. etc. while you are there unless you get a VPN.

Is Shanghai safe for gay travelers?

Yes it is. Shanghai is the most cosmopolitan and international place in all of China. There are so many international businesses and expats based here that a strong air of tolerance prevails. That's what it felt like for us traveling here as a gay couple.

Booking a double bed in any of the places we stayed in Shanghai was never an issue. No one looked at us funny or questioned this. The worst we ever encountered was being asked if we are brothers, but we got that a lot across Asia.

Do remember, of course, that this is still China, which is a very conservative country in relation to LGBTQ rights, but in comparison to the rest of the country, it's far more open-minded in Shanghai. We recommend reading our interview with Cass from Xian to get an idea of what gay life in China is like from an LGBTQ local's perspective. Also, be sure to check out our detailed gay China guide.

Shanghai gay area

The gay area of Shanghai is focused around the “French Concession Gay Triangle” – located in the French Concession neighborhood. As a reference point, the Lucca 390 bar on Panyu Road is the beating heart and soul of the Shanghai gay area. There are a whole bunch of small eclectic bars surrounding Lucca 390 but they commonly shut down, rebrand, and reopen in different locations. Lucca 390 is the longest surviving bar here hence its status as the Queen of the Shanghai Scene.

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The French Concession is a neighborhood of Shanghai, west of the Shanghai historic Old City and Bund areas, south of the Jingan neighborhood. It has a strong European vibe – think leafy boulevards, cozy bars, boutique wine bars, indie fashion shops… it's a very cool part of town, so only natural that the gay scene of Shanghai can be found here!

A handy tip from us, get yourself a WeChat account. Remember, Facebook, Whatsapp, Instagram, and anything Google-related is blocked or requires a VPN to access it. The alternative is WeChat which encompasses all these apps as an alternative. We say this because without it you'll struggle to find up-to-date info about most of the places in the gay area of Shanghai.

The main gay area of Shanghai is located in the former French Concession
Having fun with all our new friends in the French Concession

Gay hotels in Shanghai

Whilst there are no exclusively gay hotels in Shanghai like the ones you’d find in gay Fort Lauderdale or Palm Springs, there are a whole bunch of gay-friendly options for you to pick from. We found a mix of hotels, from the super luxurious to the more basic, catering to a wide range of budgets. These are some of our favorites:

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01

W Shanghai – The Bund

W Shanghai The Bund is a fabulous hotel with a pool featuring an amazing view over the city

In a nutshell


  • Rooftop pool and bar
  • World-class spa facilities
  • 5 top-tier restaurants on site
  • Incredible views

The W Shanghai – The Bund is part of the gay friendly Marriott group, so before you even step foot into the building, you know you’re in strong hands.

Rooms have a fascinating design that fuse together Mandarin and Western influences. They feature king-sized beds and flat-screen TVs, with premium movie channels. Those looking to splurge should opt for the city view rooms, as the sights (particularly at night) are jaw-dropping.

There are a whopping 5 restaurants to choose from – our favorite being the Manhattan-style bistro, The Kitchen Table. Those who would prefer classic Shanghai cuisine will enjoy the two-storey restaurant YEN, plus an extensive cocktail menu!

If W Shanghai is a little out of your price range, you can still have a sneaky taste of the experience. The Wet Bar, on the rooftop, is open to the public and frequented by many in the LGBTQ community. It offers fabulous sights of the Bund area, in all its dazzling city light glory. You can take a dip in the pool, sip on a cocktail, all the while absorbing the marvelous Pudong skyline and Bund area.

The spa and fitness center are perfect for when you want to rejuvenate your mind and body. Indulge yourself with Shanghainese infusion massage and facial treatments. If you’re up for working out, the gym features state-of-the-art equipment.

Prices at W Shangai – The Bund start from $360 per night:


STAY WITH A GAY LOCAL

Misterb&b is the Airbnb equivalent for the LGBTQ community. Unlike on Airbnb, you know your host is gay, voiding any nasty surprises when you check-in. It is also a great way to meet gay locals and discover the underground gay scene. Click below to get 10 € (or $10) off our first booking.

02

The Shanghai EDITION

For the best bathtub view of the Bund, stay at the Shanghai EDITION!

In a nutshell


  • Movie nights in the rooftop garden
  • 3 dining options on site
  • Luxury spa
  • Sunken pool overlooking the city

The Shanghai EDITION is for when you really want to spoil yourself. It’s made up of two separate towers – a mere five-minute walk from the thriving Bund area.

All the rooms are spacious and modern. We’d say the best option for gay couples is The Deluxe Room. It’s on the lower end of the price range, has its own fully stocked minibar, king-sized bed and has epic views of the city.

The Canton Disco restaurant gave us very 1940s Manhattan vibes, with its ultra-glam design and its use of dim lighting. It’s perfect for those trying Cantonese cuisine for the first time, with a fantastic menu and world-class chefs (their fabulous range of fruity cocktails are to die for).

We spent most of our evenings in the roof garden. They often have movie screenings and even lawn bowling for guests to enjoy. Snuggling up together to enjoy a classic film beneath the stars, with the twinkling skyscrapers on the horizon, is like being in a movie itself!

As for the spa services? Honey, you get access to six different treatment rooms, a sauna, and a relaxation space with a lounge bar + boutique. You’d need almost a full day there to experience all the luxury that is on offer!

Prices at The Shanghai EDITION start from $330 per night:


03

URBN Boutique Shanghai

URBN Boutique is a very funky hotel in Shanghai with some lovely amenities

In a nutshell


  • Super romantic bathtubs in suites and studios
  • Spa and wellness center
  • On site restaurant and bar
  • Gorgeous design and decor throughout

URBN Boutique is minutes away from the Bund area – a thriving area full of shops, restaurants, and bars/clubs.

Rooms are spacious and modern, quite minimalistic in style and design. We’d say to go for the Basic Atrium Double Room. Not only is it the most affordable option, but it’s fitted out with a massive bed, fully stocked minibar, a flat-screen TV, and fancy artwork.

They also have a massive shower, big enough for two people…if you catch our drift…! Otherwise, the suites and studios are massive, featuring stunning stone bathtubs in the room.

Throughout the gay friendly hotel, you can enjoy amenities like a spa, with fancy massage treatments, along with a fitness center, Jacuzzi area, and garden area. They serve continental breakfast every day in their restaurant. It’s a small selection but it’s still perfect for starting your day. The restaurant is also rated for lunch and dinner – we recommend having a glass of wine together in the evening at the on-site bar watching the sunset, hand in hand.

The staff are super welcoming, chatting to us about our travel plans when we checked out, and following up with us later on whether we enjoyed ourselves.

Prices at URBN Boutique Shanghai start from $120 per night:


04

Shanghai Blue Mountain Youth Hostel Luwan

The Shanghai Blue Mountain Youth Hostel Luwan is one of the best budget accommodation options in Shanghai

In a nutshell


  • Great location
  • Fun gay friendly hostel bar
  • Event mixers with fellow guests
  • Excellent budget option

The Shanghai Blue Mountain Youth Hostel – Luwan is very affordable and ideal for gay travelers on a tight budget.

Based in the Luwan district – a spot known for its high-fashion shops and excellent restaurants – it’s just a few minute's walk to the nearest metro station, which connects you to all the exciting spots of Shanghai.

If you are traveling as part of a group, then you have the option to stay in dorm rooms. Alternatively, they have private rooms. They are a tad bit sparse design-wise, but what can you expect for such low prices? They’re still quite cosy and even have a small TV set for your enjoyment. If you're planning to be spending all your time exploring and only coming back to sleep, they have everything you need!

The gay friendly hostel has a bar which is a fabulous place to hang out and socialize with fellow guests as well as playing board games, watching movies, or doing some travel planning. Look out for some of the special events that the staff regularly host, such as cinema nights, soccer tournaments, and even story times about your craziest travel anecdotes!

Prices at the Shanghai Blue Mountain Youth Hostel Luwan start from $10 per night:


Shanghai gay bars

The bulk of the gay bars in Shanghai can be found in the “French Concession Gay Triangle”, which is the unofficial Gayborhood of Shanghai. The gay bars we’ve listed below each have their own distinct vibe. Some cater more to young gays, others to bears, others to the more mature type. All in all, they each offer a good time, friendly staff, a safe space to meet people, and good drinks.

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Hunt

Hunt is a fabulous gay bar in Shanghai with fun themed nights

Entering into the brilliantly red lair of the Hunt bar is quite an adventure! Intricate and classic Chinese art fills the room as you arrive. This gay bar is the place to go for those looking to meet new friends and enjoy a dance. It feels much more up-scale than other bars, making it popular for a wide range of LGBTQ people who don’t necessarily like the messy/loud/uninhibited side of queer culture. Throughout the week, they have events like open-mic nights, drag performances, and open-bar service.

Open: Hunt is open Tuesday – Sunday from 5pm until 2am

Location: You can find Hunt at 42 Xingfu Lu, near Fahuazhen Lu


Asia Blue

Asia Blue is a mixed gay bar in Shanghai that's great for meeting other people

Quite the hidden gem on the Shanghai gay scene, Asia Blue is never packed out, which some might find to be quite dull. But we loved it, as it meant we could relax, enjoy a drink, and chat with people. The crowd was mixed with people of all sizes, genders, and ages coming together. It’s the oldest gay bar in Shanghai, with the ever-present owner Andy making every patron feel super welcome.

Open: Asia Blue is open daily from 9pm until 4am

Location: You can find Asia Blue at 1557 Hua Shan Lu, Changning Qu, Shanghai Shi


Rice Bar

Rice is a nice gay bar in Shanghai that's good for a quiet drink at the beginning of the night

We’d consider Rice Bar as more of a hang-out spot than a place to get turned up. Sure, there are drinks available, but the vibe is very “let’s have a quiet night at your place for gossip”. We liked it for its extensive cocktail menu especially some of the unique ones like Alaskan Iced Tea or Great Pair Of… Most people start the night here before heading out to gay party at Lucca or SaoX (see below).

Open: Rice Bar is open daily from 8pm until 2am

Location: It's located at 532 Fahuazhen Lu, near Dingxi Lu


Moon Bar

Moon Bar is popular with gay locals in Shanghai, but they are very welcoming to foreigners!

The Moon Bar is a super cutesy cozy bar that we found down an alleyway off Huaihai Zhong Lu. The walls are decorated with paintings from local artists, which added to the overall charm and homey vibe. We found that most of the clientele were Chinese locals who spoke little English. However, everyone was super friendly and excited to meet foreigners. On one night they showed us how to play the Moon Bar's infamous “dice game”…

Open: Moon Bar is open daily from 8.30pm until 2am

Location: You can find the Moon Bar at Street level, at the rear of XingGuo Mansion No. 6, Lane 1950 Huaihai Zhong Lu, near Xingguo Lu


Lollipop Bar & Lounge

Lollipop is a fun and colorful gay bar in Shanghai with regular karaoke nights

In the middle of the Gaybourhood is the Lollipop Bar. It’s a laidback spot for people looking to escape the general hustle and bustle of Shanghai’s gay scene. The front of the bar is lit up with rainbow-colored lights and chandeliers to add a super campy flair to the place. And if that wasn't gay enough, they host regular karaoke nights! The back of the bar is a bit darker, with low lounge chairs for people to chill and chat. It lives up to its name by giving out free lollipops and other candies.

Open: Lollipop is open daily from 8pm until 3am (and until 5am on weekends)

Location: You can find the Lollipop bar at 141 Tai’an Lu, by Huashan Lu


Shanghai gay clubs

When you are past the point of relaxing and just want to go and dance, Shanghai has a few clubs that the gays totally gag over! With loud music, epic DJ sets, colorful lights, great drinks, and fun events, we have scoured the city and taken note of the best gay clubs in all of Shanghai. Here are our favorites:

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Lucca 390

Lucca 390 is one of the oldest and best gay clubs in Shanghai

This is the Regina George of gay clubs! It’s the place to go to experience the magic of Shanghai's gay nightlife. On weekends, expect to see the place packed to the brim. It’s spread across two floors, often featuring internationally renowned DJs performing on each. When we went, our entry fee included a free drink of our choice. But we were told this isn’t guaranteed every night.

Open: Lucca 390 is open daily from 6pm until 3am

Location: You can find Lucca on the 2nd Floor, 390 Panyu Road, by Fahuazhen Road


SaoXHaus

SAOxHAUS is a gay club in Shanghai with drag shows and naughty parties

Competing with Lucca to become the hottest gay nightclub spot in Shanghai! When we learned that the word “Sao” translates to “s!utty” in Chinese slang, it was more than enough to catch our attention! Set up to compete with the ever-domineering Lucca 390 club, SaoXHaus is in a basement under the Haus club. It is the place to go for young gays, in the infancy of their “out” lifespan. Expect to see live drag shows, hear pop music, or join the occasional “alternative” party if you catch my drift!

Open: SaoXHaus is open Friday – Sunday from 9pm until 5am

Location: You can find SaoXHaus at 561 Xinfeng Lu, near Changde Lu, Jing’an


Medusa Realness

Medusa is a legendary queer party that takes place once a month in Shanghai

Medusa is a monthly queer party at Elevator. It is legendary – mainly because you have to make a fool of yourself just to get in! When we visited, we were greeted by a drag queen and a spinning wheel. On each slice of the wheel was an instruction, and we had to complete whatever action was demanded of us. One barking like a dog and one scandalous act using a banana later, and we were in. The music is loud, the drinks are plentiful, and the clientele, outrageous! Since everyone has to claw their way in, they really let loose once inside the belly of the beast…you need to see it, to believe it!

Open: Medusa parties are held about once a month at Elevator, so keep an eye on their Facebook page for the next one

Location: The Medusa parties take place at the Elevator Club, located at 265 Nandan East Road, B1F


Gay saunas in Shanghai

Hot steam rooms. Chill out saunas. All-male gyms. Open showers. Each of these saunas are a gay man’s paradise! We never expected to find gay saunas in Shanghai that were on par with some of the more infamous ones you'd find in Bangkok, Berlin or Barcelona, but these ones were pretty darn close! The facilities are great, the clientele, “charming”, and the action, scandalous!!

Ding Lin Men’s Club

Ding Lin is the most famous, the most popular, and the largest gay sauna in Shanghai. From open showers, Finnish-style saunas, steam baths, and darkrooms, there is much to be discovered. It’s members only – so if you are interested in going in, get in touch with the owners to see how you can gain entry. We noticed that the clientele were mostly men in their 40s and over.

You can find it at 775 Yanchang Middle Road in the Zhabei District and while it's open 24 hours a day, only locals are admitted after midnight

Huli (Mutual Benefit)

Hidden away on Baotong Road, Huli is a gay sauna with amazing facilities. It has several saunas, a dark room, and a large steam room. It’s an intimate space where you’ll likely find a handsome gentleman to get close with. It’s not too far from Ding Lin, so if you don’t get in there, you can swing by here instead. Most notably, Huli has male massage therapists who are more than happy to provide full-body scrub downs!

Huli is located at 415 Baotong Road

Shanghai Door Healthclub

Just a few minutes’ walk from the bustling People Square is the Shanghai Door Healthclub. And just as you hoped, it’s utterly salacious! With steam rooms, dark rooms, dry saunas, and open showers, you could spend hours here living out your wildest fantasies. The guests are a good mix of locals and tourist, young and mature. All visitors are made feel welcome on arrival.

You can find Shanghai Door Healthclub at No.889 Jin Sha Jiang Lu

Hawaii Gay Gym

Who’d have thought a sauna could feel so chic? It’s the most modern sauna in Shanghai, with an upscale interior and fabulous facilities. As the name suggests, it has a gym. Though the showers and steam room are where the real workouts happen…if you know what we mean…! The Hawaii gay gym is located in the southern part of Shanghai, away from the main action of the city, so we recommend getting the Metro to Caobao Road station.

It's located inside Hotel F5, No.222 Caoxi Road, Xuhui

There are some great gay saunas in Shanghai for relaxation and fun
Seby telling me how good the saunas are in Shanghai, like I don't already know!

Gay cruising in Shanghai

Outdoor cruising in Shanghai has taken a huge hit over the past decade due to the rise in popularity of gay dating apps. Note that in China, Grindr is not blocked, but Tinder is. Blued is the other big gay dating app that's very popular across much of Asia and like Grindr, isn't blocked in China. Your best bet for quick non-committal play is via these apps.

There are however a few places in Shanghai where outdoor cruising still happens. We've no first-hand experience but from what other gay travelers and local friends in Shanghai have told us, head to the People's Square Park in the late afternoon when it starts to get dark. There's usually a lot of rent boys hanging out here along with a few local guys looking for a quick moment of hanky panky play…

Shanghai Gay Pride

Shanghai Pride in June is the largest and one of the best Pride events in all of Asia. Though not many realize that the city has several other LGBTQ events taking place throughout the year. In fact, there are no fewer than 3 annual gay film festivals in Shanghai! Here are the best Shanghai LGBTQ events to look out for:

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Shanghai Pride (May/June)

Shanghai Pride started in 2009, becoming the first LGBTQ-themed event to take place in mainland China, and it is still going strong. Each year, it’s getting bigger and better, with recent years spanning across a full month. In 2019, they kickstarted Pride with a massive bike ride through the city. Six groups started from various points in Shanghai and snaked their way to meet in the middle, dousing the entire city in rainbow colors. They also held a Pride Run – with a buffet at the meeting point for those who took part. Other events include The Ladies Party and a conference, where activists meet to discuss challenges the queer community face, such as employment discrimination and marriage equality.

ShanghaiPRIDE Film Festival (June)

We're always on the look for gay-themed movies. With the overwhelming tidal of heterosexual-centered stories that have dominated cinema for years, it's so refreshing when we find a festival that honors the lives, experiences and issues that the LGBTQ community face. ShanghaiPRIDE is one of three (yes three!) film festivals that celebrate us held in the bustling Chinese city. It is typically held in June, around the same time of the main Pride event. It showcases films from Asian filmmakers, generally under a theme such as queer families or gender.

CINEMQ (June)

This film festival is more underground than the other ones we’ve mentioned on this list. It’s coined the “unrefined queer collective”, showcasing LGBTQ cinema from around the globe. It has events throughout the year, though mostly in June, which showcase short films, typically less than 20 minutes long, with a mix of documentaries, drama, romance, and arthouse. Submissions are accepted from the general public, so if you have an LGBTQ themed film that you're looking to showcase, why not submit it to CINEMQ?

Shanghai Queer Film Festival – SHQFF (Sept/Dec)

This film festival brings the spotlight specifically onto Chinese and other Asian LGBTQ stories. After the festival creators, noticed much of the queer scene of Shanghai was influenced by Western media, they decided to set up an event that was run solely by and for Asian gays. This event is made up of film screenings, discussion groups, and parties. It’s a great festival that allows the community to network, socialize, and learn more about both their culture and queer identity.

Where to eat in Shanghai

As self-admitted foodies, we never like to order the same meal twice. We're always on the lookout for new restaurants to try and new foods to taste. We’ve compiled this shortlist of restaurants in Shanghai worth visiting, which cover a broad range of diets, cuisines, budgets, and palate types:

Spicy Joint

Spicy Joint is one of the best places in Shanghai for Sichuan cuisine

Our friends in Shanghai took us to a “Spicy Joint” restaurant, specializing in Sichuan food (veeery tasty). It’s an incredibly popular place – and we can see why. Wait times can get pretty long – so it helps to book ahead (though to do so, you might need a Chinese mobile number). We were lucky we were able to walk straight in. Most of the servers don’t speak English, so it may help if you had a Mandarin-speaking friend to tag along with. That being said, the menus are in English and have a massive list of options. They have a great mix of both spicy and non-spicy items, plus plenty of drinks and cocktails.


Flair Rooftop

For delicious food and drinks plus one of the best views in Shanghai, head to the Flair Rooftop restaurant!

Sitting on the 58th floor in the hotel Ritz-Carlton tower is the incredible Flair restaurant. It is the highest al fresco dining experience in the whole of China. Using a mix of rustic and contemporary design, the décor makes you feel instantly at home. Though if you went up that high, you may as well sit outside and marvel at the picturesque Shanghai skyline. As for the food, expect to see a wide range of Asian favorites, representing the cuisine from Japan, Indonesia, Vietnam, India, China, and Thailand.


Din Tai Fung

Din Tai Fung is our favorite spot in Shanghai for delicious dumplings

What started as a little restaurant in Taiwan has since expanded to a chain of over 150 venues across the globe. So, when we happened upon a Din Tai Fung branch in Shanghai, we were, of course, galvanized to go inside and see what the fuss was all about. They are most famous for their dumplings, which we must say are absolutely everything! They have a wide variety of dumplings to try, including ones that are suitable for vegetarians and vegan. We tried the pork with truffle dumplings which were utterly fabulous.


Things to do in Shanghai

A city as vibrant as Shanghai can truly overwhelm the senses. It is bright, colorful, and fast-moving. At first, we were at a loss for what activities from our list we could fit in. With that in mind, we've set down some ideas for you to look at that might help you narrow down your itinerary. Here are some of the best things to do in Shanghai for gay travelers.

The Bund

The Bund is one of the most recognizable and unique parts of Shanghai

We’ve gushed over the Bund area a couple of times throughout this gay guide – and we figured it was deserving of its own special mention on things to do. The Bund area of Shanghai is a mile-long promenade walk along the waterfront in central Shanghai opposite the financial district. A stroll along this area gives you some of the best views of the incredible architecture in China's financial heart just across the river. It’s a breath taking walk which we recommend doing in the evening when everything is lit up – very romantic!


Night river cruise

A night river cruise is a beautiful and romantic way to see Shanghai

We talk a lot about how beautiful the Shanghai skyline is. We feel one of the best ways to truly appreciate it is by taking a night-time river cruise. This experience allows you to take a private tour down the Huangpu River, soaking up the skyline all lit up at night, after enjoying a delicious feast of Xinjiang food. You can also book a car to pick you up from your hotel for even more convenience.


The French Concession

The French Concession is a pretty part of Shanghai that's also home to many of the city's gay hangouts

A visit to the cosmopolitan French Concession area in Shanghai should definitely be on your to-do list. It’s one of the most popular attractions in the city, due to its beautiful European-style buildings and fascinating history. We joined a walking tour, which took us around the key parts of the area. From the beautiful Wukang Lu street, filled with artisan cafes, to Wulumqi Road, which has the famous “Avocado Lady” restaurant, there is so much to discover here.


The Oriental Pearl Radio & TV Tower

The Oriental Pearl Tower in Shanghai looks gorgeous from outside and from inside offers amazing views over the city

Standing at over 1500ft (457m) tall, the Oriental Pearl Radio & TV tower is partly what makes the Shanghai skyline so iconic. You can visit inside the tower, admiring panoramic views of the city in the observation room located at 863 feet (263m) above ground. You can also choose to enjoy a romantic dinner in the rotating restaurant, sampling fine Asian cuisine and fancy cocktails. Interesting fact: the antenna, responsible for the broadcasting of TV and radio, caught fire in 2010. Miraculously, no one was hurt, and the fire was quickly extinguished.


A day trip to Suzhou

Suzhou is a really pretty town that's perfect as a day trip from Shanghai

Shanghai is the perfect base from which to make day trips to the surrounding areas. We only had time to make day trip visit to the nearby wealthy town of Suzhou but are glad we went. It’s around 30 mins train journey away from Shanghai and the town is most popular for its beautiful gardens, many of which are classified as UNESCO World Heritage sites. Our favorite part was the Lingering Garden, which was full of lush foliage and mini-towers. It features performances from Pingtan art groups, who act out stories using a range of musical instruments, props, and characters.


Plan your trip

We've put together some handy hints and tips to help you plan your own trip to Shanghai. Read on to find out everything the gay traveler should know before they go.

Travel insurance: While Shanghai is a safe destination, travel plans can often be ruined by missed flights, lost luggage, illness or injury. That's why we never travel without travel insurance, so we know we'll be covered if something goes wrong. We recommend Heymondo Travel Insurance as we've been using them for years and know we can trust that they will be there to help when needed. Their cover is affordable and comprehensive, plus it easy to make a claim online if something doesn't go according to plan.


How to get there: If Shanghai is your first (or only) stop in China, then you will most likely arrive by flying into the international Shanghai Pudong Airport. If you're already in China then domestic flights usually arrive at the Hongqiao airport – which is at least an hour away from Pudong, so don't get confused between the two! It's also possible to reach Shanghai via train from other cities in China, or even long-distance buses. Shanghai is a BIG city, so it can take a while to navigate public transport to get from the airport to your accommodation. We always prefer to pre-book a private transfer so we don't need to worry about figuring it out when we're probably tired and juggling all our luggage.


Visa requirements: Passport holders from some countries (such as the United Kingdom and all European Union citizens) can enter China visa-free for visits of up to 30 days. But if you are visiting Shanghai from countries such as the United States, Canada or Australia then you will need to apply for a visa online well before your trip.


Getting around: Shanghai has an excellent metro system, which we mainly used while exploring the city. Signs, announcements and maps are in English as well as Chinese. You can purchase a transport card from metro stations and some convenience stores, which you can top up with credit and swipe the same way as using an Oyster card in London. The metro does stop running about 11pm though, so we'd recommend flagging down a taxi if you're returning to your hotel after a night at the bars!


Power Plugs: China uses power plug types A, C and I of which some are also found in other countries. However, since you probably never know which one you will find in each place (even Shanghai) we recommend bringing a universal power adapter with you so you can charge any electronic equipment.


Vaccinations: All travelers to China should ensure they are up to date with routine vaccinations such as measles, mumps, rubella, Covid-19, etc. Most travelers should also be vaccinated against typhoid and hepatitis A. Depending on where else in the country you will be visiting (if you're going further than just Shanghai) and what you might be doing you may need further vaccinations. Make sure you check the CDC website and speak with your doctor well before making any travel arrangements.


Currency: The currency used in Shanghai (and the rest of China) is the Renminbi which uses the code RMB or CNY. While the official name is Renminbi it's usually also called the Chinese Yuan, although technically a yuan is a basic unit of Renminbi, with RMB banknotes starting at one Yuan and going up to 100 Yuan. The symbol for the yuan in Chinese is 元. Currently, US$1 converts to about 7.10 yuan, €1 is worth about 7.76 yuan and £1 converts to around 8.84 yuan.


Tipping culture: Tipping in China is not the norm at all, and you may cause confusion or even offense if you try to leave workers a tip. In some more touristy destinations, like Shanghai, Chinese workers at high-end hotels may be more accustomed to receiving tips, but you really don't need to. Check out this guide for more information on why you shouldn't tip in China.


Internet access: It's possible to access good quality free WiFi in many hotels, restaurants and cafes in Shanghai, although it's quite different in more rural areas. You can also access free WiFi in airport and train stations but you will need a Chinese SIM card – which you can order ahead of time to be delivered to your hotel.


Online privacy: Many western sites like Instagram, Facebook and even Google are blocked in China, so if you're looking to connect with friends or family back home while traveling there then you will need to get a VPN. A VPN is perfect for traveling as it provides a reliable and affordable way to browse the Internet with complete anonymity.


Accommodation: When we're looking to organize our accommodation in Shanghai we pretty much always use Booking.com. They have so many options available, at the best prices, many of which offer free cancellation. We love being able to spontaneously change our plans, so we often make use of that! They also have online customer support that's available 24/7 to help you with anything you might need.


Sightseeing and adventure: For more fun things to see and do in Shanghai, head to GetYourGuide! They have all sorts of adventures for many different styles and tastes, whether you want an adrenaline-fueled outing or something calmer with some craft beer tasting, perhaps? Their online customer support is available 24/7 and it's really easy to book your choices online.


When to visit: Shanghai experiences a humid subtropical climate, which means summer gets quite warm and very humid, while winter feels very cold, although it doesn't snow often. Spring and fall are probably the best time to visit Shanghai for mild weather, with fall just winning out since some of the spring-time holidays can make it even busier than normal.


Gay map of Shanghai

We've put together this handy map to help you get around Shanghai, although not every gay establishment is actually listed on Google maps, so make sure you also refer to this gay guide when deciding what to do!

Use this gay map of Shanghai to help plan your own trip

For more inspiration:

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Here's our gay travel guide to exciting Beijing with all the best things to see, do and eat, plus gay friendly accommodation
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Stefan Arestis

Stefan is the co-founder, editor, and author of the gay travel blog nomadicboys.com. As a travel nerd, he has explored more than 80 countries across 5 continents. What he loves the most about traveling is discovering the local gay scene, making new friends, and learning new cultures. His advice about LGBTQ travel has been featured in Gaycation Magazine, Gaycities, Gay Times, Pink News, and Attitude Magazine. He has also written about gay travel for other non-gay-specific publications including Lonely Planet, The New York Times, The Guardian, and The Huffington Post. Stefan is also a qualified lawyer, having practiced as a commercial property litigator in London for over 10 years. He left his lawyer days behind to work full time on Nomadic Boys with his husband Sebastien. Find out more about Nomadic Boys.

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