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Shanghai-Lights: Shanghai MagLev

Shanghai Pudong International Airport is about 30 kilometers from the downtown area, where our hotel was located.  To get to the hotel you can take a taxi (200rmb at 1 hour travel time), take the Metro (7rmb at 1 hour 40 minutes) or the MagLev (40rmb at 7 minutes) supplemented by either a taxi (30rmb at 15 minutes) or the Metro (4rmb at 1 hour).  I opted for the MagLev then a taxi.

After picking up a Chinese SIM card for my travel phone, I walked the 10 minute walk to the MagLev station and purchased my round trip ticket. The ticket itself is a hard plastic ticket – not the cheap paper tickets you get everywhere else in the world. These tickets are collected after they expire and are recycled. I wish I could have kept the ticket, I love that kind of stuff.

The MagLev is downstairs, but we are corralled into a waiting area before the train arrives. Once the passengers clear the train and enter the airport we are allowed downstairs.  The train has both VIP and Economy tickets. I don’t see a reason at all to go for VIP tickets — the ride is 7 minutes. Even if you are crowded into the car, forced to hold your suitcase and to stand the VIP still makes no sense.

I board the train, stow my luggage on the racks near the door an take a seat.  The train is quite wide, with groups seats facing each other – three on each side.  The train is clean, but not luxurious.  A bit better than a nice taxi.  The car itself smells a bit like cigarettes – not because anyone is smoking, but because there are a ton of smokers on the train.

We leave the airport at 15h31 on the dot. Inside the car there is an LCD above the door with the time and the speed of the train.  At 15h35 we reached our maximum speed of 431kph (268mph). We stayed at this speed for 75 seconds — yes I did take copious notes as this was the fastest land transportation I have ever been on.  The ride was very smooth and very quiet. The only issue was when you pass the train going back towards the airport – there is quite a loud banging sound and before you know it the other train has passed. I guess that’s what happens with a combined speed of 862kph (536mph), right?

At 15h38 we pulled into Longyang Road Station, the train quickly emptied and we head out, people scurrying to taxis, the Metro or private cars.

Longyang Road Station – Waiting for the Train
The “Ordinary Section” — not VIP.
Mike peering out the window as we cruise along at 301 kph
A not so glamorous view from the MagLev

At the end of our time in Shanghai, we took the MagLev back to the airport. Unfortunately this time, the train maxed out at 301kph.

The biggest downside of the MagLev? It doesn’t take you all the way downtown. Ideally the train would at least take you to the Central Business District in Pudong District.  The MagLev is totally worth the price. It is fast, it is clean, to me it is a novelty — I am a transportation nerd, so it was nice to cross MagLev off of my modes of transportation list.

One word of caution though. If you take a taxi from Longyang Road Station be sure you know how much it should cost you to get to your destination. I emailed the hotel asking this question and they informed me that it should be no more than 40rmb, but closer to 30rmb based on my arrival time. The taxi driver took a very direct route, but attempted to charge me 280rmb PLUS 100rmb “highway fee”.  Interestingly enough, he wouldn’t even pull into the hotel driveway, he wanted to park on the street. After I told him he was overcharging me and I knew it, he played dumb. I told him I only had 50rmb and I’d run into the hotel and get cash, he pulled into the driveway.  I told the doorman what was going on and he had a few words with the driver. I paid 30rmb and considered myself lucky.

If traveling in or out of Shanghai Pudong International Airport I highly suggest you take the MagLev. It is a great ride.

Do you prefer to take a cab from the airport or hop on local transportation?  How often have you gotten ripped off by a taxi driver like this? Do you call the hotel and get fare estimates in advance?  FYI, I usually do not, but since I felt I was going to be SO far out of my element, I figured I should plan a bit better.

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