Surviving in ShanghaiTech

(Note: this page is hosted on Google's Blogger platform and therefore not visible upon arrival in China due to the firewall. I recommend you print ahead of time.)

Months Before


No Visa, no entry.  Assuming you will not get paid past an honorarium, you will need a business-trip Visa which is a much simpler scenario than a working visa.  If you already have one and it is entry type 'M' (for multiple) you do not need to worry about providing proof of accommodation, etc.  If you do not have a visa  I wrote a blog post about this in detail, but here is a summary:

  • Buy your plane ticket and get some accommodation sorted.
  • Get a letter of sponsorship either from ShanghaiTech or China-Britain Business Council.  As this is early days, I would choose the latter for piece of mind.
  • Apply for the visa: 4 page application, passport, sponsorship letter and passport photos are required.  CIBTVisas provide such a service.


I have tried a few different services.  FluentU is a belter.  It costs £30/month, minimum contract one month but it is definitely the best. Download and get cracking.


You will need send a passport photo, a copy of passport, visa and resume to the office to begin the process of obtaining your access card.  Your access card is essential as it will provide office access and pay for on-campus food.

A Week Before

The following apps should be downloaded before you arrive to save on your data plan.


The standard text messaging service in China (over 1 billion users as of early 2018).  Even if this is not your preference, people will ask you for it and will feel more comfortable messaging you than through SMS, so it is good to have.  Many people will say you can buy things through WeChat.  You can not - unless you have a Chinese bank card.  Sign up using your domestic number credentials.  You can change it later.  If you have WeChat already, make sure you sign in at least once before you fly - accounts can be frozen and attempting to unfreeze it once you arrive in China is possible, but a total hassle.


The Chinese equivalent of Uber in every sense.  It will not accept online payments, but all cabbies will accept cash that use DiDi.  Sign-in with your Chinese SIM card upon arrival.

ofo and Mobike 

Allow you to hire bicycles (yellow and red, respectively).  See one on the street, scan the bar code into your app, the lock swings open and off you go.  Sign up with your domestic card and bank card (apply pay is also accepted).


A backup app to Google maps. 

Upon Arrival

SIM Card

Before you leave baggage claim, get yourself a SIM card.  Make sure it works by calling the attendant, once you leave, it is difficult to fix.  Furthermore, make sure you switch 'mobile data' to off if you aren't directly using your phone.  You can still access WiFi this way without munching through your allotted data.


There is a perfectly useable taxi rank outside the main entrance and it will cost around 100 CNY to get to the University.  The address of the professorial apartments is given below.

The address of the professorial apartments.

First/Second Day

A map of the campus and surrounding areas is embedded at the bottom of the page.

Campus Food

You can eat the student and faculty cafeterias.  Cash is not accepted.  You will need to charge your campus card (minimum top up of 100 CNY) or politely ask your host!  


All visitors to China have to register their place of residence within 24 hours of arrival.  Failure to do so could make subsequent trips to China very difficult.   If you are staying in a hotel, they will likely do this automatically, however on-campus accommodation do not offer this service.

Take your passport and a local to the nearest police station.  You will need to fill out a form which includes details of your accommodation and your dates of travel.  They will take a copy of your passport photo and Visa pages.  It is all very friendly and there is never a queue but totally impossible without a local interpreter.


Immediate groceries can be bought from Family Mart located on-campus.  It is 24 hour including public holidays.  They accept cash.  Note that tap water is not drinkable and you should buy water from here (they sell big cartons).

Your apparment

Professorial apartments are marked on the map.  You will need your campus card to get into the building and a door key.  If you do not have your campus card, you can get a temporary one for your accommodation from the housing office (also marked on the map).

Be prepared for a harder-than-European bed.  Personally, I love it, others make them wish they'd brought a familiar pillow with them.

Did you know: your bathroom can both suck and blow?

Translation of controls on the bathroom panel wall.

First Week


Assuming your accommodation does not come equipped with these things / you are provided with a cleaner, you will need to buy them.  Family Mart seems somewhat inconsisent in facilitating this quest. For example, there is a whole row of soaps but no toilet paper!  The best place that is the hypermarket on Jinke Road, highlighted on the map.

Washing Clothes

Get yourself some washing liquid from Family Mart.  Before you begin, you must turn on the electricity and tap both located above the washing machine (do not forget to turn off afterwards).  A translation is given below.

A translation of the washing machine controls.

General cleaning

If you need mop buckets, ironing boards,  etc.,  you are welcome to borrow mine. Perhaps Osamu is holding onto it if I've already left.  Failing that, you get all those things from the hypermarket.  Cream cleaner for kitchens and porcelain still eludes me.  "84" is the name of 'bleach' (hypochlorite to us chemists) - it's VERY concentrated - watch your fingers don't turn into soap!

Things to do


  • M1NT.  Swish. Fancy. Noisy. Membership only - ask to be someone's +1 id you get the chance.  Throbbing DJs and rooftop drinking terraces with a great view, but you won't be looking.
  • Luxe - similar.
  • Club G+ - similar still.
  • Salon Ning - Shanghai style! Very cool. Think Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom.  Don't get alone.
  • Bi Yun Road - Pudong


  • Ladybug - French Concession
  • Hunshan Road
  • Hongmei Road

Good Coffee

  • Lost Bakery
  • Fumi Coffee
  • RAC Coffee


  • Jinmao Skywalk (88th Floor), Pudong

Things to skip

  • QQ - neither app, nor sign up work that well.  It is a bit of a young-person's thing (like Instagram).  Stick with WeChat.
  • Alipay - a common form of online payment.  Requires an ID number (and therefore Chinese passport / bank account).
  • Nanjing Road in Central Shanghai - Uncomfortable tourist trap. Avoid.


Google map is included below - open the drawer on the left to see the names of the pins.

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