Taking the Maglev in Shanghai
I love flying into Shanghai’s Pudong airport. There’s nothing like racing into town on the Maglev at 267 miles per hour on a magnetic field. That’s right, you are levitating. No wheels touching the ground. If you remember that the same poles of a magnetic push away from each other, you have an inkling to the science behind this “magic.” The magnetic forces suspend the train and push it forward at speeds as great or greater than any bullet train but without all the wear and tear of terrestrial friction. It’s the fastest way into Shanghai and it’s easy and cheap. (**special note that may be obvious – make sure you are arriving/departing at Pudong International Airport (code = PVG) and not Hongqiao International Airport(code = SHA)! Pudong may be the “main” airport, but Hongqiao gets a lot of domestic AND international flights as well.)
How to Ride the Maglev in Shanghai
Exit baggage claim at either terminal and look for the Maglev signs (not the train signs). You’ll have to go back up to the 2nd floor outside the baggage claim area. It’s a bit of a walk like coming from the gate, but it’s all indoors and there are some moving walkways along the way. You’ll come to the entrance but you need to go past this to the ticket window and make your purchase of a credit-card sized plastic ticket from the clerk. If you are planning on spending 7 days or less in Shanghai and leaving again via Pudong, purchase the round-trip ticket for 80 RMB. A normal one-way trip is 50 yuan, but with your plane ticket it’s only 40 yuan.
As you head into the Maglev platform area you’ll need to run your luggage through an x-ray machine and then tap the plastic Maglev ticket to get through the gate. There’s a nice wide baggage lane and the staff are usually very helpful and speak English to some degree. Beyond that it is likely you won’t be let downstairs to the train platform until just after the train arrives in the station. Have a seat and wait for the staff person there to take down the cordon to grant access to the escalator.
You will want a window seat – it’s impressive, and try to be sure you are facing forward. A monitor above either exit from the train compartment shows the speed. During the business day, the speed will top off at just over 430 km/h; during less urgent times of the day it’s a disappointing 300 km/h (180 mph!). (The Japanese maglev Chūō Shinkansen apparently clocks in at a cool 581 km/h!)
It’s a smooth ride compared to a lot of other trains, and because of the speed the train actually banks a bit on the turns. There are luggage storage racks at either end of the cars so you don’t necessarily need to roll your bags to your seat.
At the Shanghai city end of the Maglev just head down the escalator to the street level and you are right at the entrance to the Longyang Road subway station which connects with Lines 2 and 7. (There are also taxis waiting at this station.) Longyang Road station on Line 2 is seven stops away from People’s Square, and Nanjing East and Nanjing West stations are on either side of that stop (Huangpu and Jing’an Districts meet at People’s Square). (Google maps does a fine job of showing even the numbered exits from stations so you can plan your walk to your hotel or decide if it is even walkable.) Many travelers choose hotels in that area, so this is quite convenient. A ticket for that ride is just 4 yuan. As one might expect, during peak hours that can be a bit like All-Star Wrestling if you are with luggage, but later in the evening it’s really not so challenging.
As you enter Longyang Road station you will see ticket machines straight across from the Maglev side entrance. You’ll want coins or crisp bills of 5 yuan or more. Hit English on the touchscreen, choose your subway line (or find it on the overview map first – download a PDF map for your device here), tap your station, and the number of tickets will pop up, defaulting at 1. Either change that first or go ahead and enter your money. These things can be a little testy and I’ve never seen them all in working order at the same time. Nothing quite like having impatient Shanghai riders breathing down your neck when there are only two working machines and you’ve got a wonky yuan note.
A plastic card-ticket will drop with your change into the drawer and you’re good to go. Once through the x-ray machine with the luggage tap the card at the turnstile and then down the steps to the platform. No escalator so ask for the elevator if you need it or make the short carry down to the platform. When you exit at your station you will insert the card rather than tapping it; the machine keeps the single-use ticket.
The Timing of Your Trip
The Maglev does the trip in about 15 or 20 minutes, depending on speed, and count on some wait time on the platform; short during the day, and longer in the evening. Trains runs every 15 minutes all day, but then every 20 minutes after 7 pm.
The first train departing Longyang Road station to Pudong airport is at 6:45 am and the last is 9:40 pm. The first train leaving Pudong for Longyang Road station is 7:02 am and the last is 9:42 pm. Plan accordingly if you have a very late or very early flight.
FYI: The normal subway Line 2 also makes the airport run but obviously takes a bit longer.
More Shanghai articles on The Mad Traveler
Plus, Shanghai posts from my blog