Inside a packed metro carriage

5 Strategies for Staying Sane in the Metro

Posted on Posted in Chinese Culture

One of the most popular methods of getting around in a city in China can also be the most challenging if you don’t quite know what you’re doing. The metro really is the door to getting around the city with ease (and learning about Chinese culture) and can be a great tool when used properly.


Getting your ticket

The first step in taking the metro is getting your pass or token depending on what city you are in. If you are living in China I highly recommend the card because you just carry it with you, it’s more convenient, and you can put extra money on it so you don’t have to reload it as often. The tokens for a single ride are more for people just visiting and some cities you have to get the card.

Going through security

After paying for your ride or loading up your card for future rides, you go through a security checkpoint, which is really just someone telling you to put your bag through the scanner. Most people in Shanghai ignore the security guards, however, and just walk through without putting their bag through the scanner because the guards don’t do anything if you ignore them.

This is only in Shanghai, though. In other cities putting bags through the scanner is enforced. You then go to the turnstiles and either scan your card or insert your coin and then you’re done with those for now.

Choosing your strategy

From there is when strategy comes in. You have to decide which set of stairs or escalator to take that will lead you to the best line for getting on the metro. Notice I said best instead of shortest. Once you get to the platform if you choose the shortest line during peak hours (8 am/6 pm, etc.), then you will most likely be stuck feeling cramped between a bunch of people.

A strategy I like to use is find a line that is a little bit longer, but not so long that you won’t get on the next train. With a longer line you can get on just as the car is almost full so you’re between people and the door, so you have a little more space.

Getting to the exit

Once you have ridden the metro to your stop you get off the car and either take the stairs or the escalator up. I recommend taking the stairs because the escalator usually has too many people trying to go up on it and not many people take the stairs, so it’s quicker. At that point you find the nearest exit turnstile, so don’t forget to have either your metro card or token ready because you need them to exit the metro.

Picking your exit

The last thing you need to do is find the exit nearest to where you are trying to go. Some stations have up to 20 exits, so it’s really important to know which one you need.


Using the Metro in China is pretty easy and incredibly helpful. It’s so important to have a plan on how to go about it to make it easier and less stressful.


Leave a comment and tell us how you navigate the metro or other Chinese culture shocks.
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