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Using a Metro Card

Making Getting Around Shanghai Much Easier


What is a Metro Card?

A metro card is a handy card that you can buy at metro stations throughout Shanghai. You put a certain amount of money on the cards and then they can be used on the subway, on buses and in taxis. It's a convenient way to avoid the hassle of digging for small change if you're going to be in town for a while and will be taking a lot of taxis and other public transport.

How to Say it in Mandarin

Metro Card in Mandarin is jiaotong ka, pronounced "jow tong kah". The characters are 交通卡.

How to Buy a Metro Card

  • Go to any subway station and look for a ticket counter. There are usually one or two but you may have to walk to find it.
  • Ask for a metro card: "Wo yao jiaotong ka." | 我要交通卡。
  • The attendant will ask you how much you want to put on, but you may not understand the question. Best to just slip your money through the window at the counter. There is a deposit on the card that costs about 30rmb. So, if you want to put 500rmb on the card, after the 30 deposit, you'll have 470rmb to use.
  • The attendant will take your money and put the card on a reader to add the cash. The attendant will then give you your card and some receipts (that you don't need to keep).

Using the Metro Card on the Subway

Have your card ready when you enter the subway station. As you approach the entrance point, look for the reader on the top of the entry point, usually on the top of the entry stall on the right. There will be a round or square electronic reader with a graphic of a hand holding a card on it.

Hold your card on the reader until you see the balance of the card on the electronic signal. This will show you how much money is on your card. Then proceed to enter the turnstile or stall.

You'll need your card on exit as well. Do the same thing as you exit and the appropriate fare will be deducted from your card.

Be careful of pickpockets on the subway. Keep your valuables, including your metro card, safe.

Using the Metro Card in a Taxi

Using the card in a taxi is quite simple. When you arrive at your destination the driver will likely ask you if you want to use cash or card. The card he's referring to is a metro card.

Driver: "Xian jin haishi la ka?" | 现金还是拉卡?

Just answer "La ka" or simply "ka" and hand the card to the driver. The driver will hold the card on his meter electronic reader and the fare will be deducted from the card.

If you don't have enough money on your card for the fare, he'll tell you how much you owe on top of the deduction.

Adding Money to your Metro Card

You have to go back to a subway station to add money to your card. In some stations there are machines that allow you to top up your card. Look for these at the entrance area. They are different from the machines where you purchase your tickets. Machines have an English interface.

Sometimes these machines aren't available or they're not working. If this is the case, go to the ticket counter and put the card and the amount of cash you want to add through the window and the attendant will add the money to the card for you.

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