As one of the most modern cities in China, getting around in Shenzhen is a relatively simple affair. With an extensive and affordable public transport network and well-maintained road infrastructure, expats will have no trouble making their way around the city.
In the few areas of Shenzhen that are not covered by the metro or bus networks, cheap taxis are generally a safe and accessible option.
Public transport in Shenzhen
The public transport system in Shenzhen is modern, clean and efficient. Expats will usually have the choice of purchasing preloaded transit cards or single-use tickets. The public transport system is largely integrated: Shenzhen Tong cards can be purchased and then swiped when boarding and exiting buses, some ferries or the metro.
Shenzhen boasts the world’s first fully electric-bus fleet. These public buses are clean, comfortable, quiet and punctual. Some bus services charge a flat rate and others charge by distance. Expats should be able to use their Shenzhen Tong card on all public buses.
For longer journeys to neighbouring cities and elsewhere in the country, expats will be able to use intercity buses. These may not be as comfortable as long-distance trains which are an efficient mode of transport in China.
Shenzhen, like many other Chinese cities, has a reliable and efficient metro system. This is one of the cheapest ways to travel within the city. The extensive metro network covers most areas in Shenzhen.
Expats can use their Shenzhen Tong card or purchase tickets using electronic ticketing machines which operate in English and Mandarin. Day passes for the metro are also available. This can end up more costly than the Shenzhen Tong card, which offers a small discount on fares.
Expats should be aware that metro trains and stations can become uncomfortably crowded during peak hours. Metro lines typically operate between 6.30 and 11.30pm, though timetables differ on public holidays. Expats who wish to travel after hours will need to make alternative arrangements.
Metro announcements and signage are all made in Mandarin and English, as well as Cantonese.
Ferries in Shenzhen are a popular way for expats and locals to travel. There are regular high-speed ferries to nearby cities and areas including Macau, Hong Kong and Hong Kong International Airport. Tickets can be bought on ticketing machines or at ticketing counters in ferry stations.
Ferry tickets have been known to sell out quickly, particularly on weekends. Expats are generally recommended to plan ferry trips and book tickets well in advance if planning to use this service.
Taxis in Shenzhen
Taxis are widely and cheaply available in Shenzhen. Expats should always be sure to establish a price with taxi drivers before they enter the vehicle. Most taxi drivers will not be able to speak English. So, expats are advised to have their destination written down in Chinese or use ride-hailing applications to avoid miscommunications.
Taxis in Shenzhen are generally considered to be quite safe, but expats should always take the basic precautions to protect themselves.
Driving in Shenzhen
Driving in Shenzhen can be frantic and unpredictable. Most expats prefer not to purchase a car. Those who do, often decide to make use of a private driver instead of risking getting behind the wheel themselves. Traffic congestion can be extreme, particularly when travelling close to the city centre and during peak times. Parking spots are also often difficult to find.
Road signage is all in Mandarin, and expats who cannot speak or read the local language will be at a disadvantage. Any expat intending to drive in Shenzhen will need to go through the full process of applying for a local drivers licence, as international driving licences are not recognised in the People’s republic of China.
Cycling in Shenzhen
Cycling is growing in popularity as a way to get around in Shenzhen. The city has invested in creating secure cycling paths and bicycle sharing schemes.
Several different companies operate bicycle-sharing schemes in Shenzhen, so expats should be sure to do their research. It's also important to note where to park the bikes to avoid haphazard parking.
Walking in Shenzhen
Walking in Shenzhen might not be the most efficient way to get around the city, but expats will find that there are several footbridges and pedestrian walkways scattered throughout the city for them to use.
Shenzhen also boasts several famous pedestrian streets, including Dongmen Pedestrian Street and Huaqiang North Pedestrian Street.
Air travel in Shenzhen
Expats travelling to or leaving Shenzhen will be glad to know that they will have easy access to nearby airports which offer flights to a multitude of domestic and international destinations. Shenzhen Bao'an International Airport is well connected to public transport and Hong Kong's airport is only a 30-minute ferry ride away from Shenzhen.