Getting around in Shenzhen

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 and 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 route. These public buses are clean, comfortable and punctual. Some bus services charge a flat rate and others charge by distance, and expats should be able to use their Shenzhen Tong card on all public buses.

For longer journeys to neighbouring cities, expats will be able to use intercity buses, but these may not be as comfortable or efficient as long-distance trains


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, and the extensive metro network covers most areas in Shenzhen.

Expats will be able to use their Shenzhen Tong card or purchase tickets using electronic ticketing machines which operate in both English and Mandarin. Day passes for the metro are also available, but often end up being a more costly option than using 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, and the metro system is closed between 11.30pm and 6.30am. Expats who wish to travel during these hours will need to make alternative arrangements.

Metro announcements and signage are all made in both Mandarin and English.


Ferries in Shenzhen are a popular way for expats and locals to travel. There are regular high-speed ferries to nearby cities like Macau, Hong Kong and Hong Kong 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, and expats should 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, and 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, but 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 recognized 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.

There are a number of different companies operating bicycle-sharing schemes in Shenzhen, so expats should be sure to do their research to avoid being overcharged. 

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 a number of 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

Hong Kong airport (only a 30 minute ferry ride away from Shenzhen) offers easy access to a multitude of international destinations, while Shenzhen’s Bao’an airport can be used for domestic flights within China.