Are you thinking about how to travel from Shanghai to Suzhou fast and on a budget? Having traveled between the two cities before, I’d like to share with you the best (and fastest…and cheapest) ways to get from Shanghai to Suzhou.
Commonly described as the “Venice of the East,” Suzhou makes for a scenic and calm retreat from the bustling atmosphere in Shanghai. Suzhou’s gardens, pagodas, and stone bridges are what particularly draw tourists to this city with over 2,500 years of history.
Should you be visiting Shanghai, Suzhou is just a short distance away (only 66 miles) and easily accessible by public transportation. As such, I’ll fill you in on a number of fast and budget-friendly ways to get from Shanghai and Suzhou.
*Note: All the travel methods below are applicable whether you travel from Shanghai to Suzhou or you travel from Suzhou to Shanghai.
1. Travel from Shanghai to Suzhou by High-Speed Train (Recommended)
Taking the high-speed train from Shanghai to Suzhou is my favorite (and recommended) way to travel. Since it only takes between 25 and 35 minutes to make the trip, it is far and away the best transportation method.
The high-speed train stations servicing the railway between Shanghai and Suzhou are conveniently located both within the city and at the Hongqiao Airport in Shanghai should you want to travel to Suzhou as soon as you land.
- Departure Stations in Shanghai:
- Shanghai Station (上海火车站 ; Shànghǎi Huǒchēzhàn), which is located in the city center (accessible by subway lines 1, 3, and 4) and services transportation to Suzhou Railway Station (苏州站 ; Sūzhōu zhàn).
- Alternatively you can leave from Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station (上海虹桥站 ; Shànghǎi Hóngqiáo zhàn), which is accessible by subway lines 2 and 10 and services trains to both Suzhou Railway Station and Suzhou North (苏州北站 ;
Sūzhōu běi zhàn).
- Departure Stations in Suzhou: You will arrive or depart in Suzhou from Suzhou Railway Station (苏州站 ; Sūzhōu zhàn) or Suzhou North (苏州北站 ; Sūzhōu běi zhàn). I suggest departing to and leaving from Suzhou Railway Station as it is closer to all the gardens and other scenic areas you will likely visit including Zhouzhuang Watertown.
- High-speed Train Schedule: Trains between Shanghai and Suzhou run before 6:00 am and depart every 5-10 minutes until after 11:00 pm.
Tickets for the high-speed train between Shanghai and Suzhou are also insanely cheap! You could pay as little as $3.50 to around $20. What drives the difference in price is the type of high-speed train and ticket class you choose. You can learn more about how to take trains in China (buying tickets, navigating the station, etc.) and then go check ticket prices here.
The cheapest tickets have you sitting in coach on a D-train, which is an earlier class of high-speed train. In my experience, the coach seats are comfortable enough and make for a pleasant journey, but the G-trains are worth checking-out to experience the fastest trains in China.
2. Travel Shanghai to Suzhou by Sleeper Train (for travelers needing a nap?)
There are also slower “sleeper” trains available to take you from Shanghai to Suzhou. While I really recommend sleeper trains for traveling longer distances like from Beijing to Shanghai or Beijing to Xi’an, taking a sleeper train from Shanghai to Suzhou only takes one hour.
Despite it being slower, you might be surprised to learn that it won’t save you any money at all when compared to the high speed trains. A standard seat on the high-speed train is around $3 to $5 whereas a hard sleeper is around $10 (soft sleepers run around $15).
READ MORE: Learn about different classes of China trains, including how comfortable they may be and what to expect.
Unless you are in strong need of a nap or like the idea of lying down on your journey from Shanghai to Suzhou, I still recommend taking the high-speed train.
Whatever you do, avoid taking a hard seat for the sake of saving money. We may advocate for traveling China cheaper, but a standard seat on a high-speed train is only $1 to $3 more than a hard seat on a sleeper train and will be much more comfortable.
The last thing to remember here is when buying train tickets is that most of the standard (i.e. slow) China trains are labeled with a “T”, a “K” or just numbers.
3. Travel from Shanghai to Suzhou by Car (Most Convenient)
If you don’t want to deal with the hustle and bustle of booking train tickets and dealing with train stations, you can always hire a taxi to take you from Shanghai to Suzhou.
Most likely any taxi driver will be willing to take you to Suzhou or back to Shanghai….for a hefty price. Taking a taxi from Shanghai to Suzhou will most likely cost you around 500 Chinese RMB (around $72 USD).
The exact price will depend on your ability to negotiate a fair price with the driver. So remember to negotiate and agree on a price before getting into the taxi!
Traffic will also have an influence on what price you pay, so try to make the journey before rush hour begins. Overall you can plan on spending 1.5 to 2 hours travel time going from Shanghai to Suzhou by taxi.
If you are willing to spend a decent amount of money, you can also see about hiring your driver for a full day, which will make traveling to the gardens and watertown of Zhouzhuang a lot easier.
That being said, I suggest booking a trip with a travel agency or hiring a taxi once you get to Suzhou as a means of saving money.
4. Travel from Shanghai to Suzhou by Bus (a last and unnecessary resort).
Traveling from Shanghai to Suzhou by bus is another option. But since it takes around 1.5 to 2 hours to travel from Shanghai to Suzhou by bus, I do not recommend it in comparison to the high-speed train and private car options. Bus tickets also cost more than high-speed train tickets and run you around 50 Chinese RMB (~$7 USD).
The only exception to this recommendation is if your hotel happens to be near the bus station or if you simply want to take a bus. In that case, go for it!
There are a number of bus stations where you can catch a ride from Shanghai to Suzhou. I recommend the following two stations as they have the most buses making daily trips to Suzhou:
- South Long-distance Bus Station (长途南站 Chángtú Nán Zhàn): Accessible from subway lines 1 and 3, there are buses going to Suzhou almost every 30 minutes from 6:45 am to 5:25 pm.
- Hongqiao West Long-distance Bus Station (虹桥长途西站 ; Hóngqiáo Chángtú Xīzhàn): located next to the train station at Hongqiao Airport, buses to Suzhou run every 1.5 to 2 hours from 11:00 am to 9:30 pm.
Should you also want to take a bus back to Shanghai from Suzhou, I suggest taking a bus from the South Station (苏州汽车南站 Sūzhōu Qìchē Nánzhàn). South Station in Suzhou is closest to all the touristy areas and has buses running almost every 2-3 hours from 7:00 am to 6:00 pm.
But again, taking a bus pales in comparison to the high-speed train as it is both lengthy and more expensive.
Final Thoughts: Travel from Shanghai to Suzhou
As I shared above, my advice for traveling from Shanghai to Suzhou is to take the high-speed train. It’s easy, fast, and the cheapest option. It takes less than half an hour to make the trip, so you honestly need a good reason not to take the high-speed train!
Once you’ve booked all your transportation for your trip to China, make sure you do your research on travel insurance, especially for China. Read through my 9 reasons to consider travel insurance for China.
Have you traveled between Shanghai and Suzhou before? What was your experience and what would you recommend?