By Lauren Itzla
This glitzy city stuns with world-class nightlife, but as Shanghai’s social scene rises higher, so do the drink and cover prices. It’s normal to experience sticker shock at the bar when the price for a drink is 150 rmb (and you’ve already spent 200 rmb on the cover charge). Adding insult to injury, a big frosty bottle of Tsingtao goes for five and change at the corner store. So whether you’re a student, an English teacher, or just don’t like to part ways with your hard-earned renminbi, don’t fret: there are many ways to drink on the cheap in Shanghai.
Convenience Store “Bars”
Family Mart (or any other chain store) "bars" are tucked away in pockets around the city, distinguished by the group of tables arranged outside the shop. The concept is simple: buy your own liquor from the store and drink it at the tables provided outside. These are great places to relax with friends on a warm night, and there’s no shame in drinking outside of a 7-11 in China.
Dive bars are a great option if you are a young person (or young enough to enjoy smoky, crowded rooms full of rowdy people hyped up on 25 rmb buckets of vodka-redbulls). Dives are a cool way to ‘rough it’ in Shanghai, surrounded by hoards of foreigners in a similar financial situation. Perry’s, Helen’s and Windows bars are all great venues to hit up the party scene if you’re on a budget. And hey, they can actually be a lot of fun. Spontaneous dancing, anyone?
Identical in price point to ‘Family Mart bar’ drinking, rooftop gatherings offer a cool and more private alternative. The key to rooftop drinking is to gain access to your building’s roof, or make friends with those who have access to theirs. Bring your own booze and traverse whatever dark corridors and ladders are necessary to get to the coveted roof. Once there, enjoy breathtaking views from impressive heights, but don’t go too close to the edge - you’ve been drinking!
If you’ve lost all of your roof-flaunting friends, can't find those elusive corner store "bars", or just don't care, street drinking is a great option. There are lots of little parks to tuck into if you start feeling judged by passersby. Public drinking in China is of questionable legality, but is publicly accepted as long as you are respectful and quiet. So this is probably not the best option if you’ve already had a long night at Perry’s.