A popular way of getting around Shanghai is to take a taxi. There are more than 70.000 taxis (May 2011) and more are put into the streets every month. Not all taxis are real, there are fake ones out there as well as privately owned taxis where the service usually lacks in comparison to the larger companies. I will try to give as much information as possible about what to avoid as well as Chinese preference. I did a quick poll on the internet and more than a hundred thousand Shanghainese responded to the question regarding their preference if they could always choose a specific company.
I did not ask about the Shanghai Expo Taxis (Volkswagen Touran and Buick Lacrosse Hybrid) as they're pretty new on the scene. In my experience these taxis are very clean, very comfortable, the drivers speak a little English and the drivers are pretty good.
Depending on where you live you may find other taxi companies; Zhang Jiang area has a company with orange taxis, Qing Pu has one which is dark green. These are smaller companies compared to the other ones mentioned above.
Keep on waving when you try to flag down a taxi. Many of the drivers don't see that well and are partially sleeping. They put a lot of attention on the street and may often drive by if you think they may have spotted you but they actually didn't.
Avoid flagging down a taxi at corners. Usually the taxis won't stop because they can get fined if they do.
If there's a crowd you should place yourself 3-5 meters away from the crowd (right hand side in the driving direction). When there's a crowd you will see over and over again that one person will open the front door and another one the rear door. Then next thing is that they will start arguing of which the driver doesn't want to partake.
Go to large restaurants. Many large restaurants have taxis arrive all the time because people have problems finding a parking spot so they take a taxi. Very often these restaurants are VIP's at a certain taxi company and if they call you'll get your taxi real quick.
Go to hotels. Most hotels have taxis coming in all the time and taxis also prefer to drive by a person on the sidewalk in front of the hotel and go straight for the main entrance taxi stop.
A taxi driver is not allowed to accept tips! Yes, you read it right it's forbidden.
A taxi driver can't deny a ride, even using an excuse like "I don't know where that is" or "I only accept long distance" is unacceptable. The taxi driver will usually use the term "Juzai" ( 拒载 ). If this happens you just write down the taxi driver ID (in the front window with a picture) and call 962000 (Shanghai Taxi Authorities). You can also use this number if you have other complaints.
A taxi driver can't refuse payment with the Public Transportation Card. If he does refuse you have the right to decline payment.
If the taxi driver smokes or talks on the phone while driving, without asking you for permission, you can refuse to pay the fare for the ride. You will have to pay the startup fee though!
Avoid driving in a taxi without the meter running. This could get you into trouble in case of an accident. Many drivers turn off the meter if they drive the wrong way or get lost, this is actually not allowed. The driver has to keep the meter running and give you a discount instead.
The taxi driver should give you the receipt after payment. This receipt can be very valuable in case you forget something in the taxi this would be the only way to locate the actual taxi you were in.
In the daytime, the price is RMB 12 for the first three kilometers (1.9 miles), an additional charge of RMB 2.4 for every succeeding kilometer within 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) and RMB 3.6 for every succeeding kilometer after 10 kilometers.
At night from 23:00 to 5:00 the next morning, the taxi fare is RMB 15 for the first three kilometers, an additional charge of RMB 3.1 for every succeeding kilometer within 10 kilometers and RMB 4.1 for every succeeding kilometer after 10 kilometers.
There may be a hike in the fares as of June 2011. This includes the startup fare be increased to RMB 15 during daytime and RMB 18 during the night.
Bigger or luxurious car
If there are more than three passengers, you can phone Dazhong's call center (96822) to book a bigger taxi, these cars can accommodate up to seven passengers in the largest taxis. The fare are the same as ordinary cabs.
If you have more than 10 passengers, you need to book a mini-bus. This service is offered by Jin Jiang Taxi and their hotline is 96961. The supply of mini-buses is limited, so you should make a reservation as early as possible.
Bus and coach
If you need to rent a coach or bus you can call Ba Shi Taxi at 6384 1890 or 5633 8484 or Da Zhong Taxi at 6317-9190. Both companies can provide a variety of buses with 10 to 50 seats. Buses are charged on a daily basis rather than metered including a set number of kilometers. If you exceed the set range you have to pay per excess kilometer. Fares range from 500 yuan a day to more than 1,000 yuan a day.
If you are planning to move, you can call Da Shong's hotline at 96811 or Qiang Sheng's hotline at 6258 0000 to book a van. Most common van sizes are 0.6 ton and 0.9 ton!
You can identify a real taxi by its plate. All plates in Shanghai look similar to this 沪A-X1234. The first character identifies the plate as being from Shanghai (沪).
The third character, the one after the little dot, that have been reserved for taxis are:
X is a special plate and is used to identify the private taxis, which usually have poor service compared to the rest. Of the X taxis you have two groups A-X and B-X where B-X is the worst one of the two. The taxi drivers with the X plates can do what they want as there is no authority to control them as such. They're all private drivers and each driver owns his car where as the larger companies "rent" out their cars to the drivers at a daily rate.
As most of you probably know, there are tons of illegal taxis all over Shanghai. Here is how you can identify them.