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Located roughly 60 miles from Shanghai and entrenched as one of China’s key economic centres, Suzhou is an energetic, enterprising city bridging with aplomb a long and distinguished history with its modern-day status as a global business boomtown.

Nicknamed the “Venice of the East” due to the many scenic canals and bridges crisscrossing the old city, Suzhou has roots as a capital of Chinese industry dating back thousands of years, to the Tang Dynasty, when it was a leading silk manufacturer. Silk production continues today, alongside thriving commercial developments centred in the Suzhou Industrial Park and Suzhou New District.

It’s not all about business here, however. Suzhou’s lovely classical gardens carry UNESCO World Heritage Site status and are the city’s top attractions. Serene temples and impressive pagodas dot the atmospheric old city. Naturally, this is a perfect place to shop for exquisite silks and textiles, too.

Indeed, whether visiting for business or pleasure, visitors will find plenty of appeal in vibrant Suzhou. 

Getting Around

There are no airports in Suzhou, so most travellers fly into either Shanghai or Hangzhou, then take a high-speed bullet train (fastest), regular train, or long-distance express bus to Suzhou.

The 2012 debut of the metro system greatly enhanced Suzhou’s public transportation, which was previously limited to buses. When it’s completed, the metro will effectively link all of the city’s major points of tourist and commercial interest.

Taxis are readily available in the city centre, as well, and are a cheap, useful means of getting around town, just as long as you have your destination’s name available in Chinese—drivers do not speak English. Bicycling is a pleasant way to tour the old city, too.

By Metro Train

Launched in 2012, Suzhou Rail Transit is one of the fastest, easiest, and most cost-effective ways of getting around town. It’ll become even more so in a few years, as a number of additional lines that are planned or already under construction are expected to be operational by 2020. Two lines that include stops in key commercial areas are currently in service: Line 1 loosely runs east and west, and Line 2 north and south.

Fares, which are calculated by distance travelled, range from ¥2 to ¥7 (US$0.30 to $1). Ticketing machines are located near the station entrances, or visitors can use a pre-paid Suzhou Tong card. English-language signage is provided throughout the metro stations.

By Taxi

Metered taxis roam the streets of Suzhou in abundance, except when it’s raining, during rush hours, and on public holidays, when it can be impossible to find one that’s unoccupied. Available cars have green-lit Chinese characters on the dash. Fares start at just ¥10 (US$1.50) and increase by around ¥3 (US$0.40) every kilometre after the first three kilometres.

Overall, taxis are a quick way to travel in and around Suzhou, though drivers speak very little English, if any, so it’s essential to be prepared. Have your destination written down or loaded on your phone in Chinese to show the driver, and always carry your Ascott residence’s business card, which includes the Chinese-language address for the return journey.

Tips & Articles

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Suzhou Travel Advice for First-Time Visitors

Visit Suzhou's classical Chinese gardens with World Heritage status

Suzhou’s Must-See UNESCO Gardens

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Suzhou Shopping Cheat Sheet

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