The best massages under 100RMB in Shanghai

Brilliant budget massages to help you unwind for less

88RMB is all you need for a vigorous massage at Yilin Blindman Massage Centre 

In a city of spas, where to go for the best value for money? Opt for tuina, or Chinese-style massage, and you can relax and rejuvenate for under a hundred kuai – Time Out recommends some of the best.

Yitong Zudao

78RMB an hour

Located right next to a petrol station in Zhabei, the Luochuan Lu branch of Yitong Zudao is a cinch to find – none of that hole-in-the-wall nonsense – albeit a distance from central Shanghai. The reception area is clean and staff are exceptionally friendly. We choose the 78RMB full body massage and are led through a mini-labyrinth of private and shared rooms to our own space, which comes with a shower and slippers. Before the massage, we’re asked to choose a tea – pu’er, green or chrysanthemum – which arrives together with a plate of freshly-cut watermelon. The service is a step up from many city-centre massage places at a similar price.

Because of how large the interior of Yitong Zudao is, the rooms are well protected from any traffic noises outside, making for a pleasantly tranquil environment. Tuina is an oilfree therapy (and thus, you keep your clothes on) complete with kneading, knot-undoing and all manner of stress-relieving techniques that can often be more painful than relaxing. This one is relatively gentle, save for a few moments involving some elbow action. Let your masseuse know what kind of pressure you’re comfortable with, or what body parts are particularly tense for you, and he or she will take extra care to stretch those out.

The massage is thorough, covering back, legs, arms, and even head, but you can also opt to have just a full-hour back massage. Once the massage ends, the staff don’t hurry to chase you out of the room, so you can take your time savouring your complementary tea and fruit, and feeling the day’s tension melt off your shoulders.

Yitong Zudao is at 733 Luochuan Zhong Lu, near Gonghexin Lu. See full address details.

Ganzhi Blindman Massage

88RMB an hour

With nine locations across Shanghai – all labyrinths manned by skilled blind or partially sighted therapists – the Ganzhi massage chain is one you can’t go wrong with. We visit the Beijing Xi Lu spa in Jingan, and while it might look a little disreputable from outside (the illuminated sign is missing several letters), it has an undeniable buzz which hits you as soon as you’re inside. It’s deceptively large, with rooms weaving back from the road, but despite its size the centre is packed and there’s a queue for massages.

The decor is basic but clean and functional, with an impressively large range of treatments available at very reasonable prices.

Choose the tuina and you will be shown into a room of ten beds. The communal-style treatment is part of the fun here, especially if you go in the evening when the room is full of chat and laughter between the massage therapists. Go with a friend and enjoy hearing their yelps as the therapist works through all those painful knotted muscles that only tuina seems able to find as the therapist works to unblock qi, or energy flow.

The massage is one of the very best we’ve tried, ranging from head to toe and relentlessly thorough on our shoulders and neck, where we ask them to focus. After a sheet is placed over you, the therapists will focus on any particular area if you have pain, and will merrily chat to you or leave you in peace depending on preference. Afterwards there are tables to relax at, or mats on the floor, and no rush to leave. This should be a top choice if your body feels like it needs taking apart and putting back together again.

Ganzhi Blind Massage is at 1065 Beijing Xi Lu, near Jiangning Lu. See full address details.

Yilin Blindman Massage Centre

88RMB an hour

Yilin Blind People Massage Centre in Xuhui district is clean and serviceable, easy to find and excellent value for money. The treatments offered here are fairly limited, and this isn’t the place for fancy frills with your massage. Focus is on the health aspects, and along with the tuina massages, they offer cupping and guasha (scraping). Tell your masseuse which area of your body you have a problem with and they will vigorously apply themselves.

As with most blind massage places, clothes remain on (although they’ll supply you with pyjamas here) and you don’t get a private room, but there are only three people to a room here, which reduces the likelihood of a neighbour spoiling your experience by shouting down the phone or snoring throughout.

The tuina at Yilin is a thorough massage which goes from shoulders and back to legs and even head. As expected, it’s a little sharp at points; something involving elbows was done to our shoulder blades that forced a stifled yelp out of us. But overall, not too bad at all on the pain front, and our muscles afterwards are looser and less stiff. A no-nonsense massage that’s great value for money.

Yilin Blindman Massage Centre is at 100 Nandan Dong Lu, near Tianyaoqiao Lu. See full address details.

Bamboo Leaf Retreat

100RMB an hour, Mon- Fri 2-4pm

This spa is part of a yoga complex in the One Lujiazui building, cunningly hidden in the Pudong financial district. It’s a bit of a mission to find (helpfully there are two intersections between the Lujiazui Ring Road and Yincheng Lu), but make sure you head east from the IFC and you’ll be fine. The spa is normally more expensive, but a sneaky way to get a cheap massage is to turn up between 2-4pm on Monday- Thursday, when there is a special one-time 100RMB deal for a one hour back massage, which is exactly what we did.

There is, of course, a reason why it’s cheap at those times, and when we turn up it’s absolutely deserted – in fact we’re fairly sure the receptionist was sleeping. But despite wondering whether we’d made a mistake by coming here, we soon discover that the redeeming quality of Bamboo Leaf is their absolutely top-notch massages. It’s among the best we’ve tried (including at many of the more glamorous spas in town), and the therapist is extremely thorough, kneading our muscles in all the right places in all the right ways.

Other benefits of Bamboo Leaf include – like Yilin – being given pyjamas to change into, and although you’re shown into a communal room, at this time of day, odds are you’ll have it to yourself anyway. Fortunately our masseuse is not only excellent at his job, he also has a personality to compensate for the eerily empty spa. The Harbin native chats away throughout about his penchant for foreign films (he doesn’t speak English so you end up with a Chinese lesson as well – quite literally more than you bargained for).

It’s a slightly odd way to get a budget massage, but if you live or work near the Lujiazui area and are in need of a knead, it’s going to be one of the cheapest options you can find of this quality. If you choose to sign up for more, the price only rises slightly if you buy in bulk; some deals also include use of the yoga studio.

Bamboo Leaf Retreat is at 68 Yincheng Zhong Lu, near Lujiazui Ring Road. See full address details.