Looking around the Blogosphere I’ve been a little surprised, it seems like very few people have braved the crowds and surrealism of the Shanghai World Expo yet.  Seriously, what the heck?  It’s a once in a life time opportunity to see giant koosh balls, big green apples, and tooth paste wearing a sheriff uniform.  I have heard all sorts of rumours of out of control crowds, no food, no shade, no transportation, boring pavilions, and tons more scare talk.  Well fear not dear bloggees, I’m hear to tell you it’s not that bad.  I’ve had the pleasure of using two-thirds of my three day pass so far on May 8th and 22nd, and I’ve learned a few lessons that I’d like to pass on to anyone who’d like to read them in order to better enjoy your Expo time.

LESSON #1:  Mental Preparation

Anyone who has spent more than 25 consecutive seconds in China has learned one very important thing:  it’s crowded.

The Shanghai Expo is nothing if not an affirmation of that fact.  Conservative estimates anticipate 70 million people attending the expo over the 184 days, which puts the average traffic at 390 435 people per day.  All of this on a 5.28 square kilometre, or 72052 people per square kilometre, making its density over 20 000 times my home country.

Sure that probably isn’t saying anything that you don’t know, but what I’m saying is that you need to be ready to face a crowd.  Really, get ready to deal with all of it as it can be very frustrating.  Also, given that crowd etiquette is quite different in China than it is in the West, you need to be ready for that.  Get ready to be shoved, for people to cut in line, duck under the barriers, and to take a few elbows to the side.  If you’re in a cranky mood, I suggest waiting for another day.

LESSON #2:  Think Two Steps Ahead

Sure the crowds are annoying, but they certainly are predictable.  There are some “big hit” pavilions like Japan, the US, and Australia that everyone will want to go to first, so try to plan those visits accordingly.  Also, it seems like everyone and their mother wants to eat lunch at 12:30, so either go early or late to avoid that problem, or better yet eat at the restaurants that are attached to some of the pavilion as they tend to not be as crowded.  I’d highly recommend the food at the Sri Lankan pavilion!  So try to plan a visit there around meal time.

LESSON #3:  6 > 8

On the two days that I have been so far I’ve used two different entrances, Gate 6, which is near the Yaohua Road Metro station, and Gate 8 near the Houtan Road Station.  Gate 6 is easy to get to, not very crowded and enters in a good location, right along the Expo Axis.  On the other hand, this is what awaits you at Gate 8.

Not Pictured: The half of the crowd that was behind me

I’m sure the other Gates have their pros and cons, which I’d love to hear about in the comment section, but for my money Gate 6 is where it’s at right now.

LESSON #4:  Multi-day Tickets Exist for a Reason

It’s important to realize what you will and won’t be able to do in a day.  The Expo grounds are HUGE and the liens can be massive, so don’t go into the day thinking that you will see the whole thing.  Choose a few big name pavilions that you want to see and several smaller ones.  Otherwise you’ll end up frustrated and dissatisfied.  Invest in a 3 or 7 day pass and make plans for the different days.

INTERMISSION:  Thoughts on a few Pavilions

"Better City, Better Life", or Alien Invaders? You decide!

Having learned the latest lesson, obviously it’s important to state that I haven’t seen every pavilion.  So here is the list (to the best of my memory) of the ones that I stopped in at:

Day 1: Australia, Canada, United States, African Joint Pavilion, Norway, Ukraine, Iceland, North Korea, Iran, Morocco, and Qatar.

Day 2: United Kingdom, Croatia, Romania, South Africa, Urbanian Theme Pavilion, Sri Lanka, Oman, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Lebanon, and India.

With my favourites being, in no particular order:  Australia, Morocco, United Kingdom, Sri Lanka, and United States.  With special mention going to the Urbanian Theme Pavilion which is all kinds of awesome and gets the highest of recommendation.  Also the North Korean pavilion is worth your time, but not because it’s objectively good.  In fact there isn’t much there other than a painted on rainbow and a sign that says “A Paradise of the Workers”…sadly, I’m not kidding.

If this isn't part of the future, I'm out!

LESSON #5:  The Early Bird Gets the Worm

The Theme Pavilion and The China Pavilion need reservations to get into.  There are reservation machines all over the park, but you need to go early to get one.  Yesterday we got to the machine shortly after 10 (one hour into the parks opening) and there were no more opening for the China Pavilion.  Instead, we decided to go to the Urbanian Pavilion, which as I mentioned above rocks.  Afterward, we wanted to get into the Pavilion of the Future or the Pavilion of Urban Planet but they were already fully reserved.  So get to those machines early and get a plan for those pavilions or you won’t be able to see them.

LESSON #6:  The Elevated Walkway is Your Friend!

One of the more intelligent features of the park layout is the Elevated Walkway.  It connects the main areas around the park and keeps you above the crowds, hawkers, and other distractions.  It can greatly decrease the time spent getting between the different pavilions, and gets you out of those pesky crowds, giving you some good views in the process.  Also, it is vary helpful as shade and rain cover if you are down below.

LESSON #7:  All that Practical Stuff

Stuff that seems obvious but may not be:

  • Bring sunscreen
  • It’s China, it sometimes rains, be prepared
  • The more snacks you bring the less you will have to spend on food
  • You can’t bring water into the park, but there are water fountains everywhere
  • If you plan on walking bring sensible shoes
  • The bus is free and well marked
  • The toilets are clean and abundant
  • If you buy the “Expo Passport” you will end up massively increasing the amount of time you wait in line.
  • Charge your camera battery the night before

LESSON #8:  Stay Positive

Sure it’s crowded, sure it can be expensive, but this is a once in a lifetime experience.  World Expos do not happen every day, and they sure aren’t very frequent in China.  Like everything else in this country, it can be so frustrating but so very worth it.

Would anyone in the class like to contribute anything that I missed?


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  2. Hi Glen,

    I see that we have an Expo fan here! You’re right, it’s not that bad. And I agree with you on the Theme Pavilions. They’re my favorite, favorite.

  3. Glen, best blog entry I’ve seen on the expo – great advice. A couple of tips I’ve heard about some pavilions (at Canada for sure) bring your passport to confirm that you are a citizen of that country and you get moved over to the fast track line.

    • …you mean I waiting in line to watch some bad movies for nothing???? I thought about trying to show my passport to cut in line, but that felt too un-Canadian for my tastes, so I just thought apologized and talked about hockey instead.

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  5. Great post, and some good tips! I’ll be going myself probably in late August, so to the list of frustrations I’ll experience I’ll have to add unbearable heat. Yippee! Regardless, everyone back home is totally jealous of me. I can’t wait to check out the North Korean pavilion! Sounds like, erm, paradise.

  6. Yo Glen!, good post. I’m headed to the expo on July 2nd, but wondered where can I buy tickets?? I’m going to be traveling all over China from the 14th, do they sell them only in Shanghai? hope you reply, I’m really clueless, I probably would buy the 3 day pass, email me at victorjprado@gmail.com if ya can. Cheers. Victor

    • Hey Victor, sorry to be so late getting back, I didn’t notice the comment until recently…sorry 🙂

      The best bet I think would be with travel agents in Shanghai. They will charge you a small fee, but I think it’ll be well worth it. I called the hotline before the opening and had them delivered, but I’ve heard of other people who have since dealt with travel agents and had no problems. I don’t know any good ones off the top of my head though, sorry.

  7. Dear Readers:

    I am wondering if any of you out there have been to the Expo and would like to talk about it. I would really like the next edition of my monthly feature “Fact or Fiction” to centre around the Expo but I need a guest. If any of you are interested it lending me and the site a hand drop me a comment and I’ll let you know the rest.



  8. I can not agree with you more. I have just returned from there. The trip was not that easy, but worthy. I have been in the park for twice already. One time for working which hadnt have enough time to explore. And this time just for touring. I went in park at Gate six as it is the nearest one by where i lived. It was crowded and noisy, but the pavilions are nice and well designed. If you havent been there so far. Who are you waiting for? Just get your shoes and go !

  9. “You can’t bring water into the park, but there are water fountains everywhere ”
    Haha, is the water in the fountains drinkable? i’m a chinese, but havn’t been to the World Expo. It’s too hot recently.

    • Yeah the water is great!!! It tastes like regular old drinking water. I’ve had several litres of it and had no problem, and neither have any of my friends.

  10. We just came back from the Shanghai Expo.
    It is not worth going as there was too many people lining up for the Pavilions. The popular ones like USA and China were impossible to get in. We probably seen about at least 20% of the whole Expo. It was a let down.
    They set it up the Expo very poorly. They should set a time limit on the time you can spent inside the pavilions and that would give chances for more people to see the pavilions.

    Combine with the heat and waiting in line for a long time, it is not worth it.

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