/ / / / / / /

Jaunted Braves The Shanghai World Expo

Where: Shanghai, China
June 9, 2010 at 9:35 AM | by | ()

When we arrived in Shanghai last week we told anyone that would listen that we planned on spending some time over at the World Expo. Immediately, everyone we told had the same ominous look on their face as they wished us the best of luck. Their grim look was followed by stories of heat exhaustion, endless queues, pavilion confusion, and yes, even folks faking disabilities to bypass long lines.

Could it be that bad? Worse, our Shanghainese friends promised. Don't even bother showing up on a weekend, if you go on a weekday get there at 7 AM—2 hours before opening—and prepare yourself for pushing, possible line cutting, and more. Then run to try and get a fast pass, or to make reservations at a couple of the most popular pavilions—China & Saudi Arabia for instance.

Could it really be this nuts? We had just read how the daily visitor numbers for the Expo were lower than expected. However, our contacts informed us that every family in Shanghai had been gifted one ticket to the Expo, and maybe the visitor numbers we heard were tourist numbers, not local.

Ok, so we needed to devise a plan that involved checking out the Expo without losing our sanity. That meant, avoiding the morning "running of the expo".

The World Expo site hours are from 9:00 AM to Midnight. And the pavilion hours are from 9:30 AM to 10:30 PM. You canít get in after 9pm, and most pavilions donít allow entry after 10pm. On any day (not counting the first week of October—a national holiday in China), night session tickets can be purchased from 5pm for 90RMB. So the most cost effective approach, also kept the serenity odds in our favor? Done. Night session it was.

The Expo doesnít just involve endless pavilion lines, the site features over 100 cultural performances and activities daily, plus incredible sights and people watching opportunities, so we figured even if the pavilion thing didn't go our way we would still have plenty to do. With a plan in place it was time to execute, here is how we did it, for better or worse:

Transportation To The Expo
The Expo takes place on both the Pudong and Puxi sides of the Huangpu River. We took a taxi over to the Pudong side and got dropped off just outside the main entrance, close to the Chinese Pavilion. The ticket line at 5 PM was non existent, and the same goes for security, but once we got inside it was a different story.

Pavilion Strategy
Quickly we figured out that by entering at 5 PM we didn't have a realistic shot at snagging a reservation at any of the most popular pavilions. We were left with two options. 1) Race around to as many non popular pavilions as we could (ie Jordan, Pakistan, etc) because the least popular pavilions would not have long lines. 2) Pick one popular pavilion and see if we could get inside (remember we had 5 hours total) 3) Forget about going inside the pavilions and just enjoy walking around the grounds and seeing the outside of as many pavilions as we came across.

At first we tried strategy #2. However, once we were quoted a five-hour wait at the Saudi pavilion and a two-hour wait at the Australian pavilion, we bailed on strategy #2 and settled in on #3—walk around the grounds seeing as much as we could.

What would have happened if we would have gone into as many minimal line pavilions as we could? According to some folks we talked to the next day who did just that, mass confusion. These folks told us they got into 10 pavilions during their day visit to the Expo, all second and third tier pavilions. However, at some of the third tier pavilions they said the inside was confusing and sad. Many of these pavilions were virtually empty, while others were downright confusing.

Avoiding the pavilion lines allowed us to take in most of the awesome pavilions from the outside, cover most of the Expo grounds, see some performances, and do plenty of people watching.

Transportation From The Expo:
We hopped on the L6 Ferry terminal behind the African Pavilion. This took us to the L5 Ferry terminal on the Puxi side of the river, where we checked out the west side of the expo. While there are no country pavilions on this side, there are plenty of things to check out: Chinese Aviation, Space, Coca-Cola, and Cisco all have pavilions here. Furthermore, you will find the crowds much more laid back on this side of the river.

Bottom Line
If you only have time to attend one Expo session, ask yourself the following questions: Are you part of a tour group? (much better chance you will secure pavilion reservations). Do you want to spring for a VIP package (pavilions guaranteed)? Do you want to spend your entire day/night waiting in line for one or two popular pavilions? Would you be ok seeing as many third tier pavilions as you could pack into a day? What are your thoughts on spending the evening walking around the Expo and seeing as much as possible, with few crowds, but not getting into any pavilions?

Obviously those are not your only choices, but a decent set of parameters to start with. If you attend the Expo and have thoughts, tips, stories, let us know in the comments below. Oh, and good luck!

World Expo Resources
*Official Expo Web Site
*VIP Expo Packages
*How to get into the pavilions guide
*Shanghaiist Expo Tag

Video via Shanghaiist

Archived Comments:

can't decide

which pavillion design i like the best--spain or saudi arabia. however, i am more concerned about what was in them. was there food? or was it just full of cultural displays? also, i would consider this a World Expo FAIL. if the purpose of the expo is to get everyone to see different cultures but then people have to fight to get in there, what's the point?


Expo was a nightmare. People constantly pushing you and trying to get by you in lines. If the numbers are below what they had forcasted then I can't imagine what it would have been like if the full amount of people were there. Poor planning by pavilions in moving very few people an hour and causing very long line ups. An experience I don't care to repeat and I would not encourage anyone to go.