A number of people have been calling me and writing, looking for tips on how to get the most out of their visit to the Shanghai EXPO. While I'm reluctant to put everything down in writing, (especially how to avoid some line-ups) here are a few suggestions:
1. I would try and spend a minimum of three days and evenings at the fair. You can buy a three day pass, but if you are 60 or older, it's less expensive to buy special tickets on a daily basis. Admission is not expensive by North American standards.... 160 RMB to get in (about $23)...or 100 RMB if you're a senior.
2. When you arrive, they'll give you an English map. But try and buy an English guide book too. Unfortunately, they may only be available at one Xinshui bookstore, on a lower level of the large complex next to the China Pavilion. It is very useful and gives you a few paragraphs about each pavilion.
3. The biggest challenge is the line-ups for the popular pavilions. One way to deal with this is to avoid these pavilions, and go to those that don't have line-ups...there are many. I recommend the five theme pavilions. Often there were no line-ups for these, especially around dinner time. You can also reserve to go into these. Look for the signs pointing to the 'reservation booths' near the main entrances. Some hotels can also arrange for VIP entry into some pavilions. Check this out when you are booking your hotel.
4. In addition to the five Theme Pavilions, I strongly recommend Spain, Germany, France and Saudi Arabia. You must go to Canada...tell them you are Canadian and you can advance to near the front of the line. You must also go to Vancouver, but there will not likely be any line-up.
5. If you are a an architect/planner/developer type, also check out the Best Urban Practices section of the fair...it's off in a corner, but well worth a visit.
6. Be prepared for a lot of walking. The site is on two sides of the river and 7 1/2 times the size of the EXPO 86 site. You can also move around by electric/hydrogen buses which travel on various routes through the site, including under the river.
The site is divided into 5 zones, and after getting an overview (perhaps by taking bus rides around the site) consider staying in only one or two zones each day. You can also take a ferry across (recommended) and a subway...a good idea at the end of the day, since it may connect to a subway line you need to get back to your hotel...check this out. (I started to take ibuprofen with me to the fair, to help get me through the last few hours each day.)
7. Be prepared for lots of pushing and lots of noise. Also you may be asked to have your picture taken with people, especially those from the countryside who have never seen a white person before. I found it often got very hot in the day, but quite cool in the evenings. A small umbrella for the sun is not such a dumb idea, although there are lots of shady spots around the site. And a sweater for the evening.
8. I wish I had brought a neck chain for sunglasses, since I was constantly putting them on and taking them off as I went in and out of pavilions. Take lots of memory cards for your camera, if you are not downloading photos daily, and a spare charged battery...I predict you'll want to take a lot of photos! Video is worthwhile too.
9. In terms of getting to and from the EXPO grounds, and getting around Shanghai, the subway is often crowded but easy to use. English is used throughout the system. Taxis are very inexpensive, but the drivers don't speak any English. Always have the destination written out in Chinese (although always give the driver the address before getting into the cab, in case he can't read. When he (or she) nods, you can get in.) You can buy a 'smart card' at a subway station which you pre-pay, (say 100 to 200 RMB, depending on how long you'll be there) which can be used for the subway, buses and even taxis. These are extremely handy. You can cash them in when you leave, or bring them back and give them to someone else heading over.
Also, (and this may sound silly) be very careful crossing the street. At many intersections, there are crossing guards, but often vehicles, including buses, run through red lights. Crossing at a pedestrian crosswalk without signals can also be a terrifying experience. I did it twice. That was enough!
10. Be prepared for a lot of security. You will be frisked by pretty young Chinese girls every time you enter the site...your possessions have to go through an X-ray on the subway. Also, if you need to change money, it can be an ordeal...be prepared to wait at banks.....take $US and a passport. You'll need cash since some local businesses do not accept North American credit cards, although most do.... I generally used a cash machine card from HSBC...no fees, other than the exchange rate. If you are not an HSBC customer consider opening an account. If you want to move all your banking over to HSBC, I'll give you the name of a wonderful Premier Private Banking Account Manager in Vancouver!
I hope this is helpful...if you have some questions, please let me know and I'll add more information.