1. Tips and Advice for Planning a Trip to Shanghai Disneyland

    As you have probably already guessed if you’ve read my blog, I love visiting all the Disney parks around the world and Shanghai Disneyland which opened in June 2016 is no exception. Since my first visit during opening week and my most recent visit in November 2017, many people have asked me various questions about the park so I have decided to list all the tips, advice and handy need-to-know information I can think of in one place. I really hope that it will help anyone who is planning a trip to Shanghai.

    You Will Need a Visa to Visit China

    Most visitors to Mainland China will require a tourist visa to enter the country for which you will have to visit the Chinese Embassy or Visa Centre where you live. However if you are transferring onto a third country (and not flying straight back to the same country you arrived from) and hold a ticket for a confirmed onward flight, you will be eligible for the 144 Hour Visa Free transfer scheme if you hold a passport from a participating country.

    For example, you can use the 144 Hour Visa Free Transfer to fly from London – Shanghai – Hong Kong – London, London – Tokyo – Shanghai – London or even London – Hong Kong – Shanghai – Tokyo – London so you could easily be able to combine your visit to Shanghai Disneyland with a trip to Hong Kong Disneyland and Tokyo Disney Resort.

    When to Visit Shanghai Disneyland

    In the summer months, Shanghai will be incredibly hot, humid and uncomfortable whilst in the winter, it can get bitterly cold. The weather in Spring and Autumn is usually mild making them the most comfortable times of the year to visit. Make sure to avoid weekends, public holidays and especially the Chinese New Year period as the park will be extremely crowded. You can also check the ticket prices as Shanghai Disneyland has different levels of pricing which will give you a good idea of when the park is expected to be busy.

    How to Get to Shanghai Disneyland

    Shanghai Disneyland is located in the Shanghai International Tourism and Resorts Zone in Pudong at the very end of Line 11 of the quick and efficient Shanghai Metro. The travel time from People’s Square in the centre of Shanghai to Disney Resort station is 45 minutes with one line change at Oriental Sports Center.

    If you are planning on using the Metro a lot whilst you are in Shanghai, it is worth buying a Shanghai Public Transportation Card to make your life easier. If you do not have a card then it is recommended to buy your return Metro ticket when you arrive at Disney Resort station so you can avoid the long lines after the park closes. Also make sure that you know what time the last train leaves Disney Resort station so you do not miss it.

    If travelling from Pudong Aiport straight to Shanghai Disney Resort, a taxi is the quickest and easiest option – it should take about 40 minutes and cost roughly £10/US$15. If using taxis during your stay, make sure to take a card from your hotel with both the hotel name and address written in Mandarin on it as most taxi drivers do not understand any English. It is a good idea to always have one of these cards with you as you never know when you might need it.

    One handy need-to-know is that Shanghai Disney Resort is not marked on Google Maps but you can find it by clicking here.

    Where to Stay at Shanghai Disneyland

    If you want to stay as close to the parks as you can, there are two onsite hotels – the Shanghai Disneyland Hotel and the Toy Story Hotel. If staying at these two hotels, you can take advantage of early entrance to the park each morning through a separate entrance in Disneytown therefore avoiding the crowds at park opening which is a huge advantage. The full list of benefits from staying at one of the two on site hotels is listed on the Shanghai Disney Resort website.

    There are also hotels situated a short distance from the park. The Courtyard Marriott Shanghai International Tourism and Resorts Zone and the Novotel Clover are both located close to Kangxin Highway Metro Station on Line 11 of the Shanghai Metro which is only one stop from Disney Resort station.

    It is also completely possible to stay in the city during your stay as I have done on every trip as the park is easily accessible by the Shanghai Metro or by taxi.

    How Many Days are Needed to Visit Shanghai Disneyland

    I have now visited Shanghai Disneyland four times – each time only for a day and I still have not seen everything the park has to offer. If travelling to Shanghai specifically to visit Disneyland, I would suggest allowing two to three full days to visit the park at a comfortable pace which gives you enough time to do all the rides and attractions, see some of the shows as well as leaving plenty of time to ride Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure again and again – believe me, you will want to! But also make sure to also allow for a day or two in your travel plans to explore Shanghai itself – it’s an amazing and fascinating city to visit.

    Download the Shanghai Disneyland App

    Before you arrive in China, make sure to download the Shanghai Disneyland app and create an account. On the app, you will be able to check wait times for rides and attractions as well as book Fastpasses once you arrive inside the park.

    Buy Your Shanghai Disneyland Tickets Online Before You Arrive

    To save time on the day you visit the park, make sure to purchase your tickets in advance on the Shanghai Disney Resort website. You can do this from a couple of weeks beforehand or as I did on my last visit, the evening before. You can only buy One-Day or Two-Day tickets so you will have to purchase extra tickets if planning on spending three or four days in the park.

    You will need to enter a passport number for each ticket – this is common practice in China. Tickets are date specific but you are able to change the date twice as long as the change is made at least two days in advance of your visit. As soon as I had purchased my ticket each time, I could already see it listed in the “My Tickets” section on the Shanghai Disneyland app on my iPhone.

    You are also able to purchase tickets on the day at the ticket booths which are the same price as buying online – I have done this twice on days when I knew it would be quiet so there would be no long lines.

    Arrive Early at Shanghai Disneyland

    This is something that you will read everywhere and it’s true – if not staying onsite and using the early and separate park entrance benefit, it is best to arrive at Shanghai Disneyland as early as possible. Even if visiting on a quiet day, the queues to get into the park when you arrive can be a sight to behold. On a busy day, I would recommend arriving at least an hour before opening time.

    The first lines you see are for security which although look long, actually move quickly. Security has been stepped up big time in the last year to stop fake merchandise from being brought into the park to be sold – sadly this was happening a lot in the first year the park was open.

    Once through security, you then have to line up again to go through the turnstiles. On my last visit, even though the line was not that long and it was a quiet day for crowds, it took us twenty minutes in this line to get into the park – a top tip is to stop at Starbucks close to the park entrance in Disneytown to get a tea or a coffee to drink whilst you are waiting.

    You Will Need Your Passport to Enter Shanghai Disneyland

    If you have booked your tickets online in advance, you will need to present your passport to one of the Cast Members when you get to the turnstiles at the front of the park. Do not bring a copy of your passport with you as it is a requirement that you carry your actual passport on you at all times when in China. They will enter your passport number into the computer to find your booking, take your photo and then issue your paper ticket. It really is such an easy system to use.

    How to Use the Fastpass System at Shanghai Disneyland

    Shanghai Disneyland offers the Fastpass service for the following attractions:

    Soaring Over the Horizon – Adventure Isle
    Roaring Rapids – Adventure Isle
    Tron Lightcycle Power Run – Tomorrowland
    Buzz Lightyear Planet Rescue – Tomorrowland
    Seven Dwarfs Mine Train – Fantasyland
    The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh – Fantasyland
    Peter Pan’s Flight – Fantasyland

    As soon as you are through the turnstiles, open the Shanghai Disneyland app on your phone and scan the QR code on the back of your paper ticket – you can also link your friends and families tickets so you can book Fastpasses together. It is a good idea to make your first Fastpass reservation as soon as possible once you have entered the park.

    The most popular ride at Shanghai Disneyland is Soaring Over the Horizon and Fastpasses run out quickly so if you want to ride without having to wait in a very long line, it is best to obtain your Fastpass for this attraction as early and as quickly as possible. Once you have your first Fastpass booked, you can then go and ride another attraction – the amazing Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure does not offer Fastpass so head to this attraction early to ride with a short wait.

    Once it is time for your Fastpass reservation, the Cast Member at the ride entrance will scan the QR code on your phone screen and check that the photo that was taken of you when you entered the park which is linked to your ticket matches you before you enter the line. It sounds complicated but it really is not and is a very quick and easy process. This simple fix by matching photos has also stopped all of the Fastpass selling that was happening in Shanghai Disneyland during the first year of park operations.

    If you do not have use of a smartphone, you can obtain paper Fastpass tickets from kiosks located at Guest Services in each land – they are not located by the ride entrances. You will need to press the English button on the machine before selecting the attraction you wish to ride and scanning your ticket. Once again when it is time to ride, your Fastpass will be scanned and the photo linked to your ticket will be checked to ensure it matches you.

    You can obtain a new Fastpass every two hours. You will find it is much easier to use the app to make all your Fastpass reservations as it will save you a lot of walking across the park.

    Shanghai Disneyland also offers the Disney Premier Access Pass which allows you to use the Fastpass line once at each of the above attractions along with Rex’s Racer and Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure. You can buy individual tickets for each attraction or purchase the full set and availability is limited. The Disney Premier Access Pass is available to purchase on the Shanghai Disneyland app once you enter the park and is linked with your entrance ticket.

    Using the Internet at Shanghai Disneyland

    There is free wifi available across the park and in Disneytown. However if you have not been to Mainland China before then you may or may not know about “The Great Firewall of China”. Whilst in the country, you will not be able to access Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, WhatsApp, anything owned by Google as well as news sites from around the world amongst many others. One way to access these websites is to purchase and set up a VPN (Virtual Private Network) before you go. However there is no guarantee that this will work once you arrive in China as they may have blocked them too as I found out on my last visit when my VPN which I had used with no issues on every other visit would not work anymore.

    On my recent trips to China, I have used the international data on my iPhone to access the internet and as my connection was routed back through the UK, I could access all blocked websites. My friends and I have also downloaded the WeChat app which we can use to chat without restrictions as it is not blocked in China.

    The Chinese Language

    Although it is completely possible to enjoy your trip to Shanghai Disneyland without knowing any Mandarin, it is a good idea to learn a few useful words before you go such as Ni Hao (Hello) and Xie Xie (Thank You). All of the rides, attractions and shows are in Mandarin but I found that this does not detract at all from your experience inside the park. Signs and menus are in English as are some announcements and you will be given an English map as you enter the park. Cast Members can speak basic English and some may be better than others but they are all very friendly and will try to help you as much as they can. Inside the park, I found the best English speakers to be located at Guest Services.

    The Chinese Currency

    The currency in China is the Renminbi (RMB) and is also known as the Yuan (CNY) – you might also hear the word Kuai being used as well. You can either take currency with you or exchange once you’re there at your hotel which I’ve always done. Credit Cards can be used at Shanghai Disneyland and in Disneytown but American Express is not accepted.

    Shopping at Shanghai Disneyland and the Package Pick-Up Service

    You’ll inevitably end up in one of the many shops inside the park during your stay. If you do find yourself wanting to purchase everything and not wanting to carry it around with you all day, then you can use the free-of-charge Package Pick-Up service. You can then collect your shopping when you leave the park at the end of the day from the desk located by the park exit. I have used this service on every trip and it is so easy and convenient to use and I’ve never had to wait to pick up my shopping either. Guests staying at the Shanghai Disneyland Hotel and the Toy Story Hotel can also have their shopping delivered to their hotel.

    If you are buying any clothing, some of the shops (World of Disney and Avenue M Arcade) have fitting rooms so you are able to try everything on before you buy it to make sure it fits.

    What to Bring With You to Shanghai Disneyland

    There are a few items to bring with you to Shanghai Disneyland that will make your visit a little better.

    Comfortable Shoes
    Trust me on this one. You will be amazed by the sheer size of Shanghai Disneyland. Most of your day will be spent walking between attractions and as everything is so spread out, prepare to be on your feet a lot! On my very first visit, I walked over fourteen miles in one day.

    An umbrella is essential both for when it rains as well for much needed shade when the sun is out.

    Water Bottle
    Do your bit for the environment and bring your own water bottle as there are numerous drinking water fountains located everywhere in the park – don’t worry as this water is safe to drink. This is invaluable during the summer months when staying hydrated in the hot and humid weather is essential.

    There’s nothing worse than your phone running low on power during the day – especially if taking photos or using the Wifi which both drain your battery incredibly quickly.

    During the summer months, a battery-powered hand held fan will help you to stay cool. It really is a life saver.

    Despite being able to use your credit cards in the numerous shops and restaurants throughout the resort, it is a good idea to have a little cash with you as the smaller snack kiosks located around the park do not accept cards for payment.

    What to Eat at Shanghai Disneyland

    There are numerous restaurants at Shanghai Disneyland all offering a variety of dishes including Chinese, Asian and Western food. A full detailed list with menus can be found on the Shanghai Disney Resort website. All of the restaurants inside the park are Quick Service with the exception of the Royal Banquet Hall located inside the Enchanted Storybook Castle. One restaurant you have to visit (even just to get a cold drink) is Barbossa’s Bounty located in Treasure Cove where you can actually sit and watch the boats on Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure sail by – the detail throughout this whole restaurant is incredible.

    As a vegetarian, I have never had any problem with finding anything to eat at Shanghai Disneyland – in fact, I had a lot more choice there than I did during my last visit to Disneyland Paris when the menu options in the park were incredibly poor and close to non-existent. One of my favourite go-to vegetarian dishes inside the park is the Tomato and Mozzarella Pizza at Pinocchio Village Kitchen in Fantasyland.

    Remy’s Patisserie located at the end of Mickey Avenue is a great place to pick up a snack whilst waiting for the parade or the fireworks – the Mickey shaped donuts are highly Instagrammable! Another must-visit on Mickey Avenue is Il Paperino for Donald Duck-shaped waffles and a look at Donald Duck’s family tree on the wall.

    There are two restaurants at Shanghai Disney Resort which offer Character Dining – Lumiere’s Kitchen at the Shanghai Disneyland Hotel and the Royal Banquet Hall inside the Enchanted Storybook Castle in the park – they are both popular so you making a reservation before you arrive is recommended.

    Take a Break From the Park During the Day in Disneytown

    Disneytown is located right next to the entrance to Shanghai Disneyland and is a great place to take a break from the park during the day. The shops that you can find include the World of Disney, Lego, Build-a-Bear, Pandora, Ugg, Samsonite and Sephora whilst the many restaurants include the Cheesecake Factory, Wolfgang Puck, Toast Box and Starbucks. The full list is on the Shanghai Disney Resort website.

    To get to and from Disneytown you can use the main park entrance or the second entrance located close to the Walt Disney Theatre in Disneytown and between Mickey Avenue and Tomorrowland inside the park – this is the entrance that the hotel guests use at park opening.

    If you truly want peace and quiet for a few minutes, walk along to Wishing Star Lake where you can find many spots to sit down and relax before heading back to the park.

    There are no re-admit handstamps – to get back into the park, you just need to present your paper ticket.

    You will also find the beautiful Walt Disney Theatre in Disneytown – currently home to the Broadway musical Beauty and the Beast.

    Where to Watch the Parade and Fireworks at Shanghai Disneyland

    The daily parade at Shanghai Disneyland is called Mickey’s Storybook Express. As the parade route is the longest at any Disney park in the world, you can get a good spot to watch from even if you leave it quite late – though the moment the parade starts, every available spot will very quickly be taken. As always, if it’s a busy day you will want to save your spot a little earlier. My favourite place to watch the parade from is close to Mickey Avenue so I also have a view of the Enchanted Storybook Castle in the background.

    The parade starts between Toy Story Land and Tomorrowland before travelling around Gardens of Imagination and past Mickey Avenue and finishing between Treasure Cove and Fantasyland.

    The night time show is called Ignite the Dream and features fireworks as well as fountains and projections on the Enchanted Storybook Castle – it is the same show as Disney Illuminations at Disneyland Paris except performed in Mandarin and English. It is also worth mentioning that the fireworks are scaled back when the pollution levels are high in Shanghai.

    If you want a central close up view near the castle, you will need to grab your spot at least an hour before the show starts. However be warned, that this area gets very, very crowded as this is where nearly everyone in the park wants to stand. My favourite spot to watch Ignite the Dream (and where I’ve stood on every visit) is further back in Gardens of Imagination away from the huge crowds – if you stand by one of the fences, you can have an unobstructed view of the castle across the water which is perfect in my eyes.

    Other Useful Information about Shanghai Disneyland

    Contrary to some reports online, the toilets at Shanghai Disneyland are as clean as they come (cleaner than most other parks) and there are plenty of Western-style toilets as well as Chinese-style squat toilets. The Western-style toilets are usually located towards the back of the bathrooms and have a sign on the door. As most of the park guests are Chinese – you never have to queue to use the Western-style toilets.

    If you are a fan of Coca-Cola, then I’m sorry to inform you that Coke products are not available at Shanghai Disneyland – it’s Pepsi products instead.

    Instead of Main Street USA, you will find Mickey Avenue at the entrance to the park. Make sure to spend some time here looking at all the details – there are a lot! As much as you might be tempted to look around Mickey Avenue at park opening, leave it until the afternoon when the whole area is usually very quiet.

    If you can, ride both Tron Lightcycle Power Run and Voyage to the Crystal Grotto at night as well as during the day. When lit up in the evenings, these rides are on another level.

    On Tron Lightcycle Power Run, you will need to put all your belongings into a free-of-charge locker before joining the line. However you can take your phone with you as there is small compartment on the Lightcycle to store it during the ride.

    If you love meeting the characters, then Shanghai Disneyland is the place for you as there never seems to be a long line to meet any of them. I thought this was a one-off on my first visit, but no, I’ve never waited more than a few minutes to meet Minnie, Mickey, Goofy, Pluto and Chip and Dale amongst many others.

    If it’s a rainy day, then there are plenty of indoor shows you can watch which are on numerous times throughout the day including Tarzan: Call of the Jungle, Frozen: A Sing-Along Celebration and Eye of the Storm: Captain Jack’s Stunt Spectacular. The only thing you need to be aware of is all of these shows are performed in Mandarin but when something is so visual which all Disney shows are, you do not need to understand what is being said to enjoy it.

    Don’t miss Tai Chi with Character in Melody Garden if it’s showing on the day you visit – there seems to be no set schedule for this show and it is not performed every day (it took me three visits to see finally see it). Chip and Dale along with Donald Duck doing Tai Chi? It’s brilliant!

    Visit Shanghai Disneyland With an Open Mind

    I had visited every other Disney park in the world before my first visit to Shanghai Disneyland so I was naturally worried that the park was never going to live up to the stupidly high expectations that I had built up in my head. Thankfully I was blown away – nothing could have prepared me for how much I loved and still love Shanghai Disneyland to this day.

    Yes there were so many over-the-top sensationalist headlines about the park and guest behaviour when the park opened but in four visits, I have not seen anything of the sort happen. It makes me so incredibly angry that there are people who believe everything that is written in the press. Yes there are always going to be isolated incidents but that is the same wherever you go in the world. Please ignore what the newspapers write – I have personally never seen anyone smoking outside of one of the smoking areas, I’ve never seen any graffitti in the park or Disneytown, I’ve never seen anything trashed, I’ve not seen any litter that wasn’t immediately cleaned up like it is in every other park and I still have not seen anyone using one of the flowerbeds as a toilet!

    China is a fascinating and incredibly interesting place. Yes there will be many cultural differences that you have to get used to (such as very little personal space at times), but that is all part of the fun and adventure of travelling to another country. Go with an open mind and accept that some things are done a different way to what you are used to and you will have an amazing time!

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