6 hot tips for visiting the Shanghai Expo 2010

Last week we visited the World Expo in Shanghai. The city has expanded and modernized since my last visit only four years ago. We had planned on staying three days, but could only manage two.

The Expo has been a huge success for visitors and locals alike: approximately 300,000 to 600,000 people attend daily. For Shanghainese, it is a golden opportunity to see snapshots of the world without leaving town. Large crowds translate into long lines. Popular pavilions, like the China, Japan, or German exhibits, can be as long as a three to six hour wait! Waiting in line for multiple hours can be exhausting and will take your strength out of you for the rest of the day. We ended up seeing the Australia and Austria exhibits at the end of the day when lines were shorter.

Since arriving I monitored the air quality in Shanghai and was shocked by the very poor conditions in the city. Airbone particulates are produced by the heavy industry, constant construction, and ever-present automobiles around Shanghai. The reading on my laser particle counter registered between 10,000 to 20,000 in Hong Kong, 30,000 in Guangzhou, but in Shanghai 40,500! That’s over ten times the “very poor” rating of 3000.

After the visit, I collected the following 6 great tips for anyone visiting the Shanghai World Expo:

1) Don’t let the poor air spoil the fun. Bring a Totobobo mask: The air pollution in Shanghai is worse than Hong Kong or Guangzhou. Bring a good mask if you have a sensitive nose. The Totobobo mask doubles as an air-moisturizer on your long flight to China.

2) Avoid queues and optimize your time: Enjoy the exterior architecture during the day. Visit the less popular pavilions before 7pm and check out the more popular ones later when there are fewer visitors.

3) Manage your energy so you can keep exploring throughout the day. Standing in a queue or reading the exhibit can be exhausting. Go to the many eateries or take short breaks to replenish your strength.

4) Research before arriving: the Expo site is huge. Even if you have a whole week you can not see it all. Plan which pavilions you want to see beforehand so you can save time and see everything you want.

5) Expo taxi: Keep the Expo Taxi hotline on hand: 96822. Their service is efficient and the cost is very reasonable, and it will make the difference between seeing what you want and waiting around for a cab.

6) Sight seeing: Shanghai has plenty to offer visitors throughout the year. My favorites are the Bund, Nanjing Dong Lu pedestrian shopping boulevard, Hung Shan Lu historic residential area and Tien Zhe Fong art and design café that preserves classic shikumen architecture.

Most of all, however, bring a smile and a positive attitude and you will be sure to enjoy your time in Shanghai.

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