Beware of the Tea House Scam in China!

Before I go into detail about the tea house scam that is popular in China, I want to make it very clear that this post in no way suggests or encourages you not to visit China just because there is a chance of being scammed. You can be scammed in any city in any country.

China is an amazing country with a long, rich history and culture. It should be considered as a travel destination for any traveller who is looking to explore a new region and experience a unique culture.

The tea house scam is quite popular in China, but you will be able to avoid it once you know about it! Please don’t let this scam deter you from visiting China. You simply have to be diligent and aware of your surroundings!

What Exactly is the Tea House Scam?

The tea house scam is an incredibly popular scam that is most prevalent in Beijing and Shanghai.

You are approached by a young person (or two) saying they either want to practice their English or are a student who is practicing their English. You are likely to be approached by either one young man or two young women.

The people who approach you will be incredibly friendly and charismatic, which makes it difficult to say no to helping them practice their English. It seems like an innocent enough request and a great way to meet locals and learn about their experiences in China.

Once you agree to helping them with their English, they will suggest going to get tea. They take you to a cafe of their choosing and order tea and/or soda without showing you the menu or prices. The owners of the cafe are in cahoots with the people you’re with, and they inflate the prices on the bill.

Your new friends will keep ordering drinks and being friendly. When the bill comes, they will either ask you to pay or say they will pay half the bill.

The bill will be hundreds of dollars.

If you’re new to China and don’t know what things should cost or the exchange rate, you could easily pay the bill without realizing how much it actually cost.

Your new friends will get a cut of the extra money you paid. The cafe and the scammers profit off of you.

Beijing China Tea House Scam

Everything You Need to Know About the Tea House Scam

Once you know about the tea house scam, it is really easy to avoid. You can recognize the signs and be able to identify who may be trying to scam you.

Where is the Tea House Scam Most Popular?

Knowing where the tea house scam is most popular will help you be aware in certain parts of China. The two cities this scam is most popular in are, unsurprisingly, Beijing and Shanghai.

In Beijing, Wangfujing (the main shopping street) and Tiananmen Square are the two places you will most likely encounter tea house scammers.

In Shanghai, Nanjing Road (the main shopping area) is the most popular place for this scam to take place.

How Does the Tea House Scam Work?

You will normally be approached by one or more locals saying that they are learning and ask if they can practice their English with you. Sometimes people they are a student when they approach you.

A solo traveller will normally be approached by a single scammer, and a group of travellers will normally be approached by two people. In my case, I was a solo female traveller who was approached by two young women asking if they could practice their English with me.

After you agree to help them practice their English, they will take you to a cafe and start ordering tea and pop without letting you look at the menu. The drinks arrive, and you start chatting. You have a great time and enjoy speaking with the locals.

Then the bills comes, and it is outrageously expensive. Literally hundreds of dollars for a pot of tea and a pop or two.

And that is when you realize that these lovely locals aren’t your friends at all and actually scammed you.

What to do After You Realize You’ve Been Scammed

There are number of things you can do once you realize you’ve been scammed.

If you realize before you pay, you can refuse to pay. However, you will most likely be met with resistance. A credit card reader will be brought if you say you don’t have enough cash, and the entrance will be blocked by a staff member if you claim you don’t have a card.

You can try bargaining with the cafe staff. You can offer to pay for the actual cost of the tea that you have consumed rather than the inflated, scam price. This way the cafe still covers their expenses, and you don’t have to shell out hundreds of dollars for a pot of tea. I’ve heard a few people say that this has worked for them, but it isn’t a guarantee.

Beijing China Temple of Heaven

Can You go to the Police After You’ve Been Scammed?

You try to negotiate with the cafe staff, but they don’t accept your offer. You end up paying the full amount of the original, scam bill for one reason or another. What now? A lot of people think going to the police will help you get your money back.

That’s what I did, and it worked for me. But I’ve read a lot of stories on the internet saying that the police don’t help. It could be because they are aware of the scam and get a cut from the tea houses. That’s one theory that has been thrown around, but there is no way to know whether that is true or not.

It appears that the Shanghai police are more willing to help tourists than the police in Beijing, but who knows. The police in Beijing helped me get my money back (I was scammed out of $800 my first night in Beijing when I was severely jet legged and wasn’t aware of the exchange rate or how much I was paying for some tea and pop).

I guess the takeaway should be that the police will potentially help you, but it is better to not get into a situation where you need their help.

How to Tell What Locals Genuinely Want to Talk with You and What Locals are Looking to Scam You

One inevitability for (white) tourists in China is that people are going to approach you to take pictures, etc.

The truth is that most people that approach you in China are kind and don’t want to scam you.

There are some warning signs to look out for that will help you recognize the scammers:

  • People who approach you within a tourist sight that has an entrance fee normally aren’t scammers. Scammers tend to hang out in free tourist sights (as listed above).
  • Scammers will insist you go to for tea even if you suggest something else. They also make you go to a cafe they suggest because the cafe staff is a part of the scam.
  • Most Chinese locals will take a picture with you and a have a brief interaction with you then move on with their day. The scammers tend to hang around longer and are more aggressive in trying to get your attention.
  • Scammers tend to say they are from a different city, but they have a suspiciously in depth knowledge of the city you are in.
Tiananmen Square Beijing China

Of course these are only generalizations. There are locals who want to speak with you and practice their English without scamming you. There are ways you can still take precautions and ensure you aren’t being scammed.

The best way to test whether someone wants to speak with you versus scam you is to suggest your own tea house.

You suggest a different cafe you want to try. If they agree, they probably aren’t trying to scam you. A scammer will insist that you go to the cafe they suggest. There really is no better test.

Conclusion

The tea house scam is something you have to be aware of , but you shouldn’t let it stop you from visiting China. The scam is very easy to detect and avoid.

You simply have to know that the scam exists, where it is most common, and how to recognize it. It is so easy to avoid once you are knowledgable of it. It is also easy to test whether someone who approaches you is genuine or not. Meeting locals is a great travel experience, so you shouldn’t be too weary of it. Just make sure they aren’t scammers!

I recommend you share this information with anybody you know visiting China.

The more people who know about the scam, the fewer people scammers can take advantage of and the less money they make.

A Guide to the Forbidden City in Beijing, China

One of the most iconic tourist attractions in China is the Forbidden City in Beijing. It was home to the emperors of China for over 500 years and is a major part of Chinese history.

The Forbidden City is located in central Beijing and is, unsurprisingly, one of the most popular tourist attractions in all of China. It is so popular that the government of China put a cap on how many people can enter the City in a single day at 80,000.

You read that correctly. They are limiting the number of people to 80,000 people per day. You can only imagine how incredibly busy the Forbidden City was before the cap!

You should make sure to visit the Forbidden City while you’re in Beijing. It is a magnificent complex and gives you a taste of the history of China. This post will give you all the information you need to visit the palace to have an amazing day.

Forbidden City Beijing China

Where is the Forbidden City Located?

The Forbidden City is located in the heart of Beijing. You can see the Forbidden City from Tiananmen Square, and it is a 10 minute walk from Behai Park.

You can easily walk to the Forbidden City from any centrally-located hotel. The walk should be less than 30 minutes, and you will find signs pointing you in the right direction as you walk. It is pretty difficult to get lost while walking as long as you have a general idea of what direction you should be going.

Public Transportation

You can easily use public transportation to get to the Forbidden City. You are able to get there either by bus or by using the subway.

I would recommend using the subway. You are guaranteed to get to the palace on time because you don’t have to worry about a traffic jam like a bus on the street. The subway is also easier to use, can be less crowded, and is definitely less hot than the bus in the summer.

Bus

If you choose to take the bus, the following lines stop at the Forbidden City:

  • 1
  • 2
  • 4
  • 10
  • 20
  • 22
  • 37
  • 52
  • 59
  • 120
  • 126
  • 728
  • 802
  • TE 1

You will want to get off at either Tianan men dong or Tianan men xi. You should listen for those stops or write down the Chinese characters for them, so you can know when you need to get off at based on the screen at the front of the bus.

Subway

If you are taking the subway, there are multiple stops you can get off at:

  • Metro Line 1: Tiananmen West or Tiananmen East
  • Metro Line 2: Qianmen Station

You will have a short walk to the entrance of the Forbidden City no matter what station you get off at. You should read the signs when you exit the station to make sure you are taking the right exit and then follow the street signs to the Forbidden City.

It will be easy to find the entrance to the palace. It is very well marked, and there will be huge crowds.

Forbidden City Beijing China

Hour of Operation

The palace has different hours of operation depending on what time of year you are visiting.

April 1st to October 31st

The Forbidden City is open from 8:30am to 5pm. The last ticket is sold at 4pm, and the last entry is at 4:10pm.

November 1st to March 31st

You are able to visit the palace from 8:30am to 4:30pm. The last ticket is sold at 3:30pm, and the last entrance is at 3:40pm.

The Forbidden City is closed on Mondays except for Chinese national holidays that fall on a Monday.

How to Buy Forbidden City Tickets

There are multiple ways for you to purchase tickets to visit the Forbidden City.

Tickets are 40 yuan if you visit from November 1st to March 31st and 60 yuan if you visit from April 1st to October 31st. It costs approximately $6 USD and $9 USD, respectively.

There are two separate exhibits that you can pay an additional price to visit. They are the Treasure Gallery and the Clock and Watch Gallery. The price to enter these exhibits are 10 yuan, or approximately $1.50 USD, each. I have never paid to visit these areas, so I cannot comment on whether the extra price is worth it.

Forbidden City Beijing China

Online

You are able to pre-buy tickets online. The website is only in Chinese, and it does not have the option to translate to English. You are able to translate the webpage if you’re using Google Chrome, but there are still a few glitches that happen when you try to check out because the translation is not perfect.

You will be required to input your passport number if you purchase tickets online. The website will allow you to select a date and time to visit as well as the number of people in your group. You will receive a confirmation email, and you will have to pick up your physical tickets at the ticket gate . You will be asked to show your passport when you pick up your tickets, so you will need to make sure to bring it with you.

At the Forbidden City Ticket Gate

The easiest way to purchase tickets is directly at the ticket gate the day you want to visit the palace. You are able to purchase tickets the day of your visit the majority of the time. The only time it may be an issue is during the busiest times of year like Chinese national holidays or at the hight of tourist season.

The number of visitors allowed into the Forbidden City is capped, so you should get to the palace close to opening time to ensure you get a ticket if you are purchasing it at the gate the day of your visit.

You will be asked for your passport when purchasing your ticket so be sure to have it on you!

The line to purchase tickets will look long no matter what time of day you are visiting the palace, but they move quickly.

Forbidden City Beijing China

Tour Guide

You are able to hire a tour guide to take you through the Forbidden City and give you an in-depth history lesson on its importance and significance. This is a great option for people who are looking to learn a lot about the Forbidden City and have money to spare.

There are a lot of guide scams, so you need to make sure you are hiring a legitimate professional. You should not hire any of the people standing outside the palace claiming to be tour guides. These people are normally scammers and not legitimate tour guides.

There are a lot of reputable tour guides in Beijing, but you should do your research and hire them before you get to the palace. Tour guides normally charge between $50 USD and $90 USD, and they often take you to more than one tourist attraction in the area.

Only Purchase Official Forbidden City Tickets

There are a lot of tickets scammers around the Forbidden City, so you should only ever purchase tickets from the Forbidden City ticket booth or receive tickets from your legitimate tour guide.

Ticket scammers often strike up a conversation with you as you are walking to the entrance of the Forbidden City and tell you they can take you to an entrance that is less busy. They will lead you to a less busy area and then tell you the ticket booth is closed. They will then offer to sell you a ticket for an extremely high price (normally $100 USD or more).

This can be an extremely stressful experience for travellers, but it can easily be avoided. I’ve had people like this approached me multiple times. I always feel rude brushing them off and telling them I’m not interested, but they are scammers, so I put my Canadian politeness away.

Oops. You Went to the Wrong Gate. Now What?

There are two gates to the Forbidden City. The South gate is the entrance to the palace and the North gate is the exit. You must enter through the South gate and leave through the North gate.

If you end up at the North gate rather than the South gate, you will have to walk all the way to the South gate. You can walk either east or west to get to the South gate. There will be signs to show you how to get there.

You can also walk through Tiananmen Square and under the famous Mao gate to reach the Forbidden City. This path takes longer because you have to go through a bag check, but if you have time to spare, it is a great option. You get to get up close to a famous landmark.

The walk will take 10-25 minutes depending what route you take. It is inconvenient but a necessity if you want to visit the palace.

You should not take a rickshaw from the North gate to the South gate. Oftentimes rickshaw drivers will take you on a long journey (and often in the wrong direction) and then charge you a huge fare for not taking you to where you want to be. They know you are a tourist looking for the entrance and take advantage of you.

It is best and safest to walk even if you’re feet are exhausted and mad at you.

Forbidden City Beijing China

How Long Do You Need at the Forbidden City?

It can be difficult to determine how long you need to fully tour the Forbidden City. There is a lot to see, so you could easily spend 4 or 5 hours touring the palace. But there are also a lot of crowds and other things to see in the area.

You have to decide if you want to spend multiple hours in a very crowded area exploring the Forbidden City, or if you want to spend less time there and just see the highlights.

I would suggest budgeting a minimum of 2 hours for your visit to the Forbidden City. This will give you time to see the most important buildings and some of the smaller pavilions without getting too overwhelmed by the crowds (and heat if you’re visiting in the spring or summer).

How to Beat the Crowds

You will never be able to avoid the crowds. There are thousands of people touring the Forbidden City at any given time no matter what time of day or year you’re there.

The best way to limit how many crowds you are dealing with is to get to the Forbidden City when it opens in the morning. This is when the fewest number of people will be there. It gets more and more crowded as the day goes on.

At opening time, the main buildings will be crowded, but the secondary pavilions will be less busy, so you will be able to admire them without bumping into fellow tourists. This makes for a more enjoyable experience, and it is worth getting to the Forbidden City earlier in the morning.

Forbidden City Beijing China

Other Sights in the Same Area as the Forbidden City

There are a lot of other tourist sights to see that are walking distance from the Forbidden City. The three most popular are:

  • Tiananmen Square
  • The National Museum of China
  • Behai Park

Tiananmen Square and the National Museum of China are free to visit, and Behai Park has a small entrance fee. You should try to visit all 3 sights when you’re in Beijing because they are all incredible and are important to China’s history.

My personal favourite of the 3 is Behai Park. It may be my favourite tourist sight in all of Beijing.

Behai Park Beijing China

Conclusion

You can easily spend an entire day touring the Forbidden City and the surrounding tourist attractions. The Forbidden City is an incredible piece of Chinese history, and you should be sure to visit in while in Beijing.

There are a lot of scams that you can fall victim to around the Forbidden City, but if you are a smart traveller, you can easily avoid them. You should be sure to purchase your tickets at the palace ticket booth or online before you visit and avoid rickshaw drivers and street vendors surrounding the Forbidden Palace.

The Forbidden City is huge and covers 72 hectares, so there is a lot for you to see! You will be walking a lot so be sure to wear conformable shoes and dress for the weather.

To get the most out of your visit, you should allow for at least 2 hours to wander through the various buildings and read the information cards that tell you about the history. You can also get an audioguide if you’re interested in learning even more about the palace.

No trip to Beijing is complete without seeing the Forbidden City. It will be crowded, but it will be worth it to see such a significant part of Chinese history!

5 Tips for Using the China Subway System

You will probably use the subway on your next trip to China. Using a China subway system can be intimidating to foreigners. People who are don’t use public transportation in their everyday life are often more nervous than most to use the China subway system.

The China subway system isn’t hard to use. In fact, it is easier to use than many other subway systems in the world. The China subway system is so easy to use even for people with no experience.

There are, however, a number of things you should know to help you better navigate the China subway system.

1. Your Items will go Through an X-Ray Machine

Your personal items will have to go through an x-ray system before you enter the ticketing area of the subway station. This is a quick process that doesn’t take much time (even during rush hour).

There will be 2 or 3 people in uniform at the entry to the subway system standing beside a small x-ray machine. You will have to put your personal belongings on through the x-ray machine and pass through a metal detector. The personal items you will have to put through the machine include purses, luggage, and heavy coats.

You are allowed to bring water and food into the subway station, so you don’t have to worry about items like that being confiscated like they would be at an airport. The x-ray machines and metal detectors are looking for weapons and other harmful substances.

It can be a bit of a pain to get your items x-rayed if you are carrying all your luggage, but it isn’t too much of an inconvenience. It is an efficient system that barely slows your trip down, but you should allow for 5 or so minutes extra when you are figuring out how long your subway trip will take.

Xi'an China 5 Tips for Using the China Subway System

Pssst: Are you interested in reading more about China? Check out my 20 Things to Know Before You Visit China article for more helpful China travel tips.

2. The Ticket Machines are Easy to Use

The subway stations in China have automated ticketing machines. They are incredibly easy to use, and you can change the language to English. You simply select the station you want to go to and the number of tickets you want, insert your money, and retrieve your ticket.

The ticketing machines take cash, but they only take small denominations of bills and coins. If you only have larger bills, you will have to purchase your ticket at the ticket counter. The ticket counter employee doesn’t always speak English. You should be able to show the employee what station you want to go to by pointing at a map.

The Bund Shanghai 5 Tips for Using the China Subway System

3. Stops Announced in Chinese and English

In most major cities, the stops will be announced in both Chinese and English. This makes it very easy to know when to get off. The China subway system makes it difficult for people to get lost or get off at the wrong stop.

You don’t need to worry about getting off on the wrong stop if you’re in a smaller city that doesn’t announce the stops in English. There should be a map in the subway car that has English along with Chinese characters.

You should always have a picture of the Chinese characters for your stop on your phone just in case there isn’t a map or English announcements. It is unlikely that you will need to use it, but it is a good thing to have. I also like to count my stops, so I know exactly when to get off. If I know I want to get off in 5 stops, I know that the fifth time the subway stops and the doors open, it is time for me to get off.

Xi'an China Terracotta Army 5 Tips for Using the China Subway System

4. Know Your Exit

The China subway system in any particular city is huge and covers a lot of territory. There will be multiple exits at every stop, so you should know what exit you want to leave the station from.

The exits can cover multiple blocks so knowing what exit you need will help reduce the chances of you getting lost when you get to ground level. You will want to know what exit you want to take before you exit through the turnstile because some exits are only accessible by exiting through certain turnstiles.

There will be signs when you get off the train and into the open part of the station. You should look at the signs to determine what exit you need. You just need to look for the sight you want to visit and see what exit is closest to it.

The website of the attraction you are visiting will normally tell you what exit you want from the nearest subway station. You should look at the website before you get on the subway if you want to be confident that you are taking the proper exit.

If you are concerned about taking the wrong exit, you can always as an employee. They don’t always speak English, so you will want to have the attraction you want to visit written in Chinese characters to show them

Yu Garden Shanghai China 5 Tips for Using the China Subway System

5. Avoid Rush Hour

The China subway system is very busy during rush hour. You will want to avoid rush hour if at all possible. You will be crammed into the subway system with no room to move if you use it during the rush hour.

Rush hour in China is from 7-9am and 5-7pm. This is when the subway will be busiest. You should do your best to use the China subway system outside of these times.

It will make for a far more enjoyable experience if you don’t use the subway during rush hour. Trust me.

If you are using the subway during rush hour, be prepared to be cramped and uncomfortable. You should also try to avoid taking luggage on the subway during rush hour. There may not be enough room on the trains for your luggage during rush hour. You may be forced to wait for a number of trains before you are able to get on with your luggage.

Travel Insurance

You should always travel with travel insurance. It is a safety precaution that no traveller should leave home without. Travel insurance is particularly important when you’re going to foreign countries. You may eat something that doesn’t suit your stomach, accidentally drink water that isn’t sanitary, or fall while exploring the beautiful city you’re visiting.

Conclusion

The China subway system is very easy to use. You won’t have any issue trying to navigate it- especially now that you know these 5 tips!

You can feel confident using the China subway system. English is widely used in the major cities, so you won’t have to deal with a language barrier. The most challenging thing about using the subway in China is figuring out what exit to use. But even that is simple.

You can feel confident using the China subway system. It is just as easy to use as any other major transit system in the world.

The Ultimate Shanghai Disneyland Trip Guide

Shanghai Disneyland is the newest Disney park in the world. It is the only Disney park in mainland China. Planning a Shanghai Disneyland trip can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. This guide gives you all the information you need to make your Shanghai Disneyland trip magical.

Chinese Visa

The first thing you need to know when planning a Shanghai Disneyland trip is whether you need a visa to be allowed entry into China or not. Most people are required to have a visa. If you are a citizen of one of these 53 countries, you are able to enter China visa-free and stay for 144 hours. That is the equivalent of 6 days.

You have to fly into certain airports to be eligible to stay for 144 hours. If you land at an illegible airport, you will only have 72-hours visa-free.

People that are not citizens of the 53 eligible countries are required to apply for and receive a Chinese visa before they land in China. You need to check with your consulate to see what the visa requirements are. The requirements are different for each country, so make sure you do your research before applying.

I always recommend getting a visa before you arrive in China because it makes the entry process much smoother. Check out my 20 Things to Know Before You Visit China post to learn more about why I suggest having a visa before arriving in China.

How to Get to Shanghai Disneyland

You should fly into Pudong airport in Shanghai. This will give you the easiest commute to Shanghai Disneyland.

Taking a Taxi

If you want the easiest and quickest commute, you should take a taxi. Taxis from Pudong to Shanghai are relatively inexpensive. The ride should cost you between $15-25USD. The ride should take approximately 35-40 minutes depending on traffic.

You can get a taxi at the airport. You need to have the address of where you’re staying written in Chinese characters to show your driver. Your driver will probably not be able to understand where you want to go if the address is written in English.

Taking the Metro

It will take you about 2 hours to get it Shanghai Disneyland if you take public transportation.

You start by taking Line 2 on the metro for 4 stops. Get off at Chuanshan Road Station and take exit 2. Next you get onto bus 50 for 7 stops and get off at Beifu Road Station at Guanghuang Road.

You will be at Shanghai Disneyland after you get off the bus. You can either walk to Shanghai Disneyland or the Shanghai Disneyland shuttle bus.

I recommend you take a taxi. It is way easier and doesn’t cost much more than taking public transportation.

From Shanghai

If you are travelling to Shanghai Disneyland from Shanghai rather than the airport, you need to take metro line 11 to the last stop. You need to figure out how to get to line 11 from wherever you are staying. You will probably need to transfer once or twice, but once you’re on line 11, you ride it all the way to the end. After you get off the metro, you can either walk or take the shuttle bus after you get off the metro.

Shanghai Disneyland Shanghai China Ultimate Shanghai Disneyland Trip Guide

Where to Stay During Your Shanghai Disneyland Trip

On Shanghai Disneyland Property

I always recommend staying at a Shanghai Disneyland hotel. You can stay at either Toy Story Hotel or Shanghai Disneyland Hotel. The Toy Story Hotel is the less expensive option, and the Shanghai Disneyland Hotel is the expensive option.

Staying on property during your Shanghai Disneyland trip comes with a lot of advantages and conveniences. It will cut down on your commute time and allow you to get extra sleep, which might be the best benefit of all.

Benefits of Staying at a Shanghai Disneyland Hotel

  • Free transportation from the park to the hotel and back
  • Exclusive hotel guest only entrance
  • Can pre-book fastpasses
  • Guaranteed entrance even on busy days
  • Disney-level guest service
  • Cute Disney in-room souvenirs to take home

Staying Off Disney Property

You should book a hotel along metro line 11 or bus 50’s route if you are not staying on Disney property. This will make your commute to and from the park easy because you will not have to transfer lines.

There are not many hotels along metro line 11 near Shanghai Disneyland because the area is newly developed. You will have a fairly long commute if you choose to stay off property. It can take 45-60 minutes to get to Shanghai Disneyland from many hotels.

You need to give yourself extra time to get to the parks if you are taking the metro because it is a long walk from the metro exit to the park.

You will also be standing in the general entrance line, which is normally really long. If you are standing in the general entrance, you need to arrive at the park at least 1 hour early. This will give you enough time to get through security and be one of the first into the park.

Hotels with Public Transportation to Shanghai Disneyland

Tickets

You can purchase either 1 or 2 day tickets for your Shanghai Disneyland trip. You need to purchase a 2 day and a 1 day ticket if you want to spend three days in the park. It is inconvenient, but Shanghai Disneyland is still a new park and is still figuring everything out.

You can also purchase an annual pass if you are planning to visit the park multiple times during the year. There are multiple types of annual passes that cost varying amounts of money. You have to purchase an annual pass either through the official Shanghai Disneyland WeChat or at the entrance to the park.

If You’re Staying on Property

I recommend purchasing your ticket directly through Shanghai Disneyland if you are staying at a Disney hotel. You can purchase it either when you are booking your hotel or when you arrive at the hotel. You need to purchase your tickets directly though Disney in order to use some of the benefits like the exclusive hotel guest entrance.

If You’re Not Staying on Property

I still recommend buying tickets directly through Disney if you aren’t staying on property. This will ensure you are getting legitimate tickets and not counterfeit tickets.

If you choose to purchase discount tickets from someone other than Disney, do your research to ensure it is a reputable company.

Klook is one site that sells discounted Shanghai Disneyland tickets. I have never used this company, but TDRExplorer the ultimate guru on all Asian Disney parks recommends them, so they must be reputable.

Shanghai Disneyland Shanghai China Ultimate Shanghai Disneyland Trip Guide

How Many Days in the Park

You need at least 2 days at Shanghai Disneyland to experience everything. If you’re a huge Disney fan, you will want to spend 3 days in the park.

You will be able to experience nearly everything and ride your favourite attractions multiple times in 2 days. Having 3 days will allow you to take your time as you explore.

Shanghai Disneyland App

You need to download the Shanghai Disneyland app before you enter the parks.

You can make fastness reservations and check wait times directly from the app, so it is extremely useful. In order to make fastpass reservations, you need to scan the ticket of everybody in your party after everybody enters the park. When all the tickets are scanned, you are able to make fastpass reservations for everybody in your party from a single phone.

The app is a must-have item on your Shanghai Disneyland trip. It helps you maximize your time and plan your day.

What to See and Do

You will have lots to see and do on your Shanghai Disneyland trip. The park isn’t huge, but it has a number of unique attractions and shows that you don’t want to miss.

The lines are often long- especially in the afternoon. You should get to the park right when it opens to make the most of your time. The afternoon is a great time to go to shows, meet characters, or explore Disney Town while the lines for attractions are long.

Must-Do Attractions

  • Tron Lightcycle Power Run: You will want to ride this multiple times because it is amazing!
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: This ride uses new technology and is incredible.
  • Seven Dwarves Mine Train: it is the same as the Magic Kingdom version but still a great attraction for the entire family.
  • Soaring Over the Horizon: This is also identical to the versions in Disney California Adventure and Epcot, but it is still a fan favourite.
  • Voyage to the Crystal Grotto: This is a boat ride that takes your through a number of fairytales and through the castle.
  • Once Upon a Time Adventure: This is a walk-through attraction that lets you go up the castle.
  • Camp Discovery: These are obstacle courses of varying degrees of difficulty.
Shanghai Disneyland Tron Shanghai China Ultimate Shanghai Disneyland Trip Guide

Characters to Meet

There are a lot of characters to meet while on your Shanghai Disneyland trip. Most of the characters you can meet can be found in other Disney parks around the world, but there are a couple that are unique.

Mickey

You can meet Mickey in his Shanghai outfit. This is a unique meeting, and Mickey looks super handsome in his blue jacket and gold shoes. You should definitely make the time to meet Mickey while on your Shanghai Disneyland trip. His line gets long, so you should try to meet him in the morning.

Mickey Mouse Shanghai Disneyland Shanghai China Ultimate Shanghai Disneyland Trip Guide

Star Wars

You can meet a number of Star Wars characters at Shanghai Disneyland. They are located in the Star Wars Launch Bay near Tomorrowland. The Star Wars characters normally have a short wait, so they are perfect to meet when the park is busy.

Darth Vader, Kylo Ren, and a number of droids are all waiting for you to meet them. There are even a number of interactive things to do in the Star Wars Launch Bay.

Marvel

You can meet Spider-Man and Captain America from the Marvel Universe. They are located in a pavilion near Star Wars Launch Bay, so you can see characters from 2 of the most iconic franchises of all time one after the other.

The Marvel characters tend to be busier than the Star Wars characters, so be sure to check your app to see how long the wait is.

Happy Circle

Happy Circle is located in Adventure Isle near Soaring Over the Horizon. You are able to meet more obscure jungle/animal characters here. There is hardly ever a wait, so it is a great place to go during peak hours.

Nick and Judy from Zootopia, Rafiki from the Lion King, and King Louis from the Jungle Book are frequent characters that are greeting guests. This is a great location for Disney fans that are wanting to meet characters that are more difficult to find in the US parks.

Woody and Jessie from Toy Story

Toy Story Land was the first Shanghai Disneyland extension. It has 3 attractions as well as a place to meet Woody and Jessie.

You can also meet the characters from Toy Story if you’re staying at the Toy Story Hotel. The characters roam around the lobby area throughout the day. Check with the concierge if you want to know when they will be out and about meeting guests.

The Princesses

What would a Shanghai Disneyland trip be without meeting a Disney princess or two? You can meet the princesses at the back of the castle. Different princesses meet at different times during the day, so you will have to go by the line to see who is meeting guests.

The line to meet princesses is always long. From park open to park close, there is always a line. You aren’t able to get a fastpass to meet them either.

If you want to meet the princesses, you should check the app to see how long their line is. Normally first thing in the morning and at the end of the night are when the lines are the shortest.

The princesses are not in any special outfits, so it you have already met them in other parks, it may not be the best use of your time to wait to meet them on your Shanghai Disneyland trip.

Characters on Mickey Avenue

Mickey Avenue is the equivalent of Main Street in other Disney parks. It is the part of the park that you first see when you enter through the main guest entrance. If you enter through the hotel guest entrance, you will be entering the park near Tomorrowland and will not see Mickey Avenue when you walk in.

Mickey Avenue is where you will be able to meet your favourite classic Disney characters like Minnie, Donald, Chip ‘n’ Dale, and Goofy. They meet at varying times throughout the day, so check your app or guide map to see when they greet guests.

The lines on Mickey Avenue can be long or short depending on the time of day and how busy the park is. If the character you want to meet has a long time, find something else to do for 30-60 minutes then go back to meet that character. The line should be shorter by then.

The classic Disney characters normally wear their standard costumes; however, during special times of the year like Easter, Christmas, and Lunar New Year, they wear special costumes. Getting a picture with your favourite character is a special outfit is an amazing memory.

Shanghai Disneyland Shanghai China Chip 'n' Dale Ultimate Shanghai Disneyland Trip Guide

Shows and Entertainment

There are a number of shows and entertainment you can enjoy on your Shanghai Disneyland trip. Most of the shows are unique to Shanghai Disneyland, and you won’t be able to see them anywhere else.

Shanghai Disneyland Shows and Entertainment Options

  • Songs of Arbori: A 15 minute dance show
  • Tarzan Call of the Jungle: An acrobatic show and my personal favourite entertainment at Shanghai Disneyland
  • Frozen A Sing-Along Celebration: The most popular show
  • Baymax Super Exercise Expo: A exercise show for children lead by Baymax from Big Hero 6
  • Eye of the Storm Captain Jack Stunt Show Spectacular: I have never seen this show but have hear you stand for most of it, so it isn’t a good option if you are looking to rest your feet.
  • Fantasy Festival: A castle stage show featuring all your favourite characters
  • Tai Chi with Characters: Chip ‘n’ Dale lead guests through Tai Chi

The Parade

The parade in Shanghai Disneyland is called Mickey’s Storybook Express. It takes place at 12pm and 3:30pm most days, and it is 14 minutes long.

It starts by Toy Story Land, goes by Tomorrowland, around the castle by the Gardens of Imagination, and ends between Treasure Cove and Fantasyland.

You can normally get a good viewing location 5-10 minutes before the parade starts. The best place to get a last-minute viewing location is in Tomorrowland.

The parade has catchy music and a couple good floats, but it isn’t a great Disney parade. It certainly isn’t worth staking out a spot and waiting an hour to see. It is worth seeing if you are able to get a decent last-minute viewing spot though.

Shanghai Disneyland Parade Shanghai China Ultimate Shanghai Disneyland Trip Guide

The Nighttime Show

The Shanghai Disneyland nighttime show is called Ignite the Dream, and it is 20 minutes long. It is a castle projection show that also has fireworks. It is a pretty good show all things considered.

Unlike the parade, the nighttime show is extremely popular, and you need to get a viewing spot early. I have seen people saving a spot 2 hours before the show began.

You should try to get a spot near the Gardens of Imagination. The nighttime show projects images onto the castle, so you want to have a good view of the castle. The further back you are, the more likely it is that you will have an obstructed view of the show.

Where to Eat

Your Shanghai Disneyland trip would not be complete without trying all the great snacks and meals the park has to offer. Many of the restaurants inside the park have a heavy Asian influence, but trying new foods will make your Shanghai Disneyland trip unforgettable.

Inside Shanghai Disneyland

Remy’s Patisserie is the best place to get breakfast. It has lots of delicious pastries to choose from. Most of the pastries are shaped like Disney characters, so they are delicious and cute. My favourite is the Mike Wazowski bun (I think is better than the Tokyo Disneyland version).

There are lots of great quick service restaurants to choose from in Shanghai Disneyland. Mickey and Pals Market Cafe is one of the most popular locations. It offers a variety of dishes including rice bowls, noodle bowls, chicken, and ribs.

If you’re looking for a unique place to eat lunch, go to the Royal Banquet Hall. You get to eat inside the castle and meet Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Daisy in their royal outfits.

The best place to grab a sweet snack is Il Paperino. This is the only place in the world you can get Donald waffles rather than Mickey waffles! This location also serves a variety of ice cream treats and sweet pastries.

Shanghai Disneyland Food Shanghai China Ultimate Shanghai Disneyland Trip Guide

In Disney Town

Disney Town is Shanghai Disneyland’s version of Downtown Disney or Disney Springs. It is a shopping and restaurant destination that is steps away from the park. It should definitely be on your must-do list for your Shanghai Disneyland trip.

Disney Town is where you are going to find more Western options. Most of the restaurants inside the park are Asian, but there are a couple of sit down restaurants in Disney Town that have classic American food.

My personal favourite is the Cheesecake Factory, but there is also a Wolf Gang Puck Kitchen & Bar. Both of these locations are normally busy, so you should try to eat during off-peak hours to cut down on your wait time.

There is a Starbucks in Disney Town, so if you are craving Starbucks during your Shanghai Disneyland trip, that is where you can find it.

There is a bakery in Disney Town located adjacent to the World of Disney store that sells great baked goods. The green tea cake pop is amazing, so you be sure to check it out if you have a sweet tooth.

Souvenirs to Buy

No Shanghai Disneyland trip is complete without purchasing a few Disney souvenirs to remember your trip by.

A lot of the merchandise at Shanghai Disneyland is standard and can be found at any park around the world; however, there is lots of merchandise exclusive to Shanghai Disneyland as well.

The merchandise at Shanghai Disneyland costs roughly the same as it does in every other Disney park, so I recommend only purchasing items that are exclusive to Shanghai Disneyland.

You can determine what is exclusive to Shanghai Disneyland by looking at the tag. If it exclusive to Shanghai, it should be marked on the tag and easily identifiable.

All the merchandise that is branded with the Shanghai Disneyland logo is exclusive. It is normally easy to tell what items are exclusive to Shanghai Disneyland because they tend to look more traditionally Chinese than the other merchandise.

Shanghai Disneyland Souvenirs Shanghai China Ultimate Shanghai Disneyland Trip Guide

Language Challenges

A lot of people are concerned that there is going to be a language barrier during their Shanghai Disneyland trip. This isn’t the case at all.

Many cast members speak English, and the ones that don’t will find an English-speaking cast member to assist you when you need help.

The signs are all in English as well as Mandarin, so you will be able to identify what the restaurants, attractions, and stores are easily. At quick-service restaurants, there are pictures of the food as well as English menus the cast members can give you. There are English menus at all sit-down restaurants. You will never have a problem ordering food at a restaurants during your Shanghai Disneyland trip.

There are also English guide maps you can get. You normally have to ask a cast member for one when you enter the park, but you will be able to get a map you can read.

The shows and attractions are in Mandarin, but you will still be able to enjoy the show or attraction even if you don’t understand what is being said. You will be able to understand what is going on by the context and visual effects.

All in all not being able to communicate or understand cast members is not something you should be concerned about when planning your Shanghai Disneyland trip. It isn’t much different than going to any other international park where English is not the first language.

Travel Insurance

Shanghai Disneyland is all fun and games until someone gets hurt. While it is unlikely that you will get hurt, you should always purchase travel insurance rel=”nofollow” when you travel.

Travel insurance is essential if you fall ill in another country, but it also covers you for unexpected things like toothaches, lost baggage, and having to cancel your trip before you leave because you’re sick.

It is an inexpensive investment that you hope you never need to use but are always happy to have if you ever need it.

Conclusion

Shanghai Disneyland is on of the most unique Disney parks in the world. It has lots of unique attractions and experiences as well as a lot of local, Chinese theming that cannot be found in any other Disney park in the world.

A Shanghai Disneyland trip should be on every Disney lover’s bucket list. Casual Disney fans will love it too! I have been to every Disney park in the world, and Shanghai Disneyland is my favourite park. I promise you won’t regret your Shanghai Disneyland trip and will want to go back again and again after you experience it!

20 Things to Know Before You Visit China

China is a beautiful country that offers amazing sights and unique experiences. It does, however, have a tendency to intimidate travellers. China is sometimes viewed as a country that is so unlike others that it is difficult to know where to begin when planning a trip. Knowing what to expect before you visit China does a lot to help ease the nerves.

China does not have to be an intimidating country. If you know what to expect before you visit China, it makes the entire trip easier.Did you know that the newest Disney park is located in Shanghai?! It is a super unique park and is fun to visit while in China.

Here are 20 things you should know before you visit China that will make you’re trip easier, less confusing, and more fun!

Xi'an China 20 Things to Know Before You Visit China

1. Get a Visa

Getting a visa is one of the most important things you need to do before you visit China. While some nationalities have the right to stay in large Chinese cities such as Beijing and Shanghai for up to 72 hours without a visa, having a visa before you leave is easier than getting one when you land.

Oftentimes the lines to get a 72-hour visa upon arrive are incredibly long. You can stand in line for over an hour in some instances.

The advantages of having a visa before you visit China are numerous. It will help you cut down on waiting in lines, and the entire immigration process will be smoother.

For many nationalities, including Canadians, if you apply for a visa before you visit China, you are able to receive a multi-visit visa that is valid for up to ten years. This is the best option for anybody that is planning on visiting China more than once.

Temple of Heaven Beijing China 20 Things to Know Before You Visit China

2. Your Credit Card Probably Won’t Work

Foreign credit cards often don’t work in China, so always carry cash. You should get some Yuan before you visit China. However, you are able to take money out of an ATM if you run out of cash. I recommend only taking money out of a bank ATM just to be safe.

3. Always Carry Your Passport

It is your responsibility as a tourist to always have your passport. Police officers and people selling you entrance tickets to a sight can ask to see your passport. This is especially true for students or seniors that are getting a discounted rate on an entrance ticket.

It is extremely rare to be asked to show your passport, but it is always better to be safe and have your passport on your person at all times.

The Bund Shanghai 20 Things to Know Before You Go to China

4. Squat Toilets

Squat toilets are common in China. Standing toilets can be difficult to get used to using- especially if you’re a female and not used to peeing while squatting.

If you’re a female and not used to peeing while squatting, you may want to consider getting a urine funnel to ensure your urine goes where you want it to.

You also need to bring your own toilet paper and hand sanitizer.

5. Get a VPN

China has the Great Fire Wall. Many websites popular websites will be blocked., and you need a VPN to access any sites that are blocked by the firewall.

Blocked sites include Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Gmail, Wikipedia, and countless other sites.

My preferred VPN is SurfEasy. Your monthly fee allows you to install a VPN on up to 5 different devices, so it is perfect for sharing with family and friends.

There are free VPNs that work just as well as SurfEasy. Do your research and get the one that works best for you.

Get a VPN and install it on your devices before you visit China to make sure the site you are getting your VPN from is not blocked in China.

Yu Garden Shanghai China 20 Things to Know Before You Visit China

6. Don’t Drink the Water

It is not safe to drink tap water in China. Bottled water is easily accessible and very cheap.

If you are ecologically-minded, you can purchase a SteriPen to take with you. It is a portable water purifier that will allow you to purify up to 1L of contaminated water at one time. I use my SteriPen whenever I travel somewhere with unsafe tap water. It is incredibly simple to use, and it effectively purifies water.

7. No Tipping in China

It is not customary to tip in China. This means the price you see for food is the price you will pay! So there is no need to do the math and figure out how much of a tip is appropriate.

Great Wall of China Beijing China 20 Things to Know Before You Visit China

8. Be Prepared to Haggle

Haggling is common in China. You can haggle at markets but not at stand-alone stores. You’ll be able to tell where it is appropriate to haggle and where it isn’t by watching the locals.

There are tons of articles all over the internet that have haggling tips for China. The most important thing to remember is that the seller will never agree to a price that loses them money. So start low and work your way up to get the best price.

9. Get to the Airport Early When You Leave

Everybody has to go through customs when taking an international flight out of China- even Chinese nationals. This leads to extremely long queues when leaving the country.

Get to the airport three hours before your flight to ensure you don’t miss your flight!

Psst. Check out this article for airport security tips.

10. Pay Before You Receive Your Food

In many Chinese restaurants it is common to order food, pay for the food, and then receive your food. You will be brought a bill shortly after you order, so be prepared and have your cash out to pay.

Paying before you receive your food is convenient because it allows you to simply leave the restaurant when you are done eating.

Xi'an China Terracotta Army 20 Things to Know Before You Visit China

11. Spitting is Normal

Spitting in public is normal in China. You will see and hear it basically all day, everyday.

While most spitting takes place outside, I would recommend you take a quick peak at the ground before you choose a train seat or public toilet to squat in. You normally won’t find spit, but it is always best to take a quick peak just to be safe.

12. Taxis are Cheap

Taxis in China are inexpensive. They are also convenient for getting to your hotel from the airport or train station if you have a lot of baggage and don’t want to navigate the subway system.

Be sure you’re taking a legitimate taxi and be sure to get a receipt when you exit the cab. I once dropped the equivalent of $200 on the seat of a taxi when I was paying. The taxi driver did not give me a receipt when I left the car. Even though I had the taxi number and a picture of the driver’s credentials from the back seat, there was no way to get ahold of the taxi to get my money back because I didn’t have an official receipt.

Learn from my mistakes. Always ask for a receipt when leaving a taxi. It is better to be safe than sorry.

Chengdu China Pandas 20 Things to Know Before You Visit China

13. Beware of the Tea House/Student Scam

In big cities like Beijing and Shanghai, the tea house/student scam is fairly common. People will approach you and say they are a student, and ask if they can practice speaking English with you. You’re a kind tourist, so you agree.

The person will then take you to a tea house, order tea, and then stick you will the bill. Since the scammer works with the tea house, the bill will be ridiculously high. When this happened to me, the bill was $400USD for tea and cans of coke.

Be cautious of people that approach you on the street asking to practice English. It is quite possibly a scam.

If you are approached and believe the person is genuine, you should suggest a place to have tea. If they insist on going to their tea house, that is a major red flag, and that person is probably trying to scam you.

14. Bring a Translator

More and more people are able to speak basic English in China. That being said, English is not widely spoken. If you want to communicate with the locals, be sure to have a translator. I use Google Translate in China, and it works well enough. Test your translator before you visit China to get used to it and ensure the translations are accurate.

Have your hotel address written in Chinese characters to show a local in case you get lost or take a taxi to your hotel. This is another safety precaution that you probably won’t need to use, but it will help you infinitely if you do happen to need it.

Chengdu China 20 Things to Know Before You Visit China

15. China is Safe

China is a safe destination for tourists. The country as a whole does have a number of human rights violation concerns; however, China is no more dangerous for tourists than any other country.

Just like anywhere you go, your safety is your responsibility. If you don’t feel safe in a situation, leave. Be aware of your surroundings and don’t do anything stupid.

Chinese police officers are more than willing to help tourists if you need them (and you most likely won’t).

16. Try the Street Food

China has a lot of street food offerings. Eating at street food vendors allows you to try a number of unique dishes!

Eat food that is freshly prepared. Cooked street food that has been sitting out for a hours can make you ill.

Chengdu China Street Food 20 Things to Know Before You Visit China

17. Be Careful When Crossing the Street

You may think you have the right away to cross a street in China because there is a walk sign, but you still need to be cautious. Chinese traffic is busy and chaotic.

People riding scooters and bicycles quite often go through an intersection when there is no traffic even if the light is red. Always check both ways before stepping off the curb and before stepping onto the curb on the other side of the street. If someone on a scooter of bicycle is coming, either walk quickly or let them pass before you continue.

18. You’ll Feel Like a Celebrity

People will not so subtly take your picture while you’re in China. Some people will ask to take a picture with you. But the majority of people will simply take your picture from a distance without asking.

It can be annoying, but you will get more used to it the longer you are in China. You never know when you’re picture will be taken, so make sure you’re always smiling!

Xi'an China 20 Things to Know Before You Visit China

19. High-Speed Trains can be Expensive

China has a large network of high-speed trains. They are convenient, comfortable, and fast. The downside of high-speed trains is that they are often quite expensive.

When booking transportation between cities in China, look at all your options. Flying from one city to another can be cheaper in some cases. Look at your options and decide what mode of transportation is best for you. It can be beneficial to look at prices before you visit China; however, it can be cheaper to buy ticket when you are in the country.

Psst: Click here if you want to learn about the subway system in China.

20. The People are Friendly

The people in China are friendly. They are often shy and won’t come up to talk to you, but if you need help, they are more than happy to help.

If you are respectful of Chinese culture, use a few basic Mandarin phrases, and generally act friendly, you will receive friendliness in return.

Conclusion

I hope this list helps you feel more at ease and know what to expect before you visit China. It is a beautiful country with an incredible history. It should definitely not be left off your bucket list.

Knowing what to expect before you visit China and keeping these tips in mind as you travel through China will help make your trip go smoothly.