This Shanghai Disneyland travel guide has been submitted to us by one of our contest winners.
Jasper Jed Gueco won on the When In Manila x Air Asia Philippines contest to Shanghai, China. Hence, he and his travel buddy packed their bags to explore Shanghai and have a great time at the newly-opened Shanghai Disneyland.
They created this based on their personal experience to help out those who are planning to visit this “magical” place in the future.
A few months ago, I was lucky enough to win two roundtrip tickets from an Instagram contest co-organized by When in Manila and Air Asia Philippines. Back then, me and my travel buddy were eager to grab the opportunity and we’re very much excited to visit the modern city of Shanghai, especially the newly opened Shanghai Disneyland.
But as a Filipinos, we were concerned about a lot thing that we might experience in China, considering the fact that we have an issue about the West Philippines Sea. Back then, our preparations were shrouded by questions, doubts and to be honest, with a little bit of fear. But as Disney fans, we pushed-through with our preparations with the imagination and with the idea of being able to visit the newest Disneyland in Shanghai.
And from August 26 to August 31, we ventured-out in Shanghai, China and that adventure simply became as one of the greatest and most magical experience that we ever had as travelers. And in return, I’ve wrote this guide for When in Manila and for every Filipinos out there who might want to experience Shanghai Disneyland and its magic.
Get to Know Shanghai
Flights to Shanghai
Air Asia Philippines operate flights between Manila and Shanghai with the following schedule:
- Z2 18 Manila Shanghai 23:20 2:40 Tuesday/Friday/Sunday
- Z2 19 Shanghai Manila 3:40 7:05 Monday/Wednesday/Saturday
Yes, unlike the special administrative regions of Macau and Hong Kong, Mainland China requires a travel visa before you could enter their country. Applying for a visa is easy and I don’t think that the issue of the West Philippine sea is affecting the process as the consular office is on a “business as usual” status and there are still a lot of Filipinos who were applying for the said visa. I would like to reiterate, applying for the Chinese visa is easy, provided that you have the complete requirements. And just like applying for any travel visa to another country, you’ll just have to prove that the sole purpose of your travel to their country is for tourism or leisure only. So it’s ideal for you to secure a certificate of employment indicating your Vacation Leave (VL) dates and your expected return date for work.
For the complete details about the requirements for Chinese Visa, you may visit the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the Republic of The Philippines.
When the announcement was made, we were actually on a tight budget so we booked in an apartment from Airbnb. I know, staying on a stranger’s apartment is scary and perhaps dangerous, but we found a nice place in Shanghai where the host is welcoming and generous. If you would be considering Airbnb, ensure the following criteria:
- The reviews and the ratings for the host are positive.
- The apartment/room/condo unit ‘s amenities suits your needs
- Preferably, the location apartment/room/condo unit is near a Metro Station.
If you are on a tight budget as well, I am encouraging you to try Airbnb as it is not only affordable but hosts are usually hospitable and are capable of understanding and speaking in English. We are lucky that we were able to book an apartment where the host is hospitable as she even called our Uber driver to ensure that we will arrive safely back to the airport. If you are interested, here is the apartment that we’ve booked: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/11810072?sug=50
The currency in China is called Renminbi(RMB) and the basic unit is Yuan. A Yuan is around 7 Philippine Pesos but the cost of commodity is relatively the same with what we have here unlike in Hong Kong were the price are outrageously expensive. After all, Hong Kong is still the world’s most expensive city. With this, I could relatively say that food and transportation is cheap outside Shanghai Disneyland. Because of course, prices in any amusement park is more expensive than “outside” commodities.
Also, ensure that before you go to China, you already have RMBs in hand because there’s a separate fee when you’re going to exchange your PHP to RMB in China. Also, PHPs are limited in China and there’s a possibility that you will receive counterfeit banknotes if you will not exchange your money on a bank.
Meanwhile, here in the Philippines, RMBs are also limited. So if you will exchange your PHP to RMB in Sanry’s or in Czarina, you’ll need to ask for a prior reservation. Other banks have this policy as well as they don’t keep enough RMBs in their vaults. We didn’t know anything about this policy and we were already running out of time, luckily there’s a trusted money changer in Malate where we were able to exchange our PHP to RMB. And that money changer is Nailas Money Changer.
Note, they would either use RMB or CNY to indicate the price of commodities.
Note, bargaining (pakikipagtawaran) is encourage in souvenir shops.
Like any other modern city, Shanghai has its own elaborate network of train/subway system which they call as the “Shanghai Metro”. It’s one the world’s largest network of train by track line and it accommodates up to 10 million passengers daily. But don’t worry, as long as you know how to read and how to follow instructions, you’ll get the hang of it and you’ll have a smooth ride on their trains.
You’ll just have to remember that some stations are so huge, that it accommodates 2-3 lines and exit gates are too many that you’ll get lost if you didn’t check the map. One example to this is the Xujiahui station which covers lines 9,10 and 11 and the exit gates for line 9 are a kilometer and a half far from the exit gates for Line 11. So, double check which gate you’re going to exit because if not, you might end up blocks away from your desired destination.
The Shanghai Metro offers different types of ticket:
- Single journey ticket – which will take you from point A to B.
- Shanghai Public Transportation Card – which is similar to our Beep cards which are reloadable
- 1-Day pass – which will give you unlimited pass for 1 day and it is sold at 18 RMB.
- 3-Day pass – which will give you unlimited pass for 3 days and it is sold at 45 RMB.
You may also use various apps to help you out in navigating around Shanghai using the metro. But here’s my recommended app: https://www.exploreshanghai.com/metro/
Aside from the Shanghai Metro, you could also consider taxis as they are abundant in the city. Just remember to print-out your destination in Chinese character so that the driver would know where he should take you.
Uber is also available in Shanghai and according to their website, drivers are English-speakers but we still had a problem in communicating with our driver. We had a hard time informing him on where to pick us up. Luckily, there’s another uber driver that went by to pick up another passenger and we’ve asked him to talk to our driver for him to instruct our driver on where he should pick us up. Again, print-out your destination in Chinese character so that the driver would know where he should take you. Uber in Shanghai doesn’t allow cash payments.
Another nifty mode of transportation that is available in Shanghai is the Maglev (derived from magnetic levitation) train. It’s one of the world’s fastest train as it would allow you to reach a 30KM destination in just 8 minutes, with top speed at 430 KM/H. Maglev is a convenient option if you are in a hurry but it comes with a price, 50RMB per single journey.
If you’ve been to Binondo and you fancy Chinese cuisine, then you’ll have no problem dining in Shanghai. Also, please do note that they don’t offer service water and instead, they will give you hot water or hot tea. If you’re no longer happy with Chinese cuisine, international fast-food brands like KFC and McDonald’s are present in the city. Tipping is not a thing in China.
Language barrier is indeed present between locals and foreigners as Chinese men are not fluent in English. But don’t be afraid, they understand basic English and if all else fail, use hand gestures and/or download pictures of the item that you want and show it to them.
If you have an “open-line” phone, chances are Chinese sim card/s will work on your phone. Cellular sims are available at the airport and the most affordable that we got is a sim card that has a call and text value plus it comes with a 1GB worth of data all priced at 100RMB.
Aside from texting and calling, a local cellular phone number is useful as you can use it to access free public Wi-Fi.
Please do note that most social networking sites and even Google is blocked in China. This is known as “The Great Firewall of China” and the government is enforcing this for censorship. If you want to bypass the firewall, you may download a VPN app on your phone. One good VPN app is Betternet. It will slow down your internet connection but you’ll be able to access most of the restricted websites.
Explore Shanghai Disneyland
Preparing for the Magic
Shanghai Disney land is located at Shanghai Disney Resort, Pudong New District, Shanghai, China. It is accessible via the Metro Line 11.
Operating hours varies. Normally, for weekdays it’s from 9:00 AM to 9:00PM and 8:00PM to 10:00PM on weekends. But as I’ve said, it varies so you’ll have to check it on the park calendar available on the website.
For your convenience, buy your tickets only at https://www.shanghaidisneyresort.com/en. There are two kinds of ticket, the first one is the 1-day pass and the second one is the 2-day pass. The 2-day pass is a discounted ticket. You may also buy your tickets at the park but you’ll have to endure the long queue for the tickets. The park is huge. Therefore, a 2-day pass ticket is more than enough.
Shanghai has 4 seasons; Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall. You may get the full details about their climate here: https://www.shanghaidisneyresort.com/en/guest-services/weather-packing-information/
The Shanghai Disneyland mobile application is a feature-packed application that has everything that you need when visiting the park. You can use it to view your tickets, view the map, know the line duration per ride and more. You may download it here: https://www.shanghaidisneyresort.com/en/download-shanghai-disney-mobile-app/
The Magic of Shanghai Disneyland
Robert “Bob” Iger, Disney CEO, coined the term, “Authentically Disney, Distinctly Chinese” during the announcement of the park. And this notion is evident throughout the park. You’ll see the familiar sights and sounds similar to other Disney park but there are some distinctions that only Shanghai Disneyland can offer.
With this, I would like to start of our journey to Disneyland by describing the six different areas or “lands” within the park.
Mickey Avenue: Mickey Avenue serves as the entrance to the park and it’s equivalent to Main Street, USA. This area is noticeably shorter than the regular Main Street, USA but it is wider. It said to be planned like that in order to accommodate larger volume of visitors. In Mickey Avenue, you’ll see shops owned by Disney characters like the confectionary which is owned by Minnie, the toy shop which is owned by Goofy, the bakery owned by Remi, the dessert shop owned by Donald and the Avenue M arcade which is owned by the Boss, Mickey Mouse.
At the end of the avenue, you’ll see the “Storyteller Statue”, a statue of you Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse welcoming everyone into the park. You’ll also see the dedication marker near the statue with the Enchanted Storybook castle as the background.
Gardens of Imagination: The Gardens of Imagination is the hub of the park. Different from the other park, this hub has two rides the Fantasia Carousel and Dumbo the flying elephant. From here, you’ll be able to enjoy lush gardens with a wonderful view of the Enchanted Story Book Castle. It also serves as the vantage point for the fireworks display every night. And aside from the two mentioned rides, you may also find the Marvel universe, Meet Mickey and the Garden of Twelve friends at the Gardens of imagination.
Adventure Isle: Adventure Isle is equivalent to Adventure land and it’s the home of many awesome rides and attractions like Camp Discovery, Roaring Rapids and Soaring over the horizon. Also found in Adventure Isle, “Tarzan: Call of the Jungle” is a stage show which tells the story of Tarzan in Chinese Acrobatics. You’ll also meet some characters from The Jungle book and from Lion King.
Treasure Cove: Treasure cove is one of the most unique land in any Disney park as it is the first land to be themed after pirates. It features intricate architectural design along with two giant ship, pirate themed shops and restaurants and two water play areas: Shipwreck shore and Siren’s revenge. It is also the home of one of the most advance ride in any Disney park, the Pirates of the Caribbean Battle for the Sunken Treasure.
Fantasyland: You simply can’t take away Fantasyland from Disneyland. Fantasyland is the largest land in the park and it is inspired by Disney classic animated films. It’s the home of the majestic Enchanted Storybook castle, which is for the first time (in forever), is dedicated to all of the Disney Princesses. The land features attractions like Voyage to Crystal Grotto, Peter Pan’s flight, Hunny Pot Spin, The Many adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Alice in Wonderland Maze and the Seven Dwarfs Mine train.
Tomorrowland: Walt Disney is fond of saying that “Disneyland will never be completed…” and it is evident particularly on Tomorrowland as in other parks, it has gone through many re-designs and refurbishments due to the ever changing world. But the Tomorrowland in Shanghai Disneyland is entirely different. Here you will not see retro futuristic designs that features colorful robots and rockets, but here you’ll see a future which seems nearer to what we have right now. It features, modernistic shapes, lights, metallic colors and even sound that would bring you in the future. It is the home of the highly anticipated TRON Lightcycle Power Run and the classic rides and attractions of Buzz Lightyear and stitch encounter. As this is the future, A Star Wars Launch Bay is also located inside Tomorrowland. And if that didn’t get you hyped up, then wait till I tell you that Baymax is performing at Tomorrowland!
Top 5 Rides that you shouldn’t miss!
Shanghai Disneyland has lots of rides to choose from. Some of them are as classic as Dumbo the Flying Elephant and as new and as refreshing as the TRON Lightcycle Power Run. All of it will guarantee you authentic Disney experience and storytelling but of course, target riders vary depending on the type of ride. For you to check what kind of rides suits your taste or perhaps your adrenaline. The mobile app and the website has creatively listed out all of it rides, including the description, the types, the suitable riders and even the restriction.
If you would ask me how many days should I spent in the park and would I be able to ride all rides? The answer is, a 2-day trip at the park is more than enough to experience SHDL but if you want to experience all rides, you’ll have to sacrifice other attractions like stage shows, the parade and I guess even the fireworks display. Which I think is not a good idea if you are aiming for an authentic and a magical Disney experience. You’ll have to remember that rides which are targeted to younger audiences have longer lines. So you’ll really have to plan out which rides and attractions you should ride, experience or watch.
So here are my top 5 rides that you shouldn’t miss on SHDL.
TRON Lightcycle Power Run: It’s the most highly anticipated ride in Shanghai Disneyland because of its cool modernistic aesthetics and its unique design. It’s the centerpiece of Tomorrowland and its theme is based on the Disney classic movies Tron and Tron Legacy where you’ll ride Lightcyles to battle out other teams inside the Grid. It’s unique because of the way you seat on the rollercoaster. Actually it’s more like of kneeling than of seating because it is designed as if you are riding a real lightcyle plus, there are no seatbelts as the locking systems are situated at your back. But, you wouldn’t feel any discomfort as what you’re going to feel is a genuine adrenaline rush because of it’s speed. And a quick trivia, it is actually the fastest rollercoaster in any Disney Park! So don’t dare miss it.
Pirates of the Caribbean Battle for the Sunken Treasure: The Pirates of the Caribbean is a Disney classic. In fact, Walt Disney himself got involved with the conceptualization the first Pirates of The Caribbean ride in in Disneyland Anaheim. But unfortunately, he died before it was built. The Pirates of the Caribbean Battle for the Sunken Treasure is similar to the classic ride where animatronics pirates reign but this time, it has been blended with innovation and modernistic technology. Here, although the language is in Mandarin, you will still be immersed into the world of Jack Sparrow. You’ll feel as if you are under and over the sea and you’ll even pass through in between clashing ships as if you are part of the war! So Ahoy, Matey! Go ride this one hell of a ride!
Soaring Over the Horizon: Soaring is another Disney classic. It is available in Disney California Adventures. But here, instead of California, you’ll take a flight around the world as if you are riding a glider. At first, I was skeptical to try it because all I know is that we’re just going to ride a machine that will move us up and down and will watch some boring sceneries and it will fail in giving me the life-like experience of riding a glider. But boy I was wrong! When we rode Soaring Over the Horizon, my mild acrophobia kicked in! I can’t believe that a make-believe flight would actually wake up my senses and would make me believe that we are flying over the mountains, seas and the skyscrapers of Shanghai! While you are it, you’ll really feel the breeze and even the smell of a certain location. It’s really awesome, especially its ending! But I won’t spoil it to you! Here’s the tip, if you are going to use the Fastpass, grab one for Soaring. Because the queue for this one is outrageously long!
Roaring Rapids: Since it is an adventure-raft ride, Roaring rapids isn’t entirely unique nor authentically Disney. But still, it will satisfy your cravings for thrills. It’s actually one of the famous rides in the park. While we were still on the Metro train, people are exchanging and selling for a certain plastic product. Since bringing of food is allowed in the park, we thought those were plastic bags for the leftover or for garbage disposal. But later on while we were queuing for this ride, we found out that what they’re bringing was actually a Poncho or a plastic raincoat. We didn’t wear any, because we like to live dangerously and we want to fully experience the ride. And the outcome was, as we say in our language, “Naging para kaming mga basang sisiw”. Nonetheless, the experience is still thrilling and fun.
Seven Dwarfs Mine Train: To be honest with you, there are a lot more rides to experience and to explore in Shanghai Disneyland but this is on my top five simply because… I love rollercoasters! End of the story. Plus, it’s one of the most popular rides of the park, has one of the longest ride, has rich Disney classic storytelling and has beautiful view of the castle. So go ride this coaster and while you’re at it sing “Heigh-Ho” with the seven dwarfs!
20 Shanghai Disneyland Pro-Tips
With this carefully researched and proven tips, I hope that I’ll be able to help you out in planning and spending your time at the park. Because these tips worked out well during our visit and we had a wonderful and a magical time at Shanghai Disneyland.
- Constantly Check the website. You’ll see the calendar for the park hours and the times guide in it and you’ll see the announcements of promo and maintenance on it as well.
- Purchase your ticket online. You don’t want to fall in line for hours just for the ticket.
- Download the mobile app. You may access your tickets here and check wait duration per ride.
- Plan your visit. Let’s be honest, tickets are expensive. If you want to experience and enjoy everything go and try to create a plan. And if your plan will be de-railed, then another tip is don’t push yourself too much. Rest, take a sit and enjoy the scenery.
- Sunday have lesser crowd. Warning, this is not yet proven as we’ve been there once. But we’ve noticed than there were lesser people on a Sunday than of a Monday. And again, the key is to plan.
- Include shows/entertainment on your plan. Although the language of each shows are in Mandarin, some shows are still stunning and will leave you breathless. Check the times guide.
- Wear comfortable shoes. I ended up having two large blisters on my feet.
- Bring Water. Bottled water costs as much as 10RMB (70Php), but you can refill your bottles on drinking fountains (water is not cold). Restaurants don’t give service waters.
- Be early. About 330 million people live within three-hour drive or train-ride from Shanghai. It’s easily accessible to local tourist so you’ll need to grab the chance of being early to grab FastPasses and experience shorter lines. If possible, take the first trip of Line 11 towards Disneyland.
- Greet the cast members (Disneyland Staff). Say Nǐ hǎo for Hello and Xièxiè for Thank you!
- Grab the Map and Times Guide. They are not just useful; they also serve as a free souvenir.
- Free souvenirs. Near the Mickey floral and before entering the welcome arc, go to the guest services and ask for a souvenir pin. Politely say that it is your first time and they will give you a souvenir pin. If it’s your birthday, tell them it’s your birthday and they will give you a pin. Wear it and every cast member will greet you happy birthday.
- Take advantage of PhotoPass. Approach any PhotoPass photographer and pose for a picture. They will give you a PhotoPass card that has a QR code. Download the Shanghai Disneyland Photopass app on your phone and scan the QR code. Every time you approach a PhotoPass photographer, give him the PhotoPass card, they will scan the QR code and the pictures will be viewable on the app. You may buy digital copies of your photos, 59 RMB per photo. But if you want unlimited download, head to a nearest store and purchase a PhotoPass+ card for 369 RMB. Don’t buy the PhotoPass+ on your app as you won’t be able to get a physical PhotoPass+ which could also serve as a souvenir. Photographers are on strategic locations so rest assured, backgrounds are stunning (https://www.shanghaidisneyresort.com/en/guest-services/photo-pass-service/).
- Take advantage of FastPass. Some rides, especially the popular ones have a FastPass tickets. Check your Disneyland mobile app to check which rides have FastPass and check which guest services per land offers FastPass. So what is a FastPass? If you would scan your entrance ticket on a FastPass machine, it will give you a time-allotted ticket to your chosen ride. Meaning if you would scan your park ticket at around 7:00 AM, it will probably give you an 8:00AM to 9:00 AM ticket for your chosen ride. In other words, you don’t need to fall in line as you will have a special line for that specific ride between the window 8:00AM to 9:00AM. It’s like it will reserve you a certain timeslot for your chosen ride. Please be reminded that in Shanghai, people are aware of the FastPass tickets that they even line up for these. Well at least it still shorter than the 1-2 hours worth of line for some rides. If I may suggest, use your FastPass for Soaring and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train as these two has the longest wait period in any ride.
- Be Patient. As some of the guests (not all) might push you, cut in line and some might open the emergency exits and use it to cut in line. Don’t mind them. Let them be. Don’t engage in any trouble and don’t ruin the magic for yourself.
- Try eating at Wandering Moon Teahouse. It’s distinctly Chinese and it has one of the quietest and most comfortable seats in any restaurant inside the park.
- Eat Ice Cream. The Mickey-shaped or the Donald Shaped ice cream are at the Treasure cove.
- Buy limited edition grand opening souvenir. If you have to shell-out money for souvenirs, then might as well grab limited edition souvenirs as obviously it’s limited edition and it also serves as a commemoration that you’ve been there on the grand opening season.
- Watch the parade and the Fireworks display. Do I need to say why?
- Eat Dinner at Disneytown. Disneytown is a commercial and dining District right outside of the park. Some food establishments have cheaper options than of the restaurant inside the park.
(Words and photos by Jasper Jed Gueco and Paul Villena)