Shanghai Disneyland Trip Planning Guide 2017


Shanghai Disneyland is the newest Disney Park and the first Park in Mainland China, which opened June 16, 2016. While Shanghai Disney Resort only offers one Park, two hotels, and Disneytown, there is plenty to experience during your trip. Our planning guide to Shanghai Disneyland provides tips, recommendations, and information to help in your trip.

We had the pleasure of visiting Shanghai Disneyland during their Grand Opening. You can read our multi-day trip report (parts one, two, three, and four), along with our special podcast episode of TDRNow and bonus FAQ episode. Or watch our vlog, capturing the first days of the Park.

I recommend Shanghai Disneyland as part of a larger trip, such as experiencing the trifecta of Asian Disney Parks—Hong Kong Disneyland & Tokyo Disney Resort, and of course, Shanghai Disney Resort. Make Tokyo Disney Resort the last Disney Resort to visit, as it’s the best one out of the three Resorts in Asia.

Table of Contents

Resort Overview

Shanghai Disneyland Grand Opening Entrance Mickey Ave

Shanghai Disney Resort is in Pudong, Shanghai, China, which includes Shanghai Disneyland Park, Disneytown (their Downtown Disney), Shanghai Disneyland Hotel and Toy Story Hotel on the property.

When to Visit

The Park is in its first year of operation, which means we don’t have enough information to say when the best/worst time is to visit just yet. The summer is hot and humid (June-September) and temperatures on average 35C (95F) and the winter is uncomfortable (December to February) getting down to 0C (32F) in the evenings. Weather-wise, Autumn is mild.

An excellent rule of thumb is to avoid public holidays, which will bring the crowds. Chinese New Year is an important holiday, so it’s a good bet the Parks will be busy during that time.

How Many Days

Shanghai Disney Resort offers enough for guests that visiting for 2-3 days won’t run out of things to do. Shanghai Disneyland Park is at most a 2-Day Park if you’re diligent with what you do. With Disneytown, The Lion King, and the two hotels, spending 3 days at the Resort is more than enough time. Then spend the rest of your trip in the city to experience more of Shanghai.

Visa for Mainland China

In order to visit Mainland China as a tourist, you are required to have an L-type visa in your passport before arrival (a few exceptions, which we will cover). Visit your nearest Chinese Embassy in your area to apply. You can read our full guide explaining this process. There are specific countries that do not need a visa ahead of time and are granted a visa upon arrival (which I won’t list here, so check with your country of origin.)

There are two different visas you may receive upon arrival, which does not need you to get it ahead of time. These work in specific ways and in some cases the better option if Shanghai is part of a larger trip. Read the links to make sure you meet the requirements and have all the proper documentation:

The 72-hour visa is short, but if you are staying for one night then there’s no problem getting this one. The better option is the 144-hour visa. This gives you ample time (6 days) to spend in Shanghai, meaning you can easily visit the Park for 1-2 days then enjoy the city for another 2 days without worrying about time constraints.

Getting There

When flying into Shanghai, you land either at the Pudong International Airport or Hongqiao International Airport. Most international flights are out of Pudong, so this where you would fly into in most cases. There are a few options to/from the airport, the Maglev, Subway, Shuttle Bus, or Taxi. If you’re staying at the Resort, taking a taxi is the easiest option and costs you about 120 yuan (~$20USD).

If you’re staying in the city, take the Metro along Line 11 to the Resort. Here’s a Google Map showing where the Pudong Airport and Shanghai Disneyland are.

Hotels

Shanghai Disneyland Lobby

Two Disney Hotels are available for your stay at Shanghai Disney Resort: Shanghai Disneyland Hotel and the Toy Story Hotel. I won’t go into detail on what these hotels offer, as the official website does an excellent job already. These two hotels offer perks such as guaranteed entry.

Shanghai Disneyland Hotel starts at about ¥1950 CNY (~$300 USD) per night for the Deluxe Garden View, while the Toy Story Hotel starts at about ¥820 CNY (~$122USD) per night for the Garden View. Both hotels offer bus transportation to/from the Park. You can walk to the Park from the Toy Story Hotel, or from the Shanghai Disneyland Hotel you can take the water taxi across Wishing Star Lake. Walking from the Disneyland Hotel is also an option, but takes much longer.

We have stayed at both of these hotels and I would recommend the Shanghai Disneyland Hotel over the Toy Story Hotel if you are an adult and going for the full “luxurious” trip. If you have children in tow, then there’s nothing wrong with the Toy Story Hotel. The Toy Story Hotel is the cheaper alternative, which shows in the overall design of the hotel, but that doesn’t mean it is not an excellent option.

Toy Story Hotel Entrance Shanghai Disneyland Grand Opening

If you are traveling halfway around the world to visit Shanghai Disneyland, then staying at one of the two hotels is recommended. But if this is part of a bigger trip—doing the trifecta of Disney Parks in Asia is fun—then you may want to look for cheaper alternatives.

Since the Resort is in the city, there are plenty of other options for cheaper hotels in the area. We stayed at The QUBE Hotel, which was about $90/night and a 20-minute taxi ride to the Resort.

Park Tickets

Shanghai Disneyland Grand Opening Park Ticket

Out of all the Disney Parks, Shanghai offers the least complicated ticket options:

  • 1-Day Standard Ticket: 499.00 CNY ($75USD)
  • 2-Day Standard Ticket: 950 CNY ($143USD)

Three different ticket options are offered, which are Standard, Child, and Senior. The Standard and Child are based on your height and not your age, while the Senior Ticket is for anyone over 65 years of age.

  • Standard tickets are for people 1.4 metres and taller (about 4.5 feet)
  • Child tickets are for kids between 1 metre (3.2 feet) and 1.4 meters (4.5 feet) tall

A specially priced Park ticket is available for guests with disabilities.

Where to Buy Tickets

If you are staying at one of the Disney Hotels, you may buy tickets with your reservation and are guaranteed entry into the Park. The easiest option—second to buying with your hotel reservation—is to buy them online through the official website.

When buying your ticket, choose to print off your ticket.  The other option is via text message, but I don’t recommend this method. You then take your printed ticket to the turnstiles when you enter the Park. You have to show your ID (which is your Passport in most cases if you are not from China) at the turnstiles. The Cast Member exchanges your printout for a hard-printed ticket. I was never asked for my passport when we went, though, so I am not sure how enforced this is. To err on the safe side, bring your Passport with you, but remember to keep it in a safe place on your person or take it back to your hotel room.

Currently, Shanghai Disneyland does not offer Annual Passes or discount tickets. This may change in the future. Only buy your tickets directly from Shanghai Disney Resort or their listed official partners.

Park Ticket Tips

  • Buy online through the official website (You must give your Passport information)
  • Print off your tickets before your trip
  • Show your passport at the turnstiles (once you have your ticket, you won’t need to show your ID anymore)

The Lion King

Tickets for The Lion king are separate from your Park tickets. Buy them online directly through the Shanghai Disneyland website. This does not need your Passport information. The show is the same as the one shown on Broadway.

The Internet & Wi-fi

Using the Internet is troublesome in Mainland China, and Shanghai Disneyland is no exception. The Great Firewall of China, as it’s known, prevents websites, apps, and services such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google, Gmail, and a plethora of other sites from working while in the country. Even if you have a foreign phone, you are not exempt from this.

SIM Card

If you have an unlocked device (iPhone, iPad, Android, or tablet) there is one way to use all websites and apps without issue while in China. Purchase a SIM Card from Hong Kong and this allows you to use websites like you would normally back in Canada/US/Australia/UK/etc. I highly recommend the Hong Kong SIM, which I used exclusively while in Shanghai and had no issues with it. It comes with 1GB of data and has the option of adding another 1GB of data if you reach the limit.

If you’re with T-Mobile in the US, they offer an international roaming package that you may want to consider looking at.

Wi-fi in the Park & Hotel

Wi-fi is offered at both hotels and within the Park but is subject to the Great Firewall, which renders most of your usage useless.

VPN

Another option is to use a VPN for your phone or laptop/MacBook. ExpressVPN is one that is recommended by others.  I have no experience with this, so your mileage may vary. Here’s a list of different options. If you are visiting China for a short period, this cost may not be worth the hassle. Enjoy your time being disconnected from the world.

What to Eat

Cinderella Glass Slipper Dessert Royal Banquet Hall Shanghai Disneyland

Cinderella Glass Slipper Dessert

Restaurants in Shanghai Disneyland Park and hotels are a mixture of Chinese, Western, and International Cuisine. They range from buffets, table service, and quick service locations. If you have dietary restrictions or requirements, they offer options for those, too.

Snack options are bountiful and include soft-serve, popcorn (caramel), waffles, fresh fruit, nuts, and of course, turkey legs, which are popular. Il Paparino and Chip & Dale’s Treehouse Treats are excellent options for something to nibble on.

Pizza Shanghai Disneyland

There are three table service restaurants at Shanghai Disney Resort: Royal Banquet Hall (Character Dining), Aurora, and Lumiére’s Kitchen. The Banquet Hall is in the Enchanted Storybook Castle, while the others at the Shanghai Disneyland Hotel.

I recommend eating at the Royal Banquet Hall: the food is decent, you meet Mickey and friends, and you eat inside the Enchanted Storybook Castle! Lumiére’s Kitchen at the Shanghai Disneyland Hotel has beautiful theming, but the food options are less than stellar. A majority of the buffet is seafood—minus the delicious desserts—so if you aren’t fond of that, you’ll end up ordering off the menu.

Lumiere's Kitchen Shanghai Disneyland

Recommendations

The Park consists of quick service restaurants, all of which offer varying numbers of options. Here’s a quick list of where to get specific types of food:

  • Pizza: Pinocchio Village Kitchen
  • Burgers: Stargazer Grill
  • BBQ Ribs: Barbossa’s Bounty
  • Chinese Cuisine: Wandering Moon Teahouse

Dining Tips

  • Make a reservation at the Royal Banquet Hall ahead of time, which is done over the phone.
  • Make reservations at Aurora and Lumiére’s Kitchen when you arrive at the Resort.
  • Bring a water bottle—your hotel should offer free bottles of water—to refill at the Park. The fountains are labeled as “Drinking Water,” so you know it’s safe.
  • Guests seem to take breaks in the quick service restaurants, even during off-peak dining hours. Check if you can find a table before you order.
  • Pepsi products are available in the Parks, while Coke products are not offered. If you’re not a fan of Pepsi, then stick with tea, juice, or other Pepsi products.
  • If a Cast Member doesn’t speak English, there are menus which you can point at that have selections written in English. All menus have English on them.

Disneytown

Disneytown is Shanghai’s version of Downtown Disney or Ikspiari at Tokyo Disney Resort. They offer a variety of shopping and restaurants, including The World of Disney Store, Starbucks, and The Cheesecake Factory. This is where the theater for The Lion King is.

An alternative entrance to the Park is near the back of Disneytown and puts you between Mickey Avenue and Tomorrowland after you enter. This is a great way to exit or re-enter the Park. This particular gate is not open to guests when the Park opens, however; you need to use the main entrance.

Attractions

TRON Shanghai Disneyland Exterior

The Park offers a number of unique attractions and updated versions of familiar ones. There are plenty of rides to experience and those alone fill up your day. Here’s what I think are the best attractions to experience:

Recommendations

  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure
  • TRON Lightcycle Power Run
  • Camp Discovery
  • Soaring Over the Horizon
  • Buzz Lightyear Planet Rescue

Pirates is the “must-do” out of all the attractions in the Park. The amount of effort that went into this attraction is spectacular and doesn’t disappoint. Second is TRON Lightcycle Power Run, which is best in the evening for the “coolness” factor alone. While the ride itself is short, the queue and attraction are worth the price of admission.

Pirates of the Caribbean Battle for the Sunken Treasure Shanghai Disneyland Grand Opening

An interesting addition is Camp Discovery. It’s a rope course that takes you through parts of Adventure Isle and has courses for both the “hardcore” and younger children. It’s physically demanding and is not for everyone.

Soaring Over the Horizon is the same film (except for the ending) as the new version at Walt Disney World. The queue is worth the wait, and photos don’t capture the beauty of the detail. You’ll have to see it for yourself.

Buzz Lightyear Planet Rescue is an “updated” version of Buzz Lightyear Astroblaster that everyone knows and loves. Boasting updated blasters and a unique story, this one is a fun way to get out of the heat.

FastPasses

TRON FastPass Shanghai Disneyland Grand Opening

Shanghai Disneyland uses dedicated kiosk machines to distribute paper FastPasses, similar to Hong Kong Disneyland and Tokyo Disney Resort. There are four FastPass locations, Tomorrowland, Adventure Isle, Fantasyland West, and Fantasyland East, where you receive your FastPass. Scan your Park ticket and select the attraction you want — there is an English option.

FastPass Tips & Ride Strategy

Shanghai Disneyland offers FastPass attractions for many rides throughout the Park. Pirates of the Caribbean is not one of these attractions and is standby only (which makes things easier). Here are our tips for FastPasses when you get to the Park:

  • Grab a FastPass for either Soaring or Roaring Rapids (they are near each other and these lines move slower)
  • Head up to Pirates for the Standby line
  • Standby for TRON (or get an FP for it if the time has come)
  • Standby for Buzz Lightyear
  • FastPass for Peter Pan’s Flight (if there are any left)

This strategy needs refinement but is what worked for us during our visit. The Single Rider lines didn’t operate during our time. We will update this strategy once we have experience with it.

Shows & Entertainment

Shanghai Disneyland Ignite the Dream

Shanghai Disneyland offers a variety of stage shows, character experiences, a parade, and a nighttime spectacular. All the shows are in Mandarin. Even with the language barrier, the stories are simple enough for you to get the idea — most of the time. Here is the entertainment we think is worth your time:

The fireworks spectacular Ignite the Dream is a perfect way to end your day at the Park. While this does not rival Disney Dreams over at Disneyland Paris, for their first nighttime show, it’s marvelous. The best viewing spots are in the Gardens of Imagination, which tends to get crowded.

I am a fan of parades, and while Mickey’s Storybook Express is not the best parade, the music gets you moving. A standout feature of this parade is that Mulan makes an appearance as her warrior alternate ego, Ping, and comes in riding on her trusted companion, Khan. The parade route is long, so finding a decent spot to stand is simple.

Entertainment such as Baymax Super Exercise Expo, Club Destin-E, and Marvel Comic Academy are ones you don’t have to feel bad for missing. If you are in the area, check it out, otherwise, your time is best spent at the shows recommended above.

Language Barrier

Stargazer Grill Menu Cast Member Shanghai Disneyland Grand Opening

Mandarin and Shanghainese is spoken in Shanghai, and Mandarin is primarily used at the Resort. While all the shows and entertainment are in Mandarin (with no English subtitles), important information and signage are in English.

English is hit or miss among the Cast Members (similar to Tokyo Disney Resort), even at the hotels. I find the Cast Members at the hotels speak a higher level of English compared to those in the Park. It purely depends on which Cast Member you interact with.

If a Cast Member is unable to understand what you are asking, they will find someone who speaks English for you. I had a few instances with Counter Service staff who spoke no English and simply spoke with me in Mandarin, even though it was clear I did not understand. But that did not bother me since it was simple enough to comprehend through hand gestures.

Learning a few key phrases and words goes a long way—which helps in any foreign country.

Money & Credit Card

The Resort accepts most major credit cards, such as MasterCard and Visa at the ATMs. We had no issues with paying with our credit cards for merchandise—MasterCard. I used cash for all my food transactions. Inform your bank that you are using your credit card in China; this helps to avoid it from becoming locked while abroad.

The currency in the Park and Mainland China is the Chinese Yuan. $10USD is about 66 Chinese Yuan.

Money Tips

  • Order your currency at your bank ahead of time.
  • Do not exchange at the airport (avoid paying higher fees)
  • Do not pull money out of the ATMs with your credit card, unless it’s needed. Depending on your card, fees may apply.

Culture

Exterior Wandering Moon Teahouse Shanghai Disneyland

Traveling to a foreign country comes with first-hand experiences in cultural differences. Here’s a list of a few you’ll notice during your visit:

  • Hot water is provided inside restaurants as self-serve. You can get cold water from the water fountains in various places in the Park.
  • Portion sizes for food are similar to western diets, compared to Japan where portion sizes are smaller.
  • People enjoy lounging, which is why there are areas in Fantasyland dedicated to allowing guests to sit and relax in a wide open space.
  • Queuing can feel unorderly at times, so be aware guests sometimes jump the queue (cut in line). This doesn’t happen all the time, however.
  • It’s not uncommon for children to relieve themselves in public (with parental help).
  • While there are smoking areas and signs indicating where smoking is not allowed, some guests may ignore these signs.

In short, Shanghai Disneyland is worth the visit as a larger trip. There’s enough to experience at the Park to stay at least two days. The Park is beautiful and it’s a great way to see what a “modern” Disney Park is from the ground up.

If Shanghai is part of a larger trip, then you won’t want to miss our Ultimate Guide to Tokyo Disney Resort and our Hong Kong Disneyland Trip Reports!

Find this guide useful? Make sure to share it to help others plan their trip to Shanghai Disney Resort. Feature and select photos by Duy Phan Photography.

planning guide to shanghai disneyland