The big day is almost here! Tickets and hotel bookings for Shanghai Disneyland's grand opening will go on sale this Monday, March 28th.
With that important date drawing near, I figured this was a good time to go over a few things you should know before booking your trip, including some added expenses you might not have thought about:
1) Shanghai is 12 hours ahead of Eastern time and 15 hours ahead of Pacific
Right now the Shanghai Disneyland site simply says that tickets will go on sale on the 28th. This could mean at midnight, 10 a.m., or really any other time. However, there is a good chance it will actually still be Sunday, March 27th stateside when they go up due to the massive time difference between here and China. So be sure to keep an eye on the site Sunday as well as Monday.
UPDATE: According to Shanghai Daily, tickets and hotel bookings will go on sale at 12:01 a.m.
2) You'll want to fly to Pudong International Airport
When you go to book your flight, you may notice that there are actually two airports in Shanghai: Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport (SHA) and Pudong International Airport (PVG). While you may be tempted to fly to SHA simply because it contains the first three letters of the word "Shanghai," The Shanghai Disney Resort is located in Pudong and so PVG is the closer airport. If you do end up at SHA, it is only about an hour away but, if you have the choice, PVG is the way to go.
3) You will need a passport to visit China
Just like visiting most other countries, you will need a valid passport in order to visit China. This may seem obvious but you'd be surprised how easy it can be to forget about until the last minute. Luckily, you still have plenty of time to get one before the opening of Shanghai Disneyland.
The U.S. state department website estimates that regular passport requests should be filled in about six weeks. You can get that time down to three weeks for an extra fee and can also pay to have it overnighted to you once it's processed. Additionally, you can visit an agency location if you really decide to procrastinate. Most U.S. passports will run you about $110, but here's a fee calculator so you know the exact cost (for example, the expedited service will set you back an extra $60).
Another important note about your passport: you must have at least six moths of validity left on your passport when you visit. This means that, if your passport expires within six months of the day you plan on arriving in China, you'll need to get a new one before your trip.
4) You will also need a visa to enter mainland China
No, not a credit card (although that might come in handy too) — China requires all U.S. passport holders to also obtain a visa before entering. These visas are $140 for U.S. citizens and must be obtained before landing. In other words, if you do not have one upon arriving in mainland China, you will not be able to enter.
To apply for a visa, you can find the correct form on the Chinese Embassy website that corresponds to the reason for your trip (I'm guessing you'll want an 'L' visa for tourists). However, forms cannot be submitted by mail and there are only six embassy and consulate locations throughout the United States: Washington D.C., New York, Chicago, San Fransisco, Los Angeles, and Houston.
If you don't live near any of these cities (or have a friend who does), you may need to look into a service that will go to the consulate for you. These services such as VisaHQ will typically add another $80 to $100 to the actual fee charged to obtain the visa, but, in addition to saving you a trip, they will also walk you through the process and ensure that you're filling out everything correctly.
But wait — there's another catch! Say you have a friend in San Fransisco but you reside in Missouri (ahem). Unfortunately, you cannot have your friend submit your application for you in California because your assigned consulate location is Chicago. This site has a helpful list of what locations service which states so be sure to choose the right one. Again, if a trip to one of those consulates isn't feasible, you may have to bite the bullet and pay a service to do it for you.
Finally, the good news is that you can obtain a visa that is good for up to 10 years and includes multiple entries for no extra charge. This means that you can feel free to visit Shanghai again and again or travel in between Hong Kong Disneyland and Shanghai Disneyland without worrying about this whole headache for another decade. Meanwhile, if you plan on visiting only Hong Kong, then — lucky you — you do not need a visa, just valid U.S. passport.
5) You may need a VPN in order to use social media while in China
As you may or may not know, The People's Republic of China restricts access to a number of websites. Among these banned sites are social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
While there are ways around this, they will usually involve using what's known as a VPN (virtual private network). Basically, applications like HMA can be downloaded to your computer or smartphone to help you get passed the proverbial Great Firewall of China by making it look like you're connecting from America (or anywhere else in the world for that matter). A word of caution: not all VPNs act the same way so you may want to do some research and see if the VPN you plan on using has been tested in China. Additionally, most of these services will cost you a few dollars (but, as an added bonus, VPNs will allow you to watch Netflix movies only available in other countries, so...).
At this time it's unclear if Disney property might also have some way around these restrictions, but it's always good to be prepared if communicating on social media or doing work while on your trip is important to you. Also, once again Hong Kong has it easy as there are no such restrictions there.
That's all the advice I have for you before you book your trip to Shanghai Disneyland. Good luck getting your tickets, hotel, etc. this week and I'll be back next week to tell you how it went for me.
Want to get a closer look at what attractions, shops, and restaurants are coming to Shanghai Disneyland? Check out our previous Countdown features: