Solo Trip to Shanghai Disney - Yays, Mehs and Thoughts

Discussion in 'Other Lands' started by 1nfrequent, Oct 23, 2017.

  1. 1nfrequent

    1nfrequent Mouseketeer

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    I did a solo trip to Shanghai and Shanghai Disney in September and thought I'd add a summary of my experience and thoughts to the general knowledge here in case others can benefit.

    Background And Preparation

    I booked my flights in March because Finnair had a business class fare sale. I got my flights for £1320 travelling LHR-HEL-PVG-HEL-LHR, which was very good value. Bonus - Finnair used the new A350 on 3 of the legs so I had a flat bed. If you're looking to upgrade your travel then you can do a lot worse than Finnair - I'd definitely fly them again and they have sales to the Far East throughout the year so it's worth keeping an eye on them.

    I decided to book the Sofitel Shanghai Hyland as my hotel - got a club lounge access room in a 30% off sale 5 nights for about £560 with free breakfast in the main restaurant. The hotel's on Nanjing Road, handy for the Metro Stations on Nanjing Road and People's Square (which gives you access to about 3 different Metro lines) and Nanjing Road is the main shopping route so there's plenty of life around there with many shops and eateries open to late plus it's about a 15/20 minute walk to the Bundt where you can see the Shanghai skyscrapers all lit up.

    I got my Visa in August using the Chinese Visa Application Service Centre. I think the fees were about £140 but I've lost the receipt I had. I know that it wasn't as much as on the schedule of fees on their website though. The form itself was easy to fill in, you book an appointment on-line and you get the visa back the following week. You can apply direct to the Embassy but I'd heard it can take longer and be more bureaucratic so I was happy to pay for the convenience of making it easy - YMMV.

    I booked a walking tour of the French Concession in advance through a tour company and I also booked a cruise along the Bundt. The only other thing I booked in advance - naturally - was the Disney tickets. The website was very easy to use but the options are limited. A 2 day pass is only valid on 2 consecutive days and I wanted to split my trip to a Friday and the following Monday so I ended up buying 2 individual tickets, which was easy. I'd seen the reports here about needing to bring your passport to pick the tickets up but the website also said to take your order number so I printed them off to bring with me.

    Preparation Tips

    Definitely download the Explore Shanghai Metro app. It's free, in English and lets you plan your route and gives you an estimated journey time (which I found to be very accurate).

    Also download the Shanghai Disney App. Before the trip I was using it to get an idea of when the Park was busiest (TBH it was a bit skewered because I started using it in August when the park was crazy busy - 4 hour waits for Soarin' crazy) but it did give me an idea of when the park was busy, when it wasn't and what was popular.

    Check Chinese holidays (including school vacations) and seasonal weather before you book. I knew I was going at the beginning of the rainy season out there and was prepared to ride my luck (in the event I only had bad rain on 2 days out of the 5 I was there but one of those days was my second day in the Park and it just threw it down all day). I know that if you've got children then you're going to be constrained on when you can go - my suggestion would be to look more at half term/Christmas/Easter than the summer if you can do it because they're less likely to coincide with big Chinese holidays and that means you'll be facing lower crowd numbers).

    Apart from the rain, the weather was okay - very grey and overcast but the temperatures were still in the low 20s celsius, which was plenty warm enough.

    Thoughts About The Park and My Tips

    - It's really easy to get to if you don't want to stay on site. It took about 50 minutes and 2 line changes from Nanjing Road. The Metro is very simple to use - the stops are sign posted in Mandarin and English and the trains do announcements in Mandarin and English. The Metro is also very cheap - a friend gave me a Metro card that they had from a previous visit to Shanghai - you can top it up at ticket machines in any station (ticket machines have an English option) and you touch in and out with it like you would an Oyster card in London. I spent about 40 Yuan in total on it and that involved travelling all around the City.

    - The Park is easily sign posted from the Metro station and takes a few minutes to walk to.

    - You have to go through a security check before you get to the ticket sales booths/entrance gates (no different to if you go to the Parks in the US). I was there after the main tourist season but it was still a 10 minute wait. The guards go through your bag (exactly the same as in the US) and you go through an x-ray gate. People were bringing snacks and drinks in without getting into any trouble.

    - There were more queues at the entrance gate but they were faster moving. If you've preordered your tickets you pick them up at the gate. As was the case for some of the other posters here, no one was interested in seeing my confirmation print outs, they just wanted my passport. The one thing I did discover was that if you have a split ticket, you can only pick up your ticket for that day - I don't know if that's because they didn't understand my request (which is quite possible) or whether the system simply doesn't let them but that was a bit frustrating.

    - I was visiting in late September on a Friday and Monday. Numbers in the Park were pretty low but there were still a surprising number of Chinese tour groups and school groups around. Standby waits for the most popular ride (which was Soarin) got up to 90 minutes. Standby wait times on Tron were a maximum of 60 minutes, Pirates of the Carribbean was 50 minutes and 7 Dwarves about 80 minutes (but the ride kept going down while I was there, which I think fed into that).

    - A couple of days before I arrived the Disney app got upgraded to allow people to get Fast Passes on it. The only problem is that you can only access the app for fast passes once you're in the Park and for that you need to have internet access. The Park offers free wi fi but you need a Chinese phone number to get it and although I know a couple of people here found staff willing to use their phones to get a wi fi code, when I asked I was told that wasn't possible. It's doubly frustrating because the wi fi site indicates that international phones can use it but the code you get doesn't work. As a result, I was stuck using paper Fast Passes, which wasn't a disaster. Given that there are single rider line options on many of the popular rides, in practice you really only need a FP on Soarin' and probably 7 Dwarves, Winnie the Pooh and Peter Pan (where the queues were surprisingly long - longer than I was prepared to wait anyway). The Fast Passes for Soarin went first on both days. Tron had Fast Passes available both days until about 6pm.

    - If you want to do Challenge Trails then you have to wear closed toed shoes. They're really strict on that (and rightly so). The ride is also weather dependent. I got to do one of the trails on the Friday but it absolutely threw it down with rain all day Monday so I didn't get to do the other 2.

    - The only ride I didn't do was the Roaring Rapids because almost everyone who got off it was saturated and given the bad weather, I didn't fancy spending my day squelching around the park or squelching back on the Metro. If you're planning to do it, I'd suggest bringing a change of clothes with you or really good waterproofs.

    - I didn't do any of the shows because they were all in Mandarin and because to be honest, I'm just not a show person so I can't comment on them and will refer you to the other reports here.

    - Cast members had varying abilities in English but most of the time I could make myself understood by pointing, giving a thumbs up and smiling.

    - A number of rides require you to put your things in lockers (Tron, Discovery Trails). There are 2 kinds - coin operated lockers which take a 1 Yuan coin and electronic lockers like what they have in Universal Studios (you go onto a screen, it gives you a number for a locker and a fixed time for when you come back and you put your things in that locker). I'd been a bit worried about the security of the lockers but like the people here reassured me, it was perfectly fine. The biggest problem was shortage of lockers - particularly on the Tron ride - where cast members ended up telling people to take their bags through with them and they got dumped into a trolley and taken round to the end of the ride. I was a bit worried about that the first time, but I kept my wallet and passport with me (they just about fit into the little compartment on the bike) and it turned out fine.

    - The park's bigger than you'd imagine. It took me about 20 - 25 minutes to walk from Soarin' to Tron and the parade really cuts up the routes from A to B so be prepared to get your steps in.

    - If you're planning on eating at a table service restaurant, either phone ahead to book a table or go and book a table first thing when you get there. I wanted to get dinner at the Royal Banquet Hall and got a table for 5pm but slots after that had booked up very quickly.

    - The Park owners are ambitious - you could see them developing new rides already. I spotted what looks like the RC Racer ride from Disneyland Paris going up and they've got a lot of space to expand further.

    Yays

    - Biggest yay is the Tron ride. It's amazing - best ride in any Disney park (excluding Hong Kong as I haven't been there yet) - it's just pure fun and I must had rode it about 14 times. The single rider line is a little weird - it's flagged up as a lane but the cast members don't allow you into it. Instead they give you a paper single rider chit, you walk up the normal line to a ticket booth, hand the chit over to another cast member and s/he let you cross to the single rider line. A little strange but it worked out fine.

    - Pirates of the Carribean is also a big yay. The ride's all in Mandarin but despite that the visuals are outstanding. There's a bit in the ride where you rise up out of the ocean with a number of ship wrecks and my jaw literally dropped. I hope it gets rolled out to other parks in the coming years because it's amazing.

    - Challenge Trails. I kinda went into this on the basis that it would tick a box of things that I could say I'd done but it was actually really good fun. I liked how each path is divided into easy, middle and hard (and some of the hards were *really* hard) and it was a genuine thrill to complete the course, even if I did wimp out when navigating around the waterfall because the ledges were so narrow.

    - Peter Pan - this has always been a favourite of mine anyway (bit of a sucker for flying over London) and it's just really cute to watch the kiddies enjoy the flight, especially when it's all shiny and new.

    - Buzz Lightyear - this is slightly different to the US rides. The blasters are easier to use and the targets easier to hit. I actually got the top ranking on this for the first time ever, which felt amazing. (Yes I took a photo. No I am not ashamed).

    - Food in the Parks was very good. I had the wok-fried seafood noodles at Pinnochio Village Kitchen, which were really good and it was easy to get a seat there. I also treated myself to dinner at Royal Banquet Hall - service was excellent and the food was great. If you want your character interactions then there was plenty of it and the cast members were good at directing Mickey, Donald, Daisy and Minnie around to each table (there was a little girl in a wheelchair on the table next to me so I asked the cast mates if they could add the time they'd spend on my table to hers so she got a better experience). The Banquet Hall was the most expensive place I ate but to be honest, it wasn't much more expensive than a good meal out in London and the 3 course set menu was very filling (my recommendation - crab cake, duck (sorry Donald - felt kinda guilty when you pitched up at the same time as my main) and I had the chocolate trio). I had a slight meh with the Halloween set menu but I'll come to that below.

    Mehs

    I didn't have many mehs and to be honest I think these are more nitpicks than anything else and they certainly didn't ruin my trip.

    - 7 Dwarves - this went down a number of times of each day I was there but it was particularly bad on the Monday when all the rain fell so I suspect it's particularly weather vulnerable. It wasn't a big deal - I got to ride it a couple of times and it's cute but not one of my favourites.

    - Soarin' - I've never really got why Soarin is so popular - it's fun but nothing amazing. This had the new film, which I enjoyed (especially Fiji, which has made my Bucket List because it was so beautiful) but the queue experience is all in Mandarin with no English subtitles so I have zero idea what the story to it is. Plus the queue areas are really dark and as I normally bring a couple of books with me, it was too dark to read in places. Fast Pass it definitely but if you're willing to stay in line for it longer than 60 minutes I'm gonna think you're a little cuckoo ... :D

    - the in park wi fi, which I've mentioned above. I know it's China. I know they're sensitive. (I know I could have got a VPN but I didn't want to go to a lot of trouble). It just seems like something they need to work on.

    - The Park has plenty of rides and shows and experiences to entertain you over 2 days and I think there's enough there for people of all ages so the mix is roughly right but I think they could do with one more proper coaster or thrill ride to match up with Tron - even if it's something like Aerosmith or Tower of Terror. However. I was surprised that there's zero Star Wars rides there (just an exhibition area where you can see some costumes and props and have your photo taken with the droids and Kylo Ren). I don't know if that's just because Star Wars isn't big in China (although it's gotta be bigger than Tron!). I hope they put something new in there rather than just replicating Star Tours because I think there's a lot of potential there.

    - The Banquet Hall was doing a Halloween special menu, which I really liked the look of but you had to order the whole menu, you couldn't pick one course from it. I think that inflexibility is a shame but I also think it's the kind of thing they'll iron out over time as more Westerners visit.

    Lessons Learned

    - I really want to go back to Shanghai Disney at some point. If I was doing it again I'd do it on a 72 hour transit visa and stay on site because it's closer access to the Park (that's purely because I've seen everything I want to see in the city centre). I'd probably also look to go in April/May (not late May or over the Ching Ming holiday though) where the weather is warm but not hot and the chances of rain are lower.

    - I'd booked a car to get me to my hotel when I first arrived because I didn't fancy handling a strange new Metro system when I was jet lagged. Given that Metro stations make you put your bags through an x ray machine that was the right decision for me at the time, but now I know how to get around I'd Maglev it into the city and then Metro it to the Park because it's way, way cheaper than a car or taxi.



    And that's about it. I hope that there's something here that's useful to anyone else thinking of going but I'm happy to answer questions if I can. I definitely think that solo travellers can have a good time here - Shanghai is no more dangerous than western cities and the Park has plenty to keep you occupied.

    1F
     
  2. Figarro

    Figarro Earning My Ears

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    Thank you for your trip report, it's really helpful.
    I'm going to Shanghai next year. I've been to Shanghai couple of times before but never had the chance to do a proper visit to French Concession. May I know the name of the tour company for the walking tour? Was it a private tour or did they put you in a larger group?
     
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  4. Douglas Dubh

    Douglas Dubh True Fiscal Conservative

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    Thanks for the report.
     
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  5. MommaBerd

    MommaBerd DIS Veteran

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    Thanks so much for your report! I am in the early stages of planning and this is all great info to tuck away.
     
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  6. 1nfrequent

    1nfrequent Mouseketeer

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    Thanks, Figarro, Douglas and MommaBerd. :D

    "Figarro:
    I'm going to Shanghai next year. I've been to Shanghai couple of times before but never had the chance to do a proper visit to French Concession. May I know the name of the tour company for the walking tour? Was it a private tour or did they put you in a larger group?"

    I booked a tour through Viator (the Private Colonial Walking Tour) and I was on my own. I've used Viator in other countries without any issue but they are a bit pricier than waiting until you're on the ground there and seeing who's available.

    I also used them for a night ferry trip, which was a little less successful because the weather was so bad (not the fault of the guide who was lovely and so apologetic). That was a group trip but I ended up being the only person on it so it was a lot more personal.

    1F
     
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  7. Douglas Dubh

    Douglas Dubh True Fiscal Conservative

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    I’ve been telling the wife we should do a six night trip to Shanghai. I’m thinking three nights near downtown then three nights at the Disney Resort. Spend two days seeing central Shanghai (maybe do hop on hop off bus) then a day trip to a water town, then two days at Disney. I was a little apprehensive about trying to do China outside of a tour but reports like yours and our relative ease of navigating Hong Kong and Japan makes me think we could do it. Tours are just a little too pricy. Maybe once we pay off the kids college loans.
     
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  8. 1nfrequent

    1nfrequent Mouseketeer

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    "Douglas Dubh:
    I’ve been telling the wife we should do a six night trip to Shanghai. I’m thinking three nights near downtown then three nights at the Disney Resort. Spend two days seeing central Shanghai (maybe do hop on hop off bus) then a day trip to a water town, then two days at Disney. I was a little apprehensive about trying to do China outside of a tour but reports like yours and our relative ease of navigating Hong Kong and Japan makes me think we could do it. Tours are just a little too pricy. Maybe once we pay off the kids college loans."

    6 nights is the perfect amount of time and your itinerary looks sensible. There's a surprising amount to see downtown - I'd recommend Shanghai Museum in People's Square which has some stunning Bronze Age artefacts (be aware though that you have to queue to get in and it can get very busy on weekends as it's very popular with locals), Shanghai History Museum (which makes for some uncomfortable exhibits as a Westerner) and Shanghai Science and Technology Museum. All the museums have English translations of their exhibits to greater or lesser degrees. And of course there's the Bundt, the Pearl TV tower (which has some great views) and the French Concession. The one thing I would say is that some of the other trip reports have talked about - erm - people going to the toilet in public. I didn't see any of that in the Disney Parks but I did see it in the museums - where parents frequently would just whip their children's trousers and underwear down and ... Let it go. Ahem. It's a bit of a shock the first few times and to be honest I didn't get used to it but I did get to recognise the signs before it happened.

    I'd be really interested to know what you think of water town if you go. I didn't have time on my trip but one of the reasons I'm keen to go back is so I can see it. I think one of the other posters here went there and the pictures were amazing.

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  9. Douglas Dubh

    Douglas Dubh True Fiscal Conservative

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    I’m thinking 6 nights for two reasons - the 144 hour visa and that I’d only have to take a week off work, which is hard for me to do in the spring. For a water town tour, I’m leaning toward seeing Suzhou, since it’s featured in Epcot’s China movie.
     
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  10. 1nfrequent

    1nfrequent Mouseketeer

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    I'm sure one of the other trip reports here covered a day trip to Suzhou - it's supposed to be China's equivalent of Venice, isn't it? I'd completely forgotten it was in the Epcot film. See, now I definitely need to go back ... :tongue:

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  11. Douglas Dubh

    Douglas Dubh True Fiscal Conservative

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    Yes, although I saw one list of top 7 water towns that didn't include it. Maybe it's too big? I was looking on Viator awhile back and saw one day tour that included Suzhou and one other town that sounded reasonable.
     
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  12. Figarro

    Figarro Earning My Ears

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    Thank you 1nfrequent for the info. The name of the tour sounds interesting.
    I've never done a walking tour before, I might try for this trip. Thanks again :)
     
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  13. TLPL

    TLPL DIS Veteran

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    I have a question about this. Do you mean even you downloaded the app and created an Shanghai Disneyland account ahead of time, you still need to have a Chinese phone number to connect to their in park wi-fi?
     
  14. cschaaf

    cschaaf Mouseketeer

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    Correct. You can get the app before you go.

    To use the app in-park to check waits, you need a data connection. We didn't get an international cellular data plan, so we had to rely on WiFi.

    When you connect to the Disney WiFi, it takes you to a login page and asks for a mainland China phone number, which we didn't have. It has to text you the PIN, and only does so to mainland numbers.

    We talked to a CM at a little Guest Services kiosk, they had maps and such there, and I asked him how to get on the WiFi. He said to just enter our phone number. I explained that we didn't have a mainland China number and he excitedly said, "I do!" and pulled his phone out of his pocket. He asked if he could use my phone and I handed it over.

    Using my phone, he entered his number then waited for the text message to pop up on his phone, entered the PIN on my phone and handed it back. He asked for my wife for her phone and did the same for her.

    This was common all over China. There was free WiFi in airports, public areas, hotels, etc, but most needed to text you the PIN. Almost all of them allowed you to use any phone number, though.

    The only other one that we found that didn't was in the Beijing airport. If you didn't have a mainland number, you had to go to a kiosk and scan your passport. Then it would print a little slip with the PIN.
     
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  15. TLPL

    TLPL DIS Veteran

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    Thanks for this piece of info! People don't usually mention these type of little tips and tricks on their trip report I am glad you explained it. Now I know what I have to do to get wifi on my non-Chinese phone. Thanks again!
     
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  16. 1nfrequent

    1nfrequent Mouseketeer

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    "TLPL:
    I have a question about this. Do you mean even you downloaded the app and created an Shanghai Disneyland account ahead of time, you still need to have a Chinese phone number to connect to their in park wi-fi?"

    cschaaf
    beat me to it but what I will say is when I tried asking staff for help with getting a Chinese phone number, none of them were willing to do it. Now, maybe I wasn't asking in the right way or there was a communication issue but I wouldn't count on staff helping you in this way.

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