Though it took me a 14-hour plane ride to make it to Shanghai from Los Angeles, somehow the flight seemed relatively easy and painless. There were plenty of meals, and perhaps the overnight aspect of it made the time fly by faster. Whatever it may be, getting to Shanghai was easy for me. Getting to Shanghai Disney Resort, however, was a little rougher.
Now, I visited Shanghai Disney on a 14-hour layover. Many people have long layovers at Shanghai PVG Airport and want to leave to check out the city during that time. While you normally need a visa to leave the airport, China does offer a 24-hour visa-free transit visa option for those looking to quickly get out during their layover. And you don’t need to do anything in advance to get this. However, I have heard that getting out of the airport in China can be questionable now-a-days. Depending on where you are coming from and how long your layover is, they may or may not let you out of the airport on a 24-hour visa, as people weren’t making it back in time for their connecting flights. That makes them stuck illegally in the country. With my 14-hour layover, I had no problems. If you head directly to the line at the far right with your incoming and connecting ticket and passport, you should be fine. But you do need all of those things and a decent-sized layover. Depending on the country you’re coming from, they may not be able to give you your connecting ticket in advance, giving you no choice but to stay in the airport. But if you have your connecting ticket, you must go to the far-right line and use the blue-striped customs form there to get out of the airport! Heading to the “transit” line at the left of customs will definitely get you stuck in the airport!
Unfortunately, Shanghai PVG Airport is relatively old, and all of their currency exchange machines were broken when I was there. And no currency exchanges with actual people running them were open. So, I got stuck paying an exorbitant amount of money for a driver who took an international credit card. (You see, China has a pay system for its residents that works off of their phones. Most people use it, and international credit cards like Visa are only accepted at certain locations.) But it was honestly worth it, as they scheduled my pick-up from Disney, as well, so I didn’t have to re-think about getting back to the airport at all.
But I made it! Here I was at Downtown Disney, luggage checked into their bag holder by a pleasant girl who used a translator app to communicate with me since she was unable to speak English. I thought I could just walk right into the park when it opened. So, naturally, I had my black tea latte at Starbucks (since they didn’t have Chai tea lattes there) waiting for the park to open. Ten minutes before opening time, I headed into the line to enter, thinking it would be simple. That was a mistake. There was a massive line- no, crowd really because no one understood how a line worked- that looped around multiple corners before coming out and forming more new lines. This was all just to enter the park. This park is POPULAR! It was chaos to get into the park. People were pushing through the lines, no one cared about cutting- it was every man for himself. Entering the park took about an hour. But I eventually got in!
I then started my Disney day- later than anticipated. Who knew Disneyland would be so popular in China? It was packed, and the lines were astronomical. Lucky for me, Pirates of the Caribbean had a single-rider line, and that’s all I could have wanted. With a quick entrance to Pirates because I was alone, I got to ride it twice! It was the singular greatest ride experience that I have ever had. It had animatronics mixed with giant screens and additional atmosphere creating a complete dream. It was the most interactive I’ve ever seen a ride be. There’s a moment where you are going in between the two battling pirate ships, and it’s really something you have to see to believe. You truly feel as if you are there. There is a great video of the full ride here on Youtube.
After exiting Pirates, I realized how hangry I was (and how little time I had there, having to get back to the airport for my connecting flight), and no stands would take international credit cards. Luckily, someone directed me to the restaurant in Pirates. Now, like the Blue Bayou at Disneyland Park, there is a restaurant in this Pirates attraction, too, but it was more of a cafeteria-style place and not a full sit-down restaurant. So, I picked a seat close to the water and enjoyed an extremely delicious lunch of fruit, beef, and noodles. Then, I was off to quickly see the rest of the park. The atmosphere at Shanghai Disneyland is beautiful. The castle is large, and its gardens are gorgeous. Adventureland and Tomorrowland are switched here, on opposite sides from where they usually sit in Disney Parks. That confused me a bit, as you need to go right from the entrance to get to Adventureland and left to get to Tomorrowland. The pirate theme was everywhere in Adventureland, and in Fantasyland, it was a fun little trip getting lost in Alice’s maze. Then, I hurried through Toy Story Land to make it over to Tomorrowland to experience Tron.
At Shanghai Disneyland, you can purchase “premier access passes”, which are basically fast passes that you pay for. This way, if you dish out the cash, you can cut every line that you want to. I bought a premiere pass for this one, as I was excited to ride it and didn’t want to wait the two hours to do so. It was definitely worth it. You ride the Tron roller coaster like you would a motorcycle, leaning forward. It shoots you off outside first, then you come into a dark room with bright colored lights zooming by you. The ride was quick, but it was a lot of fun. It’s definitely a unique experience.
And with that, my Disney day was over. Having walked forever and spent the day in the hot sun, I slept like a baby through my second flight. All in all, I think Shanghai Disney is worth the visit. If nothing else, Pirates of the Caribbean and Tron alone are absolutely worth the trip.