A Guide to the World’s Greatest Show: EXPO2020 Dubai
This article is about EXPO2020 and is practical guide about getting to and around the EXPO in Dubai, as well as tips for your visit. I will also answer some different frequently asked questions. I would highly recommend visiting the EXPO if you’re in Dubai. It’s certainly something that you will remember for years to come.
What is the EXPO?
Before getting into the guide about practical elements for your visit, let’s talk about what the Dubai EXPO2020 is. The EXPO is a large event where every country comes together to show solutions and innovations that they have created that will make the world a better place. For this EXPO, there are three themes: sustainability, mobility, and opportunity. Each country decides which theme they want to make their pavilion based on and then, in the end, we have a large fair with each country participating in the selected section.
COVID Rules: Two Very Important Things to Note
First of all, if you are not fully vaccinated, you will need to get a COVID test to visit the EXPO. It is free for the single-day pass, and you can get a maximum of 3 free COVID tests if you hold a multi-day pass. You may be able to also use these tests to travel back to your home country, but it is definitely not something that should be relied on without checking first. There are 26 testing locations in Dubai and there are locations all across the UAE. Also, if you are under 18 like I am, you don’t need any vaccinations or tests to access EXPO2020. If you are over 18, having the green pass in the Al Hosn app means you can show all of this and your tickets from your phone.
The second thing is that you are required to wear a mask at all times while visiting. This was strictly enforced, but you are allowed to take them off when taking photos. There is even a robot on wheels going around telling people without masks that they must put them on.
Cost to Visit
The cost when we went was 100 AED or about 27 USD for my mother. I got her the Festive pass, which was the same price as the single-entry pass but granted us access from the 24th to the 31st of December. There are different pass options now that weren’t available previously, so I’d recommend checking the website to see the most up-to-date options.
For anyone either under 18, over 60, or people with a disability, there is no cost to visit for any of the tickets. Since I am under 18, I just got a season pass. While I probably won’t be going back, there wasn’t a charge to go, so I figured I should probably get it just in case.
To get to EXPO2020 from Dubai (DXB) airport, it takes a long time if you go via the Dubai Metro. We stayed at the Hyatt Place Wasl district when we were visiting the EXPO, and it took a long time but there weren’t any faster ways. There are also EXPO rider buses that leave from all around Dubai. While we could’ve taken them, it would’ve meant getting off the metro, trying to find the buses, and probably waiting in a line. I would say that if you are staying right near an EXPO bus stop, it would make a lot of sense, but Ubers in Dubai are very cheap as well. You can see the different stops here.
Best Times to Visit
No guide to EXPO2020 in Dubai is complete without addressing this. By far, the best time to visit the expo is right at opening time. It is open from 9 am to midnight Sunday to Thursday and 9 am to 2 am Friday and Saturday. It can be really crowded later in the day. I visited on a Friday, which is part of the weekend in Dubai, and it was the most crowded then.
The EXPO really is like a city. There are 3 main areas: sustainability, opportunity, and mobility. From those points, you can take a “train,” which is similar to the trains that you see in a mall. These trains do serve their purpose and are a great option to get around. When my mom and I were there, we just walked around, and that is also a great option.
But, there is also another issue with the EXPO, which is its size. I highly recommend you download the EXPO app either while you are there (since there is WiFi around the park) or before you go. You can show your tickets on the mobile app, and it also has another incredibly helpful function which is showing you how to get around the park. If you allow the app to know where you are, you can tell the app where you would like to walk to, and then it will use Google maps to navigate there. This is a feature that works well and beats a traditional paper map.
But, there is another way that worked just as well for me, which is to “get lost”. We did this for the majority of the time when we visited, and it worked out pretty well.
Countries to Visit
I think there is really no bad country to avoid. The longest lines were for the countries with larger pavilions. The only large pavilion we went to was the German one, which was very neat at the end but had a “children’s museum” vibe.
We mostly went to the smaller pavilions, which I highly recommend doing, and just do a couple of big pavilions. The smaller country pavilions are better in my opinion, because of the connections you get to make with the people and volunteers who are there. At the Bahamian pavilion, we had a ten-minute-long conversation with a nice guy from the Bahamas. He told us that he was an Olympic athlete, and he really couldn’t have been any nicer. While I recommend visiting this pavilion, there aren’t any that I recommend avoiding.
Recommended Time to Spend at the EXPO
We spent 1 full day and then 2 half days at the expo site. I think that is a good time, but it depends on what you want to do. We didn’t want to wait in lines, so we mostly went to the smaller countries. However, I would have loved to stay longer. You could easily spend a week there, especially if you want to visit the all of the pavilions.
But, if you wanted to just focus on the smaller pavilions, you could probably do all of them in about 4 full days. You could divide the different parts of the EXPO and do a certain amount of pavilions each day.
A feature of all the EXPO tickets is that you get 10 smart queue bookings per day and can use them for all of the pavilions. I’d recommend seeing the line before using one of the bookings. It would be a waste to use a smart queue option for a pavilion with no line.
The second thing is that there are certain pavilions that are grayed out, meaning you can’t use a booking there. Based on what I’ve seen, these seem to be the largest pavilions or the ones with a large resident population in Dubai, such as the US, Singapore, India, and Saudi Arabia. But, there are still plenty of good uses and options for using your 10 bookings.
Dubai Expo Food
There are plenty of great options for food, and each pavilion has some sort of local food. We tried some pizza from Italy, as well as some smoothies from Estonia. Otherwise, we didn’t eat at the EXPO. There are also food trucks all around the EXPO, featuring some American restaurants, such as Baskin Robbins and Domino’s, and the food was just a bit pricier than a normal Domino’s would cost.
This is somewhat well known, but if you have not heard, Emirates Airlines has a pavilion at the EXPO. We first went there on 12/25/21, and they were fully booked through the 29th, but you can book an appointment to view that pavilion here. If you are interested in visiting, this is something I’d highly recommend.
Dubai Expo Passports
There are also passports that are available at the EXPO2020 merchandise store. Here’s how they work: each time you go to a pavilion, there is a volunteer there to stamp your passport, and it ends up being a great souvenir in the end. I highly recommend doing this. The cost is 20 AED, or about $5.50.
I really had a great time at the EXPO2020 in Dubai, and I hope this guide is useful to you. If you are considering going to Dubai, I think the EXPO is something that you will never forget. Let me know what you think about the EXPO, and, as always, feel free to ask any questions you have and I will try my best to answer them.
After this experience, I really hope to visit the next EXPO in Osaka. You can see more of my visit to Dubai’s EXPO2020 in the video below.