Canton Fair is the biggest trade show in China and one of the biggest in the world. The fair draws crowds from all around the world eager to pick up the latest and cheapest new product from China’s industrious manufacturers. There is no single Canton Fair. Instead, there is a Spring and Autumn session, with each session directed at different industries and lasting around two weeks.
International visitors to the fair have swelled in significant number over the past decade and organizing a visit takes careful preparation. Start your journey below.
Invitation to the Canton Fair
Your first step to a visit is to apply for an invitation from the Canton Fair organizers. Fairs are closed to the public and only open to industry and you will need to register to gain entry. You can register your attendance with the Canton Fair in advance and your badge for entry will then be available for collection on site. This registration should be free and avoid companies who claim to facilitate registration via $50 fees. Alternatively, for the majority of fairs, badges are available on site. You’ll simply need to register with your passport and company details – a business card can be useful. There is usually a small fee for registration on site.
Accommodation in Guangzhou
With up to 500,000 eager wheelers and dealers descending on each session finding accommodation can be a challenge – at any price. Local hotels regularly yank up their prices to legendary levels for the period of the fair. Unfortunately, there is little you can do about the price, booking early may take some of the bite out of the price but is practically essential if you can actually want to secure a room. Bar the most luxurious rooms, everything is booked up months in advance so remember to book ahead. The Convention Centre is not downtown Guangzhou although many of the better hotels, particularly chain hotels and three and four stars, will run frequent shuttle buses to and from the fair complex.
Once you’re received your invitation you can then apply for a visa at your local Chinese Embassy. Alternatively, you can also apply through the China Travel Service office in Hong Kong. Most visas are single entry which means you can only enter China once, usually for 30 days. If you’re planning to be in town for a while and want to pay a visit to nearby Hong Kong, you might want to consider applying for a double entry visa. This will let you cross the Chinese border twice.
How to Get to Guangzhou
Although Guangzhou has an airport, the number of international flights is limited and most people visiting the Canton Fair arrive into Hong Kong instead. It’s simple to reach Guangzhou from Hong Kong with regular trains between the two cities taking just over two hours. There are also a limited number of flight connections between Hong Kong and Guangzhou.
How to Get to the Canton Fair
With just a handful of exceptions, the Canton Fair has been wholly moved to the Canton Fair Complex on Pazhou Island. It's located just on the outskirts of the city center and can be reached by Metro Line 2 (blue), although most of the better hotels will run complimentary shuttle buses.
What to See in Guangzhou
The fair is likely to eat up much of your time but with 10 million residents and much of the country’s money, Guangzhou is one of China’s most modern and exciting metropolises and is well worth exploring. The city is held in high regard for its culinary skills and trying some Cantonese cuisine should be top of your must do list. The Dim Sum here and in Hong Kong is unrivaled. If you want to wash your food down with a little sightseeing, the colonial architecture of Shamian Island is a particular highlight and there are also several temples and markets well worth seeing.