We’re always looking for unusual activities on our travels and our recent trip to the UAE was no different. Even though we were all in need of a proper break and didn’t want to fill our schedules too heavily I still wanted at least one fun day out in Dubai. A trip to the World Expo 2020 was the perfect solution. It’s truly unique experience which perfectly coincided with our dates. I think you’ll love it too so read on to see why you should book your visit today!
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List of Contents
- 1 What is a World Expo?
- 2 What will I see at Expo 2020
- 3 Can I take kids on this day out in Dubai
- 4 What to eat at Dubai World Expo
- 5 Tickets for Expo 2020
- 6 How to get to Expo 2020
- 7 How to get around Expo Dubai
- 8 Tips for visiting Expo 2020
- 9 When does Expo 2020 end
- 10 Why is Expo such a great day out in Dubai
What is a World Expo?
Officially known as International Registered Exhibitions, World Expos have been around since the mid 1800’s. Named the Great Exhibition the first one took place in London in 1851. Just ten Nations from America and Europe attended the purpose built centre at Crystal Palace in Hyde Park celebrating many new inventions from the Industrial Revolution. The aim is two fold, for represented countries to showcase their innovations and craftsmanship and share information about their countries. But more so over the last few years, for nations to come together to find solutions to challenges the whole world faces.
Fast forward to Expo 2020 and over 192 countries are represented with various levels of pomp and ceremony. Each Nation has a small building (called Pavilions) which they can design and fill with exactly what they want, within their given theme. Some are spectacular, beautiful to look at and highly thought provoking. Others are more simple, with a couple of representatives always happy to chat and a few examples of local craftsmanship on display. The amount of money spent on some is eye-watering, obviously not every country will have this to spend on such an unsure return.
The overriding concepts I picked up at the Dubai Expo this year was technology and innovation. The official theme is connecting minds, creating the future. If you are in any way interested in innovation, technology or the planet then a trip to Expo 2020 really is a fun day out in Dubai.
What will I see at Expo 2020
First up, you probably wont see it all. You’ll need more than a day to hit up all the pavilions. If you only have one day to spend at Expo then I recommend having a plan in place of what you want to see and slowly work your way through, stopping for plenty of food, drink and shade breaks.
The host country always spends a small fortune putting on a world Expo, this year Dubai invested a massive $8.7 billion on the show. The non pavilion buildings are absolutely stunning. The main stage, Al Wasl plaza is itself a beautiful creation. It’s here they hold talks, concerts and a stars in the night light show so it’s worth checking out the schedule before your visit.
Just wandering the site and checking out the architecture of each pavilion is a great eye opener. Some are absolutely stunning on the outside as well as in. We loved the UK Pavilion and its thought provoking messages, especially after dark.
Other amazing experiences include the fabulous water feature near the Al Wasl Plaza. Set to an amazing soundtrack from the Game of Thrones composer, visitors can stand in the water to cool off as a waterfall appears to crash down on their heads. It really does feel amazing. After dark the waterfall also features a fire show.
Terra, at the Sustainability Pavilion is another must visit. It will guide you through Earths ever changing environment and how our actions have speeded it up, the impact of this and how we need to fight to reverse it. This was my daughters favourite part of our visit as we headed under the the rainforest on an absolutely interactive adventure. It’s like the quirkiest science museum you’ve ever visited! I love that this Pavilion will be part of Expos legacy in Dubai as it will become an actual Science Centre after Expo closes.
Can I take kids on this day out in Dubai
Absolutely! Our eleven year old absolutely loved our visit. For her it was her favourite day out in Dubai during our stay. And for me I loved that she was learning everywhere we went. Win win right? Tickets for under 18s are free and there is heaps to keep all ages entertained.
Read more: Visiting Expo 2020 with kids.
Top things to see at Expo 2020 with kids (That aren’t Pavilions)
As you wander round the trails at Expo you pass many robots roaming around. These are hilarious and a real delight for kids. Their amazing technology means they never get in any ones way and some can be communicated with. There are ones for security, ones for fun and some robots are even delivering food. See – you’re learning before you even step foot in a pavilion!
There are several parks around the site. Most are well shaded with some brilliant play equipment and plenty of green space. These are perfect places for when the kids start getting tired or you need a sit and a moments peace. Jubilee Park near the centre of the expo has a lovely large green space. You’ll also find several play areas dotted around the site. Some of these were closed during our visit as the weather was just too hot.
Expo passports are guaranteed to be a big hit with kids. Basically each pavilion has a passport stamp and will gladly stamp your passport at the end of your visit. You can buy an official passport from any one of the street stalls or shops selling expo merchandise. We got ours from just outside the Netherlands and it made Piper even more keen to visit as many pavilions as possible. Passports cost Dh20.
Places to cool off
Yes kids will get hot at Expo so try to incorporate as many cool off spots as possible. The best is probably the water feature near As Wasl plaza.
The Singapore Pavilion is another good one as they have misting machines on the way round. You can also wade through the shallow water feature in the middle of the Brazil Pavilion.
Piper also loved splashing about it the jets in the opportunity district.
The Aquafina drop is a super fun place to make sure the kids stay hydrated.You can fill up your water bottle with plain water or try one of the many fruity flavours on offer for free.
What to eat at Dubai World Expo
One tip for visiting Expo 2020 is to arrive hungry. There are so many food and drink options you’ll be spoilt for choice. Alongside the main food areas with the usual offerings of pizza and burgers you’ll find local themed food streets. We really loved the street food area outside the Morocco pavilion. The roast lamb and rice was the tastiest we’ve had.
Many of the pavilions offer up smaller cafes serving delicious food from their country. These are great to keep you going as you wander the event and it’s brilliant to try many different foods from around the world. I highly recommend the stroopwafels from the Netherlands pavilion if you’re in need of a sugar hit.
One of the overriding themes of Expo 2020 is innovation and that continues even with your snack purchases. At the entrance to Expo you’ll find this really cute convenience store. It’s one in, one out, you scan your preferred payment method on the way in, select what you wants – drinks, crisps etc and it automatically takes payment on your way out. Very cool!
If you’re after something a bit stronger you’ll also find several licensed bars in the pavilions where you can grab a cold beer or wine. The Irish village as you would expect is extremely popular.
Tickets for Expo 2020
Expo is such a great value day out in Dubai compared to other activities available in the city. It’s just over £19 for adults. Kids do not need to buy a ticket but will need to book in for free. Book your tickets for Expo 2020 online in advance and show them when you arrive right on your phone.
If you have more than a day to spend at Expo then you can buy multi day tickets for around £40. These last for 30 consecutive days and you can visit whenever you like.
How to get to Expo 2020
Dubai have made it extremely easy to visit Expo. Building a brand new, dedicated metro station right at the end of the red line. We jumped on the train at DMCC station which is a short walk from JBR. Then it’s super easy to buy tickets from the machines located just before the barriers. Just type in Expo, choose your number of tickets, select return journey and pay.
We found the metro trains to be super clean and easy to navigate. It took around 15 minutes from DMCC to Expo. Hop off the train and follow the signs to expo. You’ll first need to show your covid status )we took print outs of out two vaccines) and tickets. Then it’s through to bag check and you’re in!
If you want to travel by car then there is a huge car park just outside of Expo or you could book a private transfer from your hotel to the Dubai Exhibition Centre.
How to get around Expo Dubai
We walked and it was pretty tiring. It’s hot and quite hard under foot but for us it was totally do able plus we easily got our steps in! Most of the pathways have some shade and pavilions are nice and cool offering a bit of respite. We stuck to mainly two areas of Expo, I don’t think we could have managed any more on foot.
If you don’t fancy the walk then there are plenty of rather amusingly named people movers that will take you around the exterior so you can check out all areas for free. Expo is shaped a bit like a flower with Al Wasl plaza in the middle and 5 petals around the outside. The people movers will drop you at the tip of any of these. You can also hire a golf buggy to take you to every pavilion you want to tick off your list.
Tips for visiting Expo 2020
All visitors must either be fully vaccinated or have had a negative PCR test within the last 72 hours. You’ll need to show proof of this to enter so either have it ready on your phone or as a print off at the main ticket gates.
Visitors must wear a facemask everywhere within Expo both inside and outside, apart from when eating or drinking. There were plenty of sanitising stations. It never felt too crowded and many of the pavilions restrict numbers inside.
If you can face the heat then get there as early as possible and visit Sunday – Thursday. Expo gets busier in the evenings when it’s a bit cooler and locals finish work. Most of what I read recommends visiting after 4 for the cooler weather and amazing light shows but if you only have one day, this will just not give you long enough.
Many of the larger pavilions operate a smart queuing system where you can book a certain time allowing you to jump the queue. We didn’t need to use any of them but I imagine it would come in very handy in the evenings. They know how quickly people move through and allow a group in at once. This means queues move nice and quick and we never had to wait too long. Several also had plenty of things to see as you wait. I think our longest was at the Norway Pavilion at night which was 15 minutes.
It’s hot at Expo, especially when you’re outdoors so remember to drink plenty of water and keep re applying the suncream. There are free water refilling stations all around expo or good value canned water vending machines all over.
Make sure you wear light, cool clothes. Long sleeves and trousers or skirts will help to protect you from the sun and remain respectful of the country’s culture.
You’ll find plenty of toilets all over Expo. The main ones are located in the visitor centres. They are all spotlessly clean with family bathrooms and accessible toilets.
When does Expo 2020 end
The Expo began on 1st October 2021 and will close its doors on 31st March 2022. You can visit everyday from 10am until midnight or 2am on a weekend.
Why is Expo such a great day out in Dubai
Really because it’s a little bit bonkers, a whole lot of learning with a huge focus on the planet and sustainability. Before I realised the dates for Expo would coincide with our visit to Dubai I would never have considered visiting. And definitely wouldn’t consider booking a trip especially to visit. However I’m already planning for 2025. It really is that good. Trust me, you’ll love it!