Expo 2020: A beginner's guide

There have been many reviews on the different features and pavilions at the Expo 2020 on our Where To UAE Facebook platform, so instead, here is an account of my visit and a guide on how you could spend the day.

So, after a few weeks of opening and hearing so many comments from people about their experience of Expo 2020 on our Where To UAE Facebook platform, we decided to join the 'expo fever' and make our journey to Dubai from Abu Dhabi.

Our original plan was to travel via the Expo Rider - a free bus service from Abu Dhabi's Central Bus station, so we could enjoy a few bevvies and not have to worry about driving back late and exhausted after a day of trekking around on our feet. However, by the time we arrived at the bus station, which was around 8.40am, hoping to get on the 9am bus, the queues were at least 3 bus loads long! We also realised that the buses arrive every hour until 13.30 then every 30 minutes from then on until 22.30 from Saturday to Wednesday. On Thursdays, the times differ slightly, so from 08.30 to 12.30 they are every hour then every 30 minutes from 13.00 to 01.00, and on Fridays, they run every 30 minutes from 08.30 to 01.00. Realising that we could be queueing for up to 3 hours in the heat, we abandoned our bus adventure and travelled by car instead! (Please note we were travelling during school half-term so the queues may not always be this busy).

We arrived at the Mobility entrance of the expo (blue zone). Parking is easy and there are shuttle busses taking you to the entrance. The entrance was quiet, there were no queues at this point, but, you will need to go through airport-style security, again, it was quick and pretty smooth. There is a ticket office where you can purchase your tickets if you haven't bought them online already, queues were 4-5 people long so the option is there if you don't buy them online.

Having had a disruptive morning and a fairly long journey, our first stop was the rest rooms then coffee! Rest rooms are located at the entrance before you go through bag checks. As soon as you are on the other side, pick up a map and I also suggest downloading the expo2020 app as it is a lot easier to view the map and navigate your way around. If want to keep a record of the country pavilions you have visited then I recommend purchasing the yellow Expo passport as soon as you enter the Expo. At the exit of each pavilion, you can have your passport stamped. We headed right and happened to pass a white trolley selling memorabilia and the passports which are AED 20 each. Our first stop, was a café set up in the French pavilion. If you want a bite to eat too then they were selling pastries and sandwiches, and there was also a Laudree Macaron stand, a crepe stand and a Nougat shop.

After a short rest, we made our way into the French pavilion then some of the surrounding pavilions in the mobility (blue) section. For me, the particular highlights were:

  • The Thai pavilion showing two sensory films giving you an insight into the land, the people, tourism and technology.

  • Across the walk way were a series of small pavilions from countries like Niger, Dominica, Jamaica, Eswatini, Tuvalu, which were all so fascinating and unique. We learnt about their traditions and culture, their lush landscape, tourism, and sustainability initiatives. I highly recommend wandering the small walkways and popping into these small exhibits - they are quiet spaces with friendly staff and if you're looking to pick up a gift or souvenir then worth having a look here!

  • Oman and its stunning structure really stood out for me. The air-conditioning and scent in this building was a bonus! Oman's exhibit was focussed on Frankincense and how it is now used in medicine and cosmetics.

After about 4 hours of seeing exhibits from various countries, it was time for us to cool off and stop somewhere for lunch. There are a raft of alfresco dining options in the mobility zone, the Australian pavilion even had a mini music stage and open bar, which would have been perfect if it were a few Celsius cooler. We opted to make our way to the Belgium pavilion which is back across the smaller pavilions and next to the Thai pavilion where we started (maybe a 15 minute walk). They have an outdoor bar, but on third floor there is a covered bar and restaurant, called the Happy Restaurant. If you are looking for a cold pint or a chilled glass of prosecco then this restaurant would be up your street! They offer a vegan and vegetarian menu, sandwiches and soups, and substantial main course meals.

After lunch, which was now after 4pm, the weather was cooler and the sun was starting to set so we made our way to the Garden in the Sky - a observation deck with a 360-degree view of the Expo and surrounding space. The tower takes visitors to the observation deck every 15 minutes and there were no queues at the time, and for AED 30 per person its well worth the experience. Opposite the Garden in the Sky and a short walk away is the Jubilee stage with live music and seating, we spent an hour or two here listening to a young choir which was blissful before heading home.

I am looking forward to being back and exploring the other zones in a few weeks time!


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