Canton Fair: Everything You Need To Know Before Attending

canton fair

Are you planning to attend the Canton Fair in Guangzhou, China? The Canton Fair is one of the largest trade fairs in the world, attracting thousands of buyers and sellers from around the globe. It's a great opportunity to network, discover new products, and explore business opportunities. However, attending the Canton Fair can be overwhelming, especially for first-timers. In this blog post, we will provide you with everything you need to know before attending the Canton Fair.

From practical information such as how to register and get a visa, to tips on making the most of your time at the fair, we've got you covered. So read on and get ready to make the most of your trip!

What Is The Canton Fair?

 

The Canton Fair, also known as the China Import and Export Fair, is a bi-annual trade fair held in Guangzhou, China. It is one of the largest trade fairs in the world. It is organized by the China Foreign Trade Centre, a government agency responsible for promoting China's foreign trade.

Having the most complete exhibit varieties in the country, the Canton Fair surely attracts a large number of overseas buyers. During the 131st Canton Fair held last April 15–24, 2022, a total of 536,000 overseas buyers and 25,500 exhibitors from 228 countries participated in the event. These numbers are 41.8% more than the previous fair.

The first-ever Canton Fair was held to promote trade between China and other countries. Guangzhou, the third largest city in China where the fair is being held, has a rich history of being involved in international commerce; it’s a trading port that has been open to western trade since then.

The Canton Fair offers a diverse offering of products and services, so it’s arranged in three phases. This makes it more manageable for visitors and helps them see the right products and services they are looking for.

  • Phase 1: Electronics, household appliances, machinery, vehicles and spare parts, lighting equipment, hardware and tools, chemical products, building materials, energy resources, international pavilion, etc.
  • Phase 2: Consumer goods, decorative products, toys, gifts, etc.
  • Phase 3: Clothing and textiles, shoes, medical devices and health products, medicines, office supplies, recreational products, bags, food, international pavilion, etc.

How Much Does It Cost To Attend The Canton Fair?

Not a single penny! It’s free to attend, both for domestic and international visitors. You only need to register on their official website or on-site at the fairgrounds but with extra fees (about $20). If you want to save on unnecessary expenses, then you should consider registering online before the event.

However, although the registration is free, you may need to prepare for the rest of your trip as hotel rooms and flight tickets can get expensive during the fair.

When Is The Canton Fair?

The Canton Fair is held two times a year, every spring (April–May) and autumn (October–November), each lasting five days.

The latest fair, the 132nd Canton Fair, ended last November 4, 2022. For 2023, the 133rd Canton fair is tentatively scheduled as follows:

  • Phase 1: April 15–19, 2023
  • Phase 2: April 23-27, 2023
  • Phase 3: May 1–5, 2023

This schedule may change, depending on the pandemic situation and other factors. With China’s Zero-COVID policy, the Canton Fair has been held online for two years now. 

Nevertheless, there are still a lot of benefits to attending it online. During the 131st Canton Fair, more than three million items from 25,500 exhibitors have been showcased. The fair’s official platform set up sections for new product releases, supplier and vendor matching, exhibitor connections, and more. This borderless setup allows buyers and sellers alike to transact from anywhere in the world.

10 Things You Need To Know And Have Before Attending The Canton Fair

1. Get Your Badge

As mentioned above, you need to register online before the fair to get a badge. They will review your registration and once approved, you can then pick up your badge during the actual event. 

To collect your badge, go straight to the appointed hotel/s (e.g. Westin hotel near the fair (Pazhou station)) or at the Canton Fair Office.

If you want to avoid the long lines of people at their offices, opt for the appointed hotels.

If possible, bring a passport-style photo (and a paper copy of your registration), or they charge a couple of bucks to have it done there and you wait in line. The badge collection booth opens the day before a particular phase starts and closes around 4–5 pm, so you need to plan accordingly.

2. Download WeChat ASAP.

WeChat is the best way to communicate with people in China, and most suppliers will want to use it as a mode of communication. However, signing up for it is not as simple as those other apps. 

You can sign up for a free account, but you’ll need to ask an existing WeChat user to verify your account so you can start using it.

Without a friend to do the verification process, you may try to contact WeChat support to get their help. But this doesn’t work most of the time. 

Another way to do it is to open an account with the help of a bank. There are banks inside the fair that can help you with it.

Previously, you would need bank accounts to register. Now, visitors can access it even without a Chinese bank account.

3. Other Apps That Come In Handy

Google doesn't work in China, so you will have to find an alternative for your Google-related apps, including maps, translation, and Google Drive. These will be useful as you tour the fair and explore the Guangzhou area.

This web mapping service by Apple provides not only directions but also times based on the start and end points given by the users. You can use it to search for locations nearby, look around using its interactive panoramas, and convert addresses to geographic coordinates and vice versa. Other features include custom annotations, overlay, and selectable map features.

Translate allows you to translate voice, conversations, and text between any of the supported languages. You can also download languages that are available offline, so you can use the app even without an Internet connection. Although there’s usually a staff who’s fluent in English in each booth or stall, Apple Translate is still perfect when talking to potential suppliers, as well as in taxis and restaurants where no one speaks English.

This app is useful if you’re going to use Guangzhou’s subway system as it offers the best subway map. This particular app is designed for iPad.

If you really want to access the blocked apps and websites from within China, you may also need to download a VPN, or virtual private network, as it allows you to bypass the Chinese firewall.

4. Plan Your Route

By now, you probably have an idea how large this fair is. You won’t be able to visit everything in one day, so you need to know where you are going and plan ahead for a successful and productive fair experience. Here are some tips to help you see the things you are interested in.

  • Determine what products you need before going. Don’t go and blindly look for products. Otherwise, you’ll end up with too many brochures in your bag without getting what you really need because you’re distracted by the many great ideas along the way.
  • Look for potential suppliers before the fair. You can use the Canton Fair website to access the list.
  • Get a guide map from the information booth so you’ll know the layout of the sections and where to find your target products.
  • If you intend to meet potential suppliers, pre-book your meetings for a hassle-free arrangement.

You wouldn’t want to get lost and miss the opportunity to network with potential suppliers, so come prepared. Come up with a game plan. Without a plan, you might end up spending days in just a single portion of the fair, and you wouldn’t cover the entire fair if that’s your goal.

5. Don't Eat At The Food Court

When it’s time to eat, there’s a massive food court in the exhibition center. However, the food at the court will be mostly Chinese cuisine. But, the price is at least double that of an average meal. 

The good thing is there are also several fast food joints like McDonald’s and Papa John's. You can also try bringing in some bars and snacks to avoid the long queue of people looking for something to eat. 

6. Know Your Options And Alternatives For Transportation

From the moment you get off at the airport or the train station, you’ll be greeted by people offering you to get a taxi. These taxis they’re offering, however, are private drivers that charge you more than the average to help you get to your destination.

Also, most taxi drivers don’t understand English; they don’t know how to read or speak the language. This is where the translation app becomes useful. 

When in Guangzhou, it is useful to know your options for transportation. You may need to get a copy of the Guangzhou subway system on your phone if you plan to use it or use the Explore Metro app. 

Before leaving your hotel, it’s also helpful to ask your hotel concierge to write down the name and address of your hotel in Chinese, as well as any nearby landmarks. You’ll find this useful in case your taxi drivers don’t speak English and they don't know where to go. 

7. Bringing A Carry-On Helps

With thousands of Chinese suppliers at the Canton Fair, you’ll get back to your hotel with a ton of materials, from brochures and samples to quotes and catalogs.

They may even give you large gifts like a tea set if you’re early on a particular phase. And a carry-on, or a roller bag, is perfect to carry all of these.

If you have existing product samples you want to compare, you can bring them in your bag too. It’s also a space to hang your lunch in.

 

8. Get Your Business Cards Done Before The Fair

Yes, you’ll be constantly asked for one, so be ready to exchange business cards. Print them before the fair. After the Canton Fair, you might get a lot of opportunities from the suppliers you met. This also makes a secondary email address a good idea.

A quick tip: In China, they often give out their business cards with both hands, so do the same when receiving them. Keep them in your hand first as it is offensive if you immediately insert them into your pocket.

9. Take A Notebook With You

A notebook will not only help you when making notes during conversations—the supplier’s name, minimum order quantities, pricing, and other relevant information; you can also staple the business cards you’ll receive to its pages. This makes it easier to remember those potential suppliers you want to get in contact with in the future. 

10. Wear Comfortable Shoes

The complex where the Canton Fair is being held covers a total area of 1,100,000 m2. Imagine 280 football fields in one place. That’s how big it is! 

So when attending the fair, don’t opt for business attire paired with black leather or high-heeled shoes. Instead, dress comfortably. Wear comfortable shoes and breathable clothing as you will be doing a lot of walking around the show, while in queues, and through Metro stations. You’ll have sore feet if you wear otherwise. 

Final Thoughts

The Canton Fair is truly a goldmine for business owners. You’ll find millions of good-quality products at reasonable prices in one place. It’s a game-changer for both suppliers and buyers.  

If you are looking for a supplier for your new business, then you should attend Canton Fair. You’ll be able to build connections, negotiate better deals, and get great cultural experience here.

Check out how to make the most out of the Canton Fair by clicking here!

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