Is Expo2020 worth a visit in Dubai?

Are you thinking about going to Dubai for Expo2020? Or are you flying Emirates and thinking whether you should use the free entrance ticket? We asked ourselves the same questions and decided to go. These are our experiences from visiting Expo2020 in October 2021.

Late October, we boarded a FlyDubai plane and flew from Salzburg to Dubai. The flight was the start of a four-day trip to the UAE. The Expo was one of the reasons we decided to go to Dubai. As a subsidiary of Emirates, FlyDubai also offers free Expo2020 tickets, which we chose to use. 

We opted to go on a Monday morning, thinking it would be less crowded than during weekends. Our choice proved to be the right one, as news about long queues the days before our visit dominated some Middle Eastern news outlets. 

Expo2020 is the modern-day world fair

Although we knew we wanted to visit Expo2020, we knew very little about it. So here is a quick explanation: the Expo is the modern-day version of the historic world fairs. Every five years, Expos are held in different locations. The 2015 edition took place in Milan, Italy, and in 2025, Osaka, Japan, will open its doors.

At the Expo2020, countries from around the world present themselves to the world in dedicated pavilions. Most governments invest heavily in unique architecture and experiences for the visitors. All visitors to the park can visit these pavilions. At these pavilions, you can see what that country is all about. Basically, it is all destination marketing but very nicely done. Governments do this to boost their image. The bigger or richer the country, the more money goes to these pavilions.

Expo2020 architecture

Country pavilions at Expo2020 are spread over three different themes: sustainability, opportunity, and mobility. In addition, there are multiple pavilions from Expo sponsors such as Emirates and DP World. There are also pavilions dedicated to particular themes like sustainability, vision, and women.

Best days to visit Expo2020

Expo2020 is a popular attraction. According to local media, the exhibition recorded 2.35 million visitors in its first month. Visitors from the UAE make up about 83 percent of those visitors. That is a piece of essential information if you want to avoid crowds. With the majority of visitors being local, it will get jam-packed during UAE’s weekends (Friday and Saturday) and public holidays. 

That is why we recommend skipping the weekend if you want to avoid crowds. We visited the Expo on Monday, and there were (almost) no lines. And even if it is busy, the Expo2020 allows you to skip the line for free at ten pavilions that you can choose. 

The best time of the day to visit the park is either early in the morning when it is relatively quiet or in the evenings when it cools down a bit. Many shows and activities take place in the evening, and all the stunning buildings light up beautifully after sunset. The park is open until midnight.

How to get to Expo2020?

The easiest way for tourists to get to Expo2020 is by metro. The red metro line was extended and takes you right to the entrance. Riding the metro is very affordable and is comfortable if you avoid rush hour.

When is Expo 2020?

Expo2020 was initially scheduled to take place in 2020. The pandemic forced the organization to change the original plans, and the exhibition was postponed for one year. Now, Expo2020 is taking place in late 2021 and early 2022. The park already opened its doors in early October. It will continue to be open until March 31, 2022.

How to redeem your free Emirates/FlyDubai Expo2020 ticket?

Emirates is a partner of the exhibition. As a partner, the airline can offer perks to its passengers. One of these perks is free entrance tickets for any flight booked with Emirates or its subsidiary FlyDubai.
Redeeming your ticket is easy. Go to the airline’s website and use your booking reference to sign up for the free tickets. After registration, those tickets are e-mailed to you.

Expo2020’s best pavilions

Unfortunately, we only had limited time and didn’t do our research well enough. We were, however, able to visit some very cool pavilions. We enjoyed the Saudi Arabian pavilion, located close to the entrance of the park. At this pavilion, you can see a beautiful interactive water play at the door and the world’s most giant kaleidoscope. You can touch the moon at the USA pavilion, while the Indian pavilion nicely displays the country’s diversity.

Expo2020 is also a foody’s heaven. While the Saudi Arabian fast food restaurant Al Baik attracts the longest lines, we decided to eat ‘in Italy.’ Italy didn’t disappoint with a restaurant for small bites as well as an ultra-luxury Bulgari restaurant. 

We would, however, recommend doing a bit of research before you visit. Read up on the best pavilions to see, for example, by going through this gallery by CNN. According to CNN, the best pavilions include the United Arab Emirates, Iran, United Kingdom, Australia, Pakistan, Russia, Japan, Switzerland, Spain, Kuwait, Germany, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. We would add Singapore, India, and the USA to that list.

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Covid measures in place

To enter Expo2020, you need to prove that you are vaccinated or tested for Covid-19. Free PCR tests are available if you hold a valid ticket but can take up to 24 hours. Being vaccinated, we didn’t need to get tested, so we cannot inform you how that process works.
We entered Expo2020 with our EU covid certificate, which was checked and recognized at the entrance. Other proof of vaccination seemed to be accepted as well. In the park, you can find lots of hand sanitizer stations, and face masks are mandatory.

How many days you should go to Expo2020

You can spend endless amounts of time at the exhibition. We went for just half a day. It was too short. We were only able to visit a few pavilions. We recommend going either a full day or even two days.

The bottom line: is Expo2020 worth a visit

We loved Expo2020, from the astonishing architecture to culinary experiences that will last a lifetime. It is an experience that we will not easily forget. Even if you have to pay for the ticket, we recommend doing it. If you can only visit during the weekend, we would still go but would recommend using the skip-the-line feature of the app to the fullest.

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