A Rookie’s Guide to The Canton Fair

One of three hall areas of the Canton Complex

One of three hall areas of the Canton Complex

The Canton Fair has grown to be the biggest trade fair in China and is hosted twice a year by the Chinese Ministry of Commerce and the People’s Government of the Guandong Province. The fair usually runs over three weeks and is categorised into three phases. Over 160,000 visitors descend upon the city of Guangzhou to browse through around 55,000 stands. 

This year marked the 119th Canton Fair and promised to bigger and better than the year before. For the first time fair-goer I have compiled a few guidelines and tips that may be helpful if you are planning on visiting the Fair. 

Pre-register on the Canton Fair website

Pre-registering on the website means that you are able to bypass long queues at the start of the fair. It also means you don’t have to bring an additional passport photo and fill out a long form. Pre-register here.

Pack lightly

Many of the suppliers hand out hefty catalogues that end up weighing a ton. In order to avoid paying for extra weight on your flight back, ensure that you give yourself some leeway when packing your suitcase. 

The Subway in Guangzhou

The Subway in Guangzhou

Make use of the subway

The subway in Guangzhou is safe, convenient and affordable. Don’t be shy to give the underground transport a try. The Canton complex is located close to two stops (Pazhou and Xingang Dong). Wherever you decide to stop will be dependent on the hall that you plan to visit. Xingang Dong station is close to Area A and Pazhou station is close to area B and C. Find the link to the subway map here. 

Take lots of business cards

Business cards are an easy way to give suppliers an overview of your company and your details. It is custom to exchange business cards with suppliers. Many suppliers will send applicable quotes and any other information to your email address stipulated on your card. 

Take a camera and a notebook

It is beneficial to document all of your interactions with suppliers by taking photographs of products and writing down all potential quotes. By doing this you can match the captured product with a potential quote and compare easily with other quotes. 

The passageway of Hall A in the Canton Complex

The passageway of Hall A in the Canton Complex

Pack your most comfortable walking shoes

The Canton Fair is not the biggest fair in China for nothing. The halls of the Fair are enormous and it is common to spend the entire day walking the thousands of stands. We ended up walking 15km per day! Avoid blisters and sore feet by taking comfortable and durable walking shoes. 

Go back to the suppliers that you really liked

Return to the suppliers that you will probably end up building a relationship with. By going back,  you can also get more accurate quotes for each of the units you were interested in and even negotiate better prices. 

Be prepared to eat McDonalds every day

Although there are other Chinese offerings and a Papa Joe’s, by far the most frequent restaurant around the halls is McDonalds. If you have the energy to pre-pack food the day before, Ole’ supermarket in Guangzhou offers a huge variety of western products that you can stock up on for the fair. It is located in the Taikoo Hui shopping centre.

If you have the time, go shopping

Guangzhou has a number of interesting shopping offerings. I have highlighted some of my favourite shopping places below: 

  • Beijing road – located close to Guangzhou’s city centre, this crowded street is packed with places to shop and eat.  
  • Shangxiajiu Pedestrian Street – this street has hundreds of shops (including department stores) that have various offerings but mostly shoes and clothes.  
  • Tianhe Teemall – this is an enormous shopping mall that has a number of international brands including H&M, Zara and Lacoste. 
The hustle and bustle on Shangxiajiu Pedestrian Street 

The hustle and bustle on Shangxiajiu Pedestrian Street