Canton Fair Guide 2020: 12 Frequently Asked Questions

A mecca for importers, the twice a year Canton Fair has drawn more than 180,000 international buyers each phase. For first time buyers, making the pilgrimage to the largest trade fair in China that has been taking place for more than 50 years and houses over 60,000 buyers is not an easy task considering all the transportation, cultural and language barriers. However, it definitely worth all the efforts as the one-of-a-kind trade fair has anything and everything for anyone, and everyone.

The Canton Fair Guide 2020 by BIG is here to provide you with essential information you need to make the most out of your trip. We’ve narrowed down 12 most frequently asked questions about Canton Fair, don’t forget to tick these off and you can consider your Canton Fair trip a success.

Table List

  1. What’s Canton Fair?
  2. When is autumn session of Canton Fair 2019?
  3. How to preregister for Canton Fair?
  4. How to get a visa for China?
  5. What to wear to Canton Fair?
  6. What to bring to Canton Fair?
  7. How to get to Canton Fair complex and where to stay?
  8. Can you stay in Hong Kong, commute back and forth between HK and Guangzhou?
  9. How long to visit the trade fair?
  10. How to access censored websites in China?
  11. Do you need a translator or a buying agent?
  12. Which is better, Canton Fair or Global Source Expo?

What’s Canton Fair?

Canton Fair, also known as China Import and Export Fair, takes places twice a year in Guangzhou, the capital of Southern China’s Guangdong (Canton) province. The origin of Canton Fair dates back to over 50 years ago, and nowadays it’s simply mind-boggling to imagine how big Canton Fair Complex is after 5 decades of relentless improvements. Everytime I participated in the fair, I couldn’t help relating it with the sheer size of Yiwu international city. As a saying goes, if you spend every three minutes in each shop, it would take you a year to cover all the shops in Yiwu international city that is full of hustle and bustle. If you have never been to Yiwu, just think of the Dragon Mart in Dubai and multiply it by three times. No one wants to spend a year in a humongous China wholesale market with most of the time in vain, right? That’s why ground works come into play.

When is autumn session of Canton Fair 2019?

A rule of thumb known to seasonal buyers, the fall session of Canton Fair 2019 consists of three phases.

Phase 1: October 15-19, 2019

Electronics & Household Appliances, Lighting Equipment, Vehicles and Spare Parts, Machinery, Hardware & Tools, Building Materials, Chemical Products, Energy Resources, International Pavilion

Phase 2: October 23-27, 2019

Consumer Goods, Gifts, Home Decorations

Phase 3: October 31 – November 4, 2019

Textile & Garments, Shoes, Office Supplies, Cases & Bags & Recreational Products, Medicines, Medical Devices & Health Products, Food, International Pavilion

It’s vital to choose the right phase to arrive. If you want to hoard your stationery in bulk or update your inventory, you wouldn’t want to come at the first phase. The accommodation during Canton Fair is gonna cost you an arm and a leg to stay in downtown during the three phases, though it can be an eye-opening experience to also participate in other phases. Apart from showcasing staggering arrays of products, there’s lots of fun going on with the launch of various entertainment activities, new products, etc, it’s pretty dynamic and vibrant that you probably would end up being soaked in the business atmosphere for the full day. Opening time for each day is around 9:30 am and the fair goes unbated till 18:00 pm.

How to preregister for Canton Fair?

To get a badge for Canton Fair, first you have to register on official website of Canton Fair. Usually within 3 business days your application will be reviewed and you’ll receive an approval email. Don’t forget to check your spam folder if you don’t get any feedback. Afterwards, you can log in and request for identification badge (IC card) to enter the trade fair.

Besides, they will also send you an invitation letter, with which you can use to apply for a China visa.


If you register online beforehand, getting your badge at the show is simply a breeze as long as you bring your passport, a photo and a paper copy of your badge registration. Don’t stress out even if you haven’t registered online, just head over to the fair and pay CNY ¥100 fees.

How to get visa for China?

Once you get the invitation letter while registering online, you can request for a visa in the Chinese Embassy in your home country/residing country. The most suitable visa for Canton Fair is undoubtedly Business Visa (Also known as M visa). Citizens from most countries need a visa to visit mainland China, though citizens of most western countries don’t need a visa to visit Hong Kong. However, it’s always suggested to obtain a visa first if your country does not fall into the list of China’s visa exempt countries.


* Leave at least few weeks in advance before applying for a China visa if you don’t want to pay rush fees.

* Citizens of certain countries like US and Canada can also get fast visa in Hong Kong but it’s always suggested to get in your country before hoarding on the plane as the visa policies change frequently.

* If your visa is single entry, don’t go to Hong Kong or Macau amid your stay. Once you enter Hong Kong or Macau, you’ll need another visa to enter mainland China.

What to wear to Canton Fair?

Dress as comfortable as possible for Canton Fair since the sheer scale of the fair is going to take loads of walks. The weather in Guangzhou tends to be quite humid in October. It’s suggested to dress in comfortable walking shoes and breathable clothes. Besides, bring a big backpack as you walk you’re going to accumulate a significant amount of materials, catalogues, and occasionally gifts from hospitable suppliers.

What to bring to Canton Fair?

To have the most out of Canton Fair, ground work is necessary. Here’s a list of things we suggest you to check before deciding to come.

* Decide what products you’re looking for.

* Prepare a list of questions to ask your suppliers, check if they can customize based on your specifications, where’s the factory, the scale of the factory, their customer base, and the list continues.

* Get the list of participated suppliers and their products from the Canton Fair website.

* Filter a list of potential suppliers that you’re interested to visit.

* Bring loads of business cards with you as they will go out very fast.

* A notebook and some other tools to help you easily sort out suppliers and their products.

* A power bank. Your phone will run out of battery fast if you take photos of products you’re interested in.

How to get to Canton Fair complex and where to stay?

The nearest airport to Canton Fair Complex is Baiyun International Airport with many direct flights to most big international cities. Another popular alternative is to land at Hong Kong first, then take high-speed train from Kowloon (a stone’s throw from Hung Hom subway station) to Guangzhou East.

As to accommodation, there’s usually no shortage of rooms in big Chinese cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. However, it’s suggested to book a few weeks in advance as hotels of good values (location in downtown with easy approach to Canton Fair, reasonable prices) are usually snapped up even though prices soar to almost twice or three times than normal time. As to commuting from your hotel to Canton Fair Complex (Pazhou), there’s nothing to worry about as nearly every hotel offers free shuttle bus around Canton Fair and the hotel. If you prefer more flexibility, other options are simply hopped on the metro and get off at Pazhou subway station, Line 8 or just take taxi.

Can you stay in Hong Kong, commute back and forth between HK and Guangzhou?

It’s doable but it’s not suggested. First of all, you need a visa with multiple entries, worse, the Custom is usually packed during Canton Fair, expect long time queuing while dealing with the Custom. Second, let alone long time commuting to train stations, taking train, the train tickets from Hong Kong to Guangzhou are usually sold out  fast during peak time. You have to book few days or hours in advance. Considering traffic jam and other unpredictable situations, it adds more inflexibility to your trip and you’ll feel super tired commuting back and forth.

How long to visit the trade fair?

The time spent visiting Canton Fair varies from person to person, however, in average two days are enough supposed you’ve done enough research works before coming. Each phase of Canton Fair lasts five days, and it’s not necessary to spend the five days of each phase. A great number of suppliers come with astronomical minimum order quantity like at least 3,000 or 5,000 pieces for one item. If you’re a startup testing new products, you wouldn’t want to waste time with the hope that there’s any chance they’ll lower down the moq to 300 pieces per item for you.

A good way to check out the whole thing is to talk to as many suppliers as possible on the first day, and filter a list of potential suppliers you want to follow up the second day. On the next day, revisit the suppliers on the list, have more in-depth conversations, or even arrange factory visits after the fair if their factories are located around Pearl River Delta, the part of Southern China that is encircled by factories and workshops.

How to access censored websites in China?

As we used to say, there’re two kinds of internet: the one in the world and the one in China. If you stay in five star hotels like Westin and Garden Hotel in Guangzhou, the biggest bonus is the internet is uncensored as they use the line from Hong Kong, that means you can access Google, Facebook, Instagram freely. If you stay in other places, please do remember to get a VPN before entering mainland China. With the crackdowns of illegal vpns, nowadays it’s quite challenging to install vpn when you’re in China.


In case your connection to facebook or whatsapp doesn’t work, get your friends/family members to install Wechat first and communication via Wechat before coming to China, so they wouldn’t worry about not getting any news from you.

Do you need a translator or a China buying agent?

In general, it sounds quite redundant to pay for an extra translator on your side as most booths have sales representatives speaking at least passable English. However, we do recommend you to hire a buying agent with enriching experience that can act as your representative office, follow the orders, carry out quality inspection, shipping, etc.

Which is better, Canton Fair or Global Source Expo?

If you’re a professional buyer of China wholesale electronics or just a big fan of gadgets, it’s suggested to visit Global Source Expo held in Hongkong at almost the same time with Canton Fair. A big bonus is citizens of most westerns countries don’t need a visa to Hong Kong. If the products you’re interested in fall into other categories as we specified above, then Canton Fair is a second to none choice.

In terms of scale, Canton Fair is more comprehensive and bigger, besides, with better prices. The prices in Global Source Expo tend to level a bit up than the ones in Canton Fair. It’s a more specialized trade fair for electronics and selling on e-commerce platforms like Amazon FBA. We do recommend you to check both if time permitted.

Looking for help organizing your Canton Fair trip and sourcing products? Feel free to shoot us an email, we’ll get back to you as fast as we can.

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