Whether you’ve been importing products from China to sell on eBay, Amazon, your own commercial site or in your physical shop, it’s highly likely that you’ve heard about Canton Fair, China’s largest trade show. Christened the Mecca for importers, more than 180,000 buyers make the pilgrimage to Guangzhou not once but twice every year in April and October to source a range of products from more than 60,000 suppliers. This is arguably biggest and greatest trade fairs in the world that’s worth attending. That said, here’s a comprehensive guide on how to attend the Canton Fair.


Also known as China Export and Import Fair, the Canton Fair was founded in 1957 by the People’s Government of Guangzhou Province and the Ministry of Commerce of PRC. Over the years, this fair, which is organized by China Foreign Trade Center, has grown to become an all-inclusive international trading event. The Canton Fair is not only one of the longest trade fairs in history, but also one of the world’s most detailed trade fairs attracting one of the largest buyer attendances, suppliers and business turnovers.

Location of Canton Fair

The Canton fair and trade show is held in Canton, Guangzhou, China to give exporters and importers the chance to transact, communicate and provide them with some of the best deals to enhance their respective businesses. The fair is currently hosted at Guangzhou’s China Export and Import Fair Complex, which has over a million of square meters of outdoor and indoor exhibition platforms. This gigantic complex has three main exhibit halls, as well as additional outdoor spaces that can accommodate 25,000 vendors.

Upcoming Canton Fair Dates and Phases

With the April session in the past (April 15-May 5, 2018), the upcoming autumn session will be held from October 15 to November 4, 2018. Spread over three phases as highlighted in the table below, it’s very crucial to pick the correct phase to attend.

Phase 1 (15th -19th Oct. 2018 9:30 a.m. – 18:00 p.m.)

  • Household Electrical and Electronic appliances
  • Home Decorations
  • Office supplies, case bags & Recreation products
  • Vehicles spare parts
  • Gifts
  • Medicines, Medical Devices & Health Products

Phase 2 (23rd -27th Oct. 2018 9:30 a.m. – 18:00 p.m.)

  • Lighting Equipment
  • Consumer Goods
  • Shoes

Phase 3 (31st -4th Nov. 2018 9:30 a.m. – 18:00 p.m.)

  • Hardware & Tools
  • Textile & Garments
  • Machinery
  • Food
  • Chemical Products
  • International Pavilion
  • Building Materials

Phase 1: This phase is more popular with buyers from Asia, Africa and the Middle East, but can also be great for U.S. buyers.

Phase 2: This is the most popular phases and attracts buyers across the world who are looking for private label products to sell on Amazon, eBay and other online platforms.

Phase 3: This is a great phase for those interested in healthcare products.

Why You Should Go to the Canton Fair

The Canton Fair will be great for you if you’ve been dealing with suppliers on various online platforms such as Alibaba and want to move to the next high level of dealing with suppliers personally. It’s also important to attend the trade show if you want to make proper contact with Chinese suppliers who will be exhibiting various products at the show. Attending will also be of great importance as it will give you the chance to meet and seal deals with multiple suppliers, thus expanding your contacts in China.

Again, it’s important to go to this trade fair if you are a first-time business person with the intention of sourcing products to and from China. You should not forget that this trade fair is very Western friendly and will be a great platform if you’re importing mass-market commodities from China. In essence, the Canton Fair offers something for everyone and is an ideal trade show that every business minded person should attend.

What You Need to Attend/How to Register

Even though you’ll be required to apply for your buyer badge, there’s no cost for applying for this badge or attending the show itself. You should however, remember to keep your buyer badge safe because you’ll be charged a fee to replace it. In order to get a buyer badge, you’ll require the following:

  1. Your passport
  2. A business card
  3. A colored passport style photo

It’s recommended that you don’t use your primary email when applying because you’ll receive a lot of spams. That said, you should create a new email address and use it to apply for the badge, and when contacting potential suppliers. You should also note (when applying) that you’ll pick the badge at the fair complex in Guangzhou to make things easier.

You should remember to submit this application document on the Canton Fair Website http://invitation.cantonfair.org.cn/Invite/ApplyICIntro.

If your application is approved, you should then log back into the site and apply for the invitation letter. The invitation letter will be crucial as it will help you when applying for a Chinese visa. You’ll also receive an invitation letter after a few days. It’s recommended that you apply earlier so as to avoid last minute rush. It’s important to keep in mind that you don’t have to personally go to the Chinese Consulate when applying for the visa. Instead, you can hire an agency to do it for you at cost not exceeding $100.

Tips on How to Attend

Book a hotel within Guangzhou or even nearer to the show’s complex but this will generally depend on your budget. A great way to find cheaper accommodation is by finding a hostel or Airbnb. Nevertheless, prices will be a bit higher during the Canton Fair.

Traveling to China and Getting Around

Taking into account that flying to Hong Kong is more expensive, you should consider traveling to Guangzhou. However, you can still fly to Hong Kong or Shenzhen then connect to Guangzhou using either a train or via a bus.

Talking with Suppliers

Considering that you’ll be interacting with Chinese suppliers. A little grasp of Mandarin will give you an edge in doing business. Without that, it’s advisable to hire a translator to make communication easy and smooth.


If you’re importing products from China or intending to do so, it’s important to visit the Canton Fair. Attending will not only enable you to see the huge potential of sourcing products from China but will also give you the chance to meet and interact with multiple suppliers on a one-on-one personal level. The above stated points will help you towards this endeavor and help you grow your business to the next level. Just remember to be in company of a translator if the Mandarin language isn’t your thing!

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