China is home to over 1.3 billion people and can be crowded at the best of times. But during national holidays the number of people trying to move around the country hits its peak and the best advice would be not to travel during these times. But if you want to see the country during your time away from teaching then you may have no choice. So we’ve put together this guide to help you plan your travel arrangements.
There are a number of national holidays in China throughout the year and although the exact dates may vary, they do at least occur around the same time each year:
- February Chinese New Year
- April Qing Ming (aka Tomb Sweeping Day)
- April/May Labour Day
- June Dragonboat Festival
- September Mid-Autumn Festival
- October Golden Week
Both the Mid-Autumn Festival and Golden Week were celebrated recently and the nations’ attention will now turn towards plans for New Year. During both festivals, China saw normal levels of travel as the Covid-19 situation is now under control across China and travel routes are once again open so you can expect to see the usual mass-exodus around New Year as people take to trains, planes, buses and road networks to travel and be with family.
During these periods you will find all methods of transport and other tourism industries such as hospitality are busier and more expensive than normal. Most tourists sites will be packed to capacity and you may need to book tickets in advance and/or queue for hours.
Chinese New Year is the busiest and most crowded travel period anywhere in the world. It’s important to see family at this time and the New Year rush lasts for 40 days. This is the ideal time to experience one of the most authentic and traditional aspects of Chinese culture. Fortunately, if you are a visitor to the country and don’t have a family to visit, you should be able to stay put as every town and city puts on events to celebrate so you can enjoy the party without any of the hassle associated with the transport networks. Despite the travel disruption, though, this can be a good time to visit major tourist attractions as they are usually relatively quiet.
Golden Week was designed to boost the domestic tourism market and it has done just that. This is another peak time for travel but with nothing going on away from the tourist areas you might be tempted to explore what China has to offer. Bear in mind that travel costs are at their highest and that the further you travel the more expensive it will be but it can be a good time to head to some of the quieter areas such as the Xinjiang and Guizhou provinces. If you do choose to visit Beijing or the Great Wall avoid travelling early as this is when the Chinese tour groups travel and if you arrive anywhere at the same time as them you could find yourself in for a long weight. Whatever your travel plans during Chinese New Year or Golden Week, it’s essential that you book early as spaces are limited and demand is high.
The other festivals are shorter so many Chinese people will stay at home for those and the transport systems are not under quite the same pressure. You can expect to pay more than usual rates for travel and accommodation but still significantly less than you would be charged during New Year or Golden Week. Again, it’s advisable to book early to avoid disappointment.